National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Aeronautics and Astronautics Chronology, 1958

SOURCE: Eugene M. Emme, comp., Aeronautics and Astronautics: An American Chronology of Science and Technology in the Exploration of Space, 1915-1960 (Washington, DC: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1961), pp. 94-105.


January 1: Strategic Air Command assigned responsibility for U.S. operational ICBM capability; while the 672nd Strategic Missile Squadron, first to be equipped with USAF Douglas Thor IRBM, was activated.

January 4: SPUTNIK I reentered the atmosphere and disintegrated.

---: American Rocket Society and the Rocket and Satellite Research Panel issued a summary of their proposals for a National Space Establishment. Preferably independent of the Department of Defense, but in any event not under one of the military services, this establishment would be responsible for the "broad cultural, scientific, and commercial objectives" of outer space development.

January 9: In his state-of-the-Union message, President Eisenhower reported: "In recognition of the need for single control in some of our most advanced development projects, the Secretary of Defense has already decided to concentrate into one organization all antimissile and satellite technology undertaken within the Department of Defense."

January 11: James H. Doolittle, Chairman of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, announced that a special committee on space technology was formed on November 21, 1957.

January 12: President Eisenhower, in answering the December 10, 1957, letter of Soviet Premier Nikolai A. Bulganin regarding a summit conference and disarmament proposed that the Soviet Union and the United States "agree that outer space should be used only for peaceful purposes." This proposal was compared with the 1946 offer of the United States to cease production of nuclear weapons and dedicate atomic energy to peaceful uses, an offer which was not accepted by the Soviet Union.

January 13: Secretary of Defense Neil H. McElroy testified before the House Armed Services Committee: "Such long-range programs as the antimissile missile and the military satellite programs are in the research and exploratory development stages. They are important and must be pursued, but they must not distract us from the speedy development of our other missile systems. To handle them, I am establishing within the Department of Defense an Advanced Research Projects Agency, which will be responsible to the Secretary of Defense for the unified direction and management of the antimissile missile program and for outer space projects."

---: In his budget message to Congress, President Eisenhower stated: "Funds are provided for an expanded research and development effort on military satellites and other outer space vehicles and on antimissile-missile systems, to be carried out directly under the Secretary of Defense." The budget for fiscal year 1959 showed that $340 million in new obligational authority was being asked for the Advanced Research Projects Agency. No new authorizations were sought for the International Geophysical Year, but estimated obligations for earth satellite exploration of the upper atmosphere under this program were $8,139,834 for fiscal year 1958 and $21 million for fiscal year 1959.

January 14: NACA issued a staff study entitled "A National Research Program for Space Technology."

---: Senator Lyndon B. Johnson in a CBS radio address urged the United States "to demonstrate its initiative before the United Nations by inviting all member nations to join in this adventure into outer space together."

January 15: 4751st Air Defense Missile Wing to develop and conduct training program for Bomarc units, and the 864th Strategic Missile Squadron to be equipped with Jupiter IRBM, were both activated.

January 16: The NACA adopted resolution recommending that national space program can be most effectively implemented by the cooperative effort of the Department of Defense, the NACA, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Science Foundation, together with universities, research institutions, and industrial companies of the Nation, with military development and operation of space vehicles a responsibility of the Department of Defense, and research and scientific space operations the responsibility of the NACA.

---: Special Subcommittee on Outer Space Propulsion created by the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy, Senator Clinton P. Anderson as chairman.

---: Secretary of State Dulles proposed the formation of an international commission to insure the use of outer space exclusively for peaceful purposes.

January 17: First launch of Navy Polaris test vehicle at Cape Canaveral.

January 27: Dr. Hugh L. Dryden, Director of the NACA, in a speech to the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, stressed the importance of a well-planned and logical space program embracing both civilian and military uses. He stated that the national space program should be under the joint control of the Department of Defense, the NACA, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Science Foundation; in addition to research flights, the NACA would "coordinate and conduct research in space technology in its own laboratories and by contract in support of both military and nonmilitary projects."

January 28: Thor IRBM successfully fired from Cape Canaveral, flew prescribed course, and impacted in preselected area.

January 29: The DOD announced plans to establish the National Pacific Missile Range (PMR) as part of the Naval Air Missile Test Center at Point Mugu, Calif., the range to be designed for long-range guided missile and ICBM testing.

January 31: EXPLORER I, first U.S. earth satellite, launched by modified ABMA-JPL Jupiter-C, with U.S.-IGY scientific experiment of James A. Van Allen, which discovered the radiation belt around the earth.

February 3: Soviet Premier Nikolai A. Bulganin in a letter to President Eisenhower stated that the Soviet Union "is ready to examine also the question of the intercontinental rockets if the Western powers are willing to reach agreement to ban atomic and hydrogen weapons, to end tests thereof, and to liquidate foreign military bases in other nations' territories. In that case, an agreement on the use of outer space for peaceful purposes only would unquestionably meet no difficulties."

---: Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology reported that initial data from EXPLORER I showed that cosmic radiation on its orbit did not exceed 12 times the amount on earth.

February 4: President Eisenhower directed James R. Killian, Jr., to head a committee to study and make recommendations on the governmental organization of the Nation's space and missile program.

February 5: Trial firing of IGY Vanguard (TV-3Bu) satellite failed at Cape Canaveral, Fla., 57 seconds after launch.

February 6: The Senate passed S. Res. 256, creating a Special Committee on Space and Astronautics to frame legislation for a national program of space exploration and development.

February 7: The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was established by the DOD, and Roy W. Johnson, a vice president of General Electric Co., was appointed by Secretary of Defense McElroy as its Director. ARPA was placed in charge of the Nation's outer space program.

February 10: First successful radar returns from Venus (27,530,000 miles away) detected by MIT's Lincoln Laboratory Millstone Hill. It took 1 year to process confirmation of this event.

---: Airman 1/C Donald G. Farrell spent the week of February 10-16 in a space-cabin simulator at SAM, Randolph AFB, Tex.

February 14: "Basic Objectives of a Continuing Program of Scientific Research in Outer Space," a report by the Technical Panel on the Earth Satellite Program of the National Academy of Sciences IGY Committee, was published. It proposed a program of space research extending beyond the International Geophysical Year.

February 17: In a letter to Soviet Premier Nikolai A. Bulganin, President Eisenhower repeated his plea for the dedication of outer space to peaceful uses. Denying that this proposal was intended "to gain strategic advantages for the United States," he stressed the urgency of dealing with outer space before its use for military purposes had, like nuclear weapons, advanced to the point where complete international control was almost impossible.

February 18: USAF revealed that an airflow speed of 32,400 mph had been attained for one-tenth of a second in a wind tunnel test at the Arnold Engineering Development Center, Tullahoma, Tenn., on an undisclosed date.

February 21: U.S.S.R. fired a single-stage rocket to 294-mile altitude with 3,340 pounds of experiments for measuring ion composition of the atmosphere, pressure, temperature, micrometeorites, etc., according to the Soviet IGY Committee.

February 26: James H. Doolittle, Chairman of the NACA, testified before Senate Committee on Appropriations for "four years ago, about 10 percent of our activities were associated with space; two years ago, about 25 percent; and in 1959 we will be devoting almost half of our time on missiles, antimissiles, and satellites and other space objectives."

February 28: Department of Defense assigned responsibility for land-based ICBM/IRBM development to the USAF, and directed it to develop Minuteman solid-propellant ICBM capable of being launched from underground sites.

During February: NACA Langley's PARD conceived and placed in operation the "opposed gun" technique for studying projectile impacts.

March 5: EXPLORER II launched by Army Jupiter-C failed to orbit due to failure of last stage to ignite, a joint JPL-ABMA project.

---: H. Res. 496, passed by the House of Representatives, established a Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration to investigate the problems of outer space and to submit recommendations for the control and development of astronautical resources.

March 15: U.S.S.R. Foreign Ministry statement proposed that ban on use of outer space for military purposes, as suggested by President Eisenhower, be coupled with the liquidation of foreign military bases in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

---: Contract awarded for inertial guidance system for the Titan ICBM to American Bosch Arma by the USAF.

March 17: Second U.S.-IGY satellite, VANGUARD I, launched into orbit with life expectancy of perhaps a 1,000 years, a highly successful scientific satellite which proved that the earth is slightly pear shaped. Operating on solar-powered batteries, it was still transmitting after 3 years in orbit.

---: An experiment testing the behavior of crews under conditions of long confinement was concluded at Wright Air Development Center, as five Air Force officers ended a 5-day simulated space flight.

March 18: Dr. Herbert F. York was appointed as Chief Scientist for DOD's Advanced Research Projects Agency.

March 19: Space program for the United States proposed by the U.S.-IGY Satellite Panel.

March 21: Two-stage monorail rocket-propelled sled exceeded 2,700 mph at Holloman AFB.

March 23: Navy demonstrated first dummy test of Polaris missile from "popup" launcher off San Clemente Island, from submerged launching platform.

March 26: Third U.S.-IGY Satellite, EXPLORER III, a joint ABMA-JPL project, successfully launched by Army Juno II, yielded valuable data on radiation belt, micrometeorite impacts, and temperature before returning to earth on June 27.

---: President Eisenhower in a brief statement released the President's Science Advisory Committee's report, "Introduction to Outer Space: an Explanatory Statement." This report set forth the basic factors making the advancement of space technology a national necessity and explained to the nontechnical reader the principles and potentialities of space travel. The many uses of space technology for scientific and military purposes were summarized, and a timetable for carrying out these objectives was included.

---: Military telephone and telegraph system using the troposphere to bounce radio signals over long distances, called "White Alice," was activated.

March 27: President Eisenhower gave his approval to the plans for outer space exploration announced by Secretary of Defense Neil H. McElroy. The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was to undertake several space projects including the launching of certain earth satellites and five space probes as a part of this country's contribution to the IGY program. The Air Force Ballistic Missile Division was authorized by ARPA to carry out three lunar probes with a Thor-Vanguard system, and lunar probes utilizing the Jupiter-C rocket were assigned to the Army Ballistic Missile Agency.

April 2: In a message to Congress, President Eisenhower proposed the establishment of a National Aeronautics and Space Agency into which the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics would be absorbed. This agency was to have responsibility for civilian space science and aeronautical research. It would conduct research in these fields in its own facilities or by contract and would also perform military research required by the military departments. Interim projects pertaining to the civilian program which were under the direction of the Advanced Research Projects Agency would be transferred to the civilian space agency. A National Aeronautics and Space Board, appointed by the President and composed of eminent persons outside the Government and representatives of interested Government agencies (with at least one member from the Department of Defense), was to assist the President and the Director of the National Aeronautics and Space Agency.

---: Original budget request of $340 million in new obligational authority for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for fiscal year 1959 was raised to $520 million for advanced research projects in a letter from the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, Maurice H. Stans, which was transmitted to Congress by President Eisenhower.

April 3: In a message to Congress on the organization of the Nation's Defense Establishment, President Eisenhower recommended creation of the position of Director of Defense Research and Engineering, which would have a higher rank and replace the present Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

April 5: USAF Atlas ICBM was successfully flown from Cape Canaveral, Fla., to the impact area some 600 miles away.

April 8: USAF KC-135 Stratotanker ended a nonstop, nonrefueled record distance jet flight of 10,228 miles, from Tokyo to Lajes Field, Azores.

April 13: SPUTNIK II reentered earth's atmosphere.

April 14: Proposal for a National Aeronautics and Space Agency drafted by the Bureau of the Budget was submitted to the Congress by the President, and was contained by the following congressional bills:

S. 3609, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson and Senator Styles Bridges

H.R. 11881, Representative John W. McCormack

H.R. 11882, Representative Leslie C. Arends

H.R. 11887, Representative Harry G. Haskell, Jr.

H.R. 11888, Representative Kenneth Keating

H.R. 11946, Representative William H. Natcher

H.R. 11961, Representative Peter Frelinghuysen, Jr.

H.R. 11964, Representative James G. Fulton

H.R. 11996, Representative Gordon L. McDonough

April 15: Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration of the House of Representatives opened hearings on outer space leading toward formulation of a national space program.

April 16: Grumman F11F-1F Super Tiger flown to world altitude record of 76,828 feet for ground-launched planes, piloted by Cdr. George C. Watkins, at Edwards AFB.

April 17: Simulated 7-day trip to the moon made by six Navy men in chamber at Philadelphia Naval Base.

---: British Skylark reached an altitude of 90 miles at Woomera, Australia.

April 23: USAF Thor-Able missile was launched from Cape Canaveral in a reentry test; flew short of its goal and the nose cone was not recovered. The nose cone carried a mouse as a biomedical experiment.

April 24: Navy rocket sled attained speed of 2,827.5 mph at China Lake, Calif.

April 25: First successful launching and erection in space of a 12-foot inflatable sphere for air density measurements, using a Nike-Cajun booster system, by NACA Langley's PARD at Wallops Island, Va.

April 27: Pravda reported on Soviet satellite findings that Laika's heartbeat had taken three times as long as expected to return to normal. Weightlessness affecting the nerve centers was suggested as the cause. The Soviet report disclosed that the density and temperature of the atmosphere at a given altitude were not uniform, and that cosmic ray intensity was 40 percent greater at 400 miles than at 135 miles.

April 28: Vanguard (TV-5) failed to orbit due to malfunction of minor components in the firing circuit of third stage.

May 1: Scientific findings from the two Explorer satellites disclosed an unexpected band of high-intensity radiation extending from 600 miles above earth to possibly an 8,000-mile altitude. The radiation was described by Dr. James A. Van Allen as "1,000 times as intense as could be attributed to cosmic rays."

---: Responsibility for the Project Vanguard portion of the U.S.-IGY scientific satellite program was transferred from Navy to Advanced Research Project Agency monitorship by the Department of Defense.

May 6-7: Lt. Comdr. M. Ross (USNR) and A Mikesell (Naval Observatory) used open gondola STRATO-LAB balloon to reach 40,000-feet altitude from Crosby, Minn.; Mikesell becoming the first astronomer to observe stratosphere, and it was first flight in which crew remained in stratosphere in open basket after sunset.

May 7: Flying a Lockheed F-104A Starfighter at Edwards AFB, Calif., Maj. Howard C. Johnson (USAF) set a 91,249-foot world altitude record for ground-launched planes.

May 11: Lt. Comdr. Jack Neiman completed 44-hour simulated high altitude flight at between 80,000 and 100,000 feet in pressure chamber at NAS Norfolk.

May 14-17: Symposium on "Possible Uses of Earth Satellites for Life Sciences Experiments" held in Washington, D.C., under sponsorship of National Academy of Sciences, National Science Foundation, and American Institute of Biological Science.

May 15: SPUTNIK III placed into orbit by the U.S.S.R. with a total payload weight of about 7,000 pounds, and called "flying laboratory." (Satellite almost 3,000 pounds.)

May 16: In level flight over a 10-mile course at Edwards AFB, Calif., Capt. Walter W. Irwin (USAF), flying a F-104A Starfighter, set a world speed record of 1,404.19 mph.

May 18: First U.S. full-size tactical nose cone was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean 4½ hours after launching from Cape Canaveral on a Jupiter missile.

May 20: NACA-USAF Memorandum of Understanding signed, "Principles for Participation of NACA in Development and Testing of the Air Force System 464L Hypersonic Boost Glide Vehicle (Dyna-Soar I)."

May 24: Gravity load of 83 g's for a fraction of a second withstood by Capt E. L. Breeding in deceleration of a rocket sled at Holloman AFB.

May 27: First USAF Republic F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bomber delivered to the USAF.

---: First launching of production Vanguard satellite vehicle (SLV-1) generally successful with exception of second-stage burnout which prevented achievement of satisfactory orbit.

During May: Four-stage rocket launched a 9-pound inflatable sphere to 50-mile altitude at NACA Wallops Island.

---: Dr. Abe Silverstein, Associate Director of Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory, was transferred to NACA headquarters to help plan the organization and programs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, subsequently becoming Director of the Office of Space Flight Programs.

June 3: USAF and NACA jointly announce details on the inertial guidance system to be used on the X-15 research aircraft, a flight instrument system to allow the pilot to prevent the aircraft from reentering dense atmosphere too steeply or too shallow.

June 4: USAF Thor flight tested for the first time from a tactical-type launcher at Cape Canaveral.

June 8: Test firing of a full-scale upper stage rocket under simulated altitude conditions was made in an engine test cell at the USAF's Arnold Engineering Development Center at Tullahoma, Tenn.

June 16: Phase I development contract for Dyna-Soar boost-glide orbital spacecraft awarded by USAF to two teams of contractors headed by Martin Co. (Bell, American Machine & Foundry, Bendix, Goodyear, and Minneapolis-Honeywell) and the Boeing Co. (Aerojet, General Electric, Ramo-Wooldridge, North American, and Chance Vought).

---: Pacific Missile Range, Point Mugu, Calif., officially established under Navy management to provide range support to the Department of Defense and other governmental agencies engaged in missile, satellite, and space vehicle research, development, evaluation and training.

June 26: Production Vanguard satellite (SLV-2) failed to orbit due to failure of second stage, but demonstrated structural integrity of tankage which withstood pressure exceeding design values.

June 27: First successful launching by NACA Langley's Aircraft Research Division of a Mach 18 five-stage rocket vehicle at Wallops Island, Va.

---: USAF strategic missile squadron successfully completed first military launch of a Snark intercontinental missile at Cape Canaveral.

June 28: EXPLORER III reentered the earth's atmosphere.

June 30: The NACA reported that 50 percent of its research effort was being devoted to problems associated with missiles and space vehicles.

During June: Space Science Board of 16 members established by National Academy of Sciences, with Dr. Lloyd V. Berkner as Chairman, to advise and assist in formulation of U.S. post-IGY space research program and to foster cooperation with space scientists in other nations.

---: NACA-USAF meetings concerning applicability of all solid-propellant launch vehicle (later named Scout) to meet USAF requirements.

---: Recovery of first data capsule at AMR after successful separation from a Thor IRBM at reentry.

July 1: Japanese Kappa-6tw two-stage rocket flown to 30-mile altitude over Michikawa Rocket Center, Japan.

July 8: First launching of a 10-inch-diameter spherical rocket motor with spin stabilization, at NACA Wallops Island.

July 9: Second AF Thor-Able reentry test vehicle was launched, traveling 6,000 miles (no nose cone recovery).

July 17: Nose cone of Jupiter missile successfully recovered after intermediate range flight.

July 21: Standing Committee on Science and Astronautics established by House of Representatives.

July 23: Thor-Able reentry test vehicle made another successful 6,000-mile flight; the nose cone and mouse passenger were not recovered.

July 23-31: Feasibility of creating or destroying cloud formations by release of carbon black was established in tests conducted off Florida coast by Navy Weather Service's Comdr. N. Brango and Dr. Florence Van Straten.

July 24: Senate established Standing Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences.

July 26: EXPLORER IV, fourth U.S.-IGY satellite, successfully launched by Army Jupiter-C.

---: Capt. Ivan C. Kincheloe (USAF) killed when F-104 crashed at Edwards AFB. He had been scheduled to test-fly the X-15.

July 26-27: Comdrs. M. Ross and L. Lewis (USN) reached maximum altitude of 82,000 feet in STRATO-LAB HIGH III flight from Crosby, Minn., which set new unofficial record for strato-spheric flight of 34.7 hours.

July 29: President Eisenhower signed H.R. 12575, making it the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (Public Law 85-568). In his statement, he said: "The present National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) with its large and competent staff and well-equipped laboratories will provide the nucleus for NASA. The NACA has an established record of research performance and of cooperation with the armed services. The coordination of space exploration responsibilities with NACA's traditional aeronautical research functions is a natural evolution . . . [one which] should have an even greater impact on our future."

July 30: President Eisenhower requested $125 million to initiate the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

---: Successful proof tests subjecting humans to over 20 times the force of gravity were conducted, with NACA's Maxime Faget conceiving concept of the contour couch on centrifuge at Navy AMAL, Johnsville, Pa. This couch became integral part of the Project Mercury concept.

July 31: Army Redstone No. 50 successfully fired off Johnson Island in the South Pacific as part of Project Hardtack.

---: First comprehensive Sputnik data was released by U.S.S.R. to foreign scientists.

August 1: AFBMD announced development of a complete inertial guidance system to replace radio inertial system now in use.

August 2: First full-powered flight of USAF Atlas ICBM using both the sustainer and booster engines.

August 6: Rocketdyne Division of North American announced an Air Force contract for a 1-million-pound thrust engine.

August 7: First launching of USAF Bomarc interceptor missile from Cape Canaveral on a signal sent by the SAGE Control Center at Kingston, N.Y.

August 8: President nominated Dr. T. Keith Glennan to be Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Dr. Hugh L. Dryden as Deputy Administrator.

August 11: Army Redstone No. 51 successfully fired off Johnson Island in the South Pacific as part of Project Hardtack.

---: After program review and discussions, NACA drafted specifications of the Scout launch vehicle based upon preliminary designs for a hypervelocity research vehicle and orbiting system.

August 14: Nominations of Dr. T. K. Glennan and Dr. H. L. Dryden were approved by the Senate Special Committee on Space and Astronautics.

August 15: Saturn Project initiated by ARPA order to Army Ordnance Missile Command, and it was assigned to Redstone Arsenal.

---: Dr. T. Keith Glennan confirmed by the Senate as Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

---: Federal Aviation Agency created with passage by Congress of the Federal Aviation Act.

August 17: USAF Thor-Able-1 launch vehicle with first U.S.-IGY lunar payload exploded 77 seconds after launch because of a failure of first-stage engine.

August 19: Dr. T. Keith Glennan sworn in as Administrator, and Dr. Hugh L. Dryden as Deputy Administrator, of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; 40 days later, as of October 1, 1958, NASA was declared to be ready to function.

---: Navy Tartar surface-to-air missile made successful first flight and interception at NOTS China Lake, Calif.

August 21: The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics held its final meeting, and invited Dr. T. Keith Glennan, newly appointed Administrator of NASA, to receive best wishes for the future.

August 24: EXPLORER V successfully launched by ABMA-JPL Jupiter-C and all stages fired, but orbit not achieved because of collision between parts of booster and instrument compartment.

August 25: Ninth IAF meeting began at The Hague, which witnessed the first colloquium on space law.

August 26: Gen. Thomas D. White, USAF, wrote James Doolittle, Chairman, NACA: "There was regret at the passing of an agency that for 43 years has set the world's standard in aeronautical research. . . . There has always been for us in the Air Force, the knowledge that NACA was ready to help in any aerodynamic trouble."

---: Two mice lived 36 days sealed in a chamber and dependent upon oxygen production of algae in an experiment at the University of Texas.

August 27: The first Argus experiment (ARPA) was conducted (based upon October 1957 proposal of N. C. Christofilos of the University of California, Livermore), in which a small A-bomb was detonated beyond the atmosphere over the South Atlantic. Launched from the rocketship Norton Sound, the initial flash was followed by an auroral luminescence extending upward and downward along the magnetic lines where the burst occurred.

---: Soviet Union reportedly sent two dogs to an altitude of 281 miles and safely returned them to earth, single-stage rocket boosting a total payload of 3,726 pounds.

---: President Eisenhower signed Public Law 85-766 which included $80 million for NASA, including $50 million for research and development, $25 million for construction and expenses, and $5 million for salaries and expenses.

August 29: Second full-powered flight of USAF Atlas ICBM traveled 3,000 miles with radio-inertial guidance.

August 30: The second Argus small A-bomb detonation beyond the atmosphere was conducted in the South Atlantic.

During August: In 3-week period, 19 five-stage Argo E5 sounding rockets were launched in USAF-NACA program to measure radiation caused by Project Argus, rockets reaching 500-mile altitude and were launched from Wallops Island, AMR, and Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico.

---: Experimental "weightlessness" flights in C-131B aircraft begun at Wright Air Development Center.

September 2: U.N. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge announced that United States would propose a plan for international cooperation in the exploration of outer space to the United Nations.

September 4: President Eisenhower appointed Detlev W. Bronk, president of the National Academy of Sciences; William A. M. Burden; James H. Doolittle; and Alan T. Waterman, Director of the NSF, to the National Aeronautics and Space Council. Additionally, the Space Council including the Administrator of NASA, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and the Chairman of the AEC as statutory members.

September 6: The third of the Argus small A-bomb detonations beyond the atmosphere was conducted over the South Atlantic. Instruments of EXPLORER IV satellite recorded and reported to ground stations resultant electron densities, subsequently reported by James Van Allen.

September 7: Black Knight missile of the United Kingdom was launched from the Australian range at Woomera to an altitude of over 300 miles.

September 8: Unmanned ONR balloon carried telescope and camera to an altitude of 104,600 feet.

---: Wearing a Goodrich lightweight full-pressure suit, Lt. R. H. Tabor (USN) completed a 72-hour simulated flight in pressure chamber at NAS Norfolk, in which he was subjected to altitude conditions as high as 139,000 feet.

September 17: Joint NASA-ARPA Manned Satellite Panel established to make final recommendation for manned space flight program.

September 24: First senior staff meeting of the newly created National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) held, with Dr. T. Keith Glennan as Administrator, and Dr. Hugh L. Dryden as Deputy Administrator.

---: KC-135 jet Stratotanker lifted 77,350-pound payload to an altitude of 1.25 miles.

---: First use of Sidewinder aircraft rocket with heatseeker nose, by Chinese Nationalist F-86's over the Formosa Straits. Chinese Nationalists claimed 10 Communist planes.

---: General Electric delivered first prototype of MIT-developed Polaris guidance system.

September 25: Dr. T. Keith Glennan signed proclamation declaring that "as of the close of business September 30, 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been organized and is prepared to discharge the duties and exercise the powers conferred on it." Entered upon the Federal Register, this proclamation instituted the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as of October 1, 1958.

---: First launching of an Exos sounding rocket in USAF-NASA joint effort from Wallops Island, Va.

September 26: Vanguard (SLV-3) reached 265 miles' altitude and was destroyed 9,200 miles downrange over Central Africa on reentry into the atmosphere.

---: Boeing B-52D set a world distance in a closed-circuit record of 6,233.981 miles, with Lt. Col. V. L. Sandacz at the controls.

September 28: Nike-Asp test flight from Navy LSD Point Defiance near Puka Island reached 800,000 feet, the highest altitude ever reached by ship-launched rocket, in preliminary test of Nike-Asp for use in IGY solar eclipse studies.

September 29: United States announced as policy that all measures to prevent contamination of the moon would be taken in all lunar probes.

During September: Saturn design studies authorized to proceed at Redstone Arsenal for development of 1.5-million-pound-thrust cluster first stage.

---: Dr. W. Albert Noyes was appointed chairman of U.S. committee to draft proposals for international cooperation in the space sciences for the consideration of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU).

October 1: First official day of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Existing NACA facilities, personnel, policies, and advisory committees were transferred to NASA, and the NACA laboratories were renamed Research Centers.

---: By Executive order of the President, DOD responsibilities for the remaining U.S.-IGY satellite and space probe projects were transferred to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; included were Project Vanguard, and the four lunar probes and three satellite IGY projects remaining, which had previously been assigned by ARPA to AFBMD and ABMA. Also transferred were a number of engine development research programs.

October 2: Executive Board of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) proposed a plan to establish a Committee on Space Research, which became known as COSPAR.

October 4: Vandenberg AFB, first operational ICBM base in free world, was dedicated.

---: Jet transatlantic passenger service inaugurated by British Overseas Airways.

October 7: NASA formally organized Project Mercury to: (1) place manned space capsule in orbital flight around the earth; (2) investigate man's reactions to and capabilities in this environment; and (3) recover capsule and pilot safely. A NASA Space Task Group organized at Langley Research Center drew up specifications for the Mercury capsule, based on studies by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics during the preceding 12 months, and on discussions with the Air Force which had been conducting related studies.

October 8: U.S.S.R. supplied telemetry code of SPUTNIK III to other IGY members, covering only radiation measurements.

--: In MAN HIGH III balloon launched from Holloman AFB, Lt. Clifton M. McClure attained a near-record altitude of 99,900 feet.

October 11: PIONEER I, U.S.-IGY space probe under direction of NASA and with the AFBMD as executive agent, launched from AMR, Cape Canaveral, Fla., by a Thor-Able-I booster. It raveled 70,700 miles before returning to earth, determined radial extent of great radiation belt, first observations of earth's and interplanetary magnetic field, and first measurements of micrometeorite density in interplanetary space.

October 12: Naval Research Laboratory rocket firings in Danger Island region of the South Pacific from U.S.S. Point Defiance, reached 139, 148, 152, and 150 miles altitude to chart solar spectrum in the utraviolet and X-ray portion.

October 14: NASA requested transfer of Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the space activities of Army Redstone Arsenal to NASA.

October 15: First of a series of three X-15 experimental rocket-powered manned research aircraft was rolled out at the Los Angeles plant of North American Aviation, Inc., in the joint USAF-USN-NASA program.

October 21: Three weeks after NASA officially began operating, prospective contractors were invited to a briefing at NASA headquarters on development of 11/2-million-pound-thrust engine.

---: First launching of two USAF Bomarc missiles within less than 10 seconds of each other at Cape Canaveral; launches signaled from SAGE at Kingston, N.Y., and both missiles scored successful intercepts against different target aircraft.

October 23: NASA¾with the Army as executive agent¾attempted to launch a 12-foot-diameter inflatable satellite of micro-thin plastic covered with aluminum foil known as BEACON. Launched from AMR by a Juno I¾a modified Redstone, the payload prematurely separated prior to booster burnout.

October 26: Pan American World Airways began regular daily jet service between New York and Paris using Boeing 707's.

October 30: William M. Holaday appointed by the President to be Chairman of the NASA-DOD Civilian-Military Liaison Committee (CMLC).

During October: Air Force awarded contract Pratt & Whitney for Centaur vehicle with hydrogen-burning chamber based on research of Lewis Research Center between 1953 and 1957. Centaur project later transferred to NASA.

November 6: Army completed Redstone flight testing with a perfect 250-mile shot.

November 7: Bidders conference held by NASA on manned-satellite capsule for Project Mercury.

November 8: Second U.S.-IGY space probe under direction of NASA with Air Force as executive agent, PIONEER II, was launched from AMR. Unseparated third and fourth stages reached an altitude of about 1,000 miles and flew some 7,500 miles before burning out.

November 14: First launch of a 3,750,000-cubic-foot plastic balloon at Holloman AFB; payload was parachute test vehicle for development of high-Mach parachute systems.

November 15: First meeting of COSPAR (Committee on Space Research) proposed bylaws and rules for the approval of the ICSU, at London.

November 19: United States and 19 other nations jointly introduced resolution in U.N. General Assembly calling for creation of ad hoc committee to bring about full international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

November 21: NASA formed new Special Committee on Life Sciences to provide advice on human factors, medical, and allied problems on NASA's manned space vehicle program.

November 26: Project Mercury, U.S. manned-satellite program, was officially named by NASA.

November 28: USAF Atlas made its first successful operational test flight in a 6325 statute-mile flight, landed close to its target.

During November: NASA requested DX priority for 1.5-million-pound-thrust F-1 engine project and Project Mercury.

---: Second International Symposium on Physics and Medicine of the Atmosphere and Space was held at San Antonio, Texas.

December 3: President transferred the functions and facilities of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., from the Army to NASA. JPL built, designed, and tested upper stages, payloads, and tracking systems for the first IGY Explorer satellites.

---: NASA and the Army reached an agreement whereby ABMA and its subordinate organizations at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Ala., would be responsive to NASA requirements.

---: DOD announced details of Project Discoverer, series of polar orbiting satellites.

December 5: Modified Navy Terrier rocket with camera launched to an altitude of 86 miles from Wallops Island, providing a 1,000-mile composite photograph of a frontal cloud formation.

December 6: The third U.S.-IGY space probe¾the second under direction of NASA and with the Army as executive agent¾was launched at 12:45 a.m., from AMR by Juno II rocket. The primary mission of PIONEER III, to place the scientific payload in the vicinity of the moon, was not accomplished although an altitude of 63,580 miles was achieved and it discovered that radiation belt was comprised of at least two bands.

December 9: The first meeting of the new NASA Inventions and Contributions Board was held to evaluate scientific or technical contributions and to recommend monetary awards.

December 10: First domestic jet airline passenger service, by National Airlines between New York and Miami.

December 12-16: SMALL WORLD balloon with four passengers failed in transatlantic attempt, lifting from Canary Islands and landing at sea northeast of Barbados.

December 13: U.N. General Assembly adopted resolution bringing into being an 18-member Ad Hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

---: Squirrel monkey Gordo made 1,500-mile flight in nose cone of Army Jupiter with no known adverse effect, but float mechanism failed and nose cone was not recovered.

December 16: Two Thor shots, one from Cape Canaveral and one from Vandenberg AFB, were successful. Intermediate range ballistic missile portion of PMR was inaugurated with successful firing of USAF Thor from Vandenberg AFB.

---: MATS C-133 Cargomaster lifted 117,900 pounds of cargo to 10,000 feet, a weight-lifting record, at Dover AFB, Del.

December 17: NASA awarded contract to Rocketdyne of North American to build single-chamber 1.5-million-pound-thrust rocket engine.

---: Project Mercury announced as name of U.S. man-in-space program by NASA.

December 18: Plastic balloon flight No. 1,000 launched by the Balloon Branch of the Missile Development Center at Holloman AFB, a series beginning in July 1950.

---: Entire USAF Atlas boosted into orbit communications relay satellite, PROJECT SCORE or the "talking atlas." A total of 8,750 pounds were placed in orbit, of which 150 pounds was payload.

December 19: President Eisenhower's Christmas message beamed from PROJECT SCORE satellite in orbit, the first voice beamed in from space.

---: BOLD ORION (WS-199) launched from B-58 Hustler traveling at about 1,100 mph over Cape Canaveral, Fla.

December 20: White Sands Proving Ground announced missile range firing record: 2,000 "hot" firings in 1 year.

---: First Titan test launch exploded on the pad at Cape Canaveral.

---: New voice and teletype messages were received and rebroadcast on command by PROJECT SCORE satellite, and a series of experiments were continued in subsequent days.

December 23: First Atlas-C fired successfully at AMR.

December 24: Dr. Herbert F. York, Chief Scientist of ARPA, was named as Director of Defense Research and Engineering for the Department of Defense by President Eisenhower.

December 27: Federal Council for Science and Technology to be headed by Dr. James R. Killian, Jr., was approved by President Eisenhower.

---: PIONEER III data indicated that the earth is surrounded by two bands of radiation.

December 31: PROJECT SCORE ceased transmissions, concluding 12 days of operations and 97 successful contacts.

---: IGY scheduled to close, but in October 1958 the International Council of Scientific Unions, meeting in Washington, approved extension of IGY through December 1959 under name of International Geophysical Cooperation¾1959 (IGC-59) and also approved establishment of Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) to continue international cooperation in the scientific exploration of space. National Academy of Sciences is U.S. adhering body to COSPAR.

During December: National booster program developed by NASA and DOD to provide basis for long-range planning.

---: First vacuum tank for use in ion and plasma electric propulsion research received at NASA Lewis Research Center, three more of which were later put to research, and two large models to be completed by 1962.

During 1958: NASA Langley research scientists, Paul Purser and Maxime Faget, conceived Little Joe research rocket; the Scout vehicle system was conceived from PARD's multistage hypersonic solid-propellant rocket program.

---: Twistor and other thin-film semiconductors were developed suitable as memory elements.

---: NASA Lewis Research Center completed 14 years of extensive research on all U.S. turbojet engines.

---: NASA Lewis Center successfully demonstrated first use of fluorine gas to provide reliable ignition for practical hydrogen-oxygen engine (20K thrust); same year first throttling of hydrogen-fluorine thrust chamber demonstrated over wide range.

---: First year that the total number of transatlantic air passengers exceeded the number of sea passengers.

---: Experimental tests for launching satellites via rocket fired from fighter aircraft conducted by Navy Project Pilot.

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Last Updated: January 27, 2005