'Buckshot' Launch Attempt

A half-century ago today — January 24, 1962 — a Thor AbleStar rocket out of Cape Canaveral attempted, but failed, to launch a group of five small satellites for the U.S. Navy.


(SOLRAD-1, the precursor to SOLRAD-4. US Navy image.)

The launch was called Composite-1, or “Buckshot,” and intended to launch:

  • SOLRAD-4 (Solar Radiation or SR-4) — intended to measure and analyze solar emissions, but also incorporating the GREB IV (Galactic Radiation Experimental Background, also known as Galactic Radiation and Background, or GRAB) reconnaissance payload
  • Lofti III — Low-Frequency Trans-Ionospheric satellite, a follow-on to Lofti-I
  • Injun-II — a University of Iowa payload to study the Van Allen radiation belt
  • Secor — Sequential Collation of Range, an experiment in geolocation
  • Surcal — Surveillance Calibration satellite, used to calibrate the Naval Space Surveillance system

According to the 02/01/62 issue of FLIGHT International, the launch failed because “the second stage of the Thor AbleStar failed to build up thrust after ignition.”

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