Two Payloads, Two Orbits, Two Space Firsts

Fifty years ago today — June 22, 1960 — a Thor rocket launched from Cape Canaveral and, for the first time ever, put two payloads into two different orbits. This launch set the standard for many multiple-launch missions to come. The rocket carried a Transit-2A navigation satellite and the Solrad-1 solar observation satellite.

Transit-2A was the newest in a series of navigation satellites put into orbit by the U.S. Navy. The Transit system proved that satellite navigation was possible, and set the stage for today’s Global Positioning System.

Solrad-1 was the other “first” scored by this launch.

(GRAB (Solrad-1) satellite model on display at the National Cryptologic Museum. Naval Research Laboratory image from Wikimedia Commons.)

Solrad-1 was also known as GRAB, the Galactic Radiation and Background satellite. Built by the Naval Research Laboratory, GRAB was the nation’s first reconnaissance satellite. As noted on this page, GRAB collected electronics intelligence on Soviet radar systems.

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