Edition: Thu, January 31, 2008
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50th Anniversary of the Launch of Explorer I - America's First Satellite

What is it? A celebration recognizing the Army contribution at Redstone Arsenal and Huntsville, Ala., to America's launch of Explorer I - America's first satellite. After the Soviet Union initiated the Space Race with successful launches of two Sputnik satellites in October and November 1957, the Army at Redstone Arsenal was directed to use an Army-developed Jupiter-C missile to place an artificial earth satellite in orbit by March 1958. On Jan. 31, 1958, just 84 days after receiving the mission, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency or ABMA (a predecessor command to Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command), with MG John B. Medaris commanding, launched the first U.S. satellite--Explorer I--into orbit. With the successful launch of Explorer I, the Army birthed this Nation's space program. It is important to note Explorer I was an Army achievement. NASA did not go into operation until Oct. 1, 1958. The Army team at Redstone Arsenal under Dr. von Braun did not transfer to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center from the Army until July 1, 1960.

What has the Army done? During the Gulf War in 1991, space played a major role in Operation Desert Storm and the Army's approach to space. Space has been the foundation for the Army Space and Missile Defense Command as a core competency in support of the warfighter to: See First, Decide First, and Act First. A challenge for SMDC/ARSTRAT is to provide combatant commanders the ability to exploit space platforms for intelligence, focused surveillance, reconnaissance and communications, early warning position and navigation, and missile defense.

What efforts does the Army plan to continue in the future? Four active duty Soldiers currently assigned to the Army Astronaut Detachment at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, continue the Army legacy in manned space exploration. Starting with the selection of Maj. Robert Stewart as the Army's first astronaut in 1978, there have been 15 Soldiers who served as astronauts with NASA. Operationally, the Army Space Master Plan demonstrates how the Joint battlefield has evolved, extending vertically into space. The Army critical need for information superiority and situational awareness continues to grow as operational concepts mature. The Army must be able to utilize space-based capabilities in support of ground operations and the Army Space Master Plan brings a space focus to all Army Functional Areas, providing a mission-oriented assessment of Army needs for capabilities space brings to the fight.

Why is this important to the Army? The Army-built Jupiter C rocket launched our nation's first artificial satellite, Explorer I, approximately three months after the successful launch of the Soviet Union's Sputnik. The 50th Anniversary celebration recognizes Army achievements in science and technology, and is the base line for current and future Army space efforts.

For more information on the Army in space:

For more information on the 50th Anniversary of Explorer I:


- 2007 Strategic Communication Guide - Read the 2007 Army Strategic Communication Guide for key messages and updates

- Strategic Communication Coordination Group (SCCG) Workspace

- Army Public Affairs Portal

- Stories of Valor