Claiming the High Ground
The Army and America's First Satellite
by Irene Willhite
Dr. Wernher von Braun along with the team he directed, realized early on
in the race for space with the Soviet Union a relatively inexpensive
Minimum Satellite Vehicle with a payload of 5 lb. was possible with
components available from weapons development of the Army Ordnance
Corps. Such components reached an advanced development stage and were
expected to attain a sufficient degree of liability by 1956, to warrant
use in a satellite vehicle.
In view of the launching and tracking problems of a satellite vehicle it
was suggested to establish a joint Army-Navy-Air Force satellite vehicle
project. Office of Naval Research, endeavoring to establish a satellite
project, expressed definite interest in the proposal.
In retrospect it is difficult to recapture the sense of fear and anxiety
that, for many Americans, characterized the early years of the Cold War.
>From the United States' perspective the Soviet Union and its communist
allies appeared to be on the offensive around the globe. These were the
days of the "Red Menace": a time when school children crouched under
their desks during air raid drills; worried homeowners built fallout
shelters; and the government conducted an intrusive campaign to ferret
out shadowy "communist sympathizers" suspected of plotting against the
nation. . .world. October 1957 the Soviet Union launched the first
artificial earth orbiting satellite, Sputnik I.
Using primary documents found in the collections at the USSRC, the
reader is able to conclude for himself the course of action taken by the