Vanguard I broke barriers not just with its mere existence, but with the information that it gathered on its voyage. The satellite successfully demonstrated the utility of solar power systems in space, using photovoltaic silicon solar cells to harness the rays of the sun. The satellite also verified that the Earth is not a perfect sphere, but is slightly pear-shaped.
To accommodate its newest creation, NRL made history as it constructed the first complete satellite-launching facility in the country at Cape Canaveral, Florida, to take the satellite to “new heights,” achieving the highest altitude of any man-made vehicle at the time period. NRL also developed the Mini track, the first ever satellite-tracking system to determine the orbit of the satellite.
The importance of the Vanguard I satellite still resonates across NRL’s campus, particularly with Mr. John Schaub, Director of the Naval Center of Space Technology (NCST) at NRL.
“Vanguard I paved the way for NRL to leave our mark in the space technology field,” says Schaub. “We continue to draw inspiration from the innovation and uniqueness of the Vanguard Project, perpetuating our legacy of changing the way we see space down here on the surface.”
Vanguard I still orbits Earth today, remaining the oldest satellite made by man currently in space.
For more information on the Vanguard Project, visit the Vanguard Project page on NRL’s website.
For the recent accomplishments of the Naval Center of Space Technology at NRL, visit NCST’s home page.