NASA / VRS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / VRS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Explorer 1 launch. Explorer 1, America's first successful artificial satellite, being launched by a Jupiter-C rocket from Cape Canaveral (now Kennedy Space Centre), Florida, USA, on 31 January 1958. Explorer 1 was launched after the USSR took the USA by surprise by launching the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, on 4 October 1957. The rocket-shaped satellite, which weighed 14 kilograms, was housed in the nose cone of the rocket. It orbited Earth at heights of between 360 kilometres and 2520 kilometres until 31 March 1970. It carried a geiger counter, used to detect cosmic rays. Data collected by the satellite led to the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belt, a torus of charged particles held in place by the Earth's magnetic field.
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