“First” US Rocket to Reach Outer Space
February 24, 1949
Considered the first US rocket to reach outer space by NASA, Bumper 5 is launched from the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico. The rocket was a combination of a modified captured German V-2 ballistic missile with a US-designed WAC Corporal rocket. It reached a record altitude at the time of 244 miles. The later named and established Kármán line, which is 62.1 miles (100 kilometers) above the Earth’s sea level, is considered the upper limit of Earth’s atmosphere and the beginning of Outer Space.
Interestingly, according to information found online there were other previous captured V-2 test flights launched from White Sands that reached higher than 100 km prior to Bumper 5. Still, the significance of Bumper 5 was that it was the first successful two-stage rocket launch, which proved the feasibility of the basic design of staged rockets that made successful space flight a reality.
Space Station Mir is Launched
February 20, 1986
The Soviet Union launches the core module of the Mir space station. The core module will provide living quarters for the cosmonauts, including a galley, cooking elements, storage, individual crew cabins and personal hygiene area. Five additional modules will be launched between March 1987 and April 1996.
John Glen Becomes First American to Orbit Earth
February 20, 1962
John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the Earth, riding aboard Friendship 7. Glenn orbits the Earth three times in four hours, fifty-five minutes. NASA accomplishes the landmark using an IBM 7030 Stretch supercomputer.
First Flight of Space Shuttle – Just Not Into Space
February 18, 1977
The first Space Shuttle orbiter, the Enterprise, embarks on its maiden flight in “captive mode,” attached to the top of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. The flight is the first of five captive flights before the orbiter is finally released to land on its own. The nine month test program is conducted through November 1977 at the Dryden Flight Research Facility to demonstrate that the orbiter can fly and land like an airplane. The Enterprise, while the first shuttle to fly, was not the first space-worthy orbiter and was only used for testing purposes.
First Weather Satellite Launched
February 17, 1959
Vanguard 2, the first weather satellite in space, is launched to measure cloud-cover distribution. The satellite is still in orbit today and is expected to continue to orbit for about 300 years.
Spacecraft Lands on an Asteroid
February 12, 2001
The NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft touches down in the “saddle” region of asteroid 433 Eros, becoming the first spacecraft to land on an asteroid.
Discovery Launches to Service Hubble
February 11, 1997
The Space Shuttle Discovery is launched on a mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. This was the second of five missions necessary to fix the flawed telescope. In most states, the entire thing could have been replaced as a lemon.
Titan-Centaur Fails First Test, Yet Mission Successful
February 11, 1974
The first Titan-Centaur rocket test launch fails. However the test was successful enough that no more tests were performed and this rocket design was used 6 more times successfully. Scientists are strange.
February 11, 1970
Japan launches Osumi, their first satellite. By doing so, Japan becomes the 4th nation to put a satellite in orbit.
February 10, 2009
The communication satellites Iridium 33 and Kosmos-2251 collide in orbit, destroying both. This was the first major collision of satellites in Earth orbit.