Home SCIENCE The Oldest Satellite In Space – The Vanguard 1 Which Is Still...

The Oldest Satellite In Space – The Vanguard 1 Which Is Still In Orbit


Vanguard 1 was the 4th satellite launched, after being beaten by Sputnik 1, 2 and Explorer 1, it also suffered from multiple high profile launch failures. However, 60 years on it’s still in orbit long after these earlier satellites have fallen back to earth.

image/source: Scott Manley

And the rocket pioneered a design which is more consistent with moderlaunchers. Vanguard 1, a tiny grapefruit-size satellite weighing only 3.2 pounds and the first that was solar-powered, was launched into Earth’s orbit on March 17, 1958.

image/source: Scott Manley

The original purpose was to test the reliability of three-stage launch systems and today, at nearly 56-years-old, it has become the oldest manmade satellite still in orbit about the Earth.


Before radio contact was lost in May 1964, Vanguard 1 provided detailed information about the effect of the upper atmospheric environment on both the satellite and its instruments, which were essentially two radios and a temperature sensor.

In an orbit that ranges from 406 to 2,466 miles above the Earth’s surface, Vanguard 1 is expected to orbit for nearly another two centuries. Vanguard 1 is now tracked optically as a derelict piece of space debris, however, the satellite has made news lately with talk about it being retrieved from orbit by modern robotic space vehicles and returned to Earth to be put on display in a museum.

VIA Scott Manley
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