Encyclopedia Astronautica
Ranger 3-4-5



ranger3.jpg
Ranger 3, 4, 5
Credit: NASA
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Ranger 3, 4, 5
Credit: NASA
American lunar lander. 3 launches, 1962.01.26 (Ranger 3) to 1962.10.18 (Ranger 5).

The ambitious middle series of Ranger spacecraft were designed to transmit pictures of the lunar surface to Earth stations (during a period of 10 minutes of flight prior to impacting on the Moon), to rough-land a seismometer capsule on the Moon, to collect gamma-ray data in flight, to study radar reflectivity of the lunar surface, and to continue testing of the Ranger program for development of lunar and interplanetary spacecraft.

The basic vehicle consisted of a lunar capsule covered with a balsa wood impact-limiter, 27.5 cm in diameter, a retrorocket with a silvered plastic thermal shield, and a gold- and chrome-plated hexagonal base 1.5 m in diameter. Two wing-like solar panels (5.2 m across) were attached to the base and deployed early in the flight. Power was generated by solar panels containing 8680 solar cells. The capacity of the AgZn launching and backup battery was 1000 W-hours, and the six AgCd batteries were capable of operating the lunar capsule transmitter for 30 days.

The experimental apparatus included: (1) a vidicon television camera, which employed a scan mechanism that yielded one complete frame in 10 s; (2) a gamma-ray spectrometer; (3) a radar altimeter; (4) a seismometer to be rough-landed on the lunar surface; (5) an earth-controlled command system; (6) telemetry; (7) a power supply of AgZn batteries charged by solar cells; and (8) timing, orientation, and temperature control devices. Telemetry aboard the spacecraft included two 960 MHz transmitters, one at 3 W power output and the other at 50 mW power output.

The combined lunar impact/landing mission on these early probes proved too ambitious and none successfully completed their missions.

Gross mass: 331 kg (729 lb).
First Launch: 1962.01.26.
Last Launch: 1962.10.18.
Number: 3 .

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
See also
  • Atlas The Atlas rocket, originally developed as America's first ICBM, was the basis for most early American space exploration and was that country's most successful medium-lift commercial launch vehicle. It launched America's first astronaut into orbit; the first generations of spy satellites; the first lunar orbiters and landers; the first probes to Venus, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn; and was America's most successful commercial launcher of communications satellites. Its innovative stage-and-a-half and 'balloon tank' design provided the best dry-mass fraction of any launch vehicle ever built. It was retired in 2004 after 576 launches in a 47-year career. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Atlas The Atlas rocket, originally developed as America's first ICBM, was the basis for most early American space exploration and was that country's most successful medium-lift commercial launch vehicle. It launched America's first astronaut into orbit; the first generations of spy satellites; the first lunar orbiters and landers; the first probes to Venus, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn; and was America's most successful commercial launcher of communications satellites. Its innovative stage-and-a-half and 'balloon tank' design provided the best dry-mass fraction of any launch vehicle ever built. It was retired in 2004 after 576 launches in a 47-year career. More...
  • Atlas Agena B American orbital launch vehicle. Atlas D with improved, enlarged Agena upper stage. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • JPL American agency;manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, USA. More...
  • NASA American agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA, USA. More...

Associated Programs
  • Ranger Ranger was originally to be a program of five unmanned lunar crasher spacecraft, intended to quickly obtain information on the lunar surface. The scientific objective would be to acquire and transmit a number of images of the lunar surface prior to impact, and to obtain data from a survivable package incorporating a lunar seismometer. The resulting spacecraft was much too ambitious for its period. After five consecutive failures, a simpler, picture-return-only spacecraft made three successful flights, returning the first closeup pictures of the lunar surface years behind schedule. More...

Bibliography
  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page (launch records), Harvard University, 1997-present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • JPL Mission and Spacecraft Library, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 1997. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • Ertel , Ivan D; Morse , Mary Louise; et al, The Apollo Spacecraft Chronology Vol I - IV NASA SP-4009, NASA, 1966-1974. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • Lockheed Martin Coporation, Atlas Family Fact Sheets, September 1998.. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • National Space Science Center Planetary Page, As of 19 February 1999.. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, Manned Space Flight Network Postmission Report for Ranger C and D, Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, Field Operations Memorandum - Ranger IV, Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, Ranger A3, A4, and A5 - Spacecraft Design Specification, Web Address when accessed: here.

Associated Launch Sites
  • Cape Canaveral America's largest launch center, used for all manned launches. Today only six of the 40 launch complexes built here remain in use. Located at or near Cape Canaveral are the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, used by NASA for Saturn V and Space Shuttle launches; Patrick AFB on Cape Canaveral itself, operated the US Department of Defense and handling most other launches; the commercial Spaceport Florida; the air-launched launch vehicle and missile Drop Zone off Mayport, Florida, located at 29.00 N 79.00 W, and an offshore submarine-launched ballistic missile launch area. All of these take advantage of the extensive down-range tracking facilities that once extended from the Cape, through the Caribbean, South Atlantic, and to South Africa and the Indian Ocean. More...
  • Cape Canaveral LC12 Atlas launch complex. The complex was built for the Atlas ballistic missile program. Launch sites 11 to 14 were accepted between August 1957 and mid-April 1958. Complex 12 supported its first Atlas launch on 10 January 1958, and it supported nine Ranger missions and four Mariner missions between 12 August 1961 and 15 June 1967. Complexes 11, 12 and 14 were deactivated in 1967, and Complex 13 was deactivated in April 1978. More...

Ranger 3-4-5 Chronology


1959 December 21 - .
  • Unmanned program of five lunar spacecraft flights described - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Pickering. Program: Ranger. Spacecraft: Ranger 3-4-5. A guideline letter was sent to William H. Pickering, Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), from Abe Silverstein, Director of NASA's Office of Space Flight Development, outlining a program of five lunar spacecraft flights, intended primarily to obtain information on the lunar surface. JPL was requested to conduct tradeoff studies on spacecraft design and mission. The scientific objective would be to "acquire and transmit a number of images of the lunar surface." In addition, JPL was asked to "evaluate the probability of useful data return from a survivable package incorporating . . . a lunar seismometer of the type . . . being developed for NASA." This letter provided the formal basis for what was subsequently the Ranger program.

1960 May 4 - .
  • Ranger project named - . Nation: USA. Program: Ranger. Spacecraft: Ranger 3-4-5. Clifford I. Cummings, Jet Propulsion Laboratory spacecraft program director, announced at a meeting of the Aviation Writers Association in Los Angeles, Calif., that the spacecraft which would carry television and a detachable instrumented capsule to be crash-landed on the moon would be called "Ranger."

1961 July 24 - .
  • Contract for television system for Ranger - . Nation: USA. Program: Ranger. Spacecraft: Ranger 3-4-5. Summary: NASA issued a letter contract to the Astro-Electronic Division of Radio Corporation of America to develop and fabricate the high-resolution television system (including associated communication and electronic equipment) for the Ranger program..

1962 January 26 - . 20:30 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC12. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Agena B. LV Configuration: Atlas Agena B 121D (AA3) / Agena B 6003 (AA3). FAILURE: Agena B second stage guidance system failure. Failed Stage: 2.
  • Ranger 3 - . Payload: NASA P-34 (RA-3). Mass: 327 kg (720 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Program: Ranger. Class: Moon. Type: Lunar probe. Spacecraft: Ranger 3-4-5. USAF Sat Cat: 221 . COSPAR: 1962-Alpha-1. Lunar impact probe; missed the moon by 36,874 km and went into solar orbit. A malfunction in the booster guidance system resulted in excessive spacecraft speed. Reversed command signals caused the telemetry antenna to lose earth acquisition, and mid-course correction was not possible. Some useful data were obtained from the flight. Of four scientific experiments only one was partially completed: gamma-ray readings of the lunar surface. Attempts to relay television pictures of the moon and to bounce radar signals off the moon at close range were unsuccessful.

1962 April 23 - . 20:50 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC12. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Agena B. LV Configuration: Atlas Agena B 133D (AA4) / Agena B 6004 (AA4).
  • Ranger 4 - . Mass: 328 kg (723 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Program: Ranger. Class: Moon. Type: Lunar probe. Spacecraft: Ranger 3-4-5. Decay Date: 1962-04-26 . USAF Sat Cat: 280 . COSPAR: 1962-Mu-1. Ranger IV was launched by an Atlas-Agena B booster from the Atlantic Missile Range, attained a parking orbit, and was fired into the proper lunar trajectory by the restart of the Agena B engine. Failure of a timer in the spacecraft payload caused loss of both internal and ground control over the vehicle. The Goldstone Tracking Station maintained contact with the spacecraft until it passed behind the left edge of the moon on April 26. It impacted at a speed of 9,617 km per hour, the first American spacecraft to land on the lunar surface. The Agena B second stage passed to the right of the moon and later went into orbit around the sun. Lunar photography objectives were not achieved.

1962 October 15 - .
  • Ranger 3 showed that gamma-rays greater than expected - . Nation: USA. Program: Ranger. Spacecraft: Ranger 3-4-5. The analysis of scientific measurements made by the Ranger III lunar probe showed that gamma-ray intensity in interplanetary space was ten times greater than expected, NASA reported. Measurements were taken by gamma-ray spectrometers on Ranger III after it was launched on January 26. NASA scientists, however, did not believe that gamma-ray intensity was "great enough to require any changes in the design of radiation shielding for manned spacecraft."

1962 October 18 - . 16:59 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC12. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Agena B. LV Configuration: Atlas Agena B 215D (AA7) / Agena B 6005 (AA7).
  • Ranger 5 - . Mass: 340 kg (740 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Program: Ranger. Class: Moon. Type: Lunar probe. Spacecraft: Ranger 3-4-5. USAF Sat Cat: 439 . COSPAR: 1962-B-Eta-1. The Ranger V lunar probe was launched from Atlantic Missile Range by an Atlas-Agena B launch vehicle. The Agena B stage attained parking orbit and 25 minutes later reignited to send Ranger V toward the moon. A malfunction in the Agena B guidance system resulted in excessive spacecraft velocity. The spacecraft's solar cells did not provide power and reversed command signals caused the telemetry antenna to lose earth acquisition. This made reception of the flight-path correction signal impossible and rendering its television cameras useless. Reversed command signals caused the telemetry antenna to lose earth acquisition, and mid-course correction was not possible. The spacecraft missed the Moon by 725 km and went into solar orbit. Gamma-ray data were collected for 4 hours prior to the loss of power. Ranger V was to have relayed television pictures of the lunar surface and rough-landed an instrumented capsule containing a seismometer. The spacecraft was tracked for 8 hours, 44 minutes, before its small reserve battery went dead. Additional Details: here....

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