Encyclopedia Astronautica
1962.10.18 - Ranger 5


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.

On October 29, Homer E. Newell, NASA Director of the Office of Space Sciences, established a Board of Inquiry to review the entire Ranger program. The Board, headed by Albert J. Kelley of NASA Headquarters, submitted its report on December 4 and found that, while the Ranger design concept was basically sound, improvements could be made to increase flight reliability.

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