Status: Retired 1962. First Launch: 1962-05-02. Last Launch: 1962-11-01. Number: 8 . Thrust: 668.00 kN (150,172 lbf). Gross mass: 49,300 kg (108,600 lb). Height: 19.40 m (63.60 ft). Diameter: 2.44 m (8.00 ft). Apogee: 500 km (310 mi).
Initial attempt to launch a live nuclear weapon using the Thor IRBM from Johnston Atoll. The range safety radar had been unreliable before launch,. Five minutes after launch, after shutdown of the booster, the Johnston missile tracking system failed. Unable to monitor the warhead's flight path, the range safety officer destroyed it 10 minutes later, prior to warhead detonation.
Successful high-altitude test of a Thor IRBM with a live nuclear warhead. The payload included test instrumentation and a W-49 warhead/Mk-4 re-entry vehicle. The 1.45 megaton bomb exploded at an altitude of 400 km. The explosion was visible 2,600 km away, at Kwajalein Atoll; an artificial aurora lasted seven minutes. The unforeseen and most militarily significant effect was the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generated by the test. This caused power mains surges in Oahu, knocking out street lights, blowing fuses and circuit breakers, and triggering burglar alarms (and this in the days before microelectronics). The explosion supercharged the Van Allen radiation belts, resulting in several satellites malfunctioning.
Second attempt to launch a nuclear weapon using the Thor IRBM. The payload consisted of two re-entry vehicles, one with an instrument pod, the other with the warhead. The missile engine malfunctioned immediately on ignition. Range safety fired the destruct system whille the missile was still on the launch pad. The Johnston Island launch complex was heavily damaged and contaminated with plutonium. Three months of repairs and decontamination were necessary before tests could resume.
The third attempt to launch a nuclear warhead using a Thor IRBM. At 86 seconds after launch a booster failure occurred and the missile began tumbling. Range safety destroyed the errant booster at 156 seconds after launch. Some radioactive fallout from the warhead was detected on Johnston Atoll.
On the fourth attempt, a Thor IRBM was used to launch a Mk 4 Re-entry Vehicle containing a 186 kg W-50 nuclear warhead of either 200 or 400 kilotons yield. The detonation occurred at an altitude of 50 km, 31 km SSW of Johnston Atoll. A fireball formed, the colourful afterglow continuing for 30 minutes of the explosion. At this altitude the extensive disruption of the ionosphere seen in later explosions did not occur.
A Thor IRBM was used to launch a Mk 4 Reentry Vehicle containing a 186 kg W-50 nuclear warhead of either 200 or 400 kilotons yield. The detonation occurred at an altitude of 98 km, 69 km SSW of Johnston Atoll, and resulted in dramatic aurora-like effects visible as far away as Hawaii. More notably, the explosion had a massive effect on the ionosphere which disrupted radio communications over the entire central Pacific for three hours.