Why Spinning Was A Good Trick For America’s First Space Launch

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The first satellite launched into orbit by the US was Explorer 1 in 1958, this was launched using a rocket design developed by the US Army using mostly off the shelf rocket hardware. One of the most distinctive features of the rocket was the visibly spinning nose which contained the top 3 stages of the rocket. This design enabled the rapid development of the design and meant that in theory it could have launched a satellite into space before Sputnik were it not for the political problems associated with the Army team being lead by a former Nazi.

Spin stabilized rockets are actually a pretty common trick in space launches since it means you can forego thrust vectoring and other complicated guidance and control systems if you’re happy to live with a satellite that can handle the spin.

  1. sixstringedthing

    I’ve read pretty much every wiki article and anything I can get my hands on re. the early converted missiles and their fuels, read about Hydyne in “Ignition!”, but I never heard about Bagels and LOX. Man I love this channel, something new in every single video!

  2. Joseph Stevens

    Scott – Great explanation of spacecraft spin stabilization!
    …. I like the term “yo-yo D-spin”

  3. Hans Freivogel

    What a great episode! Thank you for sharing your knowledge,

  4. StringerNews1

    When I was a kid, I thought that liquid oxygen was available at many retail shops, because the sings in their windows said they had fresh LOX.

  5. SlovenMalaphor

    NASAkin: “I’ll try spinning! That’s always a good trick!”

  6. Robert Chandler

    Golly! This is really interesting1

  7. Asger Vestbjerg

    Great video as always
    Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us👍😀

  8. TheMr77469

    Neat always wondered what it meant in the footage to see the satellite was spinning like that.

  9. Big J

    I’ve personally come a long way from thinking we just shot stuff straight up and it was there. Thanks Scott!

  10. Carstuff111

    Rocket science…one of the many reasons I love physics :)

  11. simon bulgaris

    Thanks Scott I always wonder why does that really spins so fast

  12. Winter

    I discovered this back early alpha of KSP. Spinning prevented my rockets from flipping over

  13. fatarsemonkey

    Good informative video, I knew about spin stabilization but never knew about that yo-yo method and its employment.

  14. Caleb Carpenter

    I never get over how many totally bonkers things we’ve done to get to space. Something that big spinning that fast is frickin’ terrifying.

  15. Angel Arch

    LOX and Bagels into space, Yo-Yos in orbit… checks to see if it is still April 1st…

  16. funkyzero

    I can’t stop chuckling, every time you said it, it sounds like you are saying “Exploder One”.

  17. TheFriskyComiskey !

    Comment for YouTube algorithm
    Love your videos !!

  18. Charlie Davenport

    Scott I enjoyed this immensely because it sounded like you were saying “Exploder One”. :-)
    Your content is great. Keep up the good work!

  19. Sleepyhead fpv

    Best space channel on the damn internet. This and TMRW

  20. meb5078

    I was literally googling this last week.

  21. Daniel Bahr

    Scott – i always love your videos!
    Every time I watch one I’m learning something cool about a topic I didn’t even know was a thing, yet it turns out to be a critical bit of rocket science!
    No wonder there was that expressing about being one. You sir, are amazing.
    God speed.

  22. OneCupOfCoffee204

    Thanks for the view through your eyes, very interesting.

  23. RadioChief

    I went looking all over the WWW just last week to find an explanation of why they did this. I figured it had to do with gyroscopic action but you filled in so much more detail. Thank you Mr. Scott Manely.

  24. Penny Lane

    That spinning upper stage still looks like a scene from an old-timey science fiction movie though.

  25. Joseph Attanaseo

    Love learning about unintended discoveries!

  26. agustinbs

    This was really interesting, Thanks scott!

  27. Jhan Niber

    I remember I learned how spinning is a good trick in one of your old Kerbal videos

  28. Brad Bolender

    Very interesting episode!

  29. Leonardo Bonanno

    *Me before playing KSP Real Progress One:* Why spinning?

    *Me after playing 10 hours of Real Progress One:* Now I understand!

  30. - bird

    The audio is absolutely splendid! Always great vids.

  31. Jay Daniels


  32. Paul Haynes

    Very interesting – even if my brain did fail towards the end! We shouldn’t be too surprised at spin stabilisation, though – after all bullets have been doing it ever since rifling was invented. And long may you continue to pronounce the ‘h’ in ‘when’ – so good to hear!

  33. Loanword Eggcorn

    1:32 Ouch. Her pun hurt: Bagel and LOX. :)

  34. Sean Ledden

    What a wonderful mini history/science lesson!

  35. nemo skull

    “we could try spinning, thats a good trick!” – von braun, jedi padawan.

  36. Luca Herman

    Hahah so glad he made this video, I was curious when I saw that clip in the last video

  37. Paul D

    “She thought it should be called ‘bagel’ because it would be combined with liquid oxygen.”

    For the benefit of those who didn’t pick up on the joke:

    Liquid oxygen is abbreviated as LOX, LOx or Lox depending on the group doing the documentation.

    A common breakfast is bagel and lox, which in this context are slices of salt & sugar cured salmon.

    I don’t doubt that this was clear to many of you but there is probably at least one viewer who didn’t make the connection.


  38. Sev Frost

    that t handle brings me some real joy

  39. Jacob Wagner

    Just a suggestion for a future video. I would love to see a video on apollo’s poo program, or program zero zero. When I listen to the flight recordings, mission control talk about it somewhat often. I have spent some time looking into this and haven’t found much on the program.

  40. Kevin Charls

    still remember this example of explorer 1 from my “attitude dynamics and control” course


    Very cool reminder of something I learned long ago and had forgotten. Thanks!

  42. Togidubnus

    Excellent! Thank you for this. So you really do read our comments.

  43. Brett 567

    I’d say that the drain cover over the underground nuke test in 1957 is more lost aha

  44. Chris Peoples

    You gotta love conservation of angular momentum to help keep things stable!

  45. Kenneth Crips

    I watched this launch in real time. I remember clearly when they started to spin the top.

  46. mVm MotoVlogMusic

    Wow, this is one of the many things that trying to recreate on Earth just won’t cut it. Great video Scott.

  47. Jade Finch Scene

    I am now fondly thinking about being on a tire swing as a child, and how kicking out my legs made me spin more slowly. thank you for the trip down memory lane.

  48. Chris Huntley

    I’m with Mary Morgan on this one. “Bagel” is the best fuel to pair with LOX.

  49. Greg Knipe

    thank you for your productions. I laughed each time you said “explorer 1” because to me it sounded like “exploder 1”. carry on!!

  50. Mark Wandrey

    250 years later, deep space transport gets hulled by a high velocity mass.

    “What hit us?”
    “God damned yo-yo.”

  51. Thomas Bensler

    unbelievably interesting! how many hours did you spend researching for this video? just being curious.

  52. Cydonius1

    imagine the lost weights hitting a passing Krr’thifzz battlecruiser in a million years and inadvertently starting an interstellar war

  53. Marcus Medina

    I love the fact I can come here daily and enjoy some historical science topics

  54. jonas1015119

    early space program is something straight out of Kerbal. 4 stages, 3 of which are just clusters of identical solid boosters, with the whole setup spinning so it doesnt crash

  55. Scout Works RC

    I absolutely love how your accent makes “Explorer One” sound like “Exploder One”
    It’s fun little nuances like this than make it easy to listen to you speak for hours on end.

  56. Bogey the Bear

    8:00 “…you fire off this hunk of metal, it keeps going until it hits something. It could be a ship. It could be the planet _behind_ that ship! It could go off into deep space and hit someone in ten thousand years! Bottom line: You pull the trigger on this thing, you _are_ ruining someone’s day— somewhere, sometime!”

  57. ukranaut

    Imagine – there is a lonely chain with a weight still flying somewhere deep in the space.

  58. Scumfuck McDoucheface

    9:00 this may be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. =)

  59. Xefe

    You have matured Scott, not a single mention of KSP reaction wheels.

  60. Alexander Taylor

    I like to think, millions of years from now a couple on another watery world somewhere with an atmosphere will see a shooting star and make a wish on a small piece of New horizons

  61. Wojciech Kasprzak

    I was reading up on the instability issue the other day in the context of O’Neill cylinders and the flipping t-handle effect came up, sure enough. Would you consider doing a video on the permitted range of aspect ratios for the cylinder habitats, Scott? It may very well b’é that Babylon 5 was doomed from the start 😀

  62. Kyle A

    “As many people demonstrated, the alcohol used in the Redstone Rockets was safe enough to drink”

  63. rocketsocks

    “Please stop drinking the rocket fuel.”
    “Not until we get to five sigma!”

  64. Xylos144

    “While many people had proven that the alcohol used to fuel the Redstone was safe enough to drink.”

    “Oh, well its good that they did their due diligence and analyzed the different rocket fuels for…. hold on a second….”

  65. Plasmaburndeath

    Can you imagine being one of the first animals put into space using this technique? Dizzying Results I tell you.

  66. michael haas

    How do you learn that de-spin factoid? Amazing!

  67. Brian Hammil

    I really enjoy your videos. You break down so many things to where I can understand them. I am not a dumb person but am no rocket scientist either. I believe since you are not one either but have studied for your own curiosity you know how to break it down.

  68. Robert Loderer

    Great video, thanks much ❤️

  69. Miky Schuster

    I love how simple yet amazing alot of the solutions are. I mean who would have thought about that yoyo trick?

  70. A E

    Every time Scott says Explorer 1;

    All I hear is “Exploder 1”

    Must not be a fan of Ford Explorers…

  71. Jacob LF

    excellent historical video. ty.

  72. Picarus

    I once went a bit mad on a long, dehydrated mountain trek and found myself muttering “I’m Scott Manely, fly safe” as a sort of mantra to keep me going for hours. I survived. Thanks, Scott.

  73. Guy H

    I am not going to fly anywhere near soon.
    But I will do it safely. I promise.

  74. Robert Keefer

    Spin stabilization, what a great concept. We knew about that as kids in the 50’s.

  75. Harry Shrager

    That’s it, I’m calling the LiquidFuel from KSP Bagel from now on.

  76. Sean Baskett

    Explorer 1: Wow, look, Van Allen Belts! New Science! Telemetry!
    Sputnik: Beep Beep

  77. Yves Côté

    Wow! What a good study topic you have presented to us. Thank you!

  78. Chase Wilbur

    Most lost objects:
    -New Horizon Yo-Yo weights
    -that one manhole cover we may have sent to space with a nuke.

  79. Graham Rule

    Thanks for confirming that alcohol is safe to drink.

  80. 5Andysalive

    It always amazed me that even some photographing spacecraft spun. Like Pioneer 10 and 11 and i think Giotto.

  81. mini_bunney

    Imagine accidentally hitting an alien spaceship in another star system with a yo-yo despin mass

  82. Jeff Anderson

    Rare form today Scott! – Bagel fuel with a completely straight face…. :-)

  83. zac

    “What? It has to spin, it’s round. Spinning is so much cooler than not spinning. I am the General, and I want it to spin! Now!” – General Hammond, Stargate SG-1

  84. Chudley Flusher

    Pro-tip: If you’ve overdone it on the alcohol stand in place and extend your arms for several seconds to yo-yo despin before getting into bed!

  85. Jim Miller

    I can’t unhear “Exploder One.”

  86. Dan B

    another awesome and educative video. Keep the awesome vids coming!

  87. scoldingwhisper

    I remember finding your channel on a tutorial to get to orbit on the free version of KSP back when it was new

  88. Tyler Walter

    Been waiting for a video on the spinning payload 😂

  89. Aubrey Freeman

    Soviets: “No!!! You can’t just spin stabilize the top of your rocket!!!”
    Americans: “Haha, spiny top go brrrrr”

  90. Rahul N

    The Senate also knew that spinning was a good trick…

  91. Rahul N

    Prequel memers, Assemble!

  92. My 3D printed life

    Good old spin stabilization. Yo-Yo despin is so cool!

  93. Owens Trains

    Another amazing video from you scot! Keep up the good work!!

  94. Amir M

    Please make a video about falcon9 second stage engine and rcs trusters

  95. Keegan Penney

    Bagel fuel, that’s usually what powers my mornings.

  96. 7tonsofsalt

    memelord :)

  97. Titijijo

    “Let’s try spinning, that’s a good trick”

  98. Chace Crowell

    Now this is podracing!

  99. Pedro Silvério

    That notification was really fast!

  100. Lil Moist

    I’ll try spinning that’s a good trick!

Comments are closed.