Monkeys in Space: A Brief Spaceflight History

f Iran has indeed launched a monkey to space, the nation is following a path similar to that taken by the United States in the early days of its space program.
Iran announced today (Jan. 28) that it had successfully launched a live monkey on a spaceflight and recovered the animal alive after landing. The move is a prelude to sending humans into space, which the Islamic Republic hopes to do by 2020, Iranian Space Agency officials said.
Iran and the United States don't see eye-to-eye on many issues, but both have viewed monkeys as good astronaut test subjects over the years. The U.S. was the first country ever to launch a primate, sending a rhesus monkey named Albert to a sub-space altitude of 39 miles (63 kilometers) aboard a V2 rocket in June 1948.

Very little was known about the physiological effects of spaceflight back in those days, with some scientists postulating that astronauts' cardiovascular systems would fail in the microgravity environment, causing near-instant death. So researchers wanted to blast some relatively large animals into space to see how they fared.
Albert died of suffocation during his flight, and a number of his simian brethren also sacrificed their lives to the cause in the ensuing years.

Another rhesus monkey named Albert II, for example, became the first primate to reach space, achieving an altitude of 83 miles (134 km) aboard another V2 in June 1949. He survived the launch but died after a parachute failure caused his capsule to slam hard into the ground.

Alberts III and IV died during their missions in late 1949, and Albert V was victimized by another parachute failure in 1951. Albert VI, also known as Yorick, survived his 1951 flight, though it topped out at an altitude of just 45 miles (72 km) — significantly below the generally accepted 62-mile (100 km) boundary demarcating outer space.

Yorick died several hours after landing, possibly from heat stress suffered as he sat inside his cramped capsule in the New Mexico sun, waiting for the recovery crew.
The United States recorded a milestone in May 1959, finally recovering two primates alive after a spaceflight. A rhesus monkey named Able and a squirrel monkey named Baker reached an altitude of 300 miles (483 km) aboard a Jupiter rocket and were retrieved unharmed. (Sadly, Able died several days later during an operation to remove an electrode from under her skin.)
As the American human spaceflight program began to build momentum, the nation started experimenting with chimpanzees, which are larger and more closely related to humans than are rhesus, squirrel or other monkeys.

The U.S. launched a chimp named Ham on a suborbital spaceflight on Jan. 31, 1961. Ham reached an altitude of 157 miles (253 km) during a 16.5-minute flight and was recovered unharmed, though a bit dehydrated. With this success in hand, Alan Shepard successfully blasted off on his suborbital flight on May 5, 1961, becoming the first American — and second human, after the Soviet Union's Yuri Gagarin — ever to reach space.

A chimp named Enos orbited the Earth on Nov. 29, 1961, paving the way for John Glenn's historic orbital flight of Feb. 20, 1962. (Again, the U.S. was slightly late to the party: Gagarin orbited our planet on his flight of April 12, 1961.)

After it became established that humans could indeed survive the rigors of spaceflight, monkeys and apes faded into the background. The U.S. continued to launch animals for scientific experiments but increasingly concentrated on smaller creatures such as mice and insects, which are easier to care for and take up much less space (although two squirrel monkeys did ride on the space shuttle Challenger's STS-51-B mission in April-May 1985.)

The United States' space race rival, the Soviet Union, primarily used dogs in the run-up to its first human launches, thinking that canines would prove to be less fidgety in flight than monkeys.
The Soviets launched their first dogs to space in 1951. The nation famously succeeded in lofting the first animal — a dog called Laika ("Barker") — to orbit aboard the Sputnik 2 spacecraft in November 1957. (Laika died during the flight.)

Despite its canine focus, the Soviet Union and its successor state Russia did launch a number of rhesus monkeys to space in the 1980s and 1990s, as part of a program called Bion. France also blasted two pig-tailed macaque monkeys to suborbital space in 1967.
Iran's recent launch was not its first attempt to send a monkey into space. A previous orbital effort in 2011 failed.

NASA Solicitation: Technical shift of the Wallops Cubesat Deployer

This is an appeal for in rank (RFI) only and does not comprise a commitment, implied or otherwise, that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)/Goddard Space journey Center (GSFC)/Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) will take procurement action in this matter. Further, neither NASA nor the Government will be responsible for any cost incurred in furnishing this information.

NASA recognizes the interest by educational institutions, science museums, and other appropriate organizations in the Manufacturing of the Wallops 6U CubeSat Deployer, Manufacturing of the Wallops 6U CubeSat Satellite Structure, Flying the Wallops 6U CubeSat Deployer, Marketing the Wallops 6U CubeSat Deployer and 6U CubeSat Satellite Structure, and Investing in Deployer Technologies. NASA intends to enter into multiple agreements for technical transfer.

NASA Solicitation: Technical shift of the Wallops Cubesat Deployer

Please see attached Wallops 6U CubeSat Deployer Fact Sheet.

The Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)/Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) has a long history of suborbital class missions such as sounding rockets, balloons and aircraft, and experience with orbital payload development such as CubeSat and International Space Station. For decades the NASA suborbital programs have, and continue to be, indispensable platforms for developing and nurturing the next generation of scientists and engineers, for testing and validating new technologies and instrumentation, and for offering low-cost rapid access to space for cutting-edge science experiments. The Wallops 6U CubeSat Deployer and Satellite Structure continue in the tradition of enabling low-cost rapid access to space for the nation.

The Wallops 6U Deployer development had been funded by NASA. It has been ground tested for flight. GSFC/WFF is developing improvements to the Deployer funded under GSFC Center IR&D, ground testing the improvements, flying the improved version on a sounding rocket in July 2013, and planning on flying on the Antares launch vehicle in December, 2013.

The Wallops 6U CubeSat Deployer is unique in a number of respects. It has an elegant pin and socket lateral restraint system that provides a highly reliable ride experience. It offers the greatest volume flexibility for a 6U CubeSat and the most space between the deployer and the CubeSat sides for Solar panels, deployables and other devices. It has been tested to very high safety factors with a 12 kg load allowing for greater than 12 kg in lower vibration environments and 12 kg in a high vibration environment.

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You may submit your interest via the internet, and solicit responses from interested parties. This document is for information and planning purposes and to allow industry the opportunity to verify reasonableness and feasibility of the requirement, as well as promote competition. Prospective offerors are invited to submit written comments or questions to: Scott Schaire, Code 800, NASA/GSFC/Wallops Flight Facility, Code 800, Building F-6, Wallops Island, VA 23337, Phone: 757-824-1120, email address: When responding reference NNG1390R.