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.
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