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The BBC news article The World's Oldest Scientific Satellite is Still in Orbit talks about the Vanguard program and that Vanguard-1 is still in orbit around the Earth, and near the end shows a photo of Vanguard-3, which survived a launchpad explosion, was recovered, and is now (possibly) at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum:

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According to this NSSDC GSFC NASA Page Vanguard-1 looks like this engineering model:

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In both cases, and in the two screen shots above from this old video and this old video it seems to have six antennas pointing in orthogonal directions like the normals to faces of a cube standing on its corner. However, the header for the BBC article shows this instead. What satellite with four antennas protruding from its equator is this, or of what satellite is it a model? Does it represent a later Vanguard design?

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The photo is a NASA photo, and is displayed on their web site here.

The satellite itself is Vanguard 2. It can be seen mounted on its booster in this photo.

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It was successfully launched into Earth orbit on February 17, 1959, and was NASA's (not the US's) first successful satellite launch. However, the mission was a partial failure because separation issues caused the satellite to wobble after it was released from the third stage of the booster, which prevented its primary imaging payload from returning usable data.

Vanguard 2 was not solar powered but subsisted solely on battery power. Its mission ended when the batteries ran down 26 days after launch.

A supplemental note on Vanguard satellites and their confusing names:

Only the three satellites that made it to orbit were officially named Vanguard 1, Vanguard 2, and Vanguard 3. The eight satellites that were lost due to launch failures had other designations, although contemporary sources may have called them Vanguard-x based on launch sequence. The satellite payload from the infamous first launch attempt, which basically exploded on the launch pad, was recovered from the debris and now exists in the Smithsonian. It is most correctly referred to as Vanguard TV-3, where TV-3 stands for Test Vehicle 3 and was the name of the booster. It looked basically identical to Vanguard-1.

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From Vanguard: A History, NASA SP-4202 (picture is truncated in official NASA pdf)

Sources: www.drewexmachina.com,Goddard Space Flight Center, Wikipedia

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  • $\begingroup$ And so it is mislabeled as Vanguard 1 on that website? Did Vanguard-2 not have any of those square solar cells, and have only four antenna? And Vanguard-3 (in the Smithsonian) looks like Vanguard-1 with the square solar panels and six antenna? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 6 '17 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ If you read that NASA website carefully, it never says the picture is of Vanguard 1 (which was not a NASA satellite). It says it is "one of the Vanguard satellites." And then goes on to talk about Vanguard 1. Misleading? Yes. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Oct 6 '17 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ OK I see. That can be Vanguard-2. Wikipedia shows the larger ~50cm spacecraft for Vanguard-2 as well. I'm confused what the small satellite with the bent antenna is, that the BBC article claims to be Vanguard-3 sitting in the Smithsonian is, since Wikipedia says that it is in space, but that's not this question. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 6 '17 at 14:00
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh Apparently the BBC article dropped a couple of letters, calling Vanguard TV3 by the name Vanguard-3. I suspect the antenna got bent in the explosion and/or recovery effort... $\endgroup$ – FKEinternet Oct 7 '17 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ This would be worth up-voting just for the link to "Vanguard, A History." It's a great read. $\endgroup$ – Wayne Conrad Oct 11 '17 at 17:36

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