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both describe a launch of GRAB1 that secretly contained a second payload ELINT. The second launch attempt was self-destructed because the first stage engines shut off 12 seconds early.

This apparently resulted in fragments falling on Cuba.

Question: What happened to the debris that the US dropped on Cuba? Was any recovered? Was it even noticed and/or reported in Cuba?


See also https://web.archive.org/web/20070726215210/http://www.ncst.nrl.navy.mil/HomePage/GRAB/GRAB_Photos.html

Photo not shown in the other links:

GRAB 1 satellite on top of the Transit 2A. Standing Left to Right: Martin J. Votaw, George G. Kronmiller, Alfred R. Conover, and Roy A. Harding. 29 April 1960, NASA Hangar AA

Source

GRAB 1 satellite on top of the Transit 2A. Standing Left to Right: Martin J. Votaw, George G. Kronmiller, Alfred R. Conover, and Roy A. Harding. 29 April 1960, NASA Hangar AA

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Bits were collected and sold/handed out to various agencies.

According to the wiki page for the Thor-Ablestar launcher :

On 30 November, another launch involving a Transit satellite failed in practically identical fashion. This episode nearly created an international incident as parts of the Thor landed in Cuba. Cuban leader Fidel Castro subsequently sold off the Thor's engine to the Soviets and the Chinese received its thrust vectors, which ended up proving valuable to the latter's development of a ballistic missile capability.

The launch is identified as just "a Transit Satellite", but the vehicle type and date match for Thor-Ablestar launch of the second GRAB (not GRAB-2, being a failure they apparently recycled the GRAB-2 name for the later 29 June 1961 launch)

Subsequent launches of the same configuration had altered trajectories to prevent overflight of Cuba.

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  • $\begingroup$ Excellent answer, thanks, and what a fortuitous and complete coincidence for Snr Castro! Was Fidel Castro ever in a Soviet spacecraft? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 10 at 7:28
  • $\begingroup$ "Thrust vectors"? That must have been fun to package up. $\endgroup$ Aug 10 at 12:08
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble i think they may be referring to the vernier engines for roll control flanking the main engine $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Aug 10 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble could it have originally been thrust vectorers? But then some spell checker pushed back? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 10 at 14:04

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