Project MOUSE Launcher

This was a concept from the 1950s for a Minimum Orbital Unmanned Satellite Earth (MOUSE) vehicle proposed by Professor S.F.Singer of Maryland University. The work “Minimum Satellite Vehicles” was originally presented in 1951 at the Second International Conference on Astronautics in London by three members of the British Interplanetary Society – Kenneth Gatland, Alan Dixon and Anthony Kunesh. They originally looked at putting a small 5 kg payload into orbit. Later larger vehicles were proposed. The MOUSE would have been a 100 Ib (approximately 50 kg) satellite suitable for studying solar radiation, cosmic rays and weather as it was launched into the upper atmosphere. The final stage weight would have been 16,000 kg and a thrust of approximately 30,000 kg, not much more than the thrust of the V2 rocket. It was for a close orbit artificial satellite of the ‘minimum’ type. For examples of three-step liquid/hydrazine rockets were considered (a) without payload for checking the orbital path, and drag studies (b) with 220 Ib payload, research instruments and telemetry transmitter (c) with 385 Ib payloa, inluding additional control equipment (d) with the same payload as (c) but using expendable-tank construction.

Illustration of Minimum Satellite Vehicle

(Illustration of Minimum Satellite Vehicle)

The MOUSE project had fairly modest objectives, the establishment of a rocket, with a small payload of instruments in a temporary orbit at a distance of 200 miles. At this altitude, the atmosphere, though highly tenuous, would still be sufficient to exert an influence on the rocke and would eventually cause it to descend. It was estimated that MOUSE would make over 200 orbits over a perid of 12 days during which time it would have transmitted to Earth more information of conditions at various latitudes at the frontier of space than all the high altitude research rockets that had been fired to date. It laid the groundwork for much of the subsequent developments in the British Skylark sounding rocket which were developed as part of the UK contribution to the 1957 International Geophysical Year.

The 1951 paper has been republished in a special 59 page issue of Space Chronicle: K.W.Gatland, A.M.Kunesch, A.E.Dixon, Minimum Satellite Vehicles, Space Chronicle, JBIS, 56, 1, pp.38-43, 2003.  This issue is available to purchase by contacting the BIS here.

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