Pioneer P-31

Launch Time
Thu Dec 15, 1960 09:10 UTC

Vibration and/or flying debris from Able adapter section ruptured the Atlas LOX tank at T+66 seconds, followed by complete vehicle self-destruction at T+73 seconds.

Final launch of the Atlas-Able.


Atlas-D Able
Image Credit: USAF or NASA
General Dynamics
Status: Retired
Liftoff Thrust: 1,880 kN
Stages: 3
Strap-ons: 0
Rocket Height: 35.0 m

Mission Details

Pioneer P-31

Pioneer P-31 (also known as Atlas-Able 5B or Pioneer Z) was intended to be a lunar orbiter probe, but the mission failed shortly after launch. The objectives were to place a highly instrumented probe in lunar orbit, to investigate the environment between the Earth and Moon, and to develop technology for controlling and maneuvering spacecraft from Earth. It was equipped to take images of the lunar surface with a television-like system, estimate the Moon's mass and topography of the poles, record the distribution and velocity of micrometeorites, and study radiation, magnetic fields, and low-frequency electromagnetic waves in space.

Payloads: 1
Total Mass: 175.0 kg
Trans Lunar Injection


LC-12, Cape Canaveral SFS, Florida, USA



36th orbital launch attempt


3rd mission
2nd mission of 1960
3rd failed mission