Jan. 31 - Explorer 1, the first American satellite to reach orbit, is launched. It carried scientific equipment that lead to the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belt.
Mar. 5 - Explorer 2 is launced but it fails to reach orbit.
Mar. 17 - The Vanguard 1 satellite is launched. It continues to function for 3 years.
Oct. 1 - The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is formed, it replaces the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA).