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AKA: Flight Investigation of the Reentry Environment. Status: Operational 1964.
NASA announced Project Fire, a high-speed reentry heat research program to obtain data on materials, heating rates, and radio signal attenuation on spacecraft reentering the atmosphere at speeds of about 24,500 miles per hour. Information from the program would support technology for manned and unmanned reentry from lunar missions. Under the management of the Langley Research Center, Project Fire would use Atlas D boosters and the reentry package would be powered by an Antares solid-fuel motor (third stage of the Scout).
NASA announced that a $5 million contract would be awarded to Republic Aviation Corporation for the construction of two experimental reentry spacecraft. Republic was selected from eight companies that submitted bids on March 12. The contract was part of Project Fire, to develop a spacecraft capable of withstanding reentry into the earth's atmosphere from a lunar mission. Plans called for the spacecraft to be tested during the second half of 1963.
NASA awarded a $2.56 million contract to Ling-Temco-Vought, Inc. (LTV), to develop the velocity package for Project Fire, to simulate reentry from a lunar mission. An Atlas D booster would lift an instrumented payload (looking like a miniature Apollo CM) to an altitude of 122,000 meters (400,000 feet). The velocity package would then fire the reentry vehicle into a minus 15 degree trajectory at a velocity of 11,300 meters (37,000 feet) per second. On December 17, Republic Aviation Corporation, developer of the reentry vehicle, reported that design was 95 percent complete and that fabrication had already begun.
MSC and Bellcomm agreed upon a plan for testing the Apollo heatshield under reentry conditions. Following Project Fire and Scout tests, the Saturn IB would be used to launch standard "all-up" spacecraft into an elliptical orbit; the SM engine would boost the spacecraft's velocity to 8,839 meters
(29,000 feet) per second. Additional Details: here....