The New Projects Panel of Space Task Group (STG) met for the first time, with H. Kurt Strass in the chair. The panel was to consider problems related to atmospheric reentry at speeds approaching escape velocity, maneuvers in the atmosphere and space, and parachute recovery for earth landing. Alan B. Kehlet of STG's Flight Systems Division was assigned to initiate a program leading to a second-generation capsule incorporating several advances over the Mercury spacecraft: It would carry three men; it would be able to maneuver in space and in the atmosphere; the primary reentry system would be designed for water landing, but land landing would be a secondary goal. At the next meeting, on August 18, Kehlet offered some suggestions for the new spacecraft. The ensuing discussion led panel members to agree that a specifications list should be prepared as the first step in developing an engineering design requirement.
Walter F. Burke of McDonnell summarized the company's studies of the redesigned Mercury spacecraft for Space Task Group's senior staff. McDonnell had considered three configurations: (1) the minimum-change capsule, modified only to improve accessibility and handling, with an adapter added to carry such items as extra batteries; (2) a reconfigured capsule with an ejection seat installed and most of the equipment exterior to the pressure vessel on highly accessible pallets; and (3) a two-man capsule, similar to the reconfigured capsule except for the modification required for two rather than one-man operation. The capsule would be brought down on two Mercury-type main parachutes, the ejection seat serving as a redundant system. In evaluating the trajectory of the two-man capsule, McDonnell used Atlas Centaur booster performance data.
North American to develop an emergency parachute recovery system for flight test vehicles of the Paraglider Development Program. Manned Spacecraft Center directed North American to design and develop an emergency parachute recovery system for both the half-scale and full-scale flight test vehicles required by Phase II-A of the Paraglider Development Program. They further authorized North American to subcontract the emergency recovery system to Northrop Corporation's Radioplane Division, Van Nuys, California. North American awarded the $225,000 subcontract to Radioplane on March 16. This was one of two major subcontracts led by North American for Phase II-A. The other, for $227,000, went to Goodyear to study materials and test fabrics for inflatable structures.
Gemini Project Office (GPO) decided that seat ejection was to be initiated manually, with the proviso that the design must allow for the addition of automatic initiation if this should later become a requirement. Both seats had to eject simultaneously if either seat ejection system was energized. The ejection seat was to provide the crew a means of escaping from the Gemini spacecraft in an emergency while the launch vehicle was still on the launch pad, during the initial phase of powered flight (to about 60,000 feet), or in case of paraglider failure after reentry. In addition to the seat, the escape system included a hatch actuation system to open the hatches before ejection, a rocket catapult to propel the seat from the spacecraft, a personnel parachute system to sustain the astronaut after his separation from the seat, and survival equipment for the astronaut's use after landing. At a meeting on March 29, representatives of McDonnell, GPO, Life Systems Division, and Flight Crew Operations Division agreed that a group of specialists should get together periodically to monitor the development of the ejection seat, its related components, and the attendant testing. Although ejection seats had been widely used in military aircraft for years, Gemini requirements, notably for off-the-pad abort capability, were beyond the capabilities of existing flight-qualified systems. McDonnell awarded a $1.8 million subcontract to Weber Aircraft at Burbank, California, a division of Walter Kidde and Company, Inc, for the Gemini ejection seats on April 9; a $741,000 subcontract went to Rocker Power, Inc., Mesa, Arizona, on May 15 for the escape system rocket catapult.
Meeting to review the design and testing philosophy for the half-scale test vehicle (HSTV) in phase II-A. Representatives of North American, NASA Headquarters, Langley Research Center, Flight Research Center, Ames Research Center, and Manned Spacecraft Center met to review the design and testing philosophy for the half-scale test vehicle (HSTV) in phase II-A of the Paraglider Development Program. After the emergency parachute recovery system had been qualified, the HSTV would be used to evaluate paraglider stability and control in drop tests with the wing predeployed and to provide empirical data on the functioning of vehicle systems in deployment tests. At the end of the review, the NASA Half Scale Test Vehicle Design Review Board recommended 21 changes in test vehicle design and test procedures to North American.
McDonnell subcontracted the parachute landing system for Gemini to Northrop Ventura at an estimated cost of $1,829,272. The parachute landing system was to be used for the first Gemini flight. Gemini Project Office had decided in April on using a single-chute system, one 84.2-foot diameter ring-sail parachute. At a mechanical systems coordination meeting in Houston on May 16-17, however, it was decided to add an 18-foot ring-sail drogue parachute to the system. McDonnell proposed deploying the drogue at 10,000 feet, two seconds after release of the rendezvous and recovery system. Fifteen seconds later the main recovery parachute would switch from single-point to two-point suspension, followed in five seconds by the initiation of reaction control system propellant dump which would take no longer that 105 seconds. The recovery parachute would be jettisoned shortly after impact. At another coordination meeting on May 23-24, Manned Spacecraft Center concurred in this proposed sequencing.
Manned Spacecraft Center concurred in McDonnell's proposed sequencing of the paraglider recovery system. In a normal mission, the drogue parachute (a small parachute to pull the recovery compartment away from the spacecraft and strip the paraglider from the recovery compartment) would deploy at 60,000 feet, followed by the release of the rendezvous and recovery section at 50,000 feet. Starting at 10,000 feet, all reaction control system propellant remaining after the paraglider had been deployed would be dumped. The paraglider wing itself would be jettisoned shortly after touchdown. At this point, plans called for the paraglider to be used on all Gemini missions except the first.
North American began a test program to qualify the emergency parachute system for the half-scale flight test vehicle required for Phase II-A of the Paraglider Development Program. The first two drop tests were successful (May 24, June 20); but during the third (July 10), the main recovery parachute failed to deploy. The trouble was analyzed and detailed modifications were worked out at a meeting on August 16 between North American and Northrop Ventura. The modifications proved successful in the fourth test (September 4), and Manned Spacecraft Center concurred with North American in judging the emergency parachute system for the half-scale test program to be qualified.
McDonnell was authorized to procure an additional boilerplate spacecraft for parachute landing system tests. The original plan called for McDonnell to use the boilerplate spacecraft fabricated by North American for qualification testing of the emergency parachute system for the paraglider drop tests. McDonnell estimated, however, that modifying the North American boilerplate would cost from $17,000, to $19,000, whereas a new boilerplate would cost from $10,000 to $12.000.
The capability for successfully accomplishing water landings with either the parachute landing system or the paraglider landing system was established as a firm requirement for the Gemini spacecraft. The spacecraft would be required to provide for the safety of the crew and to be seaworthy during a water landing and a 36-hour postlanding period.
North American began a test program to qualify the emergency parachute recovery system for the full-scale test vehicle in Phase II-A of the Paraglider Development Program. The first test was successful. In the second test (August 22), one of the three main parachutes was lost after deployment, but no damage resulted. In the third test (September 7), only minor damage was sustained despite the loss of two parachutes. The test series ended on November 15 when all recovery parachutes separated from the spacecraft immediately after deployment and the test vehicle was destroyed on impact. Manned Spacecraft Center decided to terminate this portion of the test program but directed McDonnell to supply North American with a boilerplate spacecraft for further tests at a later date.
North American began deployment flight testing of the half-scale test vehicle (HSTV) in Phase II-A of the Paraglider Development Program. The HSTV was carried aloft slung beneath a helicopter. The main purpose of the deployment flight tests was to investigate problem areas in the transition from release of the rendezvous and recovery canister to glide - the ejection, inflation, and deployment of the paraglider wing. The first flight partially substantiated the feasibility of the basic deployment sequence, but emergency recovery procedures were necessary. In the second test (January 8, 1963), the sail disintegrated, and in the third (March 11), the rendezvous and recovery canister failed to separate. In both instances, attempts to recover the vehicle with the emergency system were thwarted when the main parachute failed to deploy, and both vehicles were destroyed on impact.
Astronaut trainees concluded their formal academic training with a course on orbital mechanics and flight dynamics. Flight crew personnel had been receiving basic science training for two days a week over the past four months. During this period, they also received Gemini spacecraft and launch vehicle familiarization courses and visited several contractor facilities, including McDonnell, Martin, Aerojet, and Lockheed. Among subjects studied were astronomy, physics of the upper atmosphere and space, global meteorology, selenology, guidance and navigation, computers, fluid mechanics, rocket propulsion systems, aerodynamics, communications, environmental control systems, and medical aspects of space flight. Flight-crew training plans for the rest of the year, which were being formulated during February, called for space science and technology seminars, celestial recognition training, monitoring the Mercury-Atlas 9 flight, weightless flying, pressure suit indoctrination, parachute jumping, survival training, instruction in spacecraft systems and launch support, paraglider flying, centrifuge experience, docking practice, and work with the flight simulator.
Northrop Ventura successfully completed the first series of 20 drop tests in developing the parachute recovery system for Project Gemini. The first four drops, during the last two weeks of August 1962, used a dummy rendezvous and recovery (R and R) section with the 18-foot drogue parachute to determine the rate of descent of the R and R section. Additional Details: here....
North American let the first of three major subcontracts for the Gemini Paraglider Landing System Program to Northrop for a parachute recovery system in the amount of $461,312. A $1,034,003 subcontract for the paraglider control actuation assembly went to the Aerospace Division of Vickers, Inc., Detroit, Michigan, on March 25. The third major subcontract, $708,809 for the paraglider electronic control system, was let to the Aeronautical Division of Minneapolis-Honeywell on May 13.
NASA Headquarters approved rescheduling of the Gemini flight program as proposed by Gemini Project Office (GPO). Late delivery of the spacecraft systems coupled with the unexpectedly small number of Mercury systems incorporated in the Gemini spacecraft had forced GPO to review the flight program critically. In the revised program, the first flight was still set for December 1963 and was still to be unmanned, but it was now to be orbital rather than suborbital to flight-qualify launch vehicle subsystems and demonstrate the compatibility of the launch vehicle and spacecraft; no separation or recovery was planned. The second mission, originally a manned orbital flight, now became an unmanned suborbital ballistic flight schedule for July 1964. Its primary objection was to test spacecraft reentry under maximum heating-rate reentry conditions; it would also qualify the launch vehicle and all spacecraft systems required for manned orbital flight. The third flight, formerly planned as a manned orbital rendezvous mission, became the first manned flight, a short-duration (probably three-orbit) systems evaluation flight scheduled for October 1964. Subsequent flights were to follow at three-month intervals, ending in January 1967. Rendezvous terminal maneuvers were planned for missions 3 (if flight duration permitted) and 4, a seven-day mission using a rendezvous pod. The sixth flight was to be a 14-day long-duration mission identical to 4 except that no rendezvous maneuver missions with the Atlas-launched Agena D target vehicle. Water landing by parachute was planned for the first six flights and land landing by paraglider from flight 7 on.
Work under the contract was to be completed by May 1, 1964, and initial funding was $6.7 million. This contract reflected a reorientation of the paraglider program. Its primary purpose was to develop a complete paraglider landing system and to define all the components of such a system. Among the major tasks this entailed were: (1) completing the design, development, and testing of paraglider subsystems and building and maintaining mock-ups of the vehicle and its subsystems; (2) modifying the paraglider wings procured under earlier contracts to optimize deployment characteristics and designing a prototype wing incorporating aerodynamic improvements; (3) modifying the two full-scale test vehicles produced under Contract NAS 9-167 to incorporate prototype paraglider landing system hardware, modifying the Advanced Paraglider Trainer produced under Contract NAS 9-539 to a tow test vehicle, and fabricating a new, second tow test vehicle; and (4) conducting a flight test program including half-scale tow tests, full-scale boilerplate parachute tests, full-scale deployment tests, and tow test vehicle flight tests. Contract negotiations were completed on July 12, and the final contract was dated September 25, 1963.
Boilerplate spacecraft No. 5, a welded steel mock-up of the spacecraft reentry section, was dropped from a C-130 aircraft at 20,000 feet to duplicate dynamic pressure and altitude at which actual spacecraft recovery would be initiated. Four more land-impact tests followed, the last on June 28; all test objectives were successfully accomplished. The main parachute tucking problem, which had appeared and been resolved during development tests, recurred in drops 4 and 5 (June 17, 28). Although this problem did not affect parachute performance, Gemini Project Office decided to suspend qualification testing until the condition could be studied and corrected. Northrop Ventura attributed the tucking to excessive fullness of the parachute canopy and resolved the problem by adding control tapes to maintain proper circumference. Four bomb-drop tests during July proved this solution satisfactory, and qualification testing resumed August 8.
North American began a series of five drop tests, using a boilerplate test vehicle, to qualify the parachute recovery system for the full-scale test vehicle in the Paraglider Landing System Program. The reoriented paraglider program had begun with two successful bomb-drop tests of the parachute recovery system on May 22 and June 3. The first boilerplate drop test saw both the main parachute and the boilerplate suffer minor damage; but boilerplate drops No. 2 (July 2), No. 3 (July 12), and No. 4 (July 18) were successful. A series of malfunctions in the fifth drop test on July 30 produced a complete failure of the recovery system, and the test vehicle was destroyed on impact. North American considered the objectives of the flight qualification program on the parachute system to have been met, despite this failure, and requested, since the boilerplate vehicle had been damaged beyond repair, that the parachute program be considered complete. Manned Spacecraft Center denied this request and, in Change Notice No. 3 to contract NAS 9-1484, directed North American to support McDonnell in conducting two further drop tests. Wind tunnel tests on a 1/20-scale spacecraft model isolated the source of trouble, and the modified parachute recovery system was successfully tested with a new boilerplate test vehicle on November 12. Results from this test were confirmed by a second drop test on December 3, and the parachute recovery system for the full-scale test vehicle was judged and fully qualified.
The new flight crew members and two of the Mercury astronauts began a five-day desert survival course at Stead Air Force Base, Nevada. The course, oriented toward Gemini missions, was divided into three phases: (1) one and one-half days of academic presentations on characteristics of world desert areas and survival techniques; (2) one day of field demonstrations on use and care of survival equipment and use of the parachute in construction of clothing, shelters, and signals; and (3) two days of remote site training, when two-man teams were left alone in the desert to apply what they had learned from the academic and demonstration phases of the program.
Qualification testing of the Gemini parachute recovery system resumed over the Salton Sea Range, California, following a month's delay occasioned by resolving the parachute tucking problem. This test, the sixth in the qualification series, and the seventh (August 20) differed from the first five only in being water-impact rather than land-impact tests. They successfully demonstrated water-impact accelerations low enough to make water landing safe. Further qualification testing was suspended on September 3 by the decision to incorporate a high-altitude stabilization parachute in the recovery system.
Gemini Project Office (GPO) reported that it was investigating the use of a parasail and landing rocket system to enable the Gemini spacecraft to make land landings. Major system components were the parasail, drogue parachute, retrorocket, control system, and landing rocket. Unlike the conventional parachute, the parasail was capable of controlled gliding and turning. Landing rockets, fired just before touchdown, reduced the spacecraft terminate rate of descent to between 8 and 11 feet per second. Research and development testing was being conducted by the Landing and Impact System Section of Systems Evaluation and Development Division at Manned Spacecraft Center, while McDonnell had just completed a limited study of the advantages and disadvantages, including time required, of incorporating the new landing system on the spacecraft. GPO briefed NASA Headquarters on the system September 6, when it was decided that no further action would be taken on the parasail.
This was to permit incorporating a drogue parachute in the system as a means of stabilizing the spacecraft during the last phase of reentry, at altitudes between 50,000 and 10,000 feet. This function had originally been intended for the reentry control system (RCS), currently suffering from serious development problems. The revised design would also permit RCS propellants to be dumped before deploying the main recovery parachute. GPO outlined a three-phase drop test program to develop the drogue chute and qualify the revised recovery system. Phase I, scheduled for January and February 1964 and using boilerplate No. 5, as a test vehicle, would develop the technique of deploying the pilot parachute by the stabilization chute. The deployment sequence was planned to begin with deployment of the stabilization chute at 50,000 feet. At 10,600 feet, the astronaut would release the stabilization chute. A lanyard connecting the stabilization and pilot chutes would then deploy the pilot chute. Two and one-half seconds later, the rendezvous and recovery (R and R) section would separate from the spacecraft, allowing the main chute to deploy. Phase II of the drop test program, scheduled for March through August 1964 and using a parachute test vehicle (an instrumented weight bomb), would complete development of the stabilization chute. From June through October 1964, Phase III tests would qualify the recovery system, using static article No. 7, a boilerplate pressure vessel and heatshield equipped with production RCS and R and R sections. Since this program was not expected to be finished before the third Gemini mission, qualification of the existing system was to be completed with three more drops in February and March 1964. Static article No. 7 would serve as the test vehicle before being diverted to Phase III testing.
This training was necessary because in low level abort (under 70,000 feet) the pilot would be ejected from the spacecraft and would descend by personnel parachute. A towed 24-foot diameter parasail carried the astronauts to altitudes as high as 400 feet before the towline was released and the astronaut glided to a landing.
Phase I of the program to develop a drogue stabilization parachute for the Gemini parachute recovery system began with a successful test drop of boilerplate spacecraft No. 5 at El Centro. Phase I was aimed at determining the effects of deploying the pilot chute by a lanyard attached to the drogue chute. The second drop test, on January 28, was also successful, but in the third test, on February 6, the cables connecting the drogue-and-pilot-chute combination to the rendezvous and recovery (R and R) section of the boilerplate failed during pilot-chute deployment. Although the main chute deployed adequately to achieve a normal boilerplate landing, the R and R section was badly damaged when it hit the ground. Testing was temporarily suspended while McDonnell analyzed the cause of the failure. Testing resumed on April 10 with the fourth drop test, and Phase I was successfully concluded on April 21 with the fifth and final drop. Boilerplate No. 5 then returned to McDonnell, where it was converted into static article No. 4A by September 18 for use in Phase III tests.
North American began deployment flights of the full-scale test vehicle for the Paraglider Landing System Program. The contract called for 20 tests to demonstrate deployment of the full-scale wing from the rendezvous and recovery can, followed by glide and radio-controlled maneuvering; each test was to be terminated by release of the wing and recovery by the emergency parachute system (which had been qualified on December 3, 1963). Additional Details: here....
Structural qualification testing of the ballute stabilization system was completed in the wind tunnel at Arnold Engineering Development Center. Two subsonic and four supersonic runs at design conditions and two ultimate runs at 150 percent of design maximum dynamic pressure showed the four-foot ballute to be fully satisfactory as a stabilization device. Final qualification of the ballute was completed as part of a personnel parachute, high-altitude, drop test program which began in January 1965.
Phase II of the program to incorporate a drogue stabilization chute in the parachute recovery system began at El Centro. The purpose of Phase II was to develop the stabilization chute and determine its reefing parameters. The first test in the series, which used a weighted, instrumented, bomb-shaped parachute test vehicle (PTV), experienced several malfunctions culminating in the loss of all parachutes and the destruction of the PTV when it hit the ground. Subsequent analysis failed to isolate the precise cause of the malfunctions. No useful data were obtained from the second drop, on May 5, when an emergency drag chute inadvertently deployed and prevented the PTV from achieving proper test conditions. Subsequent tests, however, were largely successful, and Phase II ended on November 19 with the 15th drop in the PTV series. This completed developmental testing of the parachute recovery system drogue configuration; qualification tests began December 17.
First of a series of three tests to complete the qualification of the Gemini parachute recovery system. The first of a series of three tests, using static article No. 7, to complete the qualification of the Gemini parachute recovery system for spacecraft No. 2 was conducted at El Centro. T Additional Details: here....
Gemini spacecraft No. 3 began Phase I modular Spacecraft Systems Tests (SST) at McDonnell under the direction of the Launch Preparation Group. The Development Engineering Inspection of the spacecraft was held June 9-10. The new rendezvous and recovery section, incorporating the high-altitude drogue parachute, was installed and checked out during July and August. Modular SST and preparations for Phase II mated SST were completed September 12.
Flight Crew Support Division reported that the Gemini-Titan (GT) 3 primary crew had completed egress practice in boilerplate No. 201 in the Ellington Air Force Base flotation tank. The backup GT-4 crew was scheduled for such training on October 23. Full-scale egress and recovery training for both the GT-3 and the GT-4 crews was scheduled to begin about January 15, when parachute refresher courses would also be scheduled.
Phase III tests to qualify the Gemini parachute recovery system began with a successful drop of static article No. 7. In addition to No. 7, static article No. 4A was also used in the series of 10 tests. All tests were successful, with neither parachute nor sequencing failures. Phase III ended on February 11, 1965, with the 10th drop test. This completed the qualification of the Gemini parachute system.
The test program to qualify the Gemini escape-system personel parachute began with two low-altitude dummy drops. The backboard and egress kit failed to separate cleanly; the interference causing the trouble was corrected, and the parachute was successfully tested in two more drops on January 15. Four high-altitude dummy drops followed during the week of January 18. System sequencing was satisfactory, but in two of the four drops the ballute deployed too slowly. The problem was corrected and checked out in two more dummy drops on February 12 and 16. In the meantime, low-altitude live jump tests had begun on January 28. The 12th and final test in this series was completed February 10. Aside from difficulties in test procedures, this series proceeded without incident. High-altitude live jump tests began February 17.
This was the first ejection in flight to demonstrate the functional reliability of the Gemini personnel recovery system. The recovery system was ejected from an F-106 at an altitude of 15,000 feet and a speed of mach 0.72. Original plans had called for an ejection at 20,000 feet, but the altitude was lowered because of a change in the Gemini mission ground rules for mode 1 abort. Both seat and dummy were recovered without incident. The program ended on February 12 with HAET No. 3, although the dummy's parachute did not deploy. An aneroid device responsible for initiating chute deployment failed, as did an identical device on February 17 during qualification tests of the personnel parachute. These failures led to redesign of the aneroid, but since the failure could not be attributed to HAET conditions, Gemini Program Office did not consider repeating HAET necessary. All other systems functioned properly in the test, which was conducted from an altitude of 40,000 feet and at a speed of mach 1.7.