Status: Operational 1960. First Launch: 1960-01-21. Last Launch: 1963-05-15. Number: 18 . Thrust: 13.33 kN (2,997 lbf). Gross mass: 1,355 kg (2,987 lb). Unfuelled mass: 1,136 kg (2,504 lb). Height: 4.03 m (13.22 ft).
The capsule had to be as small as possible to match the payload capability of America's first ICBM, the Atlas, which would be used for orbital missions. The much smaller Redstone was used for suborbital flights. The resulting design was less than a third of the weight of the Russian Vostok spacecraft, and more limited as a result. While the Vostok was capable of missions of up to a week, the Mercury's final 24 hour mission was barely completed, with virtually all of the spacecraft's systems having broken down by the end. NASA felt lucky to have astronaut Cooper back alive (although the flight demonstrated a pinpoint re-entry was possible with no electrical power, no ECS, no guidance or instruments!) Alan Shepard's desired week-long Mercury 10 flight was cancelled as a result, an ironic capstone to a program that could have made Shepard the first man in space if NASA had not desired one more unmanned test of the Redstone rocket before his suborbital flight.
A few follow-on uses of Mercury were studied, but the real follow-on was the Gemini, also built by McDonnell.
Unit Cost $: 5.500 million. Crew Size: 1. Orbital Storage: 1.00 days. Habitable Volume: 1.70 m3. RCS total impulse: 30 kgf-sec. Spacecraft delta v: 98 m/s (321 ft/sec). Electric System: 151.00 kWh. Electric System: 2.16 average kW.
|Adam American manned spacecraft. In early 1958 Wernher von Braun proposed launching an American aboard an Army Redstone on a suborbital mission into space before the end of 1959 at a cost of under $12 million.|
|Mercury-Jupiter 2 (MJ-2) Planned manned Mercury long-range suborbital flights using the Jupiter IRBM as a booster. These were considered as an intermediary step in the Mercury program before use of the Jupiter booster in the program was cancelled in July 1959 on cost grounds.|
|Little Joe 5A In April 1959, plans were made for three or four Mercury-Little Joe flights with animal passengers. NASA secretly considered a manned mission but quickly dropped the idea when the dynamic pressures involved were reviewed.|
|Mercury Capsule American manned spacecraft module. 18 launches, 1960.01.21 (Mercury LJ-1B) to 1963.05.15 (Mercury MA-9). Reentry capsule.|
|Mercury Retropack American manned spacecraft module. 18 launches, 1960.01.21 (Mercury LJ-1B) to 1963.05.15 (Mercury MA-9).|
|Mercury Balloon Flight Tests In January 1959, balloon flights were planned for qualification of the Mercury spacecraft. These would occur from July 1959 to January 1961. Final flights would be manned tests of up to 24 hours duration, with recovery of the capsule at sea. Cancelled May 1959.|
|Mercury MR-3A Planned manned Mercury flight that would have put an American in space before the Russians. But after booster problems on Mercury MR-2, von Braun insisted on a further unmanned booster test. This proved to be unnecessary. If NASA had overruled Von Braun, Shepard would have been the first man in space, beating Gagarin's flight by three weeks.|
|Mercury MR-3 First American in space, less than a month after Gagarin, but only on a 15 minute suborbital flight. First manual orientation of a manned spacecraft.|
|Mercury Mark I American manned spacecraft. Study 1959. Proposed derivatives of the basic one-crew Mercury capsule for investigation of earth orbit rendezvous, lifting re-entry and land landing.|
|Mercury MR-4 Suborbital flight; second American in space. Hatch blew after splashdown; capsule sank; astronaut barely saved before drowning.|
|Mercury MR-5 Planned Mercury suborbital flight. After Soviet full-day orbital flight in August 1961, NASA's suborbital hops looked pathetic. Further suborbital Mercury flights were cancelled.|
|Mercury MR-6 Planned Mercury suborbital flight. Cancelled July 1961; delays in Redstone flights meant Atlas orbital flights were imminent.|
|Mercury MA-6 First US manned orbital mission, three orbits. False landing bag deploy light led to reentry being started with retropack left in place. It turned out the indicator light was false, but a spectacular reentry ensued.|
|Mercury Balloon-Subsat 1, 2 Satellite for NASA Langley Research Center, USA. Launched 1962-1963.|
|Mercury MA-7 Second US manned orbital mission. Excessive fuel use and pilot error led to late re-entry, and landing 300 km past the intended point. Capsule ran out of orientation fuel during re-entry.|
|Mercury MA-7 Delta 7 Planned second US manned orbital flight. Cancelled 18 March 1962 when astronaut's minor heart condition became public.|
|Mercury MA-8 Most successful American manned space flight to that date, six orbits, returning to earth precisely, with astronaut aboard recovery ship 40 minutes after landing. Speed record (7,850 m/s).|
|Mercury MA-9A Planned Mercury six-orbit mission. Canceled and NASA moved directly to an 18-orbit mission due to astronaut shortage and change in concept (flights no longer used just to train astronauts).|
|Flashing Light Unit Rendezvous Target satellite operated by NASA, USA. Launched 1963.|
|Mercury MA-9 Final Mercury mission, After 22 orbits, virtually all capsule systems failed. Nevertheless the astronaut was able to manually guide the spacecraft to a pinpoint landing.|
|Mercury MA-10 Planned second one-day Mercury flight. Cancelled as too risky after Mercury MA-9 achieved objective only after failure of many spacecraft systems.|
|Mercury MA-11 Planned third one-day Mercury flight. Cancelled as too risky after Mercury MA-9 achieved objective, but only after failure of many spacecraft systems.|
|Mercury MA-12 Planned fourth one-day Mercury flight. Cancelled mid-1962 in order to move on to Gemini.|
|Mercury Flight History Mercury Flight History|
|Mercury Atlas 5|
Credit: © Mark Wade
|Pigs In Space|
Pigs In Space - NASA used pigs to test human survivability in case of a land 'splashdown' by using pigs - they showed no apparent ill effects - truly 'Spam in a Can'.
Comparison of the Mercury and Gemini capsules.
Credit: © Mark Wade
Before Mercury, the US Air Force had a project 'Man in Space Soonest'. This chart summarizes the initial contractor proposals.
Credit: © Mark Wade
Credit: Manufacturer Image
Credit: Manufacturer Image
|Project 7969 Designs|
Project 7969 designs. From left, top row: North American X-15B; Bell Dynasoar; Northrop Dynasoar; Republic Demi body; Avco manoeuvrable drag cone. Second row: Lockheed; Martin; Aeronutronics; Goodyear; McDonnell; Convair
Credit: © Mark Wade
Artist concept of Rendezvous Evaluation Pod in orbit with Gemini spacecraft
H. Julian Allen of NACA Ames Laboratory conceived the "blunt nose principle" which submitted that a blunt shape would absorb only one-half of 1 perecent of the heat generated by the reentry of a body into the earth's atmosphere. This principle was later significant to ICBM nose cone and the Mercury capsule development.
A presentation on manned orbital flight was made by Maxime A. Faget. The concept included the use of existing ballistic missiles for propulsion, solid-fuel retrorockets for reentry initiation, and a nonlifting ballistic shape for the reentering capsule. This concept was considered to be the quickest and safest approach for initial manned flights into orbit.
The Air Research and Development Command convened a committee to prepare a final planning draft of an Air Force Astronautics Program for presentation to Mr. W. M. Holaday. The Air Force proposed five year space program included development of research and test vehicles, satellite reconnaissance systems, a lunar based intelligence system, defense systems, logistic requirements of lunar transport, and strategic communications. If the program wei.accepted in its entirety, $1.156 billion in initial funding would be needed in fiscal 1959. (Memo, Col L. D. Ely, Dir Tech Div, to Col C. H. Terhune, AFBMD, 28 Jan 58, subj: Trip Report.) The Air Force invited the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) to participate in "a research vehicle program to explore and solve the problems of manned space flight. " Specifically, the Air Force objective was to achieve the earliest possible manned orbital flight which would significantly contribute to development of "follow-on scientific and military space systems." An immediate decision was therefore necessary to determine the best approach to the design of an orbiting research vehicle--should it be a glide vehicle or one designed only to accomplish the satellite mission? Inasmuch as both NACA and the Air Force were well along in their investigations of the best approach to be taken in the design of a manned orbiting research vehicle it was suggested that, "These efforts should be joined at once and brought promptly to a conclusion. " Accordingly NACA was invited to collaborate with Air Research and Development Command on an over-all evaluation of relevant space plans and projects and any program resulting from the joint evaluation would be, it was suggested, "managed and funded along the lines of the X-15 effort. " Specific guide lines were furnished the Advisory Committee to facilitate its response to the Air Force request. (Ltr, Lt Gen D. L. Putt, DCS/D, Hq USAF, to Dr. H. L. Dryden, Dir NACA, 31 Jan 58, no subject.)
A conference was held at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to review concepts for manned orbital vehicles. The NACA informally presented two concepts then under study at Langley Aeronautical Laboratory: the one proposed by Maxime A. Faget involved a ballistic, high-drag capsule with heat shield on which the pilot lies prone during reentry, with reentry being accomplished by reverse thrust at the apogee of the elliptical orbit involving a deceleration load of about 8g, and proceeding to impact by a parachute landing; the other Langley proposal called for the development of a triangular planform vehicle with a flat bottom having some lift during reentry. At this same meeting there were several Air Force contractor presentations. These were as follows: Northrop, boost-glide buildup to orbital speed; Martin, zero-lift vehicle launched by a Titan with controlled flight estimated to be possible by mid-1961; McDonnell, ballistic vehicle resembling Faget's proposal, weighing 2,400 pounds and launched by an Atlas with a Polaris second stage; Lockheed, a 20 degree semiapex angle cone with a hemispherical tip of 1-foot radius, pilot in sitting position facing rearward, to be launched by an Atlas-Hustler combination; Convair reviewed a previous proposal for a large-scale manned space station, but stated a minimum vehicle - a 1,000-pound sphere - could be launched by an Atlas within a year; Aeronutronics, cone-shaped vehicle with spherical tip of 1-foot radius, with man enclosed in sphere inside vehicle and rotated to line the pilot up with accelerations, and launched by one of several two-stage vehicles; Republic, the Ferri sled vehicle, a 4,000 pound, triangular plan with a two-foot diameter tube running continuous around the leading and trailing edge and serving as a fuel tank for final-stage, solid-propellant rockets located in each wing tip, with a man in small compartment on top side, and with a heat-transfer ring in the front of the nose for a glide reentry of 3,600 miles per hour with pilot ejecting from capsule and parachuting down, and the launch vehicle comprising three stages (also see July 31, 1958 entry); AVCO, a 1,500-pound vehicle sphere launched by a Titan, equipped with a stainless-steel-cloth parachute whose diameter would be controlled by compessed air bellows and which would orient the vehicle in orbit, provide deceleration for reentry, and control drag during reentry; Bell, reviewed proposals for boost-glide vehicles, but considered briefly a minimum vehicle, spherical in shape, weighing about 3,000 pounds; Goodyear, a spherical vehicle with a rearward facing tail cone and ablative surface, with flaps deflected from the cone during reentry for increased drag and control, and launched by an Atlas or a Titan plus a Vanguard second stage; North American, extend the X-15 program by using the X-15 with a three-stage launch vehicle to achieve a single orbit with an apogee of 400,000 feet and a perigee of 250,000, range about 500 to 600 miles and landing in the Gulf of Mexico, and the pilot ejecting and landing by parachute with the aircraft being lost.
Lieutenant General Donald Putt, Air Force Director of Research and Development, sent a letter to Dr. Hugh Dryden, Director of NACA, inviting NACA participation in the Air Force effort in the manned ballistic rocket program. Dr. Dryden informed the Air Force that NACA was preparing manned spacecraft designs for submission in March 1958.
Air Force headquarters instructed the Air Research and Development Command to expedite man-in-space projects. Air Force headquarters instructed the Air Research and Development Command, in collaboration with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics to " expedite the evaluation of existing or planned projects, appropriate available proposals and other competitive proposals with a view to providing an experimental system capable of an early flight of a manned vehicle making an orbit of the earth." Furthermore, it was asserted that it was "vital to the prestige of the nation that such a feat be accomplished at the earliest technically practicable date--if at all possible before the Russians. " It was therefore important that the evaluation determine whether the objective of a manned space flight could be accomplished more readily under the Dyna Soar program or by means of an orbiting satellite. The minimum time to the first orbital flight and the associated costs were to be determined. The approach to this objective was also to furnish tangible contributions to the over-all Air Force astronautics program. Furthermore, the hazard accompanying such a flight was to be the minimum dictated by sound engineering and experimental flight safety practices. If at all possible, pilot safety was to be secured by furnishing an emergency escape system. (Ltr, Lt Gen D. L. Putt, DCS/D, Hq USAF, to Cmdr, ARDG, 31 Jan 58, subj: Advanced Hypersonic Research Aircraft.)
Experience with the X-15 design indicated that many of the weight figures advanced by the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory for the drag or lift configurations of the reentry vehicle (later to become the Mercury spacecraft) were too low, according to Walter C. Williams, Chief of the NACA High-Speed Flight Station. Weights of auxiliary-power fuel, research instrumentation, and cockpit equipment as set by Langley were too low in terms of X-15 experience. Williams stated the total weight should be 2,300 pounds for the drag configuration and 2,500 pounds for the lifting configuration.
Robert R. Gilruth, Clotaire Wood, and Hartley A. Soule of NACA transmitted a document to the Air Research and Development Command, which listed the design concepts NACA believed should be followed to achieve manned orbital flights at the earliest possible date. These were: (1) design and develop a simple ballistic vehicle, (2) use existing intercontinental ballistic missile propulsion systems, and (3) use the heat sink method for reentry from orbital conditions.
At the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, a working committee studied various manned satellite development plans and concluded that a ballistic-entry vehicle launched with an existing intercontinental ballistic missile propulsion system could be utilized fpr the first manned satellite project.
Reports were made on recoverable manned satellite configurations being considered by NACA. One involved a blunt, high-drag, zero-lift vehicle that would depend on a parachute landing for final deceleration. Another was a winged vehicle that would glide to a landing after reentering the atmosphere. The third proposal involved features of each of the above. Besides the configuration studies, significant reports were completed relative to motion and heating, stabilization, and attitude control.
A working conference in support of the Air Force 'Man-in-Space Soonest' (MISS) was held at the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division in Los Angeles, California. General Bernard Schriever, opening the conference, stated that events were moving faster than expected. By this statement he meant that Roy Johnson, the new head of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, had asked the Air Force to report to him on its approach to putting a man in space soonest. Johnson indicated that the Air Force would be assigned the task, and the purpose of the conference was to produce a rough-draft proposal. At that time the Air Force concept consisted of three stages: a high-drag, no-lift, blunt-shaped spacecraft to get man in space soonest, with landing to be accomplished by a parachute; a more sophisticated approach by possibly employing a lifting vehicle or one with a modified drag; and a long-range program that might end in a space station or a trip to the moon.
At that time, NACA was already actively engaged in research and study of several phases. For example, in the basic studies category effort had been expended on the study of orbits and orbit control, space physical characteristics, configuration studies, propulsion system research, human factors, structures and materials, satellite instrumentation, range requirements, and noise and vibration during reentry and exit. In addition, NACA outlined the complete program covering full-scale studies of mockups, simulators, and detail designs; full-scale vertical and orbiting flights involving unmanned, animal, and manned flights and recovery; and exploitation of the program to increase the payloads. As to the design concepts for such a program, NACA believed that the Atlas launch vehicle was adequate to meet launch-vehicle requirements for manned orbital flights; that retrograde and vernier controllable thrust could be used for orbital control; that heat-sink or lighter material could be used against reentry heating; that guidance should be ground programed with provisions for the pilot to make final adjustments; that recovery should be accomplished at sea with parachutes used for letdown; that a network of radar stations should be established to furnish continuous tracking; and that launchings be made from Cape Canaveral. It was estimated that with a simple ballistic shape accelerations would be within tolerable limits for the pilot. Temperature control, oxygen supply, noise, and vibration were considered engineering development problems, which could be solved without any special breakthroughs.
An NACA report was published entitled, 'Preliminary Studies of Manned Satellites, Wingless Configuration, Non-Lifting,' by Maxime A. Faget, Benjamine Garland, and James J. Buglia. Later this document became the basic working paper for the Project Mercury development program, and was reissued as NASA Technical Note D-1254, March 1962.
An 'NACA Conference on High-Speed Aerodynamics' was held at the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, Moffett Field, California, to acquaint the military services and industrial contractors interested in aerospace projects with the results of recent research conducted by the NACA laboratories on the subject of space flight. The conference was attended by more than 500 representatives from the NACA, industry, the military services, and other appropriate government agencies. Some 46 technical papers were presented by NACA personnel, and included specific proposals for manned space flight vehicle projects. One of these was presented by Maxime A. Faget. Other papers within the category of manned orbital satellites included: 'Preliminary Studies of Manned Satellites, Wingless Configuration, Lifting Body' by Thomas J. Wong and others; 'Preliminary Studies of Manned Satellites, Winged Configurations' by John V. Becker; 'Preliminary Aerodynamic Data Pertinent to Manned Satellite Reentry Configurations' by Jim A. Penland and William O. Armstrong; and 'Structural Design Considerations for Boost-Glide and Orbital Reentry Vehicles' by William A. Brooks and others.
Maxime A. Faget and associates conceived the idea of using a contour couch to withstand the high g-loads attendant to acceleration and reentry forces of manned space flight. Fabrication of test-model contour couches was started in the Langley shops in May 1958, and the concept was proved feasible on July 30 of that same year.
The President, basing his recommendation on the March Z6th report of his Science Advisory Committee, stated it was essential that the nation adopt the program because it represented the next step forward in man's compelling urge to explore and discover, it would develop space technology essential to our defense, enhance our national prestige, and furnish the nation new opportunities for scientific observation and experiment which would add to man's "understanding of the earth, the solar system and the universe." The President therefore advised Congress that a National Aeronautics and Space Administration be created to furnish, "a civilian setting for administration of space functions [which] will emphasize the concern of our nation that outer space be devoted to peaceful and scientific purposes." (History, Hq ARDC, 1 Jan 31 Dec 1958, p. 13; Max Rosenberg, The Air Force in Space, 1959-1960, dtd Jun 62, USAF Hist Div Liaison Ofc, p.3.)
The Air Research and Development Command informed the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics that it had initiated a 30 day effort at the ballistic missile division to prepare a detailed development plan for "an extended manned space vehicle program of which man in space at the earliest practicable date is an integral part." The advisory committee was invited to participate in the preparation of the plan and to advise the Air Force of their anticipated action. (Msg, 04-9-01, Cmdr, ARDC, to Cmdr AFBMD, 9 Apr 58.)
Major General B. A. Schriever takes on initial responsibility for the Manned Military Space System Program. In an attempt to define more clearly the role of the ballistic missile division in space projects, Major General B. A. Schriever, division commander, outlined his understanding that he was assigned initial responsibility for "planning, initiating and managing the Manned Military Space System Program. " Planning had advanced to the point of contractor selection, awaiting only allocation of sufficient funds to begin the Man-In-Space-Soonest program. Moreover, General Schriever was arranging to meet with Dr. H. L. Dryden of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, "... at the earliest practicable time," to establish the highest level of support and mutual cooperation possible. Working level conferences were already underway to develop concrete application of this cooperative interest in the program. It was also intended that other organizations were to be used as appropriate to "insure maximum utilization of the Air Research and Development Command's Resources. (Ltr, Maj Gen B. A. Schriever, Cmdr, AFBMD, to Lt Gen S. E. Anderson, Cmdr, ARDC, 21 May 58, no subject.)
Preliminary specifications of the first manned satellite vehicle were drafted by Langley Aeronautical Laboratory personnel under the supervision of Maxime Faget and Charles W. Mathews. After a number of revisions and additions, these specifications were used for the Project Mercury spacecraft contract with McDonnell Aircraft Corporation. A working group of representatives from the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory and the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory was formed for the purpose of outlining a manned satellite program.
After serving as a liaison officer of NACA and as a participating member of an Advanced Research Projects Agency panel, Maxime A. Faget reported to Dr. Hugh Dryden on resulting studies and attending recommendations on the subject of manned space flight. He stated that the Advanced Research Projects Agency panel was quite aware that the responsibility for such a program might be placed with the soon-to-be-created civilian space agency, although they recommended program management be placed with the Air Force under executive control of NACA and the Advanced Research Projects Agency. The panel also recommended that the program start immediately even though the specific manager was, as yet, unassigned. Several of the proposals put forth by the panel on the proposed development were rather similar to the subsequent evolvement. The system suggested by the Advanced Research Projects Agency was to be based on the use of the Atlas launch vehicle with the Atlas-Sentry system serving as backup; retrorockets were to be used to initiate the return from orbit; the spacecraft was to be nonlifting, ballistic type, and the crew was to be selected from qualified volunteers in the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
A conference was scheduled at Air Force headquarters on 25-26 Jun 1958 to discuss the "over-all problems of the manned satellite development program." The conference was sponsored by the Advanced Research Projects Agency with representatives of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, Air Research and Development Command, Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, Space Technology Laboratories, and Convair invited to the meeting. Questions to be attacked were: Could the booster be an Atlas without a second stage? What would be the subsystem distribution of payload weight? What was Atlas maximum payload weight performance? question of ablation or heat sink capsule design was to be resolved before the conference. If it was concluded that Atlas weight lifting performance was inadequate an alternate choice would be the Atlas with a 117L second stage. Complete funding plans covering program options were to be available to the conferees. (Msg, AFDRD 51947, Hq USAF, to Hq ARDC, 13 Jun 58.)
The Advanced Research Projects Agency had not yet directed a "go ahead" for the man in space program. However, Air Force headquarters considered it a certainty that direction of an Atlas boosted manned space flight would be given to the Air Force at an early date, that funds for the project would probably total $66 million and that a series of Thor boosted, instrument and animal capsule flights would precede the Atlas full sized instrumented capsule, chimpanzee, and manned shots. The Air Force would probably re-program to obtain whatever additional funds were required to support the program. The ballistic missile division was advised that while waiting for an authoritative "go ahead" it should continue preparation of work statements for industry competition and contractor selection so they might be coordinated with the Advanced Research iProjects Agency and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. (Ltr, Maj Gen J. E. Smart, Asst V/CS, to Lt Gen S. E. Anderson, Cmdr ARDC, 19 Jun 58, no subject given, quoted in TWX, RDZGW6-33-K, Hq ARDC, to Hq AFBMD, 27 Jun 58.)
In a US Air Force briefing a preliminary astronaut selection for the Man-In-Space Soonest project is made. The list consisted of USAF test pilots Robert Walker, Scott Crossfield, Neil Armstrong, Robert Rushworth, William Bridgeman, Alvin White, Iven Kincheloe, Robert White, and Jack McKay. This was the first preliminary astronaut selection in history. The project was cancelled when NASA was formed in and took responsibility for all manned space flight on 1 August 1958. Prospective contractors estimated it would take from 12 to 30 months to put the first American in orbit. In retrospect the orbital flight portion of NASA's Mercury program was paced by the availability of the Atlas booster. Therefore it is unlikely Man-in-Space-Soonest would have put an American in orbit any earlier than Mercury.
General Electric Company personnel presented a briefing at NACA headquarters on studies related to manned space flight. The company held contracts let by the Wright Air Development Center for study and mock-up of a manned spacecraft. NACA made no official comment.
Cook Electric Company submitted a proposal to the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation as a part of a preliminary study and design effort by McDonnell for a manned satellite. McDonnell, prior to being awarded the Mercury prime development contract in February 1959, spent 11 months under a company research budget working on a manned orbital spacecraft concept.
In a memorandum to Dr. James R. Killian, Jr., Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Dr. Hugh L. Dryden, Director of NACA, pointed out that NASA would inherit from NACA a rich technical background, competence, and leadership in driving toward the objective of a manned satellite program. For years NACA groups had been involved in research on such items as stabilization of ultra-high speed vehicles, provision of suitable controls, high temperature structural designs, and all the problems of reentry. In fact, a part of this work had been directed specifically toward the problem of designing a manned satellite. Also, the X-15 program had provided much experience in human factors applicable to the orbital flight of man. Therefore, Dr. Dryden concluded, in consonance with the intent of the Space Act of 1958, the assignment of the program to the NACA would be consistent.
Air Force Ballistic Missile Division representatives again presented a series of Washington briefings. These were to Lt General S. E. Anderson, Commander, Air Research and Development Command; the Air Staff; Secretary of the Air Force and Staff; and Director Roy Johnson, of the Advanced Research Projects Agency. The latter presentation, in addition to reporting detailed man in space planning, requested prompt program approval and emphasized the urgency of firm funds commitment if further delay was to be avoided. Johnson's response to the briefing may be summarized as follows: (a) the man in space program would not be approved at this time; (b) it appeared that $50 million would be an optimistic estimate of man in space funding until the Space Council, authorized by recent legislation, was organized and working, an event that was not probable before Thanksgiving; (c) planning anything over a $50 million program, the maximum likely to be approved under any circumstances, was wasted effort; (d) statements of prominent scientists had convinced the White House there was no currently valid reason for Man-InSpace: (e) when the Space Council became a viable organization, man in space would probably become a joint effort of the Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics; (f) The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (the National Aeronautics and Space Act creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was to become law on 29 July 1958) was already thinking of an independent but very similar space program that would cost about $40 million in fiscal 1959. After these two days of briefings it was clear that quick approval of a military man in space program was not forthcoming. (MFR, Col J. D. Lowe, Ch, Space Sys Div, AFBMD, 30 Jul 58, subj: MISS Briefing to Hq ARDC, Hq USAF, the Secretary of the Air Force and ARPA on 24-25 July 1958.)
Despite mounting evidence that the Air Force would not be assigned management of any national lunar program, it continued to press for a manned space program. On this date there was a meeting of Dr. Dryden, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics; Mr. R. Johnson, Advanced Research Projects Agency; and Secretary of Defense Neil McElroy but future management of a manned space program was not resolved and it appeared that resolution would only bp attained at the Presidential level. It was assumed, however,that the Air Force would have at least $50 million in fiscal 1959 funds to further its space program. (MFR, Col J.D. Lowe, AFBMD, 29 Jul 58, subj: Man-In-Space Program, cited in Chronological Space Hist, 1958.)
The President signed the law by which the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics would be succeeded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The new agency would have custody of all space programs except those clearly oriented toward military objectives. Air Force headquarters obtained approval of the Office of the Secretary of Defense to establish within the Deputy Chief of Staff, Development, a Directorate of Advanced Technology. Brigadier General H. A. Boushey was appointed director of the new office and its primary function, although the words "space" and "astronautics" were conspicuously absent from its mission description, was to serve as the control point for all Air Force space projects. (Bowen, The Threshold of Space, p. 21.)
Obviously the military services no longer controlled development of space vehicles and programs. Through fiscal 1958 all space programs had been managed by the Department of Defense through the Advanced Research Projects Agency. The new fiscal year offered little hope for change and, on 29 July, the President ordered transfer to National Aeronautics and Space Administration of nonmilitary space programs such as lunar probes, scientific satellites, and the Vanguard project. (Bowen, The Threshold of Space, p. 28.)
By using the development model of the Mercury contour couch designed by Maxime A. Faget and associates, Carter C. Collins withstood a 20g load on the centrifuge at Johnsville, Pennsylvania. This test proved that the reentry accelerations of manned space flight could be withstood.
Republic Aviation representatives briefed NACA Headquarters personnel on the man-in-space studies in which the company had been engaged since the first of the year. They envisioned a four-stage solid launch vehicle system and a lifting reentry vehicle, which was termed a sled. The vehicle was to be of triangular shape with a 75 degree leading-edge sweep. Aerodynamic and reaction controls would be available to the pilot. For the launch vehicle, Republic proposed a Minuteman first stage, a Polaris first stage, a Minuteman upper stage, and a Jumbo rocket fourth stage. Other details relative to reentry and recovery were included in the briefing.
A memorandum from the Secretary of the Army to the Secretary of Defense recommended Project Adam for a manned space flight program. This plan proposed a ballistic suborbital flight using existing Redstone hardware as a national political-psychological demonstration. This memo proposed that funds in the amount of $9 million and $2.5 million for fiscal years 1959 and 1960, respectively, be approved for program execution.
The future of the proposed Air Force space program was uncertain due to the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It appeared probable that final over-all space program would be adopted until the large area of overlapping jurisdiction between the two agencies was sorted out. In addition, the Department of Defense was required to transfer some $117 million in fiscal 1959 funds to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of which $58.8 million was Air Force money. Thus it appeared that of the various proposed programs already within National Aeronautics and Space Administration's legitimate area of interest it might well take over the man in space program primarily because it had the money to undertake its development. In respect to the lunar probe program, the Air Force had to wait for further direction before proceeding further. The large booster (one million pound thrust) authorized for Air Force development was transferred to the civilian. space agency. The Air Force would continue development of the 117L system under the over-all direction of the Advanced Research Projects Agency. (Memo, Col C. R. Roderick, Committee Liaison Div, Ofc of Legislative Liaison, to Asst Dir, Legislative Liaison, Sep 58, no subj.)
A joint National Aeronautics and Space Administration/Advanced Research Projects Agency Manned Satellite Panel was formed. This panel, with the aid of technical studies prepared by the Langley and Lewis Research Centers and assistance from the military services, drafted specific plans for a program of research leading to manned space flight.
A series of meetings were held in Washington, with Robert R. Gilruth serving as chairman to draft a manned satellite program and provide a basic plan for meeting the objectives of this program. Others attending included S. B. Batdorf, A. J. Eggers, Maxime A. Faget, George Low, Warren North, Walter C. Williams, and Robert C. Youngquist.
Evaluation of life support Phase I contractor efforts at North American Aviation and General Electric was completed. The studies of both contractors were considered excellent. The contract winner, however, was not announced because the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was taking over the manned space program. The mockup of the manned capsule developed I by North American Aviation, together with associated technical data was, subsequently, delivered to the civilian agency's Space Task Group at Langley Re"-search Center., (Rpt, Comparison of NASA Manned Space Program and USAF Manned Military Space Proposal, 25 Feb 60, prep by AFBMD; Cmdrs Ref Book, 25 Mar 59.)
Drop tests of full-scale capsules from a C-130 airplane were started to check parachute deployment and spacecraft stability. Preliminary drops of the parachute system were made from a NASA helicopter at West Point, Virginia. These drops involved the use of a concrete-filled drum attached to an operating canister system. The purpose of this phase was to demonstrate the adequacy of the mechanical system of deploying the parachutes. Subsequently, the drops were made by the C-130's at Pope Field, North Carolina, from low levels to perfect a means of extracting the spacecraft from the aircraft. Full-scale spacecraft and operating parachutes were used in these drops, and all operational features of the drop-test program were worked out. The next phase was the research and development drops offshore of Wallops Island, Virginia, and the objectives here were as follows: to study the stability of the spacecraft during free fall and with parachute support; to study the shock input to the spacecraft by parachute deployment; and to study and develop retrieving operations.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formally organized and began operation as the government agency in charge of the national civilian space program. NASA was activated in accordance with the terms of Public Law 85-568, and the nonmilitary space projects which had been conducted by the Advanced Research Projects Agency were transferred to the jurisdiction of the NASA. Concurrently, NACA, after a 43-year tenure, was inactivated, and its facilities and personnel became a part of NASA.
Studies and plans of the manned satellite project were presented to Advanced Research Projects Agency on October 3 and to Dr. T. Keith Glennan, NASA Administrator, on October 7. On October 7, 1958, Dr. Glennan approved the project by saying, in effect, 'Let's get on with it.'
Personnel from the Space Task Group involved in the study of reentry methods visited the Air Force Wright Air Development Center, Dayton, Ohio, for the purpose of preparing test specimens. Along with individuals from the center and the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, the group then met at the Chicago Midway Laboratories, Chicago, Illinois, to investigate various ablation methods of reentry. Concurrently, these same methods were being investigated at high-temperature test facilities at Langley.
NASA formally organized Project Mercury to: (1) place manned space capsule in orbital flight around the earth; (2) investigate man's reactions to and capabilities in this environment; and (3) recover capsule and pilot safely. A NASA Space Task Group organized at Langley Research Center drew up specifications for the Mercury capsule, based on studies by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics during the preceding 12 months, and on discussions with the Air Force which had been conducting related studies.
A bidders' briefing for the Little Joe launch vehicle was held. As earlier mentioned, this launch vehicle was to be used in the development phase of the manned satellite project. The Little Joe launch vehicle was 48 feet in height, weighed (at maximum) 41,330 pounds, was 6.66 feet in diameter, consisted of four Pollux and four Recruit clustered, solid-fuel rockets, could develop a thrust of 250,000 pounds, and could lift a maximum payload of 3,942 pounds.
The first of a series of meetings between the Space Task Group and Air Force Ballistic Missile Division was held to define support required by the civilian space agency. The scope of the manned space effort, its booster requirements, procurement procedures, launch schedules and facilities, were defined. The missile division also needed to define the extent of its own role in the. Mercury program. Control of booster procurement, scheduling use of scarce ground and launch facilities in the face of possible interference with ballistic missile development, and the desire to use the existing Air Force Ballistic Missile Division/ Space Technology Laboratories management structure in carrying out the support role were some of the questions and policies to be resolved. The first meeting was exploratory in nature; the missile division indicated its complete support of the Mercury program insofar as it did not interfere with the missile development effort; the space agency indicated its desire to procure boosters through, and use as much of Air Force Ballistic Missile Division's resources and capabilities as possible. (Rpt, AFBMD Support, Project Mercury, Dec 1960, prep by AFBMD Space Div (WDZ.)
A special Committee on Life Sciences was established at Langley to determine qualifications and attributes required of personnel to be selected for America's first manned space flight and to give advice on other human aspects of the manned satellite program.
A second Space Task Group Air Force Ballistic Missile Division meeting, held at Langley Research Center, continued the task of developing a coordinated Project Mercury effort. The space agency offered a tentative launch and test program and the missile division assisted in preparing a development plan. Schedules, operating procedures, funding and general allocation of responsibilities were discussed but the meeting was not marked by any major agreements. (Rpt, AFBMD Support, Proj Mercury, Dec 1960 prep by AFBMD Space Div (WDZ.)
Study was started on spacecraft recovery operations. During this study period, it was learned that the retrieving operation could be very difficult; but with properly designed equipment, helicopter pickup could be used and appeared to be the most favorable method.
The Space Task Group (STG) was officially organized at Langley Field, Va., to implement the manned satellite project (later Project Mercury), NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan had approved the formation of the Group, which had been working together for some months, on October 7. Its members were designated on November 3 by Robert R. Gilruth, Project Manager, and authorization was given by Floyd L. Thompson, Acting Director of Langley Research Center. STG would report directly to NASA Headquarters.
A contractor briefing, attended by some 40 prospective bidders on the manned spacecraft, was held at the Langley Research Center. More detailed specifications were then prepared and distributed to about 20 manufacturers who had stated an intention to bid on the project.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Space Task Group met at Air Force Missile Test Center, received an orientation briefing and a tour of the Cape launching facilities. (Paper, AFBMD Support, Proj Mercury, Dec 60, prep by AFBMD Space Div (WD Z). I
The Space Task Group placed an order for one Atlas launch vehicle with the Air Force Missile Division, Inglewood, California, as part of a preliminary research program leading to manned space flight. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Headquarters requested that the Air Force construct and launch one Atlas C launch vehicle to check the aerodynamics of the spacecraft. It was the intention to launch this missile about May 1959 in a ballistic trajectory. This was to be the launch vehicle for the Big Joe reentry test shot, but plans were later changed and an Atlas Model D launch vehicle was used instead.
Air Force Ballistic Missile Division received its first specific request from the civilian space agency to support a "preliminary research program leading to manned space flight." The division was requested to procure one Atlas C ballistic missile booster with its associated control and guidance equipment." '... This request was a forerunner of a support effort for a program "requiring approximately thirteen (13) ballistic missile boosters of the Thor and Atlas class."' The space agency would procure the payload, scheduled for May 1959 delivery. The missile division was to furnish detailed plans, subject to the approval of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, for the design, construction and launching of this vehicle. One million dollars was immediately transferred to the Air Force with more money to be supplied as it was requested. (Msg, no cite number, Hq NASA, to Cmds. AFBMD, 25 Nov 58.)
Design of the Big Joe spacecraft for the Project Mercury reentry test (the spacecraft would be boosted by an Atlas launch vehicle over a ballistic trajectory) was accomplished by the Space Task Group. Construction of the spacecraft was assigned as a joint task of the Langley and Lewis Research Centers under the direction of the Space Task Group. The instrument package was developed by Lewis personnel assigned to the Space Task Group, and these individuals later became the nucleus of the Space Task Group's Flight Operations Division at Cape Canaveral.
Space Task Group officials visited the Army Ballistic Missile Agency to determine the feasibility of using the Jupiter launch vehicle for the intermediate phase of Project Mercury, to discuss the Redstone program, and to discuss the cost for Redstone and Jupiter launch vehicles.
An aeromedical selection team composed of Major Stanley C. White, Air Force; Lt. Robert B. Voas, Navy; and Captain William Augerson, Army, drafted a tentative astronaut selection procedure. According to the plan, representatives from the services and industry would nominate 150 men by January 21, 1959; 36 of these would be selected for further testing which would reduce the group to 12; and in a 9-month training period, a hard core of 6 men would remain. At the end of December 1958, this plan was rejected.
One of the most important Project Mercury meetings between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the missile division took place. A series of agreements was approved controlling administrative arrangements and procedural channels essential to coordinated, efficient management of the joint phases of the program. Cost of the Atlas booster was set at $3.5 million, Space Technology Laboratories systems engineering and technical direction of the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division's part in the program was agreed upon, revision of program requirements was accomplished, regular technical and management meetings were arranged, and the missile division promised to prepare a development plan for the first Mercury booster (HS-24) by February 1959. (Ref .J file, AFBMD Support, Proj Mercury, Dec 60.)
The letter-of-intent was placed with North American Aviation for the fabrication of the Little Joe Test vehicle air frame. Delivery of the air frames for flight testing was scheduled to occur every three weeks beginning in June 1959. Space Task Group had ordered all the major rocket motors, which were scheduled for delivery well ahead of the Little Joe flight test schedule. The spacecraft for this phase of the program was being designed and construction would start shortly. Thus the Little Joe program should meet its intended flight test schedule.
Investigations were conducted at the Arnold Engineering Development Center, Tullahoma, Tennessee, in support of Project Mercury. Models of the Mercury spacecraft were tested at speeds of Mach 8, 16, and 20 to investigate stability, heat transfer, and pressure distribution of Mercury components.
Balloon flights were planned for high-altitude qualification tests of the complete spacecraft, including all instrumentation, retrorockets, drogue parachute system, and recovery. Later balloon flights would be manned to provide as much as 24 hours of training followed by recovery at sea. The Space Task Group made surveys of organizations experienced in the balloon field and recommended that the Air Force Cambridge Research Center be given responsibilities for designing, contracting, and conducting the balloon program.
McDonnell, as prime contractor, selected Minneapolis-Honeywell as subcontractor for the Mercury stabilization system. At that time, other subcontractors were under consideration for the fabrication of various components: Bell Aircraft Rockets Division, reaction control system; and General Electric, Barnes Instruments, and Detroit Controls were being considered for fabrication of the horizon scanner. Later Bell and Barnes were awarded contracts for respective components.
Qualifications were established for pilot selection in a meeting at the NASA Headquarters. These qualifications were as follows: age, less than 40; height, less than 5 feet 11 inches; excellent physical condition; bachelor's degree or equivalent; graduate of test pilot school; 1,500 hours flight time; and a qualified jet pilot.
A meeting was held at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Headquarters to discuss the method for spacecraft heat protection. Two plans were considered: beryllium heat sink and ablation. Based on this meeting a decision was made to modify the spacecraft structure in order to accomodate interchangeably ablation heat shields and beryllium heat sinks , and orders were placed for 12 and 6, respectively. The material chosen for the ablation heat was Fiberglas bonded with a modified phenolic resin. This material was found to have good structural properties even after being subjected to reentry heating.
The Source Selection Board at NASA Headquarters composed of Abe Silverstein, Ralph Cushman, George Low, Walter Schier, DeMarquis Wyatt, and Charles Zimmerman, completed their findings and reported to Dr. T. Keith Glennan, the Administrator. McDonnell Aircraft Corporation was selected as the prime contractor to develop and produce the Mercury spacecraft.
During a meeting of the Space Task Group, it was decided to negotiate with McDonnell for design of spacecraft that could be fitted with either a beryllium heat sink or an ablation heat shield. Robert R. Gilruth, the project director, considered that for safety purposes, both should be used. He also felt that the recovery landing bag should be replaced by a honeycombed crushable structure. At this same meeting, a tentative decision was also made that design, development, and contract responsibilities for the Mercury tracking network would be assigned to the Langley Research Center.
NASA completed contract negotiations with McDonnell for the design and development of the Mercury spacecraft. At that time, McDonnell estimated that the first 3 spacecraft could be delivered in 10 months. Spacecraft refinements slipped this estimated goal by only 2 months.
This plan was updated on April 14, 1959. Primary objectives of the test were to investigate flight dynamics, check drogue parachute operations, determine physiological effects of acceleration on a small primate, and, to some extent, check the spacecraft aerodynamic characteristics.
During a meeting between personnel of the Space Task Group and the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, the responsibilities of the two organizations were outlined for the first two Atlas firings. Space Technology Laboratories, under Air Force Ballistic Missile Division direction, would select the design trajectories according to the specifications set forth by the Space Task Group. These specifications were to match a point in the trajectory at about 450,000 feet, corresponding to a normal reentry condition for the manned spacecraft after firing of the retrorockets at an altitude of 120 nautical miles. Space Technology Laboratories would also provide impact dispersion data, data for range safety purposes, and the necessary reprograming of the guidance computers. The spacecraft for the suborbital Atlas flights would be manufactured under the deriction of the Lewis Research Center, based on Space Task Group designs. Space Task Group was developing the spacecraft instrumentation, with a contingent of personnel at the Lewis Research Center. The attitude control system was being developed by Lewis.
Some 508 records were reviewed for prospective pilot candidates of which about 110 appeared to qualify. The special committee on Life Sciences decided to divide these into two groups and 69 prospective pilot candidates were briefed and interviewed in Washington. Out of this number, 53 volunteered for the Mercury program, and 32 of the 53 were selected for further testing. The committee agreed there was no further need to brief other individuals, because of the high qualities exhibited in the existing pool of candidates. These 32 were scheduled for physical examination at the Lovelace Clinic, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Following industry-wide competition, a formal contract for research and development of the Mercury spacecraft was negotiated with the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation. The contract called for design and construction of 12 Mercury spacecraft, but it did not include details on changes and ground support equipment which were to be negotiated as the project developed. Later, orders were placed with the company for eight additional spacecraft, two procedural trainers, an environmental trainer, and seven checkout trainers. McDonnell had been engaged in studying the development of a manned spacecraft since the NACA presentation in mid-March of 1958.
Space Task Group and Army Ballistic Missile Agency personnel met at Huntsville, Alabama, to discuss Redstone and Jupiter flight phases of Project Mercury. During the course of the meeting the following points became firm: (1) Space Task Group was the overall manager and technical director of this phase of the program, (2) ABMA was responsible for the launch vehicle until spacecraft separation, (3) ABMA was responsible for the Redstone launch vehicle recovery (this phase of the program was later eliminated since benefits from recovering the launch vehicle would have been insignificant), (4) Space Task Group was responsible for the spacecraft flight after separation, (5) McDonnell was responsible for the adapters for the Mercury-Redstone configuration, and (6) ABMA would build adapters for the Mercury-Jupiter configuration. Because many points could only be settled by detailed design studies, it was decided to establish several working panels for later meetings.
Discussions were held at Langley Field between the Space Task Group and the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division covering aspects of the use of Atlas launch vehicles in Project Mercury. Specifically discussed were technical details of the first Atlas test flight (Big Joe), the abort sensing capability for later flights, and overall program objectives.
The first formal meeting of the Navy-NASA Committee on Project Mercury search and recovery operations was held. They decided that joint recovery exercises would be initiated as soon as possible. The committee members determined that the Navy, particularly the Atlantic fleet, could support operations from Wallops Island; could perform search and recovery operations along the Atlantic Missile Range, using of the selected Project Mercury vehicles; and that naval units could support operations in the escape area between Cape Canaveral and Bermuda.
In a speech, Dr. T. K. Glennan estimated that Project Mercury would cost over $200 million. The cost, he said in effect, was high because a new area of technology was being explored for the first time and there were no precedents or experience factors from which to draw, and because the world-wide tracking network construction was a tremendous undertaking.
Mercury-Redstone-Jupiter Study Panel Number IV (choice of trajectory, aerodynamics, and flight loads) met at Redstone Arsenal. Subjects studied included pilot safety, simulation of entry from orbit, length of zero-g time, missile stability and aerodynamics, ascent accelerations, and range. This group reconvened on March 13, 1959.
Space Task Group and Langley Research Center personnel visited the Arnold Engineering Development Center, Tullahoma, Tennessee, to ascertain if the AEDC facilities were equipped to perform tests on scale models of the Mercury spacecraft and to arrange a testing schedule.
H. Kurt Strass and Leo T. Chauvin of STG proposed a heatshield test of a fullscale Mercury spacecraft at lunar reentry speeds. This test, in which the capsule would penetrate the earth's radiation belt, was called Project Boomerang. An advanced version of the Titan missile was to be the launch vehicle. The project was postponed and ultimately dropped because of cost.
Space Task Group and McDonnell officials met in St. Louis, Missouri, to discuss spare part and ground support equipment requirements for Project Mercury. Shortly thereafter, McDonnell submitted a preliminary plan for spare parts and check-out equipment to Space Task Group and NASA Headquarters for review.
An abort test was conducted at Wallops Island on a full-scale model of the spacecraft with the escape tower, using a Recruit escape rocket. The configuration did not perform as expected (erratic motion), and as a result, the Langley Research Center was requested to test small-scale flight models of the abort system to determine its motion in flight.
The Space Task Group was notified by McDonnell that several of its subcontractors were experiencing difficulties in procuring material necessary to fabricate Project Mercury components. This delay was being caused by the lack of a DX priority procurement rating.
The civilian space agency acknowledged receipt of the missile division development plan for the first booster scheduled to start the man in space effort. Except for two revisions, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration declared the plan to be "satisfactory." One of the revisions was suggested in this statement: "NASA prefers not to be committed to the specified sum of $3,556,000, but reserves the right to negotiate the costs." (Ltr, T. K. Glennan, NASA Administrator, to Cmdr, ARDC, 11 Mar 59, no subject.)
Langley's Pilotless Aircraft Research Division conducted, at Wallops Island, the first full-scale test simulating a pad-abort situation. A full weight and size spacecraft was used. For the first 50 feet the flight was essentially straight, indicating the successful functioning of the abort rocket. Thereafter, the spacecraft pitched through several turns and impacted a short distance from the shore. The malfunction was traced to the loss of a graphite insert from one of the three abort rocket nozzles, which caused a misalignment of thrust.
The civilian space agency acknowledged receipt of the missile division development plan for the first booster scheduled to start the man in space effort. Except for two revisions, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration declared the plan to be "satisfactory." One of the revisions was suggested in this statement: "NASA prefers not to be committed to the specified sum of $3,556,000, but reserves the right to negotiate the costs." (Ltr, T. K. Glennan, NASA Administrator, to Cmdr, ARDC, 11 Mar 59, no subject.)
A Mock-Up Inspection Board meeting was held at the McDonnell plant to review the completed spacecraft mock-up. As a result of this meeting, the contractor was directed to restudy provisions made for pilot egress; rearrange crew space to make handles, actuators, and other instruments more accessible to the pilot; and modify the clock, sequence lights, and other displays. This same type of meeting was held on many subsequent occasions to review production spacecraft.
Mercury-Redstone and Mercury-Jupiter test objectives were discussed in a meeting at Langley between Space Task Group and Army Ballistic Missile Agency personnel. At that time it was decided that the first flights of both the Redstone and Jupiter would be unmanned. The second flights would be 'manned' with primates, and the Jupiter phase would end at that point. The six remaining Redstones would be used in manned flights for astronaut training.
The Langley Research Center received approval for funds to conduct hypersonic flight tests for the Mercury spacecraft. Langley's Pilotless Aircraft Research Division would conduct tests on heat transfer rates at a velocity of mach 17, and dynamic behavior tests from a velocity of mach 10 to a subsonic speed.
Space Task Group officials were involved in an investigation as to whether the escape system should be changed. In the original proposal, McDonnell's plan was to use eight small rockets housed in a fin adapter, but this plan was set aside for a NASA developed plan in which a single-motor tripod would be used. Later, during a test of the escape system, the escape rockets appeared to fire properly but the spacecraft began to tumble after launch. This tumbling action caused concern, and Space Task Group engineers felt that the tower-escape system might have to be discarded, and a 'second look' was taken at the McDonnell proposal. The engineers concluded, however, that there were too many problems involved and the single-motor tripod concept was retained and has been proven to be quite effective.
Space Task Group personnel visited the Atlantic Missile Range at the invitation of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency to observe a Jupiter launch vehicle firing and the procedures followed on the day preceding the firing. The group toured the blockhouse and received briefings on various recorders that might be used in the centralized control facility for Mercury-Redstone and Mercury-Jupiter flights.
Range Safety personnel at the Atlantic Missile Range were briefed by Space Task Group personnel on the description of the Mercury spacecraft, how it would function during a normal flight on an Atlas launch vehicle, and suggest methods for initiation of an abort during different powered phases of a flight. Atlantic Missile Range personnel discussed their past experience, and work was started to draft a Project Mercury range safety plan.
In the recovery landing system, the extended-skirt main parachute was found to be unsafe for operation at altitudes of 10,000 feet and was replaced by a 'ring-sail' parachute of similar size. This decision was made after a drop when the main parachute failed to open and assumed a 'squidding' condition. Although little damage was sustained by the spacecraft on water impact, parachute experts decided that the ring-sail configuration should be adopted, and the air drop spacecraft were fitted.
The advanced manned space program to follow Project Mercury was discussed at a NASA Staff Conference held in Williamsburg, Va. Three reasons for such a program were suggested:
A preliminary briefing was conducted for prospective bidders on construction of the worldwide tracking range for Project Mercury. This meeting was attended by representatives from 20 companies. At this time the preliminary plan called for an orbital mission tracking network of 14 sites. Contacts had not been made with the governments of any of the proposed locations with the exception of Bermuda. It was planned that all the sites would have facilities for telemetry, voice communications with the pilot, and teletype (wire or radio) communications with centers in the United States for primary tracking. The tracking sites would provide the control center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, with trajectory predictions; landing-area predictions; and vehicle, systems, and pilot conditions.
After responsibility for the worldwide tracking range construction of Project Mercury had been assumed by the Langley Research Center, the following study contracts were placed: (1) Aeronutronics to study radar coverage and trajectory computation requirements, (2) RCA Service Corporation for specification writing, (3) Lincoln Laboratories for consultant services and proposal evaluations, and (4) Space Electronics for the design of the control center at Cape Canaveral.
Seven astronauts were selected for Project Mercury after a series of the most rigorous physical and mental tests ever given to U.S. test pilots. Chosen from a field of 110 candidates, the finalists were all qualified test pilots: Capts. Leroy G. Cooper, Jr., Virgil I. Grissom, and Donald K. Slayton, (USAF); Lt. Malcolm S. Carpenter, Lt. Comdr. Alan B. Shepard, Jr., and Lt. Comdr. Watler M. Schirra, Jr. (USN); and Lt. Col. John H. Glenn (USMC).
Investigations of two escape configurations for Mercury spacecraft were conducted in a 16-foot transonic circuit at the Arnold Engineering Development Center, Tullahoma, Tennessee, for determination of static stability and drag characteristics of the configurations.
A deliberate thrust misalignment of 1 inch was programed into the escape combination. Lift-off was effected cleanly, and a slow pitch started during the burning of the escape rocket motor. The tower separated as scheduled and the drogue and main parachutes deployed as planned. The test was fully successful.
Two small-scale spacecraft escape-tower combinations were launched successfully at Wallops Island. On the next day a full-scale spacecraft escape system was launched. The complete sequence of events - escape system firing, escape tower jettisoning, parachute deployment, landing, and helicopter recovery - was satisfactory.
Space Task Group, Langley Research Center, and Lewis Research Center personnel met to discuss development plans regarding construction and instrumentation of Big Joe Number I reentry spacecraft test vehicle. During the course of this meeting, milestone objectives of the work to be accomplished were drafted.
Air Force Ballistic Missile Division replied to the 11 March 1959 letter in which the civilian agency demurred at accepting the charge of $3.55 million without the right to negotiate the cost. The missile division reminded National Aeronautics and Space Administration that it had already committed $2.761 million to the space agency's Order HS-24 and in the immediate future additional funds were required up to $3.556 million to cover the cost of the basic Atlas booster and additional work schedule through the launching sequence as stipulated in the development plan. (Msg, WDPP-4-4, Cmdr AFBMD, to NASA, 24 Apr 59.)
The seven Project Mercury astronauts reported for duty. A tentative schedule of Mercury astronaut activities for the first months of training was issued. Actual training began the next day. Within 3 months the astronauts were acquainted with the various facets of the Mercury program. The first training week was as follows: Monday, April 27, check in; April 28, general briefing; April 29, spacecraft configuration and escape methods; April 30, support and restraint; May 1, operational concepts and procedures. These lectures were presented by specialists in the particular field of study. Besides the above, unscheduled activities involved 3 hours flying time and 4 hours of athletics.
A Little Joe Project Coordination Meeting, attended by personnel from Space Task Group, McDonnell, and Wallops Island, was held for the first time. The purpose of the meeting was to determine the status of various developmental phases and whether or not proper coordination was being effected with other related projects in the Mercury program (Big Joe, Mercury-Atlas, Mercury-Redstone, and Mercury-Jupiter). The important factor with regard to the latter item was whether or not a reasonable launch schedule could be established and maintained.
Space Task Group personnel held a meeting to discuss the complete recovery test program. Items of consideration included the availability of model spacecraft for the test, deciding the areas in which the tests would be held (Phase I - Wallops Island drops, and Phase II - Atlantic drops), and establishing the time schedule for the test program.
Pigs were eliminated as Little Joe flight test subjects when studies disclosed that they could not survive long periods of time on their backs. However, McDonnell did use a pig, 'Gentle Bess,' to test the impact crushable support, and the test was successful.
An informal meeting of the Mock-Up Inspection Board was held at McDonnell to review changes to the spacecraft development program resulting from the March mock-up meeting. Besides the review, a number of suggestions were made for changes in the crew space layout to permit more effective use of the controls, particularly when the astronaut was in the pressure suit in a full-pressurized condition. Among suggested changes were the shoulder harness release, the spacecraft compression and decompression handles, the ready switch, and the spacecraft squib switch. Test subjects also found that when in the fully pressurized suit none of the circuit breakers could be reached. McDonnell was directed to act on these problem areas.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration instructed the missile division to combine its first order for an Atlas booster (HS-24) with a later order for nine Atlas boosters. This action would also combine fund allocations of $2,761 000 for the first booster and $6 million for the nine boosters to a fund total of $8,761, 000 for Mercury booster procurement. therefore, the missile division was requested to prepare a development and funding plan covering the amended HS-36 order and forward the plan to NASA by 15 June 1959, (Msg, no cite number, NASA to AFBMD, 14 May 1959.)
The Space Task Group oficials determined that the spacecraft could be tested environmentally in the Lewis Research Center's altitude wind tunnel. This included correct temperature and altitude simulations to 80,000 feet. The pilot could exercise the attitude control system and retrorockets could be fired in the tunnel. Because an active contract did exist with the Air Force, it was decided the two balloon drop tests with unmanned boiler-plate spacecraft would be accomplished.
The Space Task Group, in the process of negotiations with the Army Ordnance Missile Command on the cost of Redstone and Jupiter boosters in support of Project Mercury, received revised funding estimates for study covering Contract HS-44 (Redstone) and HS-54 (Jupiter).
A meeting was held at Johnsville, Pennsylvania, to consider astronaut training programs on the centrifuge. During this meeting, Space Task Group personnel reviewed a draft memorandum prepared by the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory concerning the methods they felt should be used. Also, possible centrifuge training periods for the astronauts were discussed, and tentative dates were set for August 1959 and January 1960.
The first meeting of the Research Steering Committee on Manned Space Flight was held at NASA Headquarters. Members of the Committee attending were: Harry J. Goett, Chairman; Milton B. Ames, Jr. (part-time); De E. Beeler; Alfred J. Eggers, Jr.; Maxime A. Faget; Laurence K. Loftin, Jr.; George M. Low; Bruce T. Lundin; and Harris M. Schurmeier. Observers were John H. Disher, Robert M. Crane, Warren J. North, Milton W. Rosen (part-time), and H. Kurt Strass.
The purpose of the Committee was to take a long-term look at man-in-space problems, leading eventually to recommendations on future missions and on broad aspects of Center research programs to ensure that the Centers were providing proper information. Committee investigations would range beyond Mercury and Dyna-Soar but would not be overly concerned with specific vehicular configurations. The Committee would report directly to the Office of Aeronautical and Space Research.
The national booster program, Dyna-Soar, and Project Mercury were discussed by the Research Steering Committee. Members also presented reviews of Center programs related to manned space flight. Maxime A. Faget of STG endorsed lunar exploration as the present goal of the Committee although recognizing the end objective as manned interplanetary travel. George M. Low of NASA Headquarters recommended that the Committee:
Tentative manned space flight priorities were established by the Research Steering Committee: Project Mercury, ballistic probes, environmental satellite, maneuverable manned satellite, manned space flight laboratory, lunar reconnaissance satellite, lunar landing, Mars Venus reconnaissance, and Mars-Venus landing. The Committee agreed that each NASA Center should study a manned lunar landing and return mission, the study to include the type of propulsion, vehicle configuration, structure, anti guidance requirements. Such a mission was an end objective; it did not have to be supported on the basis that it would lead to a more useful end. It would also focus attention at the Centers on the problems of true space flight.
North American Aviation delivered the first two Little Joe booster airframes, and noted that the four remaining were on fabrication schedule. The planned program was moving smoothly, for rocket motors to be used in the first flight were available at Wallops Station, Virginia, the test flight launching site. In addition, procurement of the test spacecraft incorporating Mercury flight items was on schedule, and the first spacecraft had been instrumented by Space Task Group personnel. Work was also in progress on other test spacecraft.
McDonnell selected Northrop as the subcontractor to design and fabricate the landing system for Project Mercury. Northrop technology for landing and recovery systems dated back to 1943 when that company developed the first parachute recovery system for pilotless aircraft. For Project Mercury, Northrop developed the 63-foot ring-sail main parachute.
Space Technology Laboratories and Convair completed an analysis of flight instrumentation necessary to support the Mercury-Atlas program. The primary objective of the study was to select a light-weight telemetry system. A system weighing 270 pounds was recommended, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration concurred with the proposal.
The Army Ballistic Missile Agency submitted a proposal (Report No. DG-TR-7-59) for a Mercury-Redstone inflight abort sensing system. This system would monitor performance of the control system (attitude and angular velocity), electrical power supply, and launch vehicle propulsion. If operational limits were exceeded, the spacecraft would be ejected from the launch vehicle and recovered by parachute.
Space Task Group officials met with representatives of the School of Aviation Medicine to discuss detailed aspects of the bio-packs to be used in the NASA Little Joe Flight program. The packs were to be furnished by the school. The purpose was to gather life support data that would be applicable to the manned flights of Project Mercury.
The Space Task Group advised the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics of Government-furnished survival items that McDonnell would package in containers. These included desalter kits, dye marker, distress signal, signal mirrors, signal whistle, first aid kits, shark chaser, PK-2 raft, survival rations, matches, and a radio transceiver. Navy assistance was requested in the procurement of these items.
A Source Selection Panel and a Technical Evaluation Board were organized and manned at the Langley Research Center to evaluate Mercury tracking and ground instrument action proposals. Technical evaluation of proposals was started on June 23, 1959, with seven companies under consideration. These were - in addition to Western Electric - Aeronutronics, Radio Corporation of America, Pan American Airways, Brown and Root, Chrysler Corporation, and Philco Corporation.
A visit was made to McDonnell and it was learned that the Mercury spacecraft was being designed structurally to withstand 149 decibels overall noise level. McDonnell, however, anticipated that the actual maximum level would not be above 128 decibels. Space Task Group personnel felt that even the 128 decibels were too high for pilot comfort, and extensive research toward the resolution of this matter was started.
A centrifuge program was conducted at Johnsville, Pennsylvania, to investigate the role of a pilot in the launch of a multi-stage vehicle. Test subjects were required to perform boost-control tasks, while being subjected to the proper boost-control accelerations. The highest g-force experienced was 15, and none of the test subjects felt they reached the limit of their control capability. As a note of interest, one of the test subjects, Neil Armstrong, was later selected for the Gemini program in September 1962.
A Mercury Capsule Review Board was established to review, at regular intervals, action taken by the Capsule Coordination Office. Paul E. Purser was appointed chairman, with division heads, Coordination Office head, and Project and Assistant Project Directors serving as members.
J. A. Chamberlin was appointed head of the office. Duties were divided into four major categories as follows: (1) loads, thermodynamics, structures, and aerodynamics; (2) cabin, life support, and controls; (3) electronics, recovery, and sequencing; and (4) transportation and handling, schedules and testing, and standards and specifications. This action assured continuity of effort in monitoring the McDonnell contract. Also, this office arranged and coordinated meetings with McDonnell personnel and served as a clearing house for all NASA-McDonnell contracts. The committee, of course, received a majority of its data from technical sources within the formal Space Task Group organization.
Members of STG - including H. Kurt Strass, Robert L. O'Neal, Lawrence W. Enderson, Jr., and David C. Grana - and Thomas E. Dolan of Chance Vought Corporation worked on advanced design concepts of earth orbital and lunar missions. The goal was a manned lunar landing within ten years, rather than an advanced Mercury program.
Alfred J. Eggers, Jr., of the Ames Research Center told the members of the Research Steering Committee of studies on radiation belts, graze and orbit maneuvers on reentry, heat transfer, structural concepts and requirements, lift over drag considerations, and guidance systems which affected various aspects of the manned lunar mission. Eggers said that Ames had concentrated on a landing maneuver involving a reentry approach over one of the poles to lessen radiation exposure, a graze through the outer edge of the atmosphere to begin an earth orbit, and finally reentry and landing. Additional Details: here....
Navy surface vessels and aircraft were used in a recovery operation after an airdrop of a spacecraft off the coast from Jacksonville, Florida. The spacecraft was purposely dropped 40 miles away from the predicted impact point and 45 miles away from the nearest ship. Recovery was effected in 2 and one half hours.
Between June 28 and July 11, 1959, 12 heat-transfer tests were made in the Preflight Jet Test facility at Wallops Island on several ablation materials being considered for use on the spacecraft afterbody (not heat shield) for the Little Joe flights. Test conditions simulated those of actual Little Joe trajectories. Of the materials used, triester polymer and thermolag demonstrated the capability to protect the spacecraft against expected heat loads.
The Pilotless Aircraft Research Division of the Langley Research Center launched a 1/14th-scale model of the Mercury spacecraft at Wallops Island to a speed of Mach 3.5 and at an altitude of 40,000 feet. The model spacecraft went into a continuous tumble from separation to landing.
As a result of a discussion between Maxime A. Faget, Space Task Group, and John E. Naugle, Space Science Division, NASA Headquarters, it was concluded that there were several important scientific experiments in the field of energetic particles research that could be performed by placing packets of emulsion within the Mercury spacecraft. Work was started to determine a suitable packet location, along with other details associated with conducting such experiments.
An agreement was made with the Air Force for Space Task Group to place microphone pickups on the skin of the Atlas launch vehicle as a part of the instrumentation to measure noise level during the Big Joe-Atlas launching. Distribution of the microphones was as follows: one inside the Mercury spacecraft, three externally about midway of the launch vehicle, and one on the Atlas skirt.
Negotiations for construction of the Mercury tracking network were started with the Western Electric Company and their subcontractors (Bendix Aviation, International Business Machines, Bell Telephone Laboratories, and Burns and Roe), and a letter contract was signed on July 30, 1959, for the entire range. This included radar tracking; telemetry receiving, recording, and display; communications to both the spacecraft and surface stations; and the computing and control facilities.
Alterations to Building 'S' at Cape Canaveral for Project Mercury support were discussed in a meeting at Cape Canaveral. A target date of December 1, 1959, was set for project completion. Therefore, this meant that Vanguard activities would have to be phased out of the building.
A successful pad abort flight of a Mercury boilerplate spacecraft with a production version of the escape tower and rocket was made. The escape rocket motor was manufactured by Grand Central Rocket, and the flight was the first operational test of this component.
A boilerplate spacecraft, instrumented to measure sound pressure level and vibration, was launched in the second beach abort test leading to the Little Joe test series. The purpose of the instrumentation was to obtain measurement of the vibration and sound environment encountered on the capsule during the firing of the Grand Central abort rocket. Memo, Charles A. Hardesty to NASA Langley IRD files, subject: Sound Measurements on the Second Beach Abort Test on the Little Joe Capsule, Oct. 9, 1959.
Personnel from the Aeromedical Field Laboratory inspected the first animal couch fabricated by McDonnell to be used in the Mercury animal flight program. The objective of the animal program was to provide verification of successful space flight prior to manned missions; to aquire data on physical and mental demands which will be encountered by the astronauts during space flight; to provide dynamic test of technical procedures and training for support personnel in handling the aeromedical program for manned flight; and to evaluate spacecraft environmental control systems and bioinstrumentation under flight conditions.
The Department of Defense appointed Major General Donald N. Yates, Commander, Atlantic Missile Range, as its representative for Project Mercury support All plans relevant to Department of Defense support of the project were to be submitted through General Yates. He was also made responsible for direction and control of the Department of Defense facilities, forces and assets so used as well as performance of specific missions assigned for project support. (Memo, Thomas S. Gates, Dep Sec of Defense, to Secretaries of the Military Departments, 10 Aug 59, subj: Assignment of Responsibility for DOD Support of Project Mercury.)
The astronauts began their initial centrifuge training at the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory. During the first part of the month Space Task Group personnel had installed and checked out Mercury spacecraft simulation equipment at the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory in preparation for the astronaut centrifuge training program.
Testing was completed to check the effectiveness of the drogue parachute as a stabilizing device. The drogue parachute was fully qualified for deployment at speeds up to Mach 1.5 and altitudes of up to 70,000 feet. Ordinarily, during the operational phase of Project Mercury the drogue parachute was deployed at 40,000 feet, so the component well met operational requirements.
NASA Headquarters authorized the Space Task Group to enter into negotiations with the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division for the procurement of additional Atlas launch vehicles in support of Project Mercury. The authorization was to be incorporated into Contract No. HS-36.
An operational analysis study report of possible recovery forces required for a three-orbit Mercury mission was received from the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation. By using this document, the Space Task Group was continuing to refine recovery requirements for all Mercury flights. This work involved the development of a satisfactory helicopter recovery technique and the conduct of tests to determine optimum spacecraft location aids.
McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri, issued a report on the company's studies using a modified Mercury capsule to explore some problems of space flight beyond the initial manned exploration of space through Mercury. The 300-page report discussed six follow-on experiments: touchdown control, maneuver in orbit, self-contained guidance, 14-day mission, manned reconnaissance, and lunar-orbit reentry. These were more in the nature of technically supported suggestions than firm proposals, but all six experiments could be conducted with practical modifications of Mercury capsules.
McDonnell moved a segment of its Mercury effort to Cape Canaveral in preparation for the operational phase of the program. Personnel were immediately assigned to committees to develop the plans for Mercury-Redstone and Mercury-Atlas missions. The McDonnell office was located in Hanger S.
McDonnell Aircraft Corporation reported to NASA the results of several company-funded studies of follow-on experiments using Mercury spacecraft with heatshields modified to withstand lunar reentry conditions. In one experiment, a Centaur booster would accelerate a Mercury spacecraft plus a third stage into an eccentric earth orbit with an apogee of about 1,200 miles, so that the capsule would reenter at an angle similar to that required for reentry from lunar orbit. The third stage would then fire, boosting the spacecraft to a speed of 36,000 feet per second as it reentered the atmosphere.
The Space Task Group provided McDonnell with guidance in the development of the 'Astronauts' Handbook.' Topics included such items as a descriptive resume of normal and emergency procedures to be followed on the check lists. The book was divided into three sections: 'The Normal Operational Procedures,' 'The Emergency Operational Procedures,' and 'The Failure Analysis Procedures.'
After a preliminary study of the Mercury environment with regard to astronaut food and water requirements, Dr. Douglas H. K. Lee estimated that water use would be in the order of 500 cu cm/hr and that the caloric intake per day would be about 3,200 calories of food. Dr. Lee was a member of the Natick Quartermasters Research and Engineering Laboratory.
Between September 21 and October 10, 1959, a research program was carried out by the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory to measure the effects of sustained acceleration on the pilot's ability to control a vehicle. Various side-arm controllers were used, and it appeared that the three-axis type (yaw, roll, and pitch) was the most satisfactory. Later this configuration was extensively evaluated and adopted for use in the control system of the Mercury spacecraft.
Funds were approved by NASA Headquarters for the following major changes to the Mercury spacecraft: egress hatch installation (CCP-58-1), astronaut observation window installation (CCP-73); rate stabilization and control system (CCP-61-2), main instrument and panel redesign (CCP-76), installation of reefed ringsail landing parachute (CCP-41), and nonspecification configurations of spacecraft (CCP-8). With reference to the last item, the original contract with McDonnell had specified only one spacecraft configuration, but the various research and development flight tests required changes in the configuration.
Space Task Group personnel held a meeting at Langley with representatives from the Lewis Research Center to clarify Project Mercury research support needs at Lewis. During the course of discussion, several test and support areas were agreed upon. As an example, Lewis would conduct separation tests in which full-scale hardware was used to determine if a satisfactory separation existed. In these tests separation would occur when the posigrade rockets were fired after burnout of the Atlas during an ordinary mission. Lewis would seek to determine if there were any harmful effects due to flame impingement either on the Atlas booster or on the wiring of the retrograde package. In addition, Lewis would determine the actual effective impulse of the posigrade rockets during separation. Lewis also agreed to support Space Task Group in developing pilot techniques in a special tunnel at Lewis. The objectives were to determine a pilot's capability to stabilize spacecraft attitudes in space. Lewis had a large gimballed system in the tunnel that would simulate the motions of space conditions, but in a sea-level environment. It was thought, however, that experience in the gamballed system would be beneficial to the pilots. A third area of support involved retrorocket calibration tests. At that time, Space Task Group was concerned that when the retrorockets were fired, the spacecraft would be considerably upset while in orbital flight. Lewis would use its high-altitude tunnel at maximum capability to determine the extent of the upset and assist in devising means to control the situation. Lewis also agreed to check the hydrogen-peroxide-fueled control system to obtain starting and performance characteristics of the reaction jets. In the last area of this series of studies and tests, Lewis was to study the escape rocket plume when the rocket was fired at high altitudes to determine the effect of the plume on the spacecraft. It was believed that the plume would completely envelop the spacecraft.
A meeting of Space Task Group, Wallops Station, and McDonnell personnel was held to review and evaluate Mercury escape-system qualification-test results. In the continuing efforts of this activity, the responsibility in attaining test objectives was apportioned among the three organizations.
The first manned development system tests were completed at the AiResearch Manufacturing Division, Garrett Corporation. Tests were conducted in the altitude chamber to determine proper functioning of all system valves and components. A McDonnell subject was clothed in a Mercury-type presure suit for these tests. Preliminary data from these tests indicated that the system functioned satisfactorily.
Between this date and December 5, 1959, the tentative design and layout of the Mercury Control Center to be used to monitor the orbiting flight of the Mercury spacecraft were completed. The control center would have trend charts to indicate the astronaut's condition and world map displays to keep continuous track of the Mercury spacecraft.
A NASA-Department of Defense agreement was signed by NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan and Deputy Secretary of Defense Thomas Gates, relevant to the principles governing reimbursement of costs incurred by NASA or the Department of Defense in support of Project Mercury.
At the fifth Mercury Coordination Meeting, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency proposed the installation of an open-circuit television system in the Mercury-Redstone second and third flights (MR-2 and MR-3). The purpose of the system was to observe and relay launch vehicle and spacecraft separation data.
The Arnold Engineering Development Center tested the Grand Central solid-fuel rocket motor used to propel the Mercury spacecraft escape system.The purpose of the test was to verify altitude ignition and to determine the combustion-chamber-pressure-time curve.
LJ-2 was launched from Wallops Island to determine the motions of the spacecraft escape tower combination during a high-altitude abort, entry dynamics without a control system, physiological effects of acceleration on a small primate, operation of the drogue parachute, and effectiveness of the recovery operation. Telemetry was set up to record some 80 bits of information on the flight. The abort sequence was initiated by timers after 59 seconds of elapsed flight time at an altitude of about 96,000 feet and a speed of Mach 5.5. Escape motor firing occurred as planned and the spacecraft was whisked away at a speed of about Mach 6 to an apogee of 53.03 statute miles. All other sequences operated as planned, and spacecraft recovery was effected in about 2 hours from lift-off. The primate passenger, 'Sam,' an American-born rhesus monkey, withstood the trip and the recovery in good condition. All objectives of the mission were met.
Tenney Engineering Corporation was chosen by the Space Task Group to construct the Mercury altitude test chamber in Hanger S at Cape Canaveral. When completed, altitude pressure would simulate 225,000 feet. The chamber, a vertical cylinder with domed ends, was 12 feet in diameter and 14 feet high. The chamber was designed to allow a partial spacecraft functional check in a near-vacuum environment.
At the end of the year, NASA funds in support of Project Mercury had been obligated to the listed organizations as follows: Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, NASA Order HS-36, Atlas launch vehicles, $22,830,000; Army Ordnance Missile Command, NASA Order HS-44, Redstone launch vehicles, $16,060,000; and McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, NASA Order 5-59, Mercury spacecraft, $49,407,540.
Thrust cut-off sensor reliability and qualification tests were accepted, because of the similarity to Lockheed functional environmental evaluation tests of similar units used in the Polaris program. This component, fabricated by the Donner Scientific Company, was accepted by NASA.
Specifications for equipment and systems to be used for the training of the remote-site flight controllers and Mercury control center operations personnel were forwarded to the Western Electric team. The remote-site training was divided into two stages: off-range and on-range. The off-range portion consisted of practice runs on a typical set of controllers' consoles tied into an astronaut procedures trainer. The on-range part was planned at two stations within the United States and from here, controllers would be assigned to tracking sites for full range rehearsals and a mission.
Representatives of Engineering and Contracts Division and Flight Systems Division (FSD) met to discuss future wind tunnel test needs for advanced Mercury projects. After Alan B. Kehlet remarked on available test facilities, Caldwell C. Johnson and H. Kurt Strass presented their ideas on advanced configurations. Johnson had been working on modifications to the existing Mercury configuration, chiefly in the areas of afterbody, landing system (rotors to control impact point), and retro-escape system, rather than on advanced configuration concepts. Strass suggested that advanced work be classed as either (1) modifications refining the design of the present Mercury or (2) new concepts in configuration design, and others present agreed. Johnson consented to design models for both program categories. FSD's Aerodynamics Section would arrange for and perform tests necessary to evaluate both modifications and advanced proposals. Strass also suggested another modification, a larger heatshield diameter allowing for half-ringed flaps which could be extended from the portion of the afterbody near the heatshield to provide some subsonic lifting capabilities. Strass stated the need for aerodynamic information on an advanced Mercury configuration under consideration by his group, and on the lenticular vehicle proposed by Aerodynamics Section.
Based on requirements listed in Space Task Group Working Paper No. 129, covering the Project Mercury recovery force, the Navy issued 'Operation Plan COMDESFLOTFOUR No. 1-60.' This plan provided for recovery procedures according to specified areas and for space recovery methods. Procedures for Mercury-Redstone and Mercury-Atlas missions were covered.
A proposal was made by Walter C. Williams, Associate Director of Project Mercury Operations, that the Mercury-Atlas flight test working group become an official and standing coordination body. This group brought together representation from the Space Task Group, Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, Convair Astronautics, McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, and the Atlantic Missile Range. Personnel from these organizations had met informally in the past on several occasions.
In keeping with a concept of using certain off-the-shelf hardware items that were available for the manufacture of Project Mercury components, companies around London, England, were visited throughout 1959. Potential English vendors of such items as the SARAH beacon batteries (later chosen), miniature indicators, time delay mechanisms, hydrogen-peroxide systems, and transducers were evaluated. A report of the findings was submitted on the cited date.
Little Joe 1-B (LJ-1B) was launched from Wallops Island with a rhesus monkey, 'Miss Sam,' aboard. Test objectives for this flight were the same as those for Little Joe 1 (LJ-1) in which the escape tower launched 31 minutes before the planned launch, and Little Joe 1-A (LJ-1A), wherein the dynamic buildup in the abort maneuver was too low. A physiological study of the primate, particularly in areas applying to the effects of the rapid onset of reverse acceleration during abort at maximum dynamic pressure, was also made. In addition, the Mercury helicopter recovery system was exercised. During the mission, all sequences operated as planned; the spacecraft attained a peak altitude of 9.3 statute miles, a range of 11.7 statute miles, and a maximum speed of 2,021.6 miles per hour. Thirty minutes from launch time, a Marine recovery helicopter deposited the spacecraft and its occupant at Wallops Station. 'Miss Sam' was in good condition, and all test objectives were successfully fulfilled.
McDonnell delivered the first production-type Mercury spacecraft to the Space Task Group at Langley in less than 1 year from the signing of the formal contract. This spacecraft was a structural shell and did not contain most of the internal systems that would be required for manned space flight. After receipt, the Space Task Group instrumented the spacecraft and designated it for the Mercury-Atlas 1 (MA-1) flight.
The Navy's School of Aviation Medicine modified a standard 20-man raft in such a way that it could be placed around the base of a floating spacecraft with impact skirt extended. When the device was inflated, the spacecraft rode high enough in the water to permit easy egress from the side hatch.
As part of their training program, the astronauts received 2 days of instruction in star recognition and celestial navigation presented by Dr. James Balten at the Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The purpose of this training was to assist the astronaut in correcting spacecraft yaw drifts. Practical experience was gained in this task by using a motorized trainer that simulated the view of the celestial sphere through the spacecraft observation window.
A study was completed on the 'External and Internal Noise of Space Capsules.' This study covered the acoustic environments of missile and space vehicles including noise generated by the rocket engines, air-boundary layers, and on-board equipment. Data used included noise measurements compiled from the Big Joe I and Little Joe 2 flight tests. These tests were a part of the internal and external noise study that had been in progress since early 1959. NASA officials were still of the opinion that the internal noise level was too high for pilot comfort. Space Task Group felt that data were needed on noise transmission through an actual production-model spacecraft structure.
Colonel George M. Knauf of the Air Force Surgeon General's office began the compilation of a medical-monitor training program in support of Project Mercury. The aims of this program were to brief the monitors on medical problems in space prior to their participation in support of Mercury flights. Colonel Knauf is now a member of NASA Headquarters Manned Space Flight Office.
Responsibilities of the Mercury launch coordination office were specified by the Space Task Group. A few of the listed duties included responsibilities associated with Department of Defense support; overall coordination of launch activities; compilation of information related to launch support requirements; and representing Mercury at Atlas or Redstone Flight Test Group meetings. Walter C. Williams made a proposal for an activity along these lines on January 18, 1960.
Training was inaugurated by a series of Space Task Group lectures that covered facilities, network systems, operations, and other details. In addition, a program was established for familiarization, orientation, and specialized instruction of the Department of Defense group of aeromedical staff personnel designated as members of flight controller teams.
The Space Task Group placed a requirement with NASA Headquarters for the purchase of an analog computing facility. Planned use of this facility was to establish and verify Mercury system requirements; it also could be used for Mercury follow-on programs such as a manned circumlunar vehicle program and other outer space program requirements of this nature. Cost of this facility was estimated to be $424,000.
The Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved the 'Overall Plan for Department of Defense Support for Project Mercury Operations' submitted by their representative, Major General Donald N. Yates. Following this decision, the Space Task Group prepared a series of documents to establish the required operations support. One was an 'Operations Prospectus' which set forth the management techniques by which NASA planned to discharge its overall program responsibility in the operations area. A second was a 'Programs Requirements Document' directed toward continuing operational support.
The Mercury-Atlas working panels were reorganized into four groups: coordination, flight test, trajectory analysis, and change control. Each panel was composed of at least one representative from NASA (Space Task Group), McDonnell, Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, Space Technology Laboratory, and Convair-Astronautics.
These tests were completed at the end of July 1960. As a part of the qualification program, three escape-rocket motors were successfully fired on a spacecraft model at conditions corresponding to approximately 100,000 feet altitude in the Lewis Research Center altitude wind tunnel. One motor was tested on a four-component balance system to determine thrust misalignment of the rocket motor. According to test results, the rocket motor appeared to meet operational requirements.
An indoctrination program in free-floating during weightless flight was conducted for the astronauts at the Wright Air Development Center. The rear end of a C-131B aircraft was cleared and padded. Some 90 parabolas of 12 to 15 seconds of weightlessness each were flown. The objective was to present orientation problems of floating in space with the eyes opened and closed. Also, the astronauts made attempts to use tools and move weights while they were in a weightless condition.
Pioneer V, launched as a probe of the space between Earth and Venus, began to provide invaluable information on solar flare effects, particle energies and distributions and magnetic phenomena. Pioneer V continued to transmit such data until on June 26, 1960, when at a distance of 22.5 million miles from Earth, it established a new communications record.
Between March 28,1960 and April 1, 1960, the astronauts received their first open-water egress training in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, in cooperation with the Navy's School of Aviation Medicine. The training was conducted in conditions of up to 10-foot swells, and no problems were experienced. The average egress time was about 4 minutes from a completely restrained condition in the spacecraft to being in the life raft.
A decision was made by NASA Headquarters that the spacecraft prelaunch operation facility at Huntsville, Alabama, was no longer required. Spacecraft that were designated for Mercury-Redstone missions were to be shipped directly from McDonnell to Cape Canaveral, thereby gaining approximately 2 months in the launch schedule.
Preliminary specifications to modify the Mercury capsule by adding a reentry control navigation system. Preliminary specifications were issued by Space Task Group (STG) to modify the Mercury capsule by adding a reentry control navigation system. The modified capsule would obtain a small lifting capability (lift-over-drag ratio would equal approximately 0.26). The self-contained capsule navigation system would consist of a stable platform, a digital computer, a possible star tracker, and the necessary associated electronic equipment. Dispersion from the predicted impact point would be less than 10 miles. The prospective development called for a prototype to be delivered to NASA for testing in February 1961; and first qualified system, or Modification I, to be delivered by August 1961; and the final qualified system, or Modification II, to be delivered by January 1962. STG anticipated that four navigational systems (not including prototype or qualification units) would be required.
Construction of an altitude facility chamber to simulate space environment was completed in Hanger S at Cape Canaveral. The purpose of this facility was for spacecraft checkout and astronaut training. Acceptance tests for this installation were completed on July 11, 1960.
One of the main purposes of this program was the development of a better igniter. The igniter tested was attached to the head end of the propellant grain and coated with a pyrotechnic. Based on three tests it appeared that the delayed ignition problem had been resolved. Thereafter, several other tests were run until the igniter was adjudged to be reliable.
Construction was proceeding on schedule at Cape Canaveral, Bermuda, Grand Canary Islands, the Woomera and Muchea Australian sites, and at the demonstration site on Wallops Island, Virginia. The survey of Guaymas in Western Mexico completed that phase of the program, but the construction was yet to be accomplished.
McDonnell delivered the flight-pressurized couches to be used in the animal phase of the Mercury flight test program. According to test results, the couches appeared to be satisfactory, with the exception of a slight sealing problem. McDonnell was attempting to resolve this problem.
Number 1, delivered on May 4, 1960, was used for astronaut training in the management of the spacecraft systems at Langley Field and Number 2, delivered on July 5, 1960, was installed at Cape Canaveral, also for space flight preparations. The trainer at Langley Field, along with other equipment, later designated flight simulator, was moved in 1962 to Houston, Texas, location of the Manned Spacecraft Center, the successor to the Space Task Group.
Training classes started for 30 physicians who had been selected by the Department of Defense to serve as medical monitors in support of Project Mercury operations. These personnel received a 2-week indoctrination program. The first week was spent at Cape Canaveral where they were briefed on the medical aspects of missile operations. The second week was spent at Space Task Group for a series of lectures and demonstrations on spacecraft systems, astronaut medical histories, and monitoring stations. This was followed by practice training sessions.
First production model of Project Mercury spacecraft was successfully launched from NASA Wallops Station to test escape, landing, and recovery systems. Known as the "beach abort" shot, the Mercury capsule reached 775 m before parachute landing and pickup by Marine helicopter returned it to Wallops' hangar 17 minutes after launch.
McDonnell's first production spacecraft, with its escape rocket serving as the propulsion force, was launched from Wallops Island. Designated the beach-abort test, the objectives were a performance evaluation of the escape system, the parachute and landing system, and recovery operations in an off-the-pad abort situation. The test was successful.
The Space Task Group established a field representative office at the McDonnell plant in St.Louis, Missouri. A technical liaison representative, W. H. Gray, had already been assigned to the plant. A resident systems test engineer, a resident instrumentation engineer, and a team of inspectors were added to the staff.
In the overall NASA space program, Project Mercury was the only program which included a recovery capability. For this reason, Space Task Group officials felt there were a number of experiments in the science and bioscience fields that could be placed aboard Mercury spacecraft during mission flights. An example of such experiments would be an ultra-violet camera which would provide data to assist in the design and development of an orbiting astronautical observatory; another might be bio-specimens. Obviously, decisions in experiment selections would have to be made to prevent any dilution of the primary Mercury mission.
In considering the possible meteoroid damage to the Mercury spacecraft in orbital flight, it was concluded by the Space Task Group that damage likelihood was small even during periods of meteor showers. However, it was recommended that Mercury missions not be scheduled during forecasted shower periods.
The United States Weather Bureau estimated that it would require $50,000 during fiscal year 1961 in support of Project Mercury. Bureau responsibilities included weather forecasting for Mercury launching and recovery activities, climatological studies along the area of the Mercury ground track, and environmental studies of specified areas. With reference to the last item, a study was completed in early August 1960 of annual conditions along the Atlantic Missile Range including wind velocity, visibility and cloud coverage.
The subjects were clothed in pressure suits and subjected to postlanding conditions for 12 hours without serious physiological effects. The purpose of this test was to evaluate human tolerance, and the results indicated that no modification to the system were necessary. However, the postlanding ventilation conditions would continue to be monitored and requirements for any modifications would be evaluated.
As a complement to the Mercury spacecraft reliability program, a decision was made that one production spacecraft would be withdrawn from the operational program for extensive testing. The test environment would involve vacuum, heat, and vibration conditions. This test series was later designated 'Project Orbit.'
The first meeting of the Mercury Network Coordination Committee was held at Cape Canaveral for the purpose of initiating action on existing problem areas. Subjects under review included operational procedures, range readiness, and other items associated with network operation during a mission.
The astronauts underwent a five and one half day course in 'desert survival' training at the Air Training Command Survival School, Stead Air Force Base, Nevada. The possibility of an arid-area landing was remote but did exist. So this training was accomplished to supply the astronaut with the confidence and ability to survive desert conditions until recovery. The course consisted of one and one half days of academics, one day of field demonstrations, and three days of isolated remote-site training. Survival equipment normally installed in the Mercury spacecraft was used to provide the most realistic conditions.
The first Mercury-Atlas -D (MA-1) was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral to test the Mercury capsule and Atlas D booster for future use in NASA's Project Mercury manned orbital flight program. Mercury-Atlas 1 (MA-1) was launched from the Atlantic Missile Range in a test of spacecraft structural integrity under maximum heating conditions. After 58.5 seconds of flight, MA-1 exploded and the spacecraft was destroyed upon impact off-shore. None of the primary capsule test objectives were met. The mission objectives were to check the integrity of the spacecraft structure and afterbody shingles for a reentry associated with a critical abort and to evaluate the open-loop performance of the Atlas abort-sensing instrumentation system. The spacecraft contained no escape system and no test subject. Standard posigrade rockets were used to separate the spacecraft from the Atlas, but the retrorockets were dummies. The flight was terminated because of a launch vehicle and adapter structural failure. The spacecraft was destroyed upon impact with the water because the recovery system was not designed to actuate under the imposed flight conditions. Later most of the spacecraft, the booster engines, and the liquid oxygen vent valve were recovered from the ocean floor. Since none of the primary flight objectives was achieved, Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) was planned to fulfill the mission.
The astronauts later received refresher training prior to mission flights. In fact, during the refresher phases, better procedures were developed. An example was the helicopter mode in which a line was attached to the top of the spacecraft and the spacecraft was partially raised by the helicopter. Then, the astronaut emerged from the side egress hatch and was raised by a second line to the helicopter.
The first phase of the program in which boilerplate spacecraft with impact skirts were dropped by helicopters on water and land surfaces was completed. These tests were performed to investigate spacecraft dynamics, effects of parachute restraint and release time on spacecraft dynamics, and to determine maximum landing decelerations. During the drops into the water spacecraft water stability was shown to be unacceptable, because a portion of the spacecraft cylindrical section remained under water. McDonnell immediately investigated this problem and performed such experiments as redistribution of weight to obtain center-of-gravity positions which were acceptable but yet provided satisfactory flotation characteristics. Space Task Group was investigating the possibility of extending the heat shield from the remainder of the spacecraft and thereby creating a greater stabilizing moment. Results from the drops on land appeared to be acceptable because of the relatively low decelerations and the overall low probability of a landing on land.
The entire qualification testing program consisted of 56 airdrops of full-scale engineering models of the Mercury spacecraft from C-130 aircraft at various altitudes up to 30,000 feet and from helicopters at low altitudes to simulate off-the-pad abort conditions. This test program, under contract to Northrop, had spanned one and one half years.
At the design engineering inspection of spacecraft No. 7, a number of requests for changes in the control panel area were made by the astronauts to facilitate pilot operation. Later, meeting procedures for design engineering inspections were standardized and conducted by a permanent team at appropriate intervals.
McDonnell Aircraft Corporation proposed a one-man space station comprising a Mercury capsule plus a cylindrical space laboratory capable of supporting one astronaut in a shirtsleeve environment for 14 days in orbit. Gross weight of the combined vehicle at launch would be 7259 pounds (Mercury, as of October 25, 1960, was 4011 pounds), which would provide an 1100-pound, laboratory-test payload in a 150-nautical-mile orbit, boosted by an Atlas-Agena B. The result would be a 'minimum cost manned space station.'
Coordination effectiveness among organizations directly involved in the Mercury development and test program was reviewed by the Space Task Group at the request of NASA Headquarters. Conclusions were that the interchange of information had been excellent. The coordination panel meetings were cited as a fine medium for information exchange. The Mercury-Atlas Coordination Panel first met on February 19, 1959, and by the date of the review, a total of 29 days had been spent in these meetings. Interchange of visits had started even before the cited February date and had been continued with good results.
The Space Task Group drafted and forwarded to McDonnell the specification requirements for spacecraft on-board data system instrumentation tests. McDonnell was to demonstrate the satisfactory performance of all space communication and instrumentation systems.
Because of poor tower separation of the production spacecraft in the off-the-beach abort test at Wallops Island, NASA personnel at Langley started a series of jettison rocket tests. It was found that rocket performance had been only about 42 percent of the desired level, and experiments were started to raise thrust effectiveness. Measures taken included canting the motor, adding a cone to the blast shield, and, in one instance, deleting the blast shield. Space Task Group personnel advised McDonnell that plans were made to test a redesigned jettison rocket nozzle, consisting of three nozzles spaced 120 degrees apart and canted at a 30 degree angle to the rocket centerline. The three-nozzle effect, which produced the desired results, was another NASA engineering contribution.
This was the third type of aircraft used by the astronauts in such training. The previously mentioned F-100 provided a weightless period of some 40 to 50 seconds; the C-131, 15 seconds; and the C-135, 30 seconds. During the C-135 flights, the astronauts were checked for changes in normal speech and their ability to control a tracking problem while undergoing moderate g-loads prior to entering the weightless periods.
DESFLOTFOUR personnel, designated previously by the Department of Defense to provide recovery support for Project Mercury, conducted a communications exercise in the recovery room of Mercury Control Center. This was the first time these communication facilities had been used since the installation of the equipment. During the exercise, voice and continuous-wave communications were established with two destroyers 120 miles at sea. The purpose of this successful exercise was to acquaint personnel with equipment layout and communication procedures.
The Air Force no longer seriously entertained the prospect of a separate military man in space program. Instead the ballistic missile division became deeply involved in support activity for the civilian space agency, especially developing and supplying hardware for the Mercury program. As of this date, Air Force Ballistic Missile Division participation included the following: providing 16 Atlas D boosters to accept Mercury capsules and adapters, to be provided by the space agency, a modified guidance structure, an installed abort system to insure pilot safety, and telemetry. Air Force Ballistic Missile Division also furnished launch facilities at the Atlantic Missile Range Complex 14, and one-half of Hangar J and the necessary modifications thereto as requested and made necessary by booster requirements. Such work included installation of capsule umbilical and checkout cabling, telemetry, communications, and data transfer equipment required by the payload. The missile division also provided the guidance site and use of the range Atlas guidance computer (Mod III) for powered trajectory guidance and the special computations requested by the space agency. Air Force Ballistic Missile Division and several Air Force contractors provided, as of this date, 401 military and civilian personnel to the program. Much of the cost of this support activity was reimbursed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, but some was not. Air Force personnel costs, military and civilian; office space and equipment; and normal base support functions were provided at Air Force expense. Cost of a 14 booster "program (the additional two boosters were ordered too late to be included in this summary) was as follows:(Millions of Dollars)
|Prior Years||FY 61||FY 62||Total|
|Booster Hardware and Launch Service||19.769||15.324||5.924||41.017|
|Engineering Modifications and Studies, Technical Direction, Booster Safety Program, etc.||3.436||6.367||1.362||11.165|
|Miscellaneous, Propellant, Transportation, Travel, etc.||.466||1.133||.122||1.721|
James Carter of the Marshall Space Flight Center submitted a study on Mercury Crew Support Equipment.' This type of equipment was defined as that which is not an integral part of or attached to a space vehicle or space station. Specific equipment categories discussed in the report included personal safety, recovery, survival, food supplies, portable respiratory devices, and hand tools.
LJ-5, the first of the series with a McDonnell production spacecraft, was launched from Wallops Island to check the spacecraft in an abort simulating the most severe launch conditions. The launch was normal until 15.4 seconds after lift-off, at which time the escape rocket motor was prematurely ignited. The spacecraft did not detach from the launch vehicle until impact and was destroyed. Failure to attain mission objectives was attributed to several possible causes. One of these was failure of the spacecraft-to-adpater clamp-ring limit switches. Another possibility was failure of the escape tower clamp-ring limit switches. And the third was improper rigging of the limit switches in either of those locations so that vibration or deflection could have caused switch closure. Since the test objectives were not met, a repeat of the mission was planned.
Little Joe 5 with a Mercury production spacecraft was launched from Wallops Island to test the spacecraft in an abort simulating the most severe launch conditions. At 15.4 seconds after liftoff, the escape rocket motor and tower jettison motor ignited prematurely. Booster, capsule, and tower remained mated through ballistic trajectory until destroyed on impact.
A meeting was held at Langley Field by NASA personnel to discuss the results of Mercury test programs which had been conducted. Of particular interest was the estblishment of the causes for the failure of the Mercury-Atlas 1 (MA-1) mission and to determine the status of readiness or the Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) mission.
One of the objectives of these tests was to drop a spacecraft during wind conditions of 18 knots, and this phase was successful. Secondary objectives of the program were to investigate spacecraft dynamics and water stability. Both spacecraft flotation and righting characteristics were found to be acceptable.
This unmanned mission was unsuccessful because premature cut-off of the launch vehicle engines activated the emergency escape system when the vehicle was only about 1 inch off the pad. Engine cut-off was caused by premature loss of electrical ground power to the booster. The launch vehicle settled back on the pad with only slight damage. Since the spacecraft received a cut-off signal, the escape tower and recovery sequence was initiated. The undamaged spacecraft was recovered for reuse.
Little Joe was a booster lashed together by NASA Langley to test the Mercury escape tower abort system. In early NASA secretly considered a manned mission atop Little Joe but quickly dropped the idea when the dynamic pressures involved were reviewed (the concept nevertheless emerged in the trade press in 'Aviation Leak' (Aviation Week and Space Technology).
A contract with the Waltham Precision Instrument Company for the development of a satellite clock was canceled. Technical difficulties were encountered in the manufacturing of the device, previously scheduled for delivery in August 1960, and there was little assurance that these problems could be resolved in time for the clock to be used in any of the Mercury flights. McDonnell fabricated an orbital timing device, which proved to be very satisfactory.
Mercury-Redstone 1A (MR-1A) was launched from Cape Canaveral in a repeat of the November 21, 1960, mission and was completely successful. This was the third attempt to accomplish the objectives established for this flight. The first attempt on November 7, 1960, was canceled as a result of a helium leak in the spacecraft reaction control system relief valve, and on November 21, 1960, the mission could not be completed because of premature cut-off of the launch vehicle engines. Objectives of the MR-1A flight were to qualify the spacecraft for space flight and to qualify the flight system for a primate flight scheduled shortly thereafter. Close attention was given to the spacecraft-launch vehicle combination as it went through the various flight sequences: powered flight; acceleration and deceleration; performance of the posigrade rockets; performance of the recovery system; performance of the launch, tracking, and recovery phases of the operation; other events of the flight including retrorocket operation in a space environment; and operation of instrumentation. Except that the launch vehicle cut-off velocity was slightly higher than normal, all flight sequences were satisfactory; tower separation, spacecraft separation, spacecraft turnaround, retrofire, retropackage jettison, and landing system operation occurred or were controlled as planned. The spacecraft reached a maximum altitude of 130.68 statute miles, a range of 234.8 statute miles, and a speed of 4,909.1 miles per hour. Fifteen minutes after landing in the Atlantic Ocean, the recovery helicopter picked up the spacecraft to complete the successful flight mission.
Prior to entering the operational phase of Project Mercury, a decision was made by Robert R. Gilruth and James E. Webb that the astronaut selected for each flight would have the right to name his spacecraft, which is in keeping with past traditions. Therfore, the astronaut advised Robert R. Gilruth of the name of the spacecraft which he had chosen (Freedom 7 in the case of the first flight) and Mr. Gilruth, in turn, advised Mr. Webb of the name. The Federal Communications Commission was also notified of the name since the spacecraft would be using communications frequencies controlled by the Commission.
In January 1959, a series of balloon flights were planned for qualification of the Mercury spacecraft. The final flights would be manned tests of up to 24 hours duration, with recovery of the capsule at sea. On May 22, 1959 the balloon flights were cancelled.
The Space Task Group, charged by NASA to conduct Project Mercury and other manned space-flight programs, officially became a separate NASA field element directly under NASA Headquarters. Prior to this time, the Space Task Group was organized under the Goddard Space Flight Center and was administratively supported by the Langley Research Center. As of this date, the personnel strength of Space Task Group was 667.
McDonnell Aircraft Corporation officials proposed to NASA a one-man space station consisting of a Mercury capsule and a cylindrical space laboratory capable of supporting one astronaut in a shirt- sleeve environment for 14 days in orbit. The complete vehicle, McDonnell said, could be placed in a 240-km orbit by an Atlas-Agena booster, thus affording NASA what the company termed a 'minimum cost manned space station.'
The estimated cost of NASA Order HS-36, Atlas launch vehicles, was $51,504,000, of which, definitive documents in the amount of $43,671,000 had been processed as of the cited date. NASA Order HS-44 for Redstone launch vehicles was $14,918,182 and $12,534,182 had been processed. On contract NAS 5-59, Mercury spacecraft, costs were $79,245,952, and approximately $9.5 million of this figure was classed as 'Undefinitized Obligations.'
Ham, a 37-pound chimpanzee, was aboard the spacecraft. The over-acceleration of the launch vehicle coupled with the velocity of the escape rocket caused the spacecraft to attain a higher altitude and a longer range than planned. In addition, the early depletion of the liquid oxygen caused a signal that separated the spacecraft from the launch vehicle a few seconds early. However spacecraft recovery was effected, although there were some leaks and the spacecraft was taking on water. Ham appeared to be in good physiological condition, but sometime later when he was shown the spacecraft it was visually apparent that he had no further interest in cooperating with the space flight program. Despite the over-acceleration factor, the flight was considered to be successful.
Instruction was provided to the astronauts to develop techniques and procedures for using the personal parachute as an additional safety feature in the Mercury program. This parachute was only used during the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) mission manned by Alan Shepard.
Measures to be taken for hydrogen-peroxide fuel economy for the Mercury spacecraft attitude control system were studied at a coordination meeting. Items considered were orbital attitude, retroattitude hold sequence, and salvo versus ripple retrorocket firing. Astronaut Virgil Grissom reported that the salvo method had already been proven to be unsatisfactory on the Mercury procedures trainer.
Egress hatch procedures for Mercury recovery force operations were discussed at a coordination meeting. One suggestion involved the installation of a pull-ring for activating the hatch explosive charge. Another proposal was made for a paint outline of an emergency outlet that could be cut through, if necessary.
Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) was launched from Cape Canaveral in a test to check maximum heating and its effects during the worst reentry design conditions. The flight closely matched the desired trajectory and attained a maximum altitude of 114.04 statute miles and a range of 1,431.6 statute miles. Inspection of the spacecraft aboard the recovery ship some 55 minutes after launch (actual flight time was 17.56 minutes) indicated that test objectives were met, since the structure and heat protection elements appeared to be in excellent condition. The flight control team obtained satisfactory data; and the complete launch computing and display system, operating for the first time in a flight, performed satisfactorily.
As of this date, the Space Task Group, Convair-Astronautics, Space Technology Laboratories, McDonnell, and the Marshall Space Flight Center had completed a number of extensive studies on the subject of the safe separation of the Mercury spacecraft from the launch vehicle during an emergency. The following papers include a report of these studies: NASA Project Mercury Working Paper No. 111, 'Mercury-Redstone Separation Distance ...'; NASA Project Mercury Working Paper No. 141, 'Dispersion Study of Separation Distance ...for Mercury-Redstone'; and NASA Working Paper No. 152, 'Determination of Mercury Escape Rocket Thrust Eccentricity ...from Mercury-Atlas Booster.'
Mercury Little Joe 5A (LJ-5A), the sixth in the series of Little Joe missions, was launched from Wallops Island. This flight was intended to satisfy test objectives, which were not met previously because of the failure of the spacecraft to separate from the launch vehicle during the Little Joe 5 (LJ-5) mission flown on November 8, 1960. For reference, the purpose of this test was to demonstrate primarily the structural integrity of the spacecraft and the escape system during an escape maneuver initiated at the highest dynamic pressure anticipated during an Atlas launch for orbital flight. Little Joe 5A (LJ-5A) lifted off normally, but 19 seconds later the escape tower fired prematurely, a situation closely resembling the November 1960 flight. The signal to initiate the abort maneuver was given; and the launch vehicle-adapter clamp ring was released as intended, but the spacecraft remained on the launch vehicle since the escape motor was already expended. The separation was effected by using the retrorockets, but this command was transmitted before the flight had reached its apex, where separation had been planned. Therefore, the separation was rather violent. The parachutes did deploy at about 40,000 feet, and after recovery it was found that the spacecraft had actually incurred only superficial structural damage. In fact, this spacecraft was later used for the subsequent Little Joe 5B (LJ-5B) flight test. Test objectives of the Little Joe 5A (LJ-5A) were not met.
Primary objectives of the drops were to study further the spacecraft suitability and flotation capability after water impact. Six drops were made, but later (April 24-28, 1961) the tests were extended for two additional drops to monitor hard-surface landing effects. In the water phase of the program, spacecraft components under particular scrutiny were the lower pressure bulkhead and its capability to withstanding heat shield recontact without impairing flotation capability. Helicopters were used to make the drops.
Trajectory data for the Mercury-Redstone Booster-Development (MR-BD) flight test were forwarded by Marshall Space Flight Center to the Space Task Group and other interested organizations. The purpose of this flight test was to provide a final check of the launch vehicle system prior to the manned suborbital flights.
After booster problems on the Mercury MR-2 chimp test flight, Von Braun insisted on a further unmanned booster test flight, against the wishes of Shepard and others at NASA. A Mercury boilerplate capsule was launched on a flawless test on 24 March. If NASA had overruled Von Braun, the manned Freedom 7 capsule would have flown instead. Shepard would have been the first man in space (though not in orbit), beating Gagarin's flight by three weeks.
After analyzing launch vehicle behavior in the Mercury-Redstone 1A (MR-1A) and Mercury-Redstone 2 (MR-2), officials at the Marshall Space Flight Center and the Space Task Group were of the opinion that there were a number of problems that needed to be corrected prior to the advent of manned flight. The problems to be resolved included jet-vane vibration, instrumentation compartment vibration, failure of the thrust-controller system, and several other areas that needed attention. Many of these problems were studied by the personnel of engineering activities and proposed solutions were formulated. It was felt, however, that flight was necessary to verify the corrections and the Mercury-Redstone Booster Development test was scheduled and flown. All test objectives were met; as a result of this test, the launch vehicle was man-rated for the planned suborbital flights.
In a NASA Headquarters' note to editors of magazines and newspapers, a procedures and a deadline were established for submitting the applications of accredited correspondents to cover the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) flight mission. As of April 24, 1961, the deadline date, 350 correspondents were accredited to cover the launch, the first manned suborbital flight of Project Mercury.
Glenn, Grissom, and Shepard began refresher course on centrifuge in preparation for the first manned Mercury-Redstone suborbital flight. John Glenn, Virgil Grissom, and Alan Shepard began a refresher course on the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory centrifuge in preparation for the first manned Mercury-Redstone suborbital flight.
NASA issued study contract NAS 9-119 to McDonnell for improvement of the Mercury spacecraft. McDonnell formed a small project group for the study, which immediately began looking to Mercury spacecraft component improvement, with accessibility as the guideline. Mercury had been a first step, almost an experiment, while the improved Mercury was to be an operational vehicle. One result of this line of thought was a basic change in equipment location, from inside the pressure vessel (where it had been in Mercury) to the outside. The contractor was authorized to acquire several long-lead-time procurement items under an amendment to the basic Mercury contract, but Space Task Group limited company expenditures to $2.5 million. The McDonnell project team initially included 30 to 40 engineers.
Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) was launched from Cape Canaveral in an attempt to orbit the spacecraft with a 'mechanical astronaut' aboard. After lift-off, the launch vehicle failed to roll to a 70 degree heading and to pitch over into the proper trajectory. The abort-sensing system activated the escape rockets prior to the launch vehicle's destruction by the range safety officer after approximately 40 seconds of flight that had attained an altitude of 16,400 feet. The spacecraft then coasted up to 24,000 feet, deployed its parachutes, and landed in the Atlantic Ocean 2,000 yards north of the launch pad. The spacecraft was recovered and was found to have incurred only superficial damage; it was then shipped to McDonnell for refitting.
Little Joe 5B (LJ-5B) was launched from Wallops Island to test the Mercury escape system under maximum dynamic pressure conditions. At the time of lift-off, one of the launch vehicle rocket motors did not ignite until after 4 seconds had elapsed. This delay caused the launch vehicle to pitch into a lower trajectory than had been planned, with a result that the abort maneuver experienced greater dynamic pressures than had been specified in the flight test plan. Other than this, all other sequential systems operated according to plan, and after landing, a normal helicopter recovery was accomplished. Thus, all test objectives were met and were actually exceeded because the spacecraft withstood the higher dynamic pressures.
NASA Administrator Webb issued a statement concerning the 2-year Mercury manned space flight program, which said, in part: "NASA has not attempted to encourage press coverage of the first Mercury-Redstone manned flight. It has responded to press and television requests, with the result that over 100 representatives of the press, radio, and TV are now at Cape Canaveral. . . . We must keep the perspective that each flight is but one of the many milestones we must pass. Some will completely succeed in every respect, some partially, and some will fail. From all of them will come mastery of the vast new space environment on which so much of our future depends."
Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., made the first United States manned space flight in a Mercury spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral atop the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) vehicle. "Freedom 7" completed the suborbital, ballistic flight without incident in this historical first mission of NASA's Project Mercury. Alan Shepard first American in space, less than a month after Gagarin and only on a 15 minute suborbital flight. Only manned flight with original Mercury capsule design (tiny round porthole and periscope a la Vostok). If NASA had not listened to Von Braun, Shepard would have flown on the MR-BD flight of 24 March, beating Gagarin by three weeks and becoming the first man in space (though not in orbit). Shepard's capsule reached an altitude of 115.696 miles, range of 302 miles,and speed of 5,100 miles per hour. He demonstrated control of a vehicle during weightlessness and high G stresses. Recovery operations were perfect; there was no damage to the spacecraft; and Astronaut Shepard was in excellent condition.
Astronaut Alan Shepard, pilot of the Freedom 7 spacecraft (MR-3) was awarded NASA's Distinguished Service Medal by President John F. Kennedy in a ceremony at the White House. It was followed by an informal parade to the Capitol by the seven astronauts for lunch, and a press conference at the State Department auditorium.
Senator Robert S. Kerr, chairman of the Senate Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee, told a group at the National Radio and Television Convention that President Kennedy accepted the views of NASA and congressional leaders in approving the manned Mercury-Redstone flight of May 5.
NASA submitted its legislative program for the 87th Congress (S. 1857 and H.R. 7115), asking for authority to lease property, authority to acquire patent releases, replacement of semiannual reports to Congress with an annual one, and authority to indemnify contractors against unusually hazardous risks.
NASA Headquarters and the Space Task Group began a concerted effort in reviewing Mercury progress to identify technical developments that were potential inventions, discoveries, improvements, and innovations. This action was in keeping with the policy and concept of providing information on technical advances, within security limits and when appropriate, to other agencies of the government and to American industry.
Over the following 24 days, as a part of the Mercury-Atlas animal program, chimpanzees received training in acclimation to noise and vibration and to centrifuge runs at the University of Southern California. Two of the animals flew parabolas in a C-131 aircraft for weightlessness training. The animals were also trained in advance psychomotor problems.
Using spacecraft No. 5, a spacecraft seaworthiness test was conducted 65 miles east of Wallops Island. Sea conditions varied with 2 to 4 foot ground swells and wave heights of from 1 to 2 feet. Spacecraft flotation characteristics were found to be quite satisfactory.
James L. Decker of Martin Company submitted a proposal for a Titan-boosted Mercury vehicle. A Mercury-Titan program, expected to span an 18-month flight schedule, would benefit from the Air Force's booster development and test of the ballistic missile system and the considerable design and test that the Air Force had expended in the Dyna-Soar program to adapt the vehicle to manned spaceflight. The Titan, with its sea-level rating of 430,000 pounds of thrust in the first stage and 100,000 pounds in the second stage, was capable of lifting significantly heavier spacecraft payloads than the Mercury-Atlas. Its hypergolic propulsion system, using storable liquid propellants, was a much simpler system than the cryogenic propellant system in Atlas. A highly reliable booster could be provided, employing complete redundancy in the flight control systems in the form of a three-axis reference system, autopilot, servo, electrical, and hydraulic systems. The short time he proposed would depend on the availability of pad 19 at Cape Canaveral, planned for conversion to the Titan II configuration. Pad 19, unlike the other three Titan I pads, had been intended for space applications and was better designed for required prelaunch test programs.
The assignments were made by Walter C. Williams, Project Mercury Operations Officer, for the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) manned suborbital flight mission. These appointments included on-site liaison and consultation, public affairs, photo couriers, and technical observers. Stations covered were Mercury Control Center, Atlantic Missile Range Central Control, landing area aircraft carrier, supporting destroyers, support aircraft, and Base Operations at Patrick Air Force Base.
The Mercury capsule, Liberty Bell 7, manned by Astronaut Virgil I. Grissom, boosted by a Redstone rocket, reached a peak altitude of 190.3 km and a speed of 8,335 km per hour. After a flight of 15 minutes and 37 seconds, the landing was made 487 km downrange from the launch site. The hatch blew while still in water, and the capsule sank; Grissom saved, though his suit was filling up with water through open oxygen inlet lines.
This was the second and final manned suborbital Mercury Redstone flight, and the first flight with trapezoidal window. Further suborbital flights (each astronaut was to make one as a training exercise) were cancelled. An attempt to recover the capsule in very deep water in 1994 not successful. It was finally raised in the summer of 1999.
It was returned to McDonnell to be reconfigured to the orbital-manned 1-day mission and tentatively assigned for Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10). Redesign was completed, and the spacecraft, then designated number 15A (later redesignated 15B), was delivered to Cape Canaveral on November 16, 1962.
An investigation was conducted as a result of the premature activation of the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) explosive egress hatch. Tests were initiated in an environment more severe than had been conducted in prelaunch activities and tests, but no premature firings occurred. As a backup, McDonnell was asked to design a mechanical-type hatch. The model weighed some 60 pounds more than the explosive type, so other methods had to be sought to prevent any recurrence of the incident. A procedure was initiated which stipulated that the firing plunger safety pin would be left in place until the helicopter hook was attached to the spacecraft and tension was applied to the recovery cable.
The original Mercury project plan envisioned all of the astronauts making an initial suborbital hop aboard a Redstone booster before making an orbital flight aboard an Atlas. But Gherman Titov was launched on a full-day orbital flight in August 1961, making NASA's suborbital hops look pathetic. Further suborbital Mercury flights after that of Grissom were cancelled.
Three rocket sled tests were conducted at the Naval Ordnance Test Station, China Lake, California, to study the detailed launch vehicle-spacecraft, clamp-ring separation. From run to run, minor modifications were made, and by the third run the separation action was perfected.
A few of these are listed: (1) attenuation of impact force from astronaut couch by using crushable honeycomb structure; (2) interchangeable couch configuration for Mercury spacecraft; (3) modified tower clamp ring to improve stability in abort attitude; (4) hydrogen peroxide thrust chamber improvements; (5) oxygen pressure transducer improvements; (6) de-stabilization flap to prevent spacecraft wrong attitude reentry; (7) Mercury spacecraft landing bag design; and (8) multi-nozzle rockets.
Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) was launched from Cape Canaveral with special vibration and noise instrumentation and a mechanical crewman simulator aboard in addition to the normal spacecraft equipment. This was the first Mercury spacecraft to attain an earth orbit. The orbital apogee was 123 nautical miles and the perigee was 86 nautical miles. After one orbit, the spacecraft's orbital timing device triggered the retrograde rockets, and the spacecraft splashed in the Atlantic Ocean 161 miles east of Bermuda. Recovery was made by the USS Decatur. During the flight, only three slight deviations were noted - a small leak in the oxygen system; loss of voice contact over Australia; and the failure of an inverter in the environmental control system. Overall, the flight was highly successful: the Atlas booster performed well and demonstrated that it was ready for the manned flight, the spacecraft systems operated well, and the Mercury global tracking network and telemetry operated in an excellent manner and was ready to support manned orbital flight.
The Space Task Group announced that a 30-inch diameter balloon would be installed in the Mercury spacecraft to allow for ship recovery should the helicopter br forced to drop the spacecraft, as happened during the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) recovery operations.
NASA Administrator Webb announced major organizational changes and top-level appointments to become effective November 1. The reorganization should provide a clearer focus on major programs and allow center directors to have a louder voice in policy making. The new appointments included the following Directors of major program offices: Ira H. Abbott, Office of Advanced Research and Technology; Homer E. Newell, Office of Space Sciences; D. Brainerd Holmes, Office of Manned Space Flight; and an as yet unnamed Director of Office of Applications Programs. Also, Thomas F. Dixon was appointed Deputy Associate Administrator; Abe Silverstein was named Director of the Lewis Research Center, and Robert R. Gilruth was chosen Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center.
The Freedom 7 Mercury capsule in which Alan B. Shepard, Jr., made the first suborbital space flight, was presented to the National Air Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. In his presentation, NASA Administrator Webb said: "To Americans seeking answers, proof that man can survive in the hostile realm of space is not enough. A solid and meaningful foundation for public support and the basis for our Apollo man-in-space effort is that U.S. astronauts are going into space to do useful work in the cause of all their fellow men."
Small satellite was to have verified the readiness of the worldwide Mercury tracking network. An attempt was made to launch Mercury-Scout 1 (MS-1) into orbit with a communications package further to qualify the radar tracking of the Mercury global network prior to manned orbital flight. Shortly after lift-off, the launch vehicle developed erratic motions and attending high aerodynamic loads, and was destroyed by the Range Safety Officer after 43 seconds of flight. No further attempts were planned. The Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) mission and the successful Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5), flown on November 29, 1961, disclosed that the network met all requirements.
Astronaut John Glenn was selected as the pilot for the first Mercury manned orbital flight, with Scott Carpenter as backup pilot. Immediately, training was started to ready these two astronauts for the mission. The five remaining astronauts concentrated their efforts on various engineering and operational groups of the Manned Spacecraft Center in preparation for the mission.
Atlas D (53D) was the first missile to be launched by SAC from Vandenberg in the operation test (Category III) launch program. Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5), the second and final orbital qualification of the spacecraft prior to manned flight was launched from Cape Canaveral with Enos, a 37.5 pound chimpanzee, aboard. Scheduled for three orbits, the spacecraft was returned to earth after two orbits due to the failure of a roll reaction jet and to the overheating of an inverter in the electrical system. Both of these difficulties could have been corrected had an astronaut been aboard. The spacecraft was recovered 255 miles southeast of Bermuda by the USS Stormes. During the flight, the chimpanzee performed psychomotor duties and upon recovery was found to be in excellent physical condition. The flight was termed highly successful and the Mercury spacecraft well qualified to support manned orbital flight.
NASA Headquarters announced that the first Mercury manned orbital flight was scheduled for early 1962. This decision was made when the Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5) mission data indicated that the spacecraft system, launch vehicle, and tracking network were ready.
NASA postponed its projected manned orbital flight from December 1961 until early in 1962 because of minor problems with the cooling system and positioning devices in the Mercury capsule, Dr. Hugh Dryden, Deputy Administrator of NASA, said in a Baltimore interview. "You like to have a man go with everything just as near perfect as possible. This business is risky. You can't avoid this, but you can take all the precautions you know about."
Spacecraft egress exercises were conducted for the astronauts in the Back River near Langley Field. This training was especially conducted for the pilots selected for the manned orbital mission and for helicopter recovery teams. The astronauts made both top and side hatch egresses from the spacecraft and no problems were encountered.
NASA Administrator James E. Webb said in a speech in Cleveland that the United States would follow its first manned orbital flight in January 1962 with similar manned orbital flights every 60 days. These would gather data on effects of weightlessness, needed to determine the pacing of the two-man flight program later on. Mr. Webb also forecast the launching of 200 sounding rockets, 20 scientific satellites, and 2 deep-space probes in 1962.
Twenty spacecraft aerial drop tests were planned for the Mercury extended range or 1-day mission. One of the prime objectives was to determine if the 63-foot ringsail main recovery parachute met all Mercury mission weight requirements. Tests were scheduled to be conducted at El Centro, California, and all tests would be land drops. This test program was designated Project Reef.
Major organizational division of this staff element included Office of Project Manager, Project Engineering Office, Project Engineering Field Office (duty station at Cape Canaveral), Engineering Operations Office, and Engineering Data and Measurement Office. Kenneth Kleinknecht was appointed Manager of Project Mercury.
The 6555th Aerospace Test Wing launched the Mercury/Atlas D (MA-6), "Friendship 7," that placed the Mercury capsule containing LtColonel John Glenn, USMC, into orbit for the first Project Mercury manned orbital flight. "Friendship 7" completed three orbits before successful reentry and recovery in the Atlantic Ocean. First US manned orbital mission. John Glenn finally puts America in orbit. False landing bag deploy light led to reentry being started with retropack left in place on heat shield. It turned out that indicator light was false and a spectacular reentry ensued, with glowing chunks of the retropack whizzing by the window. After four hours and 43 minutes the spacecraft reentered the atmosphere and landed at 2:43 pm EST in the planned recovery area NE of the Island of Puerto Rico. All flight objectives were achieved. Glenn was reported to be in excellent condition. Beause of failure of one of the automatic systems, the astronaut took over manual control of the spacecraft during part of the flight. With this flight, the basic objectives of Project Mercury had been achieved.
The PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) reporting system became operational on an experimental basis for Mercury. The first PERT report on the Mercury 1-day mission schedule and cost analysis was issued by the Manned Spacecraft Center on April 26, 1962.
Scott Carpenter and Walter Schirra, designated (but not publicly) as pilot and backup pilot, respectively, for the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) manned orbital mission, underwent water-egress exercises. Several side-hatch egresses were made in conjunction with helicopter pickups.
The first Orbiting Solar Observatory (OSO) performed remarkably well in conducting the thirteen different experiments for which it was programmed. Especially relevant to manned space flight were its measurements of solar radiation in high frequency ranges, of cosmic dust effects, and of the thermal properties of spacecraft surface materials.
Scott Carpenter and Walter Schirra, designated as pilot and backup pilot, respectively, for the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) manned orbital mission, underwent a water exercise training program to review procedures for boarding the life raft and the use of survival packs.
NASA announced that the spacecraft, Friendship 7, used in the Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) manned obital mission would be lent to the United States Information Agency for a world tour, involving 20 stops and touching all continents. This tour was known as the 'fourth orbit of Friendship 7.' William Bland of the Mercury Project Office served as tour officer.
They view the Redstone and Atlas rockets and a Mercury space capsule. Kamanin finds the Mercury very cramped, but notes that it is equipped with all the necessities. Glenn tells him it was possible for the astronaut to wear a parachute, but Glenn chose not to - he didn't believe he could really use it in an emergency anyway. Afterwards they were introduced to President Kennedy and Vice-President Johnson.
Titov and Kamanin meet journalist Drew Pierson, who claims that five Soviet cosmonauts died before Gagarin flew. They are introduced to Wernher Von Braun. In the afternoon they go to a barbecue at Glenn's house in Virginia. Kamanin carefully notes the technical information he has gleaned: Glenn wore no parachute; the Mercury's solid fuel retrorockets fire in 28 seconds, much more quickly and with more force than the Vostok's low-thrust liquid propellant engine; it is planned to launch a modernised version of Mercury on a one-day flight by the end of 1962; the astronauts train in the centrifuge to 16 G's (versus 12 G's for the cosmonauts); the NASA manned space headquarters is moving to Texas; Mercury is only capable of water landings, no work has been done on land landings or equipping the capsule with an ejection seat; several Amerrican women are considered fit for spaceflight, and the first American woman could make a three-orbit flight in the second half of 1962.
Astronaut Deke Slayton was to have been the second American in orbit. On March 16, 1962, it was announced that Slayton was grounded - due to a minor heart fibrillation known to NASA when they selected him to be an astronaut. Slayton's three orbit flight would have been called Delta 7. Instead Carpenter was selected for the mission, and Schirra, Slayton's backup, was moved to the Mercury 8 flight.
BSD's 6555th Aerospace Test Wing launched Mercury/Atlas 7 (MA-7), "Aurora 7", into orbit carrying Navy Commander M. Scott Carpenter. This was the second U.S. manned orbital flight mission. Scott Carpenter in Aurora 7 is enthralled by his environment but uses too much orientation fuel. Yaw error and late retrofire caused the landing impact point to be over 300 km beyond the intended area and beyond radio range of the recovery forces. Landing occurred 4 hours and 56 minutes after liftoff. Astronaut Carpenter was later picked up safely by a helicopter after a long wait in the ocean and fears for his safety. NASA was not impressed and Carpenter left the agency soon thereafter to become an aquanaut.
According to the proposal, sheets of aluminium would be extended from the Mercury spacecraft and exposed to a meteoroid environment for a period of about 2 weeks. The sheets would then be retracted into the spacecraft for protection during reentry and recovery.
Project Reef, an airdrop program to evaluate the Mercury 63-foot ringsail main parachute's capability to support the higher spacecraft weight for the extended range or 1-day mission was completed. Tests indicated that the parachute qualified to support the mission.
The Manned Spacecraft Center requested that the Langley Research Center participate in acoustic tests of ablation materials on Mercury flight tests. Langley was to prepare several material specimens which would be tested for possible application in providing lightweight afterbody heat protection for Apollo class vehicles. Langley reported the results of its test preparation activities on September 21, 1962.
NASA scientists concluded that the layer of haze reported by astronauts Glenn and Carpenter was a phenomenon called 'airglow.' Using a photometer, Carpenter was able to measure the layer as being 2 degrees wide. Airglow accounts for much of the illumination in the night sky.
Tests were conducted with a subject wearing a Mercury pressure suit in a modified Mercury spacecraft couch equipped with a B-70 (Valkyrie) harness. When this harness appeared to offer advantages over the existing Mercury harness, plans were made for further evaluation in spacecraft tests.
President John F. Kennedy announced that Robert R. Gilruth, Director of Manned Spacecraft Center, would receive the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service. This award was made for his successful accomplishment of 'one of the most complex tasks ever presented to man in this country. . . the achievement of manned flight in orbit around the earth.'
The Friendship 7 spacecraft of the Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) manned orbital mission (Glenn flight) was placed on display at the Century 21 Exhibition in Seattle, Washington. After this exhibition, the spacecraft was presented to the National Air Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, at formal presentation exercises on February 20, 1963.
NASA announced the appointment of Dr. Robert L. Barre as Scientist for Social, Economic, and Political Studies in the Office of Plans and Program Evaluation. Dr. Barre will be responsible for developing NASA's program of understanding, interpreting, and evaluating the social, economic, and political implications of NASA's long-range plans and accomplishments.
Navy swimmers, designated for the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) manned orbital mission recovery area, started refresher training at Pensacola, Florida. Instruction included installing the auxiliary flotation collar on a boilerplate spacecraft and briefings on assisting astronaut egress from the spacecraft.
Studies completed by the Navy Biophysics Branch of the Navy School of Aviation Medicine, Pensacola, Florida, disclosed that astronaut Glenn had received less than one-half the cosmic radiation dosage expected during his orbital flight. The Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) spacecraft walls had served as excellent protection.
As an experiment, Walter Schirra planned to carry a special 2.5-pound hand camera aboard the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) spacecraft. During the flight, the astronaut would attempt to arrive at techniques that could be applied to an advanced Nimbus weather satellite.
The Sigma 7 spacecraft with Astronaut Walter M. Schirra, Jr., as pilot was launched into orbit by a Mercury-Atlas vehicle from Atlantic Missile Range. In the most successful American manned space flight to date, Schirra traveled nearly six orbits, returning to earth at a predetermined point in the Pacific Ocean 9 hours, 13 minutes after liftoff. Within 40 minutes after landing, he and his spacecraft were safely aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Kearsarge. Schirra attempted and achieved a nearly perfect mission by sticking rigorously to mission plan.
A U.S. Air Force spokesman, Lt. Colonel Albert C. Trakowski, announced that special instruments on unidentified military test satellites had confirmed the danger that astronaut Walter M. Schirra, Jr., could have been killed if his MA-8 space flight had taken him above a 400-mile altitude. The artificial radiation belt, created by the U.S. high altitude nuclear test in July, sharply increases in density above 400-miles altitude at the geomagnetic equator and reaches peak intensities of 100 to 1,000 times normal levels at altitudes above 1,000 miles.
A high frequency direction finding system study was initiated. This study, covering a 12-month period, involved the development of high-frequency direction finding techniques to be applied in a network for locating spacecraft. The program was divided into a 5-month study and feasibility phase, followed by a 7-month program to provide operational tests of the procedures during actual Mercury flights or follow-on operations.
NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., presented Outstanding Leadership Awards to Maxime A. Faget, Assistant Director for Engineering and Development, Manned Spacecraft Center, and George B. Graves, Jr., Assistant Director for Information and Control Systems. Also, at the NASA annual awards ceremony the Administrator, James E. Webb, presented Group Achievement Awards to four Manned Spacecraft Center activities: Assistant Directorate for Engineering and Development, Preflight Operations Division, Mercury Project Office, and Flight Operations Division.
Enos, the 6-year-old chimpanzee who made a two-orbit flight around the earth aboard the Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5) spacecraft (November 29, 1961, entry) died at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The chimpanzee had been under night and day observation and treatment for 2 months before his death. He was afflicted with shigella dysentary, a type resistant to antibiotics, and this caused his death. Officials at the Air Medical Research Laboratory stated that his illness and death were in no way related to his orbital flight the year before.
Retrofire was reported to have initiated 2 seconds late during the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) mission. Because of this, the mechanics and tolerances of the Mercury orbital timing device were reviewed for the benefit of operational personnel, and the procedural sequence for Mercury retrofire initiation was outlined.
NASA's Mercury orbital operations plan of July 19, 1961 had four spacecraft equipped for three-orbit flights. However by Schirra's flight the seven-astronaut corps was down to four. So even thought the flight-ready SC19 had been delivered to Cape Canaveral on March 20, 1962, the decision was taken to cancel the remaining short-duration mission and move directly to an 18 orbit mission.
A pre-operational conference for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) 1-day mission was held at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, to review plans and the readiness status of the Department of Defense to support the flight. Operational experiences during the six-orbit Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) mission were used as a planning guideline.
Information was received from the NASA Inventions and Contributions activity that seven individuals, a majority of whom were still associated with the Manned Spacecraft Center, would receive monetary awards for inventions that were important in the development of Project Mercury. These were: Andre Meyer ($1,000) for the vehicle parachute and equipment jettison equipment; Maxime Faget and Andre Meyer (divided $1,500) for the emergency ejection device; Maxime Faget, William Bland, and Jack Heberlig (divided $2,000) for the survival couch; and Maxime Faget, Andre Meyer, Robert Chilton, Williard Blanchard, Alan Kehlet, Jerome Hammack, and Caldwell Johnson (divided $4,200) for the spacecraft design. Formal presentation of these awards was made on December 10, 1962.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Instrumentation Laboratory, charged with the development of the Apollo guidance and navigation system, was in the process of studying the earth's sunset limb to determine if it could be used as a reference for making observations during the mid-course phase of the mission. Additional Details: here....
Notice was received by the Manned Spacecraft Center from the NASA Office of International Programs that diplomatic clearance had been obtained for a survey trip to be conducted at the Changi Air Field, Singapore, in conjunction with Project Mercury contingency recovery operations. Also, the United Kingdom indicated informally that its protectorate, Aden, could be used for contingency recovery aircraft for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) 1-day mission.
As of this date, the cumulative cost of the Mercury spacecraft design and development program with the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, Contract NAS 5-59, had reached $135,764,042. During the tenure of this contract, thusfar, there had been 56 amendments and approximately 379 contract change proposals (CCP). At the end of the year, McDonnell had about 325 personnel in direct labor support of Project Mercury. Between March and May of 1960, the personnel complement had been slightly better than 1,600, representing a considerable rise from the 50 people McDonnell had assigned in January 1959 when study and contract negotiations were in progress. Peak assignments by month and by activity were as follows: Tooling - February 1960; Engineering - April 1960; and Production - June 1960.
After reviewing Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) recovery and network support requirements, the document covering the Department of Defense support of Project Mercury was forwarded to appropriate Department of Defense operational units for indication of their capability to fulfill requirements.
Final acceptance tests were conducted on the Mercury space flight simulator at Ellington Field, Texas. This equipment, formerly known as the procedures trainer, was originally installed at Langley Field and was moved from that area to Houston. Personnel of the Manned Spacecraft Center and the Farrand Optical Company conducted the acceptance tests.
The Project Engineering Field Office (located at Cape Canaveral) of the Mercury Project Office reported on the number of changes made to spacecraft 20 (MA-9) as of that date after its receipt at Cape Canaveral from McDonnell in St. Louis. There were 17 specific changes, which follow: one to the reaction control system, one to the environmental control system, seven to the electrical and sequential systems, and eight to the console panels.
Asked by a Congressional committee if NASA planned another Mercury flight after MA-9, Dr Robert C. Seamans stated, in effect, that schedules for the original Mercury program and the 1-day orbital effort were presumed to be completed in fiscal year 1963. If sufficient test data were not accumulated in the MA-9 flight, backup launch vehicles and spacecraft were available to fulfill requirements.
Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, Manager, Mercury Project Office, reported the cancellation of a peroxide expulsion experiment previously planned for the MA-9 mission. Kleinknecht noted the zodiacal light experiment would proceed and that the astronaut's gloves were being modified to facilitate camera operation.
The Smithsonian Institution received the Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft (MA-6 Glenn flight) in a formal presentation ceremony from Dr. Hugh L. Dryden, the NASA Deputy Administrator. Astronaut John Glenn presented his flight suit, boots, gloves, and a small American flag that he carried on the mission.
In announcing a realignment of the structure of the Office of Manned Space Flight, Director D. Brainerd Holmes named two new deputy directors and outlined a changed reporting structure. Dr. Joseph F. Shea was appointed Deputy Director for Systems, and George M. Low assumed duties as Deputy Director for Office of Manned Space Flight Programs. Reporting to Dr. Shea would be Director of Systems Studies, Dr. William A. Lee; Director of Systems Engineering, John A. Gautrand; and Director of Integration and Checkout, James E. Sloan. Reporting to Low would be Director of Launch Vehicles, Milton Rosen; Director of Space Medicine, Dr. Charles Roadman; and Director of Spacecraft and Flight Missions, presently vacant. Director of Administration, William E. Lilly, would provide administrative support in both major areas.
The McDonnell Aircraft Corporation notified the Manned Spacecraft Center that the ultra high frequency transceivers were being prepared for the astronaut when in the survival raft. During tests of these components, an effective range of 5 to 10 miles had been anticipated, but the actual average range recorded by flyovers was 12 miles. Later, some faults were discovered in the flyover monitoring equipment, so that with adjustments the average range output was approximately 20 miles.
Gordon Cooper and Alan Shepard, pilot and backup pilot, respectively, for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) mission, received a 1-day briefing on all experiments approved for the flight. Also at this time, all hardware and operational procedures to handle the experiments were established.
Manned Spacecraft Center checkout and special hardware installation at Cape Canaveral on spacecraft 20 were scheduled for completion as of this date. However, work tasks were extended for a 2-week period because of the deletion of certain experimental hardware - zero g experiment and new astronaut couch. In addition, some difficulties were experienced while testing the space reaction control system and environmental control system.
Mercury spacecraft 9A, configured for manned 1-day mission requirements, completed Project Orbit Run 110. For this test, only the reaction control system was exercised; as a result of the run, several modifications were made involving pressurization and fuel systems.
NASA Headquarters published a study on the ejection of an instrument package from an orbiting spacecraft. By properly selecting the ejection parameters, the package could be positioned to facilitate various observation experiments. From this experiment, if successful, the observation acuity, both visual and electrical, could be determined; this data would assist the rendezvous portion of the Gemini flights.
Based on a request from the Manned Spacecraft Center, McDonnell submitted a review of clearances between the Mercury spacecraft 15B retropack and the launch vehicle adapter during separation maneuvers. This review was prompted by the fact that additional batteries and a water tank had been installed on the sides of the retropack. According to the McDonnell study the clearance safety margin was quite adequate.
Gordon Cooper and Alan Shepard, MA-9 pilot and backup pilot, visited the Morehead Planetarium in North Carolina to review the celestial sphere model, practice star navigation, and observe a simulation of the flashing light beacon (an experiment planned for the MA-9 mission).
Langley Research Center personnel visited Cape Canaveral to provide assistance in preparing the tethered balloon experiment for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) mission. This work involved installing force measuring beams, soldered at four terminals, to which the lead wires were fastened.
Full-scale recovery and egress training was conducted for Gordon Cooper and Alan Shepard in preparation for the Mercury MA-9 mission. During the exercise, egresses were effected from the spacecraft with subsequent helicopter pickup and dinghy boarding. The deployment and use of survival equipment were also practiced.
In all, the system consisted of a 4-pound, built-in tank, a 3.6 pound auxiliary tank located under the couch head, and six 1-pound auxiliary plastic containers. The total capacity for condensate water storage was 13.6 pounds. In operation, the astronaut hand-pumped the fluid to the 3.6 pound tank to avoid spilling moisture inside the cabin from the built-in tank. Then the 1-pound containers were available.
The Bendix Corporation reported to the Manned Spacecraft Center that it had completed the design and fabrication of an air lock for the Mercury spacecraft. This component was designed to collect micrometeorites during orbital flight. Actually the air lock could accommodate a wide variety of experiments, such as ejecting objects into space and into reentry trajectories, and exposing objects to a space environment for observation and retrieval for later study. Because of the modular construction, the air lock could be adapted to the Gemini and Apollo spacecraft.
An attempt was made to launch Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9), but difficulty developed in the fuel pump of the diesel engine used to pull the gantry away from the launch vehicle. This involved a delay of approximately 129 minutes after the countdown had reached T-60 minutes. After these repairs were effected, failure at the Bermuda tracking station of a computer converter, important in the orbital insertion decision, forced the mission to be canceled at T-13 minutes. At 6:00 p.m. e.d.t., Walter C. Williams reported that the Bermuda equipment had been repaired, and the mission was rescheduled for May 15, 1963.
As of this date, the number of contractor personnel at Cape Canaveral directly involved in supporting Project Mercury were as follows: McDonnell, 251 persons for Contract NAS 5-59 and 23 persons for spacecraft 15B (MA-10 work); Federal Electric Corporation, 8. This report corresponded with the launch date of astronaut Gordon Cooper in the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9).
After 22 orbits, virtually all spacecraft systems had failed, and Cooper manually fired the retrorockets and the spacecraft reentered the atmosphere, landing safely in the Pacific Ocean at 23:24 GMT, 34 hours, 19 minutes, and 49 seconds after liftoff. Cooper was reported in good condition, and this turned out to be the final Mercury flight.
William M. Bland, Deputy Manager, Mercury Project Office, told an audience at the Aerospace Writers' Association Convention at Dallas, Texas, that 'contrary to common belief, the Mercury spacecraft consumables have never been stretched like a rubber band to their limit in performing any of the missions.' Additional Details: here....
Officials of the Manned Spacecraft Center made a presentation to NASA Administrator James E. Webb, outlining the benefits of continuing Project Mercury at least through the Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10) mission. They thought that the spacecraft was capable of much longer missions and that much could be learned about the effects of space environment from a mission lasting several days. This information could be applied to the forthcoming Projects Gemini and Apollo and could be gained rather cheaply since the MA-10 launch vehicle and spacecraft were available and nearing a flight readiness status.
In preparation for the Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10) mission, should the flight be approved by NASA Headquarters, several environmental control system changes were made in spacecraft 15B. Particularly involved were improvements in the hardware and flexibility of the urine and condensate systems. With regard to the condensate portion, Gordon Cooper, in his press conference, indicated that the system was not easy to operate during the flight of Faith 7 (MA-9).
Testifying before the Senate Space Committee, James E. Webb, the NASA Administrator, said: 'There will be no further Mercury shots . . .' He felt that the manned space flight energies and personnel should focus on the Gemini and Apollo programs. Thus, after a period of 4 years, 8 months, and 1 week, Project Mercury, America's first manned space flight program, came to a close.
McDonnell had already essentially concluded its Mercury activities and spacecraft 15-B had been delivered to Cape Canaveral. A termination meeting held at the Manned Spacecraft Center on June 14 settled the disposition of Mercury property and personnel. McDonnell was to screen all Mercury property for possible use in the Gemini program; any property McDonnell claimed would be transferred to Gemini by authority of the contracting officer at St Louis or the Cape. McDonnell was directed to furnish Gemini Project Office with a list of key Mercury personnel who might be reassigned to Gemini.
Alan Shepard, and others pushed for a six day Mercury 10 endurance mission. This would give America the manned space endurance record for the first time and also cover the biological objectives of the first two Gemini missions. The Mercury 15B capsule had already been modified for long-duration flight and Shepard had the name 'Freedom 7 II' painted on the side. But the risk and work pending on Gemini persuaded NASA managers not to undertake another mission.
From October 25, 1961 until April 1962 NASA's Mercury program plan included four one-day flights in 1963. By October 1962 the decision had been quietly taken to limit the long-duration flights to only MA-9 and MA-10. MA-10 was fnally cancelled in turn after the successful MA-9 mission.
From October 25, 1961 until April 1962 NASA's Mercury program plan included four one-day flights in 1963. By October 1962 the decision had been quietly taken to limit the long-duration flights to only MA-9 and MA-10. MA-10 was fnally cancelled in turn after the successful MA-9 mission.
An Atlas/Agena D launched Mariner 10 (Mariner Venus-Mercury) from the Eastern Test Range. The spacecraft was scheduled for Venus f lyby in February 1974 and Mercury in March 1974 - it would be the first space probe ever to approach Mercury. Mariner 10 was the first spacecraft to reach Mercury. Mariner 10 was placed in a parking orbit for 25 minutes after launch, then accelerated to a trans-Venus escape trajectory. The television and ultraviolet experiments were trained on the comet Kohoutek while the spacecraft was en route to its destination. The vehicle's first planetary encounter was with Venus on February 5, 1974, at a distance of 4200 km. Mariner 10 took 4,000 photos of Venus, which revealed a nearly round planet enveloped in smooth cloud layers. The gravity of Venus bent the orbit of the spacecraft and sent it towards Mercury. It crossed the orbit of Mercury on March 29, 1974, at 20:46 GMT, at a distance of 704 km from the surface. Photographs taken during the pass revealed an intensely cratered, Moon-like surface and a faint atmosphere of mostly helium. After the first flyby, Mariner 10 entered solar orbit, which permitted two more rendezvous with Mercury. On September 21, 1974, the second Mercury rendezvous, at an altitude of about 47,000 km, provided another opportunity to photograph the sunlit side of the planet and the south polar region. The third and final Mercury encounter on March 16, 1975, at an altitude of 327 km, yielded 300 photographs and magnetic field measurements. The vehicle was turned off March 24, 1975 when the supply of attitude-control gas was depleted.
The NASA Messenger probe to Mercury was was first placed into a parking orbit. The Delta booster second stage's second burn raised the orbit, then the PAM-D solid motor burned to put the probe on an escape trajectory into a 0.92 x 1.08 AU x 6.4 deg heliocentric orbit. Messenger (Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging) was to make an Earth flyby on August 1, 2005; Venus flybys in 2006 and 2007; and Mercury encounters in January and October 2008 , September 2009 and March 2011 . On this last encounter the Aerojet 660N engine was to fire to put Messenger into a 200 x 15,193 km x 80 deg orbit around Mercury. Launch delayed from March 10, May 11, August 2