|astronautix.com||Chronology - 1961 - Quarter 1|
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The launchers used solid rocket boosters together with Lox/LH2 upper stages. The modular stages could be combined in various ways to achieve a range of launch vehicles (as for the USAF Lunex lunar base project). These studies would provide the basis for the later Titan derivatives and, eventually, the final space shuttle design.
The Soyuz or Sever designs would utilize body lift to reduce G forces and allo the crew to make re-entries at hyperbolic speeds - when returning from the moon, or Mars. An associated design was a manned orbital tug version of the Vostok capsule to assemble spacecraft in low earth orbit.
Decree 'On formalising powers of the Council of Chief Designers' was issued. References: 474 .
The initial design consisted simply of 4 two-stage UR-200 rockets lashed together, the first and second stages working in parallel in clusters. A third stage would be modified from the UR-200 second stage.
The program was conducted by the Votkinsk Machine Building Plant. There design work continued with first launch in 1961 and acceptance into military service in 1964.
A US Navy lunar landing program was headed by the inimitable Dr. Nicolaides at China Lake. The team's Soft-Landing Vehicle (SLV) began control testing in a large rig in 1961. The SLV would have sent a dog to the moon in 1963, and returned a soil sample in 1964. A scaled-up version of the lander was to have put a Navy man on the lunar surface by 1967. Further Navy lunar efforts, like those of the Army and Air Force, were discontinued after NASA was given the Apollo moon landing project in April 1961.
Technical documentation completed for the serial production of the Zenit-2 photo reconnaissance satellite. OKB-1 filial number 3, based in Samara (then Kuibishev), headed by Chief Designer Dmitri Ilyich Kozlov, was also responsible for future development and production support of derivatives of the R-7 family of launch vehicles.
NASA's Space Task Group, charged with carrying out Project Mercury and other manned space flight programs, officially became a separate NASA field element. References: 18 .
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.'
First meetings of the Apollo Technical Liaison Groups, formed to coordinate NASA inter-Center information exchange. References: 16 .
The Manned Lunar Landing Task Group (Low Committee) set up by the Space Exploration Program Council was instructed to prepare a position paper for the NASA Fiscal Year 1962 budget presentation to Congress. The paper was to be a concise statement of NASA's lunar program for Fiscal Year 1962 and was to present the lunar mission in term of both direct ascent and rendezvous. The rendezvous program would be designed to develop a manned spacecraft capability in near space, regardless of whether such a technique would be needed for manned lunar landing. In addition to answering such questions as the reason for not eliminating one of the two mission approaches, the Group was to estimate the cost of the lunar mission and the date of its accomplishment, though not in specific terms. Although the decision to land a man on the moon had not been approved, it was to be stressed that the development of the scientific and technical capability for a manned lunar landing was a prime NASA goal, though not the only one. The first meeting of the Group was to be held on January 9. References: 16 .
Suborbital. References: 5 .
John Blake of the Air Force Aeronautical Chart and Information Center (ACIC) described to STG representatives the progress made by ACIC in mapping the moon. Lunar maps to the scale of 1: 5,000,000 and 1: 10,000,000 were later requested and received by STG. In addition, the first two sheets of a projected 144 sheet map coverage of the lunar surface on a 1:1,000,000 scale were forwarded to STG by the Center. References: 16 .
After evaluating preliminary design studies, NASA selected the Hughes Aircraft Company to build seven Surveyor spacecraft. This 750-pound, three-legged, unmanned spacecraft would carry 200 pounds of instruments, including zoom television cameras, a drill to sample the lunar soil, chemical analysis equipment, and a seismometer. The first Surveyor was scheduled to be launched in 1963. References: 16 .
The Marshall Space Flight Center awarded contracts to the Douglas Aircraft Company and Chance Vought Corporation to study the launching of manned exploratory expeditions into lunar and interplanetary space from earth orbits. References: 16 .
Space Task Group management held a Capsule Review Board meeting. The first topic on the agenda was a follow-on Mercury program. Several types of missions were considered, including long-duration, rendezvous, artificial gravity, and flight tests of advanced equipment. Major conclusion was that a follow-on program needed to be specified in greater detail.
Missile test failure. Missed aimpoint by 788 m. References: 439 .
Final test flight of USAF Atlas D traveled 5,000 miles to target down Atlantic Missile Range, representing 35 successes, 8 partials, and 6 failures in 49 test launchings for D model. References: 18 , 278 .
NASA announced that the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation had been awarded a contract by the Marshall Space Flight Center to study the feasibility of refueling a spacecraft in orbit. References: 16 .
Wernher von Braun, Director of Marshall Space Flight Center, proposed that the Saturn C-1 launch vehicle be changed from a three-stage to a two-stage configuration to meet Apollo program schedules. The planned third stage (S-V) would be dropped. References: 16 .
Conference of 12 European nations held at Strasbourg to discuss a British and French proposal for a European satellite launcher development program. References: 18 .
President John F. Kennedy announced that he was nominating James E. Webb as Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Hugh L. Dryden as Deputy Administrator, Senate confirmation followed on February 9 and they were sworn in on February 14. References: 16 .
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. References: 5 , 16 , 26 , 59 .
Marshall Space Flight Center awarded contracts to NAA and Ryan Aeronautical Corporation to investigate the feasibility of recovering the first stage (S-I) of the Saturn launch vehicle by using a Rogallo wing paraglider. References: 16 .
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. References: 483 .
NASA-AEC Space Nuclear Propulsion Office invited industry to submit proposals for participation in development of Nerva (nuclear engine for rocket vehicle application), a part of Project Rover initiated in 1955 by USAF-AEC. References: 18 .
The escape stage entered parking orbit but the main engine cut off just 0.8 s after ignition due to cavitation in the oxidiser pump and pump failure.. The payload attached together with escape stage remained in Earth orbit. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 64 , 65 .
NASA Aerobee-Hi successfully reached 96 miles above Wallops Station in test of behavior of liquid hydrogen in zero gravity for Lewis Research Center hydrogen propulsion development. References: 18 .
The Manned Lunar Landing Task Group (Low Committee) transmitted its final report to NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr. The Group found that the manned lunar landing mission could be accomplished during the decade, using either the earth orbit rendezvous or direct ascent technique. Multiple launchings of Saturn C-2 launch vehicles would be necessary in the earth orbital mode, while the direct ascent technique would require the development of a Nova-class vehicle. Information to be obtained through supporting unmanned lunar exploration programs, such as Ranger and Surveyor, was felt to be essential in carrying out the manned lunar mission. Total funding for the program was estimated at just under $7 billion through Fiscal Year 1968. References: 16 .
At the first meeting of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, during the first session of the 87th Congress, Charles F. Ducander, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of the Committee staff, outlined a number of proposed subjects for study. One subject was the Air Force's interest in a three-man spacecraft similar to the Apollo spacecraft planned by NASA. A Committee staff member had been assigned to investigate this duplication of effort. On February 22, testifying before the Committee, Air Force Undersecretary Joseph V. Charyk stated that the Dyna-Soar program was a direct approach to manned military space applications. The Air Force interest in an Apollo-type spacecraft was part of the post-Dyna-Soar program, Charyk said. References: 16 .
Rocketdyne Division's first static test of a prototype thrust chamber for the F-1 engine achieved a thrust of 1.550 million pounds in a few seconds at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. References: 16 .
A voice message was sent from Washington, D.C., to Woomera, Australia, by way of the moon. NASA Deputy Administrator Hugh L. Dryden spoke by telephone to Goldstone, Calif., which "bounced" it to the deep-space instrumentation station at Woomera. The operation was conducted as part of the official opening ceremony of the Australian facility. References: 16 .
Venera 1 was the first spacecraft to fly by Venus. It was launched first into a 229 x 282 km parking orbit, then boosted toward Venus by the restartable Molniya upper stage. On 19 February, 7 days after launch, at a distance of about two million km from Earth, contact with the spacecraft was lost. On May 19 and 20, 1961, Venera 1 passed within 100,000 km of Venus and entered a heliocentric orbit. This failure resulted in only the following objectives being met: checking of methods of setting space objects on an interplanetary course; checking of extra-long-range communications with and control of the space station; more accurate calculation of the dimension of the solar system; a number of physical investigations in space. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 64 , 296 .
First formal NASA/McDonnell discussions on Mercury Mark II (Gemini). References: 26 .
McDonnell had been studying the concept of a maneuverable Mercury spacecraft since 1959. On February 1, Space Task Group (STG) Director Robert R. Gilruth assigned James A. Chamberlin, Chief, STG Engineering Division, who had been working with McDonnell on Mercury for more than a year, to institute studies with McDonnell on improving Mercury for future manned space flight programs. Additional Details: NASA and McDonnell began discussions of an advanced Mercury spacecraft..
NASA Nike-Cajun rocket launched from Wallops Station, carrying 60-pound payload ejecting explosive charges, which fired at intervals from 20- to 80-mile altitude to provide data on density of the atmosphere. References: 18 .
Acoustic test chamber for recording sound of rocket operations and to study human stress limits completed at Environmental Simulation Laboratory, Naval Missile Center, at Pacific Missile Range. References: 18 .
After his nomination by the President as Administrator of NASA on January 30, 1961, James E. Webb was sworn into office, replacing T. Keith Glennan. References: 483 .
NASA Explorer IX placed in orbit by four-stage Scout booster from Wallops Station, the first satellite launching from Wallops, and the first satellite boosted by a solid-fuel rocket. Explorer IX was a 12-foot diameter sphere after inflation at orbital altitude. References: 18 .
This decree laid the basis for institution of quality control by the military to improve the reliability of space systems.
KH-5; film capsule not ejected. Mission failed. Program malfunctioned and capsule did not reenter. First attempted ARGON mission. Officially: Spacecraft Engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A). References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 .
NASA Space Task Group selected John H. Glenn, Jr., Virgil I. Grissom, and Alan B. Shepard, Jr., to begin special training for first manned Mercury space flight. References: 18 .
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. References: 5 , 16 , 26 , 59 , 278 .
French Veronique launched capsule containing rat (Hector) to 95-mile altitude, recovered successfully. References: 18 .
McDonnell conducted a successful drop test, using a boilerplate spacecraft fitted with impact skirt, straps and cables, and a beryllium heat shield. During the tests the stainless steel straps were successfully stretched to design limits. References: 483 .
The current Saturn launch vehicle configurations were announced:
Early Spring was a conventional ASAT launched by Polaris missiles from US Navy ballistic missile submarines. As an enemy satellite passed overhead, a Polaris missile would be launched. The ASAT used a restartable upper stage to 'hover' in front of the oncoming satellite. An optical homing system would first locate, track the target satellite, and then ASAT would put itself on a collision course with the target. A proximity fuse would detonate a warhead with thousands of steel pellets.
Tsybin's design bureau had been taken over by Chelomei, and work on the RS was stopped in the spring of 1961, with three airframes nearly finished. Tsybin went to work for Korolev at OKB-1.
The fourth firing of an advanced Polaris A-2, and the first from a ship, was made by the U.S.S. Observation Island as she cruised at 8 knots, 10 miles offshore from Cape Canaveral. References: 18 .
Suborbital. References: 5 .
Decree 420·1741 'On approval of work on the US satellite and UR-200 launch vehicle / ICBM' was issued. References: 474 .
Missile test failure. Missed aimpoint by 358 m. References: 439 .
Carried dog Chernushka, mannequin Ivan Ivanovich, and other biological specimens. Ivanovich was ejected from the capsule and recovered by parachute, and Chernsuhka was successfully recovered with the capsule on March 9, 1961 8:10 GMT.
Officially: Development of the design of the space ship satellite and of the systems on board, which ensure necessary conditions for man's flight. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 175 .
United States and United Kingdom signed formal agreement covering Mercury tracking stations on Bermuda. References: 18 .
It was allocated to a ground test simulating orbital flight environmental conditions at the McDonnell plant site. References: 483 .
An enabling decree was issued on 1 August 1961 by the Central Committee and Politburo. The UR-200 was designed not only to send a thermonuclear warhead over a range of 12,000 km, but also to orbit all of the Kosmoplan military variants: the IS ASAT; the US nuclear-powered naval intelligence satellite; and the Kosmoplan combat re-entry vehicle.
Vanguard I completed third year in orbit and was still transmitting. Vanguard I provided much useful data on orbits, including the slight pear-shape of the Earth and the effect of solar pressure. Vanguard also provided the second stage for the Able, Delta, and Able-Star, as well as the third stage of Scout, pioneering solid-propellant stages used in Polaris and Minuteman. References: 18 .
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. Therfore, 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. References: 18 .
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. References: 483 .
Representatives of Marshall Space Flight Center recommended configuration changes for the Saturn C-1 launch vehicles to NASA Headquarters. These included:
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. References: 5 , 26 , 33 , 59 , 60 .
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. References: 483 .
Suborbital test of Redstone modifications using a boilerplate Mercury capsule. The test was done at von Braun's insistence against Shepard's wishes, thereby putting the first US manned flight after Gagarin's. References: 5 , 26 , 59 .
Carried dog Zvezdochka and mannequin Ivan Ivanovich. Ivanovich was again ejected from the capsule and recovered by parachute, and Zvezdochka was successfully recovered with the capsule on March 25, 1961 7:40 GMT.
Officially: Development of the design of the space ship satellite and of the systems on board, designed to ensure man's life functions during flight in outer space and return to Earth. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 175 .
NASA Aerobee research rocket with University of Michigan payload shot to 406-km altitude from Wallops Station. References: 18 .
USAF Dyna-Soar System Project Office personnel visited NASA headquarters for review of technical and management programs. References: 18 .
William W. Petynia of STG visited the Convair Astronautics Division of General Dynamics Corporation to monitor the Apollo feasibility study contract. A selection of the M-1 in preference to the lenticular configuration had been made by Convair. May 17 was set as the date for the final Convair presentation to NASA. References: 16 .
Reactor-in-flight-test system (Rift) study, a part of the NASA-AEC program on nuclear rockets, was briefed by contractors at NASA headquarters. References: 18 .
An industrial team headed by the Western Electric Company turned over the $60,000,000 global network (figs. 48 and 49) to NASA in a formal ceremony later in the year. References: 483 .
NASA selected GE's Space Sciences Laboratory and Avco Corp. for negotiation of contracts to study feasibility of magneto gas dynamic electric rocket or thermal arc jet rocket engines. References: 18 .
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