|astronautix.com||Chronology - 1961 - Quarter 3|
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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.
Space Task Group engineers James A. Chamberlin and James T. Rose proposed adapting the improved Mercury spacecraft to a 35,000-pound payload, including a 5,000-pound 'lunar lander.' This payload would be launched by a Saturn C-3 in the lunar-orbit-rendezvous mode. The proposal was in direct competition with the Apollo proposals that favored direct landing on the Moon with a 150,000-pound payload launched by a Nova-class vehicle of approximately 12 million pounds of thrust.
Decree 'On naming OKB-23 plant after M. V. Khrunichev' was issued. References: 474 .
Two launches from one launch complex in the same day.
Two launches from one launch complex in the same day.
Successful missile test. Missed aimpoint by 266 m. References: 439 .
Walter F. Burke of McDonnell summarized the company's studies of the redesigned Mercury spacecraft for Space Task Group's senior staff. McDonnell had considered three configurations: (1) the minimum-change capsule, modified only to improve accessibility and handling, with an adapter added to carry such items as extra batteries; (2) a reconfigured capsule with an ejection seat installed and most of the equipment exterior to the pressure vessel on highly accessible pallets; and (3) a two-man capsule, similar to the reconfigured capsule except for the modification required for two rather than one-man operation. The capsule would be brought down on two Mercury-type main parachutes, the ejection seat serving as a redundant system. In evaluating the trajectory of the two-man capsule, McDonnell used Atlas Centaur booster performance data.
The NASA Administrator and the Secretary of Defense concluded an agreement to study development of large launch vehicles for the national space program. For this purpose, the DOD-NASA Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group was created, reporting to the Associate Administrator of NASA and to the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Deputy Director of Defense Research and Engineering). References: 16 .
Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced that construction was under way on the first large space simulator in the United States capable of testing full-scale spacecraft of the Ranger and Mariner classes. Three primary space effects could be simulated: solar radiation, cold space heat sink, and a high vacuum equivalent to about one part in a billion of the atmospheric pressure at sea level. References: 16 .
Mercury-Redstone 6 was static tested for 30 seconds at Marshall Space Flight Center to ensure satisfactory operation of the turbopump assembly. References: 18 .
Two Nike-Cajun rockets launched University of New Hamsphire-Goddard Space Flight Center payloads from NASA Wallops Station. References: 18 .
1,000 persons from 300 potential Project Apollo contractors and government agencies attended the conference. STG pushed the conical CM shape, in defiance of Gilruth's preference for the competitive blunt body/lifting body designs. Scientists from NASA, the General Electric Company, The Martin Company, and General Dynamics/Astronautics presented the results of studies on Apollo requirements. Within the next four to six weeks NASA was expected to draw up the final details and specifications for the Apollo spacecraft. References: 26 , 27 .
Two attempts were made to launch Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) with astronaut Virgil Grissom aboard the spacecraft, but unfavorable weather forced mission postponement. References: 483 .
Mercury-Redstone (MR-4) with manned Liberty Bell 7 capsule canceled within minutes of launch because of adverse weather. References: 18 .
The Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group, established on July 7, 1961, began its formal existence with seven DOD and seven NASA members and alternates. Additional Details: Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group. References: 16 .
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. Additional Details: Mercury MR-4. References: 5 , 26 , 33 , 59 , 60 .
Astronaut Virgil Grissom was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal by Administrator Webb at conclusion of MR-4 press conference at Cape Canaveral. References: 18 .
Changes in Saturn launch vehicle configurations were announced :
NASA issued a letter contract to the Astro-Electronic Division of Radio Corporation of America to develop and fabricate the high-resolution television system (including associated communication and electronic equipment) for the Ranger program. References: 16 .
After the 2-man space concept (later designated Project Gemini) was introduced in May 1961, a briefing between McDonnell and NASA personnel was held on the matter. As a result of this meeting, space flight design effort was concentrated on the 18-orbit 1-man Mercury and on a 2-man spacecraft capable of advanced missions. References: 483 .
NASA invited 12 companies to submit prime contractor proposals for the Apollo spacecraft by October 9: The Boeing Airplane Company, Chance Vought Corporation, Douglas Aircraft Company, General Dynamics/Convair, the General Electric Company, Goodyear Aircraft Corporation, Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, The Martin Company, North American Aviation, Inc., and Republic Aviation Corporation. Additional Details: NASA invitation to bids for Apollo prime contract. References: 16 .
James A. Chamberlin and James T. Rose of STG proposed adapting the improved Mercury spacecraft to a 35,000-pound payload, including a 5,000-pound "lunar lander." This payload would be launched by a Saturn C-3 in the lunar orbit rendezvous mode. The proposal was in direct competition with the Apollo proposals that favored direct landing on the moon and involved a 150,000-pound payload launched by a Nova-class vehicle with approximately 12 million pounds of thrust. References: 16 .
Phase I of a joint NASA-DOD report on facilities and resources required at launch sites to support the manned lunar landing program was submitted to Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., by Kurt H. Debus, Director, Launch Operations Directorate, and Maj. Gen. Leighton I. Davis, Commander of the Air Force Missile Test Center. The report, requested by Seamans on June 23, was based on the use of Nova- class launch vehicles for the manned lunar landing in a direct ascent mode, with the Saturn C-3 in supporting missions. Eight launch sites were considered: Cape Canaveral (on-shore); Cape Canaveral (off- shore); Mayaguana Island (Atlantic Missile Range downrange); Cumberland Island, Ga.; Brownsville, Tex.; White Sands Missile Range, N. Mex.; Christmas Island, Pacific Ocean; and South Point, Hawaii. On the basis of minimum cost and use of existing national resources, and taking into consideration the stringent time schedule, White Sands Missile Range and Cape Canaveral (on-shore) were favored. White Sands presented serious limitations on launch azimuths because of first-stage impact hazards on populated areas. References: 16 .
At Cape Canaveral with the President's Missile Sites Labor Commission, Secretary of Labor Goldberg made public President Kennedy's message praising the voluntary, no-strike, no-lockout pledges covering labor-management relations at missile and space sites. The President's message stated that "the Nation cannot afford the luxury of avoidable delay in our missile and space program. Neither can we tolerate wasteful and expensive practices which add to the great financial burden our defense effort already places on us." References: 18 .
NASA directed Marshall Space Flight Center to enter contract negotiations with contractors for procurement of five operational Atlas-Centaur vehicles. These launchings were planned to begin in second quarter of 1964. References: 18 , 278 .
Baseline 10 earth orbit flights; also proposed for docking with Centaur and circumlunar flights by March 1965. NASA not interested - threat to Apollo. References: 26 .
Missile test failure. Missed aimpoint by 5,085 m. References: 439 .
Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of Soviet Ministers Decree 'On course of work on the UR-200 missile and launcher' was issued. References: 474 .
NASA headquarters announced that it was making a world-wide study of possible launching sites for Moon vehicles; the size, power, noise, and possible hazards of Saturn-Nova type rockets requiring greater isolation for public safety than presently available. References: 18 , 27 .
The second Jupiter to be fired under the operational control of NATO troops in the Combat Training Launch program was fired from AMR at 1919 hours and 06 seconds EST to a range of 1,516 nm. The missile was originally scheduled for firing on 3 August but was postponed because of problems with the fuel probe in the fuel start tank and the micro-switch on the fuel pumping lever arm which controls the fuel flow rate. All missions assigned to the missile and to the NATO training launch crew were successfully accomplished. References: 439 .
Segmented solid-propellent rocket engine fired by United Technology Corp. at Sunnyvale, generating over 200,000 pounds of thrust in 80-second firing. Developed under NASA contract, center section of engine contained over 55,000 pounds of propellant, the largest single piece yet manufactured in the United States. References: 18 .
A series of environmental tests was conducted on the spacecraft explosive egress hatch because of the difficulties experienced during the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) mission. References: 483 .
Second manned orbital flight. The Soviet Union successfully launched Vostok II into orbit with Gherman S. Titov as pilot. The spacecraft carried life-support equipment, radio and television for monitoring the condition of the cosmonaut, tape recorder, telemetry system, biological experiments, and automatic and manual control equipment. After 17.5 orbits, the spacecraft reentered on August 7 and landed safely at 7:18 GMT near Krasny Kut, Saratov. Titov made a separate parachute landing in an ejector couch. Flight objectives: Investigation of the effects on the human organism of a prolonged flight in orbit and subsequent return to the surface of the Earth; investigation of man's ability to work during a prolonged period of weightlessness. Titov took manual control of spacecraft but suffered from space sickness. He was equipped with a professional quality Konvas movie camera, with which ten minutes of film of the earth were taken through the porthole. Both television and film images were taken of the interior of the spacecraft. Like Gagarin, Titov experienced problems with separation of the service module after retrofire. Titov was never to fly again, after being assigned to the Spiral spaceplane, which turned out to be a dead-end project. A biography of him by Martin Caidin ('I Am Eagle') made him somewhat more accessible than Gagarin to the West. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 32 , 33 , 60 , 175 .
NASA selected MIT's Instrumentation Laboratory to develop the guidance-navigation system for Project Apollo spacecraft. This first major Apollo contract was required since guidance-navigation system is basic to overall Apollo mission. The Instrumentation Laboratory of MIT, a nonprofit organization headed by C. Stark Draper, has been involved in a variety of guidance and navigation systems developments for 20 years. This first major Apollo contract had a long lead-time, was basic to the overall Apollo mission, and would be directed by STG. References: 18 , 27 .
STG held a pre-proposal briefing at Langley Field, Va., to answer bidders' questions pertaining to the Request for Proposal for the development of the Apollo spacecraft. 14 companies (Boeing, Vought, Douglas, GD, Goodyear, Grumman, Lockheed, Martin, McDonnell, Radio Corp, Republic, STL) attended. The winning bidder would receive contract for CSM (but not LM, if any) and integrate spacecraft with launch vehicle. References: 16 .
Navy barge Compromise, carrying first Saturn booster, stuck in the mud in the Indian River just south of Cape Canaveral. Released several hours later, the Saturn was delayed only 24 hours in its 2,200-mile journey from Huntsville. References: 18 , 27 .
At first the launch vehicle was simply to consist 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. However study of this configuration, which included manufacturing of a dynamic test article, indicated that the payload capacity could not meet the military’s requirements. References: 273 .
Suborbital. References: 5 .
NASA announced that analysis of Project Mercury suborbital data indicated that all objectives of that phase of the program had been achieved, and that no further Mercury-Redstone flights were planned. References: 18 .
The Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group (Golovin Committee) notified the Marshal! Space Flight Center (MSFC), Langley Research Center, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) that the Group was planning to undertake a comparative evaluation of three types of rendezvous operations and direct flight for manned lunar landing. Rendezvous methods were earth orbit, lunar orbit, and lunar surface. MSFC was requested to study earth orbit rendezvous, Langley to study lunar orbit rendezvous, and JPL to study lunar surface rendezvous. The NASA Office of Launch Vehicle Programs would provide similar information on direct ascent. Additional Details: Golovin Committee evaluates three rendezvous methods for manned lunar landing. References: 16 .
Lunar probe; failed to leave Earth orbit. Ranger 1, a test version of the spacecraft which would attempt an unmanned crash landing on the moon, was launched from the Atlantic Missile Range by an Atlas-Agena B booster. The 306 kg spacecraft did not attain the scheduled extremely elongated orbit because of the misfiring of the Agena B rocket. Although the spacecraft systems were tested successfully, only part of the eight project experiments could be carried out. Ranger 1 reentered on August 29 after 111 orbits. Ranger 1's primary mission was to test the performance of those functions and parts that are necessary for carrying out subsequent lunar and planetary missions using essentially the same spacecraft design. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 278 , 296 .
After considering Cape Canaveral, Cape Canaveral-Merritt Island, Mayaguana-Bahamas, Cumberland-Georgia, Brownville-Texas, Christmas Island, Hawaii, and White Sands, Merritt Island selected as launch site for manned lunar flights and other missions requiring Saturn and Nova class vehicles. Based upon national space goals announced by the President in May, NASA plans called for acquisition of 80,000 acres north and west of AFMTC, to be administered by the USAF as agent for NASA and as a part of the Atlantic Missile Range. Additional Details: Merritt Island selected for Saturn V launch site.. References: 18 , 27 .
, designed in part to measure the effects of micrometeoroids on spaceflight, failed to meet expectations, thereby necessitating further tests in this area. References: 483 .
The Soviet Communist Party organ, Pravda, explained why Russian space techniques and the names of spaceship designers were kept secret as follows: "A corrupt capitalist society, by it very nature, is extremely capable of turning the greatest peaceful achievements of mankind into the total means of destruction of mankind. This is why it is risky to open even the smallest loopholes in the world of Soviet rocket technique for the gentlemen who are lagging considerably behind as far as their technique is concerned, but who become militarily agitated and distracted from an honest program of general and complete disarmament and who mumble something about the right of inspection of neighbors' orchards and storerooms. That is why the wonderful group of heroes who insured the mastering of the cosmos remain nameless until now." References: 18 .
NASA selected Vitro Engineering Co. for negotiation of a design contract for an engine maintenance and disassembly building, one of the facilities to be a part of the National Nuclear Rocket Development Center. References: 18 .
NASA announced that planned Ranger launchings would be increased from five to nine. These additional spacecraft would be equipped with six high-resolution television cameras. They would be programmed to begin operating at about 800 miles above the lunar surface and continue until moments before the spacecraft crash-landed. The final pictures would record features no more than eight inches across. About 1,600 photographs were expected from each spacecraft, which would no longer carry previously planned instrumented capsules. The objective of these spacecraft now was to provide information on the lunar surface in support of the manned lunar landing mission. References: 16 .
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. References: 483 .
The deep-space tracking station at Hartebeesthoek, South Africa, was completed. Dedication took place on September 8. NASA thus gained the capacity for continuous line-of-sight communication with lunar and interplanetary probes despite the earth's rotation. The other deep-space tracking stations were at Goldstone, Calif., and Woomera, Australia. References: 16 .
U.S.S.R. announced policy of resumption of nuclear weapon testing which had been suspended March 31, 1958, and that bombs can be delivered anywhere in the world by "powerful rockets like those Majs. Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov rode to begin their unrivaled space flights around the Earth." References: 18 .
The Ad Hoc Task Group for Study of Manned Lunar Landing by Rendezvous Techniques, Donald H. Heaton, Chairman, reported its conclusions: rendezvous offered the earliest possibility for a successful lunar landing, the proposed Saturn C-4 configuration should offer a higher probability of an earlier successful manned lunar landing than the C-3, the rendezvous technique recommended involved rendezvous and docking in earth orbit of a propulsion unit and a manned spacecraft, the cost of the total program through first lunar landing by rendezvous was significantly less than by direct ascent. References: 16 .
From 1960 to 1961 Korolev's design bureau worked on the single stage 8K79 military rocket. The 25 tonne missile could hurl an 800 kg warhead over a 2300 km range. A competing missile was selected for the requirement. Korolev's MR was based on stages already designed for the 8K74 and 8K77 missiles. The three-stage space launch version of the rocket would have a total mass of 101 tonnes; an ICBM version would be composed of just the first and second stages, and an IRBM version from the first stage alone.
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. However delays in the program resulted in the Redstone flights coming much closer to the Atlas flights than planned. By the time of the first suborbital Mercury flight, the Russians had already orbited Yuri Gagarin. After Grissom's capsule sunk, it was still planned to fly Glenn on a suborbital flight to prove the capsule. But Gherman Titov was launched on a full-day orbital flight in August 1961, making NASA's suborbital hops look pathetic. Glenn was moved to the first orbital Atlas flight, and further suborbital Mercury flights were cancelled. References: 366 .
U.S.S.R. announced that it would launch a series of "more powerful and improved rockets. (Article in Red Star timed to coincide with first firing of new rocket series in the Pacific.) References: 18 .
Successful missile test. Missed aimpoint by 196 m. References: 439 .
Scientists at Nagoya University, Japan, were reported to be training monkey for space flight next year, hopefully in conjunction with Japanese Government-financed rocket program carried out by Tokyo University's Institute of Industrial Science. References: 18 .
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. References: 483 .
Combat Training Launch 9
USAF Titan successfully launched from Atlantic Missile Range, making 6,100-mile flight. References: 18 .
NASA announced that the government-owned Michoud Ordnance Plant near New Orleans, La., would be the site for fabrication and assembly of the Saturn C-3 first stage as well as larger vehicles. Finalists were two government-owned plants in St. Louis and New Orleans. The height of the factory roof at Michoud meant that an 8 x F-1 engined vehicle could not be built; 4 or 5 engines would have to be the maximum. References: 26 , 27 .
NASA selected NAA to develop the second stage (S-II) for the advanced Saturn launch vehicle. The cost, including development of at least ten vehicles, would total about $140 million. The S-II configuration provided for four J-2 liquid-oxygen - liquid-hydrogen engines, each delivering 200,000 pounds of thrust. References: 18 , 27 .
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. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 16 , 26 , 59 , 278 .
NASA invited 36 companies to bid on a contract to produce the first stage of the advanced Saturn launch vehicle. Representatives of interested companies would attend a pre-proposal conference in New Orleans, La., on September 26. Bids were to be submitted by October 16 and NASA would then select the contractor, probably in November. References: 16 .
First of four scheduled Skylark rocket firings was launched from Woomera in the joint United States-Australian ultraviolet survey of the southern skies. References: 18 .
NASA Administrator Webb announced that location of the new Manned Spacecraft Center would be in Houston, Tex., the conclusion of an intensive nationwide study by a site selection team. The Manned Spacecraft Center would be the command center for the manned lunar landing mission and all follow-on manned space flight missions. This announcement was the third basic decision on major facilities required for the expanded U.S. Range and the establishment of the spacecraft fabrication center at the Michoud Ordnance Plant near New Orleans, La. References: 18 , 27 .
As general manager of Radio Corporation of America's Major Defense Systems Division, Holmes had been project manager of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. Congressman G. P. Miller (D.-Calif.) succeeded the recently deceased Congressman Overton Brooks of Louisiana as chairman of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics. References: 483 .
Announced at Space Task Group that a 30-cubic-foot balloon would be installed in Mercury spacecraft to allow for ship recovery should helicopter be forced to drop it as happened during the MR-4 recovery. References: 18 .
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. References: 483 .
Dr. George N. Constan of Marshall Space Flight Center named as acting manager of the new NASA Saturn fabrication plant near New Orleans by Director von Braun of Marshall Space Flight Center. References: 18 , 27 .
Pair of spinup rockets on Tiros II successfully fired after more than 10 months in orbit. References: 18 .
USAF awarded three contracts for speeding development of the Dyna-Soar, a manned orbital space glider. Receiving contracts were Boeing Co. for development of the glider and related systems, Radio Corp. of America for communications and tracking devices, and Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Co. for the guidance system. References: 18 .
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