|astronautix.com||Chronology - 1963 - Quarter 2|
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NASA announced the signing of a contract with McDonnell for the Gemini spacecraft. Final negotiations had been completed February 27, 1963. Estimated cost was $428,780,062 with a fixed fee of $27,870,000 for a total estimated cost-plus-fixed-fee of $456,650,062. NASA Headquarters spent two weeks on a detailed review of the contract before signing. Development of the spacecraft had begun in December 1961 under a preliminary letter contract which the final contract superseded. The contract call for a 13 flight-rated spacecraft, 12 to be used in space flight, one to be used for ground testing. In addition, McDonnell would provide two mission simulator trainers, a docking simulator trainer, five boilerplates, and three static articles for vibration and impact ground tests.
Luna 4 was the second attempted Soviet unmanned lunar soft lander probe. The spacecraft, rather than being sent on a straight trajectory toward the Moon, was placed first in an earth parking orbit. The rocket stage then reignited and put the spaccecraft on a translunar trajectory. Failure of Luna 4 to make a required midcourse correction resulted in it missing the Moon by 8336.2 km on April 6, at 4:26 a.m. Moscow time. It thereafter entered a barycentric Earth orbit. The Soviet news agency, Tass, reported that data had been received from the spacecraft throughout its flight and that radio communication would continue for a few more days. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 16 , 64 , 296 .
Charles W. Frick resigned as ASPO Manager and Robert O. Piland was named Acting ASPO Manager. References: 16 .
North American awarded a $9.5 million letter contract to the Link Division of General Precision, Inc., for the development and installation of two spacecraft simulators, one at MSC and the other at the Launch Operations Center. Except for weightlessness, the trainers would simulate the entire lunar mission, including sound and lighting effects. References: 16 .
Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., John D. Hodge, and William L. Davidson of MSC's light Operations Division met at Langley with a large contingent of that Center's research staff to discuss LaRC's proposed Manned Orbital Research Laboratory (MORL). Langley spokesmen briefed their Houston visitors on the philosophy and proposed program phases leading to an operational MORL. Kraft and his colleagues then emphasized the need for careful study of operational problems involved with the MORL, as well as those associated with the smaller crew ferry and logistics supply vehicles. Specifically, they cited crew selection and training requirements, the need for a continuous recovery capability, communications requirements, and handling procedures for scientific data.
Decree 'On plans for Vostok launches in 1963' was issued. References: 474 .
At a mechanical systems meeting at MSC, customer and contractor achieved a preliminary configuration freeze for the LEM. Several features of the design of the two stages were agreed upon:
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. References: 483 .
Program partially completed. Part of the information lost due to failure of engine block stabilization system. Area survey photo reconnaissance satellite. Also performed radiation measurements. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 93 .
In a NASA position paper, stimulated by Secretary of Defense McNamara's testimony on the fiscal year 1964 budget and an article in Missiles and Rockets interpreting his statements, Robert C. Seamans, Jr., NASA Associate Administrator, stressed NASA's primary management responsibility in the Gemini program. McNamara's remarks had been interpreted as presaging an Air Force take-over of Project Gemini. Seamans recognized the vital role of the Department of Defense in Gemini management and operations but insisted that NASA had the final and overall responsibility for program success.
At the end of 1961 the Glushko and Bondaryuk bureaux completed their draft projects on nuclear thermal engines for space vehicle upper stages. It was decided to continue work on development of an engine in the 30 to 40 tonne thrust range. In the following year Korolev was asked to study application of such engines, followed by a specific demand in May 1963 from the Scientific-Technical Soviet for specific recommendations. For a Mars expedition, it was calculated that the AF engine would deliver 40% more payload than a chemical stage, and the V would deliver 50% more. But Korolev’s study also effectively killed the program by noting that his favoured solution, a nuclear electric ion engine, would deliver 70% more payload than the Lox/LH2 stage. Further investigation of nuclear thermal stages for the N1 does not seem to be pursued. Bondaryuk and Glushko turned to Chelomei and his competing UR-700 rocket for future application of such stages.
Grumman reported that it had advised North American's Rocketdyne Division to go ahead with the lunar excursion module descent engine development program. Negotiations were complete and the contract was being prepared for MSC's review and approval. The go-ahead was formally issued on May 2. References: 16 .
As the number of ballistic missiles deployed increased, a specialised Subdirectorate for Nuclear Operations was formed within the Twelfth Directorate.
At El Centro, Calif., Northrop Ventura conducted the first of a series of qualification tests for the Apollo earth landing system (ELS). The test article, CM boilerplate 3, was dropped from a specially modified Air Force C-133. The test was entirely successful. The ELS's three main parachutes reduced the spacecraft's rate of descent to about 9.1 meters (30 feet) per second at impact, within acceptable limits. References: 16 .
Grumman selected Space Technology Laboratories (STL) to develop and fabricate a mechanically throttled descent engine for the LEM, paralleling Rocketdyne's effort. Following NASA and MSC concurrence, Grumman began negotiations with STL on June 1. References: 16 .
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. References: 483 .
Final Mercury mission, Faith 7, was piloted by Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. 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 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. Additional Details: Mercury 9. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 16 , 26 , 33 , 59 , 60 , 278 .
Suborbital. References: 5 .
KH-6. Second launch of KH-6. Operation was successful but no film was used. Officially: Spacecraft Engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A). References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 .
President Kennedy at a regular press conference responded to a question regarding the desirability of another Mercury flight by saying that NASA should and would make that final judgement. References: 483 .
MIT suggested a major redesign of the Apollo guidance computer to make the CM and LEM computers as similar as possible. NASA approved the redesign and the Raytheon Company, subcontractor for the computer, began work. References: 16 .
Titan II flight N-20, the 19th in the series of Air Force research and development flights, was launched from Cape Canaveral. It carried oxidizer standpipes and fuel accumulators to suppress longitudinal oscillations (POGO). During the spring of 1963, static firings of this configuration had been successful enough to confirm the hypothesis that POGO was caused by coupling between the missile structure and its propulsion system, resulting in an unstable closed loop system. Standpipes and accumulators, by interrupting the coupling reduced the source of instability. Flight N-20 failed 55 seconds after launch and yielded no POGO data. Although the failure was not attributed to the installed POGO fix, Air Force Ballistics Systems Division decided officially that no further Titan II development flights would carry the POGO fix because so few test flights remained to qualify the weapon system operationally. This decision did not stand, however, and the POGO fix was flown again on N-25 (November 1), as well as on two later flights.
In its first estimates of reliability for the LEM, Grumman reported a 0.90 probability for mission success and 0.994 for crew safety. (The probabilities required by NASA were 0.984 and 0.9995, respectively.) References: 16 .
Grumman completed the LEM M-1 mockup and began installing equipment in the vehicle. Also, the contractor began revising cabin front design to permit comparisons of visibility. References: 16 .
NASA and General Dynamics Convair negotiated a major change on the Little Joe II launch vehicle contract. It provided for two additional launch vehicles which would incorporate the attitude control subsystem (as opposed to the early fixed-fin version). On November 1, MSC announced that the contract amendment was being issued. NASA Headquarters' approval followed a week later. References: 16 .
Most CM subsystem designs frozen. References: 16 .
Glushko conducted tests of the new engine from 1961 to 1963, followed by tests of the clustered engine assembly from June 1963 to January 1965. Through use of a regenerative fuel pump cycle Glushko was able to improve the thrust of the engine by 12.5%. It was therefore decided to use only the large Glushko engine in the first stage. The first layout had one engine at the base of the core and 4 to 8 fuel tanks with peripheral engines. Now the centre engine was abandoned and the ‘clean’ oxidiser tank core was surrounded by six fuel tank/engine assemblies. This had the advantage of reducing the length of the stage while increasing the dry weight fraction.
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. References: 483 .
D. Brainerd-Holmes announced his resignation as NASA's Deputy Associate Administrator and Director of Manned Space Flight, effective sometime in the fall. He had joined NASA in 1961 and was returning to industry. References: 16 .
The Mission Analysis Branch (MAB) of MSC's Flight Operations Division studied the phenomenon of a spacecraft's "skip" when reentering the earth's atmosphere from lunar trajectories and how that skip relates to landing accuracies. Additional Details: Skip lunar reentry trajectories studied for Apollo. References: 16 .
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. References: 483 .
The definitive contract for Gemini space suit was signed with the David Clark Company. Negotiations had been completed May 28. The estimated cost was $788,594.80, with fixed fee of $41,000 for a total cost-plus-fixed-fee contract of $829,594.80.
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.
Joint flight with Vostok 6. The Soviet Union launched Vostok 5, piloted by Lt. Col. Valery F. Bykovsky. Two days later Lt. Valentina V. Tereshkova, the first spacewoman, followed in Vostok 6. On its first orbit, Vostok 6 came within about five km of Vostok 5, the closest distance achieved during the flight, and established radio contact. Both cosmonauts landed safely on June 19. The space spectacular featured television coverage of Bykovsky that was viewed in the West as well as in Russia. Unlike earlier missions, only a black and white film camera was carried. Photometric measurements of the earth's horizon were made.
Mission objectives were officially: further study of the effect of various space-flight factors in the human organism; extensive medico-biological experiments under conditions of prolonged flight; further elaboration and improvement of spaceship systems.
Vostok 5 was originally planned to go for a record eight days. The launch was delayed repeatedly due to high solar activity and technical problems. Finally the spacecraft ended up in a lower than planned orbit. Combined with increased atmospheric activity due to solar levels, Vostok 5 quickly decayed temperatures in the service module reached very high levels.
Bykovsky also experienced an unspecified problem with his waste management system (a spill?) which made conditions in the cabin 'very uncomfortable'. He was finally ordered to return after only five days in space.
To top it all off, once again the Vostok service module failed to separate cleanly from the reentry sphere. Wild gyrations ensued until the heat of reentry burned through the non-separating retraining strap. Recovered June 19, 1963 11:06 GMT. Landed 53:24 N 67:37 E. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 16 , 32 , 33 , 60 , 175 .
Ground tests of the clustered engine assembly ran from June 1963 to January 1965. References: 273 .
Decree 'On adoption into armaments of the R-16 surface variant' was issued. References: 474 .
Joint flight with Vostok 5. First woman in space, and the only Russian woman to go into space until Svetlana Savitskaya 19 years later. On its first orbit, Vostok 6 came within about five km of Vostok 5, the closest distance achieved during the flight, and established radio contact. Flight objectives included: Comparative analysis of the effect of various space-flight factors on the male and female organisms; medico-biological research; further elaboration and improvement of spaceship systems under conditions of joint flight. It was Korolev's idea just after Gagarin's flight to put a woman into space as yet another novelty. Khrushchev made the final crew selection. Korolev was unhappy with Tereshkova's performance in orbit and she was not permitted to take manual control of the spacecraft as had been planned. Recovered June 19, 1963 8:20 GMT. Landed 53:16 N 80:27 E. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 16 , 32 , 33 , 60 , 175 .
Sled test No. 2, the first dynamic dual-ejection test of the Gemini escape system, was run at China Lake. Both seats ejected and all systems functioned properly. The test was scheduled to be rerun, however, because the sled failed to attain high enough velocity. The purpose of sled tests in the ejection seat development program was to simulate various high-altitude abort situations. Sled test No. 3 was successfully run on August 9. Further tests were delayed while the ejection system was being redesigned. A modified egress kit was tested in two dummy drops on December 12, with no problems indicated. Gemini Project Office directed McDonnell to proceed with plans for the next sled test. Developmental sled testing on the escape system, incorporating the redesigned egress kit and a soft survival pack, resumed on January 16, 1964, with test No. 4; all systems functioned normally. Test No. 5, the planned repetition of test No. 2, brought developmental sled testing to an end on February 7.
North American officially froze the design of the CM's stabilization and control system. References: 16 .
LaRC Director Floyd L. Thompson announced that two aerospace firms, The Boeing Company of Seattle and Douglas Aircraft Company, Inc., of Santa Monica, had been selected for final negotiations for study contracts of a Manned Orbital Research Laboratory (MORL) concept. Additional Details: Manned Orbital Research Laboratory concept contracts..
The first full-scale firing of the SM engine was conducted at the Arnold Engineering Development Center. At the start of the shutdown sequence, the engine thrust chamber valve remained open because of an electrical wiring error in the test facility. Consequently the engine ran at a reduced chamber pressure while the propellant in the fuel line was exhausted. During this shutdown transient, the engine's nozzle extension collapsed as a result of excessive pressure differential across the nozzle skin. References: 16 .
MSC announced that it had contracted with the Martin Company to develop a frictionless platform to simulate the reactions of an extravehicular astronaut in five degrees of freedom-pitch, yaw, roll, forward-backward, and side-to-side. MSC Crew Systems Division would use the simulator to test and evaluate space suits, stabilization devices, tethering lines, and tools. References: 16 .
A cluster of two Pioneer tri-conical solid parachutes was tested; both parachutes failed. Because of this unsatisfactory performance, the Pioneer solid-parachute program was officially canceled on July 15. References: 16 .
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