|astronautix.com||Chronology - 1969 - Quarter 1|
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The Athena was designed to simulate the re-entry environment of an intercontinental ballistic missile and was one of the few examples of sustained interstate missile tests within the United States.
The planned first flight of the Soyuz VI combat spacecraft was planned for early 1969, beating America's equivalent Manned Orbiting Lab. The project was cancelled in 1968. References: 344 .
Chelomei was proposing the UR-900 for the Mars expedition. A garbled description of this launch vehicle appears in Chertok's memoirs. This would seem to be a version of the UR-700 using 15 RD-270 modules in the first and second stages in place as opposed to the nine modules of the UR-700. The third and fourth stages were derived from the UR-500. The booster could deliver 240 tonnes to low earth orbit.
Venera 5 was launched from a Tyazheliy Sputnik (69-001C) towards Venus to obtain atmospheric data. The spacecraft was very similar to Venera 4 although it was of a stronger design. When the atmosphere of Venus was approached, a capsule weighing 405 kg and containing scientific instruments was jettisoned from the main spacecraft. During satellite descent towards the surface of Venus, a parachute opened to slow the rate of descent. For 53 min on May 16, 1969, while the capsule was suspended from the parachute, data from the Venusian atmosphere were returned. The spacecraft also carried a medallion bearing the coat of arms of the U.S.S.R. and a bas-relief of V.I. Lenin to the night side of Venus. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 64 , 296 .
Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of Soviet Ministers Decree 19-10 'On Work on Research of the Moon, Venus and Mars by Automatic Stations--work on automated lunar and interplanetary spacecraft' was issued. References: 474 .
Venera 6 was launched towards Venus to obtain atmospheric data. When the atmosphere of Venus was approached, a capsule weighing 405 kg was jettisoned from the main spacecraft. This capsule contained scientific instruments. During descent towards the surface of Venus, a parachute opened to slow the rate of descent. For 51 min on May 17, 1969, while the capsule was suspended from the parachute, data from the Venusian atmosphere were returned. The spacecraft also carried a medallion bearing the coat of arms of the U.S.S.R. and a bas-relief of V.I. Lenin to the night side of Venus. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 64 , 296 .
Carried Vladimir Shatalov; docked with Soyuz 5; returned with Yevgeni Khrunov, Alexsei Yeliseyev from Soyuz 5. Scientific, technical and medico-biological research, checking and testing of onboard systems and design elements of space craft, docking of piloted space craft and construction of an experimental space station, transfer of cosmonauts from one craft to another in orbit. Recovered January 17, 1969 06:51 GMT. This mission finally successfully completed the simulated lunar orbit docking and crew transfer mission attempted by Soyuz 1 in April 1967. In making the transfer Khrunov and Yeliseyev avoided the most spectacular survivable incident of the space age - the nose-first reentry of Soyuz 5, still attached to its service module. Additional Details: Soyuz 4. References: 1 , 2 , 6 , 32 , 33 , 60 .
Commander Volynov shuttled the EVA crew of Yeliseyev and Khrunov into earth orbit. A day later Soyuz 4 docked with Soyuz 5. The Soyuz 4 active spacecraft was equipped with a long docking probe, designated 'Shtir'. The Soyuz 5 target spacecraft was equipped with the 'Konus' receptacle. The symbology lead Volynov to joke that he 'was being raped' when the hard docking was accomplished. Khrunov and Yeliseyev transferred to and returned in Soyuz 4, the feat they had hoped to accomplish in the cancelled Soyuz 2 flight almost two years earlier. Officially the flight conducted scientific, technical and medico-biological research, checking and testing of onboard systems and design elements of space craft, docking of piloted space craft and construction of an experimental space station, transfer of cosmonauts from one craft to another in orbit.
Volynov remained behind to live through the most unbelievable re-entry in the history of spaceflight. The service module of the Soyuz failed to separate after retrofire. Once the Soyuz started reaching the tendrils of the atmosphere, the combined spacecraft sought the most aerodynamically stable position - nose forward, with the heavy descent module with its light metal entry hatch at the front, the less dense service module with its flared base to the back. Luckily the struts between the descent and service modules broke off or burned through before the hatch melted through and the descent module righted itself, with the heat shield to the rear, before being consumed. Due to a failure of the soft-landing rockets the landing was harder than usual and Volynov broke his teeth. Recovered January 18, 1969 07:58 GMT. Additional Details: Soyuz 5. References: 1 , 2 , 6 , 32 , 33 , 60 .
Transfer of crew between two docked spacecraft; test of technique needed for Soviet lunar landing. References: 66 .
Launch failure - but the abort system again functioned perfectly, taking the capsule to a safe landing (in Mongolia!) Zond 7K-L1 activity now stops; effort turns to launching unmanned soil return vehicle and first N-1 launch. References: 5 , 67 , 274 .
A meeting to discuss the feasibility of space stations as the major post-Apollo manned space flight program was held at NASA Hq. Additional Details: Feasibility of space stations as the major post-Apollo manned space flight program considered by NASA..
Ionospheric measurements; data correlated with measurements from Alouette 1. Spacecraft engaged in research and exploration of the upper atmosphere or outer space (US Cat B). References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 .
NASA Hq. released a 12-month forecast of manned space flight missions, reflecting an assessment of launch schedules for planning purposes. Five flights were scheduled for the remainder of 1969:
The possibility of an unmanned LM landing was discussed at NASA Hq. The consensus was that such a landing would be a risky venture. Proposals had been made which included an unmanned LM landing as a prerequisite to a manned landing on the moon. However, the capability to land the LM unmanned did not exist and development of the capability would seriously delay the program. References: 16 .
N-1 serial number 3L was the first N-1 launched. The payload was the 7K-L1A adaptation of the 7K-L1 spacecraft. This had a modified engine block and a total mass of 6900 kg. The planned mission was a lunar orbital flight. The L3 assembly would have been placed into a 204 x 287 km orbit of the earth at 597 seconds after lift-off. Total mass in earth orbit would have been 70.56 tonnes (the Block G, Block D, and 7K-L1A). The launch window for the lunar launch was open from 18 to 21 February; the launch was made on the last possible day. The N1 had a total mass of 2762 tonnes at ignition and 2756 tonnes at lift-off. Lift-off thrust was measured at 4,590 tonnes. The propellants had been densified before loading by chilling the Lox to -191 deg C and the fuel to -15 deg C. The mission plan called for the Block G to put the Block D and 7K-L1A on a translunar trajectory. After a 3.5 coast to the moon, the Block D would fire and place the assembly into lunar orbit. After two days of photography of the lunar surface, the Block D would fire again and place the 7K-L1A on a trans-earth trajectory. The Block D would separate and the 7K-L1A would use its own engines for mid-course corrections on the return leg. After re-entry in the atmosphere, the 7K-L1A would be recovered on Soviet territory.
The vehicle ran into trouble immediately at lift-off. As a result of a rising high frequency oscillation in the gas generator of engine number two, some engine components tore off their mounts, resulting in a forced leak of propellants, setting in motion a fire in the tail compartment. The BKS engine monitoring system detected the fire, but then gave an incorrect signal, shutting down all engines at 68.7 seconds into the flight. The vehicle was destroyed by range safety 70 seconds into the flight. The escape tower did not work as designed. British intelligence detected the launch attempt, but the CIA's technical means for some reason missed it and they denied for years that it had ever occurred. In retrospect the launch team at Baikonur pointed to a grave mistake - at the christening of the first N1, the champagne bottle broke against the crawler-transporter rather than the hull of the rocket. References: 5 .
Mars flyby 31 July 1969; returned 75 images of Martian surface. Ten days before the scheduled launch, a faulty switch opened the main valves on the Atlas stage. This released the pressure which supported the Atlas structure, and as the booster deflated it began to crumple. Two ground crewman started pressurizing pumps, saving the structure from further collapse. The two ground crewman, who had acted at risk of the 12-story rocket collapsing on them, were awarded Exceptional Bravery Medals from NASA.
The Mariner 6 spacecraft was removed, put on another Atlas/Centaur, and launched on schedule. The main booster was jettisoned 4 min. 38 sec. after launch, followed by a 7.5 minute Centaur burn to inject the spacecraft into Mars direct trajectory. After Mariner 6 separated from the Centaur the solar panels were deployed. A midcourse correction involving a 5.35 second burn of the hydrazine rocket occurred on 1 March 1969. A few days later explosive valves were deployed to unlatch the scan platform. Some bright particles released during the explosion distracted the Canopus sensor, and attitude lock was lost temporarily. It was decided to place the spacecraft on inertial guidance for the Mars flyby to prevent a similar occurrence.
On 29 July, 50 hours before closest approach, the scan platform was pointed to Mars and the scientific instruments turned on. Imaging of Mars began 2 hours later. For the next 41 hours, 49 approach images (plus a 50th fractional image) of Mars were taken through the narrow-angle camera. At 05:03 UT on 31 July the near-encounter phase began, including collection of 26 close-up images. Due to a cooling system failure, channel 1 of the IR spectrometer did not cool sufficiently to allow measurements from 6 to 14 micrometers so no infrared data were obtained over this range. Closest approach occurred at 05:19:07 UT at a distance of 3431 km from the martian surface. Eleven minutes later Mariner 6 passed behind Mars and reappeared after 25 minutes. X-band occultation data were taken during the entrance and exit phases. Science and imaging data were played back and transmitted over the next few days. The spacecraft was then returned to cruise mode which included engineering and communications tests, star photography TV tests, and UV scans of the Milky Way and an area containing comet 1969-B. Periodic tracking of the spacecraft in its heliocentric orbit was also done.
Mariner 6 returned 49 far encounter and 26 near encounter images of Mars. Close-ups from the near encounter phases covered 20% of the surface. The spacecraft instruments measured UV and IR emissions and radio refractivity of the Martian atmosphere. Images showed the surface of Mars to be very different from that of the Moon, in some contrast to the results from Mariner 4. The south polar cap was identified as being composed predominantly of carbon dioxide. Atmospheric surface pressure was estimated at between 6 and 7 mb. Radio science refined estimates of the mass, radius and shape of Mars. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 278 , 296 .
Planned first manned circumnavigation of the moon. On 24 September 1968 Bykovskiy/Rukavishnikov were the prime candidates for the first Soviet circumlunar flight. Just three days later, when the crews were named, Leonov was selected as commander of the first mission, with Makarov as the flight engineer. Soviet plans to beat America around the moon were upstaged by the sudden decision to fly Apollo 8 into lunar orbit over Christmas 1968. Given problems with obtaining a trouble-free Soyuz 7K-L1 unmanned flight, it would probably not have been possible to make a Soviet equivalent flight until March 1969. It was decided after the American success to cancel any 'second place' Soviet manned circumlunar flights.
Apollo 9 (AS-504), the first manned flight with the lunar module (LM-3), was launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, KSC, on a Saturn V launch vehicle at 11:00 a.m. EST March 3. Originally scheduled for a February 28 liftoff, the launch had been delayed to allow crew members James A. McDivitt, David R. Scott, and Russell L. Schweickart to recover from a mild virus respiratory illness. Following a normal launch phase, the S-IVB stage inserted the spacecraft into an orbit of 192.3 by 189.3 kilometers. After post-insertion checkout, CSM 104 separated from the S-IVB, was transposed, and docked with the LM. At 3:08 p.m. EST, the docked spacecraft were separated from the S-IVB, which was then placed on an earth-escape trajectory.
On March 4 the crew tracked landmarks, conducted pitch and roll yaw maneuvers, and increased the apogee by service propulsion system burns.
On March 5 McDivitt and Schweickart entered the LM through the docking tunnel, evaluated the LM systems, transmitted the first of two series of telecasts, and fired the LM descent propulsion system. They then returned to the CM.
McDivitt and Schweickart reentered the LM on March 6. After transmitting a second telecast, Schweickart performed a 37-minute extravehicular activity (EVA), walking between the LM and CSM hatches, maneuvering on handrails, taking photographs, and describing rain squalls over KSC.
On March 7, with McDivitt and Schweickart once more in the LM, Scott separated the CSM from the LM and fired the reaction control system thrusters to obtain a distance of 5.5 kilometers between the two spacecraft. McDivitt and Schweickart then performed a lunar-module active rendezvous. The LM successfully docked with the CSM after being up to 183.5 kilometers away from it during the six-and-one-half-hour separation. After McDivitt and Schweickart returned to the CSM, the LM ascent stage was jettisoned.
During the remainder of the mission, the crew tracked Pegasus III, NASA's meteoroid detection satellite that had been launched July 30, 1965; took multispectral photos of the earth; exercised the spacecraft systems; and prepared for reentry.
The Apollo 9 CM splashed down in the Atlantic 290 kilometers east of the Bahamas at 12:01 p.m. EST. The crew was picked up by helicopter and flown to the recovery ship U.S.S. Guadalcanal within one hour after splashdown. Primary objectives of the flight were successfully accomplished. Additional Details: Apollo 9. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 16 , 26 , 27 , 33 , 60 .
Military on full alert; Tyuratam preempted by military through June References: 72 .
President Nixon, at a White House ceremony, announced the nomination of Acting Administrator Thomas O. Paine to be the NASA Administrator. References: 16 .
Tested Apollo spacesuit. References: 66 .
The additional direct cost to the Apollo research and development program from the January 27, 1967, Apollo 204 fire was estimated at $410 million, principally for spacecraft modifications, NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller testified in congressional hearings. The accident delayed the first manned flight of the spacecraft by about 18 months. "During this period, however, there occurred a successful unmanned test of the Lunar Module and two unmanned tests of the Saturn V vehicle." References: 16 .
The first flight-model ALSEP arrived at KSC, where it would undergo software integration tests and be prepared for installation in the LM. References: 16 .
Mars flyby 5 August 1969; returned 126 images of Martian surface. Mariner 7 was launched on a direct-ascent trajectory to Mars 31 days after Mariner 6. On 8 April 1969 a midcourse correction was made by firing the hydrazine moter for 7.6 seconds. On 8 May Mariner 7 was put on gyro control to avoid attitude control problems which were affecting Mariner 6. On 31 July telemetry from Mariner 7 was suddenly lost and the spacecraft was commanded to switch to the low-gain antenna. It was later successfully switched back to the high-gain antenna. It was thought that leaking gases, perhaps from the battery which later failed a few days before encounter, had caused the anomaly.
At 09:32:33 GMT on 2 August 1969 Mariner 7 bagan the far-encounter sequence involving imaging of Mars with the narrow angle camera. Over the next 57 hours, ending about 5 hours before closest approach, 93 images of Mars were taken and transmitted. The spacecraft was reprogrammed as a result of analysis of Mariner 6 images. The new sequence called for the spacecraft to go further south than originally planned, take more near-encounter pictures, and collect more scientific data on the lighted side of Mars. Data from the dark side of Mars were to be transmitted directly back to Earth but there would be no room on the digital recorder for backup due to the added dayside data. At closest approach, 05:00:49 GMT on 5 August, Mariner 7 was 3430 km above the martian surface. Over this period, 33 near-encounter images were taken. About 19 minutes after the flyby, the spacecraft went behind Mars and emerged roughly 30 minutes later. X-band occultation data were taken during the entrance and exit phases. Science and imaging data were played back and transmitted over the next few days. The spacecraft was then returned to cruise mode which included engineering and communications tests, star photography TV tests, and UV scans of the Milky Way and an area containing comet 1969-B. Periodic tracking of the spacecraft in its heliocentric orbit was also done.
The total data return for Mariners 6 and 7 was 800 million bits. Mariner 7 returned 93 far and 33 near encounter images. Close-ups from the near encounter phases covered 20% of the surface. The spacecraft instruments measured UV and IR emissions and radio refractivity of the Martian atmosphere. Images showed the surface of Mars to be very different from that of the Moon, in some contrast to the results from Mariner 4. The south polar cap was identified as being composed predominantly of carbon dioxide. Atmospheric surface pressure was estimated at between 6 and 7 mb. Radio science refined estimates of the mass, radius and shape of Mars. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 278 , 296 .
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