Suborbital. reentry test program to verify Apollo Command Module configuration at high reentry speed.
NASA announced Project Fire, a high-speed reentry heat research program to obtain data on materials, heating rates, and radio signal attenuation on spacecraft reentering the atmosphere at speeds of about 24,500 miles per hour. Information from the program would support technology for manned and unmanned reentry from lunar missions. Under the management of the Langley Research Center, Project Fire would use Atlas D boosters and the reentry package would be powered by an Antares solid-fuel motor (third stage of the Scout).
NASA announced that a $5 million contract would be awarded to Republic Aviation Corporation for the construction of two experimental reentry spacecraft. Republic was selected from eight companies that submitted bids on March 12. The contract was part of Project Fire, to develop a spacecraft capable of withstanding reentry into the earth's atmosphere from a lunar mission. Plans called for the spacecraft to be tested during the second half of 1963.
Republic Aviation Corporation selected the Radio Corporation of America to design and build the data acquisition and communications subsystem for Project Fire.
NASA awarded a $2.56 million contract to Ling-Temco-Vought, Inc. (LTV), to develop the velocity package for Project Fire, to simulate reentry from a lunar mission. An Atlas D booster would lift an instrumented payload (looking like a miniature Apollo CM) to an altitude of 122,000 meters (400,000 feet). The velocity package would then fire the reentry vehicle into a minus 15 degree trajectory at a velocity of 11,300 meters (37,000 feet) per second. On December 17, Republic Aviation Corporation, developer of the reentry vehicle, reported that design was 95 percent complete and that fabrication had already begun.
MSC and Bellcomm agreed upon a plan for testing the Apollo heatshield under reentry conditions. Following Project Fire and Scout tests, the Saturn IB would be used to launch standard "all-up" spacecraft into an elliptical orbit; the SM engine would boost the spacecraft's velocity to 8,839 meters
(29,000 feet) per second. Additional Details: Plans for testing the Apollo heatshield under reentry conditions.
FIRE was a subscale model of the Apollo capsule used to verify the spacecraft's hypersonic flight and thermal characteristics. An Atlas D launch vehicle lifted a Project Fire spacecraft from Cape Kennedy in the first test of the heat that would be encountered by a spacecraft reentering the atmosphere at lunar-return velocity. During the spacecraft's fall toward earth, a solid-fuel Antares II rocket behind the payload fired for 30 seconds, increasing the descent speed to 40,501 kilometers (25,166 miles) per hour. Instruments in the spacecraft radioed temperature data to the ground. The spacecraft exterior reached an estimated temperature of 11,400 K (20,000 degrees F). About 32 minutes after launch, the spacecraft impacted into the Atlantic Ocean. The mission, sponsored by Langley Research Center, provided reentry heating measurements needed to evaluate heatshield materials and information on the communications blackout during reentry.
Suborbital reentry heating experiment using the FIRE subscale Apollo capsule. An Atlas D booster propelled the instrumented probe, called a "flying thermometer," into a ballistic trajectory over 805 km (500 mi) high. After 26 minutes of flight, when the spacecraft began its descent, a solid-fueled Antares rocket accelerated its fall.
The probe entered the atmosphere at a speed of 40,877 km (25,400 mph) and generated temperatures of about 11,206K (20,000 degrees F). Data on heating were transmitted to ground stations throughout the descent. Thirty-two minutes after the launch - and but six minutes after the Antares was fired - the device impacted in the Atlantic about 8,256 km (5,130 mi) southeast of the Cape.