Suborbital. Unmanned Project Mercury spacecraft launched by modified Redstone booster (MR-1) in a suborbital trajectory, impacting 235 miles downrange after reaching an altitude of 135 miles and a speed of near 4,200 mph. Capsule was recovered about 50 minutes after firing.The objective was to qualify the spacecraft for a primate flight scheduled shortly thereafter. Apart from the launch vehicle cutoff velocity being slightly higher than normal, all flight sequences were satisfactory.
Personnel from the Langley Research Center visited the Army Ballistic Missile Agency to open negotiations for procuring Redstone and Jupiter launch vehicles for manned satellite projects.
Space Task Group officials visited the Army Ballistic Missile Agency to determine the feasibility of using the Jupiter launch vehicle for the intermediate phase of Project Mercury, to discuss the Redstone program, and to discuss the cost for Redstone and Jupiter launch vehicles.
NASA requested eight Redstone-type launch vehicles from the Army to be used in Project Mercury development flights.
NASA requested the Army Ordnance Missile Command, Huntsville, Alabama, to construct and launch eight Redstone launch vehicles and two Jupiter launch vehicles in support of Project Mercury manned and unmanned flights.
Space Task Group and Army Ballistic Missile Agency personnel met at Huntsville, Alabama, to discuss Redstone and Jupiter flight phases of Project Mercury. During the course of the meeting the following points became firm: (1) Space Task Group was the overall manager and technical director of this phase of the program, (2) ABMA was responsible for the launch vehicle until spacecraft separation, (3) ABMA was responsible for the Redstone launch vehicle recovery (this phase of the program was later eliminated since benefits from recovering the launch vehicle would have been insignificant), (4) Space Task Group was responsible for the spacecraft flight after separation, (5) McDonnell was responsible for the adapters for the Mercury-Redstone configuration, and (6) ABMA would build adapters for the Mercury-Jupiter configuration. Because many points could only be settled by detailed design studies, it was decided to establish several working panels for later meetings.
Mercury-Redstone-Jupiter Study Panel Number IV (choice of trajectory, aerodynamics, and flight loads) met at Redstone Arsenal. Subjects studied included pilot safety, simulation of entry from orbit, length of zero-g time, missile stability and aerodynamics, ascent accelerations, and range. This group reconvened on March 13, 1959.
Panel Number I (Design Subcommittee) met at Redstone Arsenal for the first time to discuss integration requirements for the Mercury spacecraft with the Redstone and Jupiter launch vehicles.
Mercury-Redstone and Mercury-Jupiter test objectives were discussed in a meeting at Langley between Space Task Group and Army Ballistic Missile Agency personnel. At that time it was decided that the first flights of both the Redstone and Jupiter would be unmanned. The second flights would be 'manned' with primates, and the Jupiter phase would end at that point. The six remaining Redstones would be used in manned flights for astronaut training.
The Space Task Group, in the process of negotiations with the Army Ordnance Missile Command on the cost of Redstone and Jupiter boosters in support of Project Mercury, received revised funding estimates for study covering Contract HS-44 (Redstone) and HS-54 (Jupiter).
The Army Ballistic Missile Agency submitted a proposal (Report No. DG-TR-7-59) for a Mercury-Redstone inflight abort sensing system. This system would monitor performance of the control system (attitude and angular velocity), electrical power supply, and launch vehicle propulsion. If operational limits were exceeded, the spacecraft would be ejected from the launch vehicle and recovered by parachute.
Against an original estimated cost of $15.5 million for eight Redstone launch vehicles in support of Project Mercury, the final negotiated figure was $20.1 million.
At the fifth Mercury Coordination Meeting, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency proposed the installation of an open-circuit television system in the Mercury-Redstone second and third flights (MR-2 and MR-3). The purpose of the system was to observe and relay launch vehicle and spacecraft separation data.
The Redstone launch vehicle for the first Mercury-Redstone mission (MR-1) was installed on the interim test stand at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency for static testing.
Walter C. Williams proposed the establishment of a Mercury-Redstone Coordination Committee to monitor and coordinate activities related to Mercury-Redstone flight tests.
Six chimpanzees were rated as being trained and ready to support Mercury-Redstone or Mercury-Atlas missions. Other chimpanzees were being shipped from Africa to enter the animal training program.
Tests were started by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency for the mission abort sensing program to be integrated in the Mercury-Redstone phase of Project Mercury.
A reporting plan for Mercury-Atlas and Mercury-Redstone missions was issued. This document was amended on February 17, 1961, and April 10, 1961.
Mercury spacecraft No. 2 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone 1-A (MR-1A) mission.
Marshall Space Flight Center published the 'Final Standard Trajectory for MR-1 (Mercury-Redstone).'
The format of subject matter coverage for the first Mercury-Redstone postlaunch (MR-1) report was issued. This report, covering a full range of topics related to the mission, was to be submitted within 5 days after the launch.
This unmanned mission was unsuccessful because premature cut-off of the launch vehicle engines activated the emergency escape system when the vehicle was only about 1 inch off the pad. Engine cut-off was caused by premature loss of electrical ground power to the booster. The launch vehicle settled back on the pad with only slight damage. Since the spacecraft received a cut-off signal, the escape tower and recovery sequence was initiated. The undamaged spacecraft was recovered for reuse.
Suborbital launch attempt. After a four- or five-inch liftoff, MR-1 launched its escape tower but not the capsule. The undamaged spacecraft was recovered for reuse.
Redstone launch vehicle No. 3 was shipped to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone 1A (MR-1A) mission.
Spacecraft No. 7 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) manned ballistic mission (Shepard).
Mercury-Redstone 1A (MR-1A) was launched from Cape Canaveral in a repeat of the November 21, 1960, mission and was completely successful. This was the third attempt to accomplish the objectives established for this flight. The first attempt on November 7, 1960, was canceled as a result of a helium leak in the spacecraft reaction control system relief valve, and on November 21, 1960, the mission could not be completed because of premature cut-off of the launch vehicle engines. Objectives of the MR-1A flight were to qualify the spacecraft for space flight and to qualify the flight system for a primate flight scheduled shortly thereafter. Close attention was given to the spacecraft-launch vehicle combination as it went through the various flight sequences: powered flight; acceleration and deceleration; performance of the posigrade rockets; performance of the recovery system; performance of the launch, tracking, and recovery phases of the operation; other events of the flight including retrorocket operation in a space environment; and operation of instrumentation. Except that the launch vehicle cut-off velocity was slightly higher than normal, all flight sequences were satisfactory; tower separation, spacecraft separation, spacecraft turnaround, retrofire, retropackage jettison, and landing system operation occurred or were controlled as planned. The spacecraft reached a maximum altitude of 130.68 statute miles, a range of 234.8 statute miles, and a speed of 4,909.1 miles per hour. Fifteen minutes after landing in the Atlantic Ocean, the recovery helicopter picked up the spacecraft to complete the successful flight mission.
Redstone launch vehicle No. 2 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone 2 (MR-2) mission (chimpanzee 'Ham' flight).
The Mercury-Redstone 1A (MR-1A) postlaunch system evaluation tests were completed at Cape Canaveral. Data disclosed that the instrumentation system, communication system, and other components had operated satisfactorily during the flight mission.
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.
Mission rules for the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3 - Shepard's flight) were published. Revisions were issued on February 27, and April 28, 1961.
Redstone launch vehicle No. 5 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone, Booster Development flight (MR-BD).
Spacecraft No. 11 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) ballistic manned (Grissom) flight.
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.
Redstone launch vehicle No. 7 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) mission.
Glenn, Grissom, and Shepard began refresher course on centrifuge in preparation for the first manned Mercury-Redstone suborbital flight. John Glenn, Virgil Grissom, and Alan Shepard began a refresher course on the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory centrifuge in preparation for the first manned Mercury-Redstone suborbital flight.
Spacecraft, mission, and launch vehicle flight safety were reviewed by Space Task Group personnel in preparation for the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) mission.
A simulated countdown for the first Mercury-Redstone manned suborbital flight (MR-3) was successfully completed.
NASA Administrator Webb issued a statement concerning the 2-year Mercury manned space flight program, which said, in part: "NASA has not attempted to encourage press coverage of the first Mercury-Redstone manned flight. It has responded to press and television requests, with the result that over 100 representatives of the press, radio, and TV are now at Cape Canaveral. . . . We must keep the perspective that each flight is but one of the many milestones we must pass. Some will completely succeed in every respect, some partially, and some will fail. From all of them will come mastery of the vast new space environment on which so much of our future depends."
Manned Mercury-Redstone (MR-3) launch postponed because of rain squalls in the recovery area.
Alan Shepard first American in space, less than a month after Gagarin and only on a 15 minute suborbital flight. Only manned flight with original capsule (tiny round porthole and periscope a la Vostok). If NASA had not listened to Von Braun, Shepard would have flown on the MR-BD flight of 24 March, beating Gagarin by three weeks and becoming the first man in space (though not in orbit). Shepard's capsule reached an altitude of 115.696 miles, range of 302 miles,and speed of 5,100 miles per hour. He demonstrated control of a vehicle during weightlessness and high G stresses. Recovery operations were perfect; there was no damage to the spacecraft; and Astronaut Shepard was in excellent condition. Additional Details: Mercury MR-3.
Senator Robert S. Kerr, chairman of the Senate Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee, told a group at the National Radio and Television Convention that President Kennedy accepted the views of NASA and congressional leaders in approving the manned Mercury-Redstone flight of May 5.
Redstone launch vehicle No. 8 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) suborbital flight mission.
Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) recovery requirements were forwarded by the Space Task Group to the Navy.
The Redstone booster for the Mercury-Redstone 4 (MR-4) manned suborbital flight mission was erected on Pad 5, at Cape Canaveral.
Mercury-Redstone 6 was static tested for 30 seconds at Marshall Space Flight Center to ensure satisfactory operation of the turbopump assembly.
Mercury-Redstone (MR-4) with manned Liberty Bell 7 capsule canceled within minutes of launch because of adverse weather.
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.
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.
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.
Freedom 7, the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) spacecraft, was presented by NASA to the National Air Museum of the Smithsonian Institution.