|astronautix.com||Chronology - 1958 - Quarter 4|
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Air Force awarded contract Pratt & Whitney for Centaur vehicle with hydrogen-burning chamber based on research of Lewis Research Center between 1953 and 1957. Centaur project later transferred to NASA. References: 17 , 278 .
Design work was started on the Little Joe vehicles and test model spacecraft. References: 483 .
Drop tests of full-scale capsules from a C-130 airplane were started to check parachute deployment and spacecraft stability. Preliminary drops of the parachute system were made from a NASA helicopter at West Point, Virginia. These drops involved the use of a concrete-filled drum attached to an operating canister system. The purpose of this phase was to demonstrate the adequacy of the mechanical system of deploying the parachutes. Subsequently, the drops were made by the C-130's at Pope Field, North Carolina, from low levels to perfect a means of extracting the spacecraft from the aircraft. Full-scale spacecraft and operating parachutes were used in these drops, and all operational features of the drop-test program were worked out. The next phase was the research and development drops offshore of Wallops Island, Virginia, and the objectives here were as follows: to study the stability of the spacecraft during free fall and with parachute support; to study the shock input to the spacecraft by parachute deployment; and to study and develop retrieving operations. References: 483 .
Dr. W. Randolph Lovelace II was appointed by NASA Headquarters as Chairman of a Special Committee on Life Sciences by T. Keith Glennan, the NASA Administrator. After prospective astronaut candidates were interviewed in Washington, D. C., those chosen for further consideration received medical examinations at the Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico. References: 483 .
NASA was activated in accordance with the terms of Public Law 85-568, and the nonmilitary space projects which had been conducted by the Advanced Research Projects Agency were transferred to the jurisdiction of the NASA. Concurrently, NACA, after a 43-year tenure, was inactivated, and its facilities and personnel became a part of NASA. References: 26 .
Studies and plans of the manned satellite project were presented to Advanced Research Projects Agency on October 3 and to Dr. T. Keith Glennan, NASA Administrator, on October 7. On October 7, 1958, Dr. Glennan approved the project by saying, in effect, 'Let's get on with it.' References: 483 .
Cooke AFB redesignated Vandenberg AFB, honoring the late General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, the Air Force's second Chief of Staff. Vandenberg AFB, first operational ICBM base in free world, was dedicated. References: 88 .
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. References: 483 .
NASA formally organized Project Mercury to: (1) place manned space capsule in orbital flight around the earth; (2) investigate man's reactions to and capabilities in this environment; and (3) recover capsule and pilot safely. A NASA Space Task Group organized at Langley Research Center drew up specifications for the Mercury capsule, based on studies by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics during the preceding 12 months, and on discussions with the Air Force which had been conducting related studies. References: 17 .
Personnel from the Space Task Group involved in the study of reentry methods visited the Air Force Wright Air Development Center, Dayton, Ohio, for the purpose of preparing test specimens. Along with individuals from the center and the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, the group then met at the Chicago Midway Laboratories, Chicago, Illinois, to investigate various ablation methods of reentry. Concurrently, these same methods were being investigated at high-temperature test facilities at Langley. References: 483 .
Manhigh III reached 98,000 feet (29,900 m) with Lieutenant Clifton McClure aboard.
Fired from AMR at 2249 hours EST. The missile was destroyed after 49 seconds of erratic flight caused by fire in the tail section. The fire was believed to have started by a pin-hole leak near the thrust transducer which burned through the fuel and LOX transducer lines. This was the first Jupiter missile to use swivelled turbine exhaust for roll contral, also first use of solid vernier control. References: 439 .
In behalf of the manned satellite project, an air drop program for full-scale parachute and landing system development was started at Langley. References: 483 .
Pioneer I, intended as a lunar probe, was launched by a Thor-Able rocket from the Atlantic Missile Range, with the Air Force acting as executive agent to NASA. The 39-pound instrumented payload did not reach escape velocity. References: 16 .
PIONEER I, U.S.-IGY space probe under direction of NASA and with the AFBMD as executive agent, launched from AMR, Cape Canaveral, Fla., by a Thor-Able-I booster. It raveled 70,700 miles before returning to earth, determined radial extent of great radiation belt, first observations of earth's and interplanetary magnetic field, and first measurements of micrometeorite density in interplanetary space. References: 17 .
Naval Research Laboratory rocket firings in Easter Island region of the South Pacific from U.S.S. Point Defiance, reached 139, 148, 152, and 150 miles altitude to chart solar spectrum in the utraviolet and X-ray portion. References: 17 .
The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Supply and Logistics invited the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to submit nominations for materiel procurement urgency (commonly known as the DX priority rating). References: 483 .
First of a series of three X-15 experimental rocket-powered manned research aircraft was rolled out at the Los Angeles plant of North American Aviation, Inc., in the joint USAF-USN-NASA program. References: 17 .
Langley Research Center personnel visited the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, Inglewood, California, to open negotiations for procuring Atlas launch vehicles for the manned satellite project. References: 483 .
A bidders' briefing for the Little Joe launch vehicle was held. As earlier mentioned, this launch vehicle was to be used in the development phase of the manned satellite project. The Little Joe launch vehicle was 48 feet in height, weighed (at maximum) 41,330 pounds, was 6.66 feet in diameter, consisted of four Pollux and four Recruit clustered, solid-fuel rockets, could develop a thrust of 250,000 pounds, and could lift a maximum payload of 3,942 pounds. References: 483 .
NASA¾with the Army as executive agent¾attempted to launch a 12-foot-diameter inflatable satellite of micro-thin plastic covered with aluminum foil known as BEACON. Launched from AMR by a Juno I¾a modified Redstone, the payload prematurely separated prior to booster burnout. References: 5 , 126 .
Preliminary specifications for a manned spacecraft were established with industry. These specifications outlined the program and suggested methods of analysis and construction. References: 483 .
The Redstone underwent static firing at White Sands Missile Range, the first time such a test had been conducted there.
The Stever Committee, which had been set up on January 12, submitted its report on the civilian space program to NASA. Among the recommendations:
A special Committee on Life Sciences was established at Langley to determine qualifications and attributes required of personnel to be selected for America's first manned space flight and to give advice on other human aspects of the manned satellite program. References: 483 .
A contract was signed by the University of Manchester, Manchester, England, and the Air Force (AF 61(052)-168) for $21,509. Z. Kopal, principal investigator, was to provide topographical information on the lunar surface for production of accurate lunar maps. Additional Details: Contract for lunar mapping photography. References: 16 .
A scale model of the Mercury spacecraft (without escape tower), oriented for the reentry phase, was tested at transonic Mach numbers in a 1-foot transonic test tunnel at the Arnold Engineering Development Center, Tullahoma, Tennessee. References: 483 .
Study was started on spacecraft recovery operations. During this study period, it was learned that the retrieving operation could be very difficult; but with properly designed equipment, helicopter pickup could be used and appeared to be the most favorable method. References: 483 .
Council of Chief Designers Decree 'On course of work on the piloted spaceship' was issued. Council of Chief designers approved the Vostok manned space program, in combination with Zenit spy satellite program Korolev was authorised to proceed with development of a spacecraft to achieve manned flights at the earliest possible date. However the design would be such that the same spacecraft could be used to fulfil the military's unmanned photo reconnaissance satellite requirement. The military resisted, but Korolev won. This was formalised in a decree of 25 May 1959. References: 474 .
The initial contingent of military service aeromedical personnel reported for duty and began working on human factors, crew selection, and crew training plans for the manned spacecraft program. References: 483 .
Aurora, magnetic field research. Also known as IGY NN3.02. Launched at 1301 local time. Altitude not reported; possible failure.
The Space Task Group (STG) was officially organized at Langley Field, Va., to implement the manned satellite project (later Project Mercury), NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan had approved the formation of the Group, which had been working together for some months, on October 7. Its members were designated on November 3 by Robert R. Gilruth, Project Manager, and authorization was given by Floyd L. Thompson, Acting Director of Langley Research Center. STG would report directly to NASA Headquarters. References: 16 .
Redstone final development test. Missile test failure. Missed aimpoint by 5,010 m. References: 439 .
A contractor briefing, attended by some 40 prospective bidders on the manned spacecraft, was held at the Langley Research Center. More detailed specifications were then prepared and distributed to about 20 manufacturers who had stated an intention to bid on the project. References: 483 .
Pioneer 2 was launched from the Atlantic Missile Range, using a Thor-Able booster, the Air Force acting as executive agent to NASA. The 86.3-pound instrumented payload, intended as a lunar probe, failed to reach escape velocity. References: 5 , 126 .
The highest national procurement priority rating (DX) was requested for the manned spacecraft project. References: 483 .
Specifications for the manned spacecraft (Specification Number S-6) were issued, and final copies were mailed on November 17, 1958, to 20 firms which had indicated a desire to be considered as bidders. References: 483 .
Twenty firms notified the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of their intention to prepare proposals for the development of the manned spacecraft. NASA set the deadline for proposal submission as December 11, 1958. References: 483 .
The Space Task Group placed an order for one Atlas launch vehicle with the Air Force Missile Division, Inglewood, California, as part of a preliminary research program leading to manned space flight. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Headquarters requested that the Air Force construct and launch one Atlas C launch vehicle to check the aerodynamics of the spacecraft. It was the intention to launch this missile about May 1959 in a ballistic trajectory. This was to be the launch vehicle for the Big Joe reentry test shot, but plans were later changed and an Atlas Model D launch vehicle was used instead. References: 483 .
Project Mercury, U.S. manned-satellite program, was officially named by NASA. References: 17 .
Design of the Big Joe spacecraft for the Project Mercury reentry test (the spacecraft would be boosted by an Atlas launch vehicle over a ballistic trajectory) was accomplished by the Space Task Group. Construction of the spacecraft was assigned as a joint task of the Langley and Lewis Research Centers under the direction of the Space Task Group. The instrument package was developed by Lewis personnel assigned to the Space Task Group, and these individuals later became the nucleus of the Space Task Group's Flight Operations Division at Cape Canaveral. References: 483 .
A draft checklist entitled 'Overall Technical Assessment of Proposals for Manned Space Capsule,' was prepared by the Space Task Group for use by the Source Selection Board. References: 483 .
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. References: 483 .
Secretary of the Army Wilber M. Brucker and NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan signed cooperative agreements concerning NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Army Ordnance Missile Command AOMC, and Department of the Army relationships. The agreement covering NASA utilization of the von Braun team made "the AOMC and its subordinate organizations immediately, directly, and continuously responsive to NASA requirements." References: 16 .
By Executive Order, President Dwight D. Eisenhower transferred the Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL, a government-owned facility staffed and operated by the California Institute of Technology, from Army to NASA jurisdiction. The new JPL radio telescope at Camp Irwin, Calif., called the Goldstone Tracking Facility, was capable of maintaining radio contact at distances of up to 400,000 miles and was the first of NASA's deep-space tracking stations. References: 16 .
Modified Navy Terrier rocket with camera launched to an altitude of 86 miles from Wallops Island, providing a 1,000-mile composite photograph of a frontal cloud formation. References: 17 .
Failed to reach moon; provided radiation data. Pioneer III, the third U.S.-IGY intended lunar probe under the direction of NASA with the Army acting as executive agent, was launched from the Atlantic Missile Range by a Juno II rocket. The primary objective, to place the 12.95 pound scientific payload in the vicinity of the moon, failed. Pioneer III reached an altitude of approximately 70,000 miles and revealed that the earth's radiation belt comprised at least two distinct bands. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 16 .
Council of Soviet Ministers (SM) Decree 1550-659 'On reorganisation of the missile and space industry' was issued. References: 474 .
The Space Task Group indicated that nine Atlas launch vehicles were required in support of the Project Mercury manned and unmanned flights and these were ordered from the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division. References: 483 .
An aeromedical selection team composed of Major Stanley C. White, Air Force; Lt. Robert B. Voas, Navy; and Captain William Augerson, Army, drafted a tentative astronaut selection procedure. According to the plan, representatives from the services and industry would nominate 150 men by January 21, 1959; 36 of these would be selected for further testing which would reduce the group to 12; and in a 9-month training period, a hard core of 6 men would remain. At the end of December 1958, this plan was rejected. References: 483 .
These were AVCO, Chance-Vought, Convair, Douglas, Grumman, Lockheed, Martin, McDonnell, North American, Northrop, and Republic. In addition, Winzen Research Laboratories submitted an incomplete proposal. References: 483 .
Space Task Group personnel began technical assessment of manned spacecraft development proposals submitted by industry. Charles Zimmermann headed the technical assessment team. References: 483 .
Fired from AMR at 0353 hours EST. The missile's nose cone impacted in the pre-selected target area at a range of approximately 1,302 nm. The significant mission of the missile was the flight of a South American squirrel monkey `Gordo' up to and down from outer space. Although nose cone recovery efforts failed because the float mechanism attached to the nose cone did not function, telemetry data provided useful biomedical information and disclosed that the Navy-trained squirrel monkey had withstood the space flight and reentry phase without any adverse physiological effects. Gordo was in a weightless state for 8.3 minutes, he experienced a 10g pressure in takeoff, and a 40g pressure upon reentry at 10,000 miles per hour. The flight was considered one of the outstanding achievements of space research. The impact was 5.2 nm over and 0.75 nm to the right of impact point. The overshoot was caused by interaction which occurred at separation between the booster and aft sections. A temporary cable connecting the two bodies had not been removed prior to launch. References: 439 .
Von Braun briefs NASA on plans for booster development at Huntsville with objective of manned lunar landing. Initally proposed using 15 Juno V (Saturn I) boosters to assemble 200,000 kg payload in earth orbit for direct landing on moon. References: 26 , 27 .
First missile launch from Vandenberg AFB - a Thor intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM). The mission was a success. References: 88 .
Two Thor shots, one from Cape Canaveral and one from Vandenberg AFB, were successful. Intermediate range ballistic missile portion of PMR was inaugurated with successful firing of USAF Thor from Vandenberg AFB. References: 17 .
Representatives of Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military services, and NASA met to consider the development of future launch vehicle systems. Agreement was reached on the principle of developing a small number of versatile launch vehicle systems of different thrust capabilities, the reliability of which could be expected to be improved through use by both the military services and NASA. References: 16 .
NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan announced that the manned satellite program would be called "Project Mercury." References: 16 .
The H-1 engine successfully completed its first full-power firing at NAA's Rocketdyne facility in Canoga Park, Calif. References: 16 .
Cruise stage tanks 1 and 4 empty. The flight continued to T+309 seconds, the longest to date, at which point the vehicle broke up due to an explosion in the empty propellant tank. The boosters operated normally but separation took place normally at Mach 3.3-3.4 (higher than expected).
A contract was awarded to North American Aviation for design and construction of the Little Joe air frame. References: 483 .
Space Task Group's technical assessment teams completed the evaluation of industry proposals for design and construction of a manned spacecraft and forwarded their findings to the Source Selection Board, NASA Headquarters. References: 483 .
The letter-of-intent was placed with North American Aviation for the fabrication of the Little Joe Test vehicle air frame. Delivery of the air frames for flight testing was scheduled to occur every three weeks beginning in June 1959. Space Task Group had ordered all the major rocket motors, which were scheduled for delivery well ahead of the Little Joe flight test schedule. The spacecraft for this phase of the program was being designed and construction would start shortly. Thus the Little Joe program should meet its intended flight test schedule. References: 483 .
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