|astronautix.com||Chronology - 1959 - Quarter 1|
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Balloon flights were planned for high-altitude qualification tests of the complete spacecraft, including all instrumentation, retrorockets, drogue parachute system, and recovery. Later balloon flights would be manned to provide as much as 24 hours of training followed by recovery at sea. The Space Task Group made surveys of organizations experienced in the balloon field and recommended that the Air Force Cambridge Research Center be given responsibilities for designing, contracting, and conducting the balloon program. References: 483 .
McDonnell, as prime contractor, selected Minneapolis-Honeywell as subcontractor for the Mercury stabilization system. At that time, other subcontractors were under consideration for the fabrication of various components: Bell Aircraft Rockets Division, reaction control system; and General Electric, Barnes Instruments, and Detroit Controls were being considered for fabrication of the horizon scanner. Later Bell and Barnes were awarded contracts for respective components. References: 483 .
Chelomei began studying use of his encapsulated cruise missile technology for spacecraft. A whole family of unmanned spacecraft, dubbed Kosmoplans, would be built using modular elements. These would include highly manoeuvrable high performance storable liquid propellant engine modules; nuclear reactor modules for high power space applications; ion engine units for inter-orbital transfer and interplanetary flight; and re-entry vehicles permitting return of payloads from space with landing at conventional airfields.
Study contracts were awarded to Aeronutronics, Space Electronics, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory for assistance in developing plans for tracking and ground instrumentation for Project Mercury. References: 483 .
In 1959 a group of enthusiasts in OKB-1 Section 3 under the management of G U Maksimov started engineering design of this first fantastic project for manned interplanetary travel. The requirements for executing this project would shape the specifications for the N1 launch vehicle.
The TMK-1 would then be put on a free flight trajectory towards Mars. After 10.5 months it would fly by Mars, dropping remote controlled landers, and then be flung by the gravity of Mars into an earth-return trajectory. Only minor midcourse manoeuvres would be required. The first flight to Mars of the TMK-1 was planned to begin on June 8, 1971, with the crew returning in a re-entry capsule to the earth on July 10, 1974, after a voyage of three years, one month, and two days. A variation of this scenario involved flybys of Venus on the return voyage, and may have been the project given the code name 'Mavr' ('Moor' or MArs - VeneRa).
Lunar probe; passed within 5.995 km of moon but did not hit it as planned due to a failure of the launch vehicle control system. Went into solar orbit. First manmade object to attain of escape velocity. Also known as Mechta ("Dream"), popularly called Lunik I. Because of its high velocity and its announced package of various metallic emblems with the Soviet coat of arms, it was concluded that Luna 1 was intended to impact the Moon. After reaching escape velocity, Luna 1 separated from its 1472 kg third stage. The third stage, 5.2 m long and 2.4 m in diameter, travelled along with Luna 1. On 3 January, at a distance of 113,000 km from Earth, a large (1 kg) cloud of sodium gas was released by the spacecraft. This glowing orange trail of gas, visible over the Indian Ocean with the brightness of a sixth-magnitude star, allowed astronomers to track the spacecraft. It also served as an experiment on the behavior of gas in outer space. Luna 1 passed within 5,995 km of the Moon's surface on 4 January after 34 hours of flight. It went into orbit around the Sun, between the orbits of Earth and Mars. The measurements obtained during this mission provided new data on the Earth's radiation belt and outer space, including the discovery that the Moon had no magnetic field and that a solar wind, a strong flow of ionized plasma emmanating from the Sun, streamed through interplanetary space. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 175 , 296 .
In a staff report of the House Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration, Wernher von Braun of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency predicted manned circumlunar flight within the next eight to ten years and a manned lunar landing and return mission a few years thereafter. Administrator T. Keith Glennan, Deputy Administrator Hugh L. Dryden, Abe Silverstein, John P. Hagen, and Homer E. Newell, all of NASA, also foresaw manned circumlunar flight within the decade as well as instrumented probes soft-landed on the moon. Roy K. Knutson, Chairman of the Corporate Space Committee, NAA, projected a manned lunar landing expedition for the early 1970's with extensive unmanned instrumented soft lunar landings during the last half of the 1960's. References: 16 .
Vandenberg Air Force Base and the Pacific Missile Range declared officially operational for firings. References: 17 .
Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of Soviet Ministers Decree 22-10ss 'On biomedical preparations for human spaceflight' was issued. References: 474 .
Qualifications were established for pilot selection in a meeting at the NASA Headquarters. These qualifications were as follows: age, less than 40; height, less than 5 feet 11 inches; excellent physical condition; bachelor's degree or equivalent; graduate of test pilot school; 1,500 hours flight time; and a qualified jet pilot. References: 483 .
A meeting was held at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Headquarters to discuss the method for spacecraft heat protection. Two plans were considered: beryllium heat sink and ablation. Based on this meeting a decision was made to modify the spacecraft structure in order to accomodate interchangeably ablation heat shields and beryllium heat sinks , and orders were placed for 12 and 6, respectively. The material chosen for the ablation heat was Fiberglas bonded with a modified phenolic resin. This material was found to have good structural properties even after being subjected to reentry heating. References: 483 .
The Army Ordnance Missile Command (AOMC), the Air Force, and missile contractors presented to the ARPA-NASA Large Booster Review Committee their views on the quickest and surest way for the United States to attain large booster capability. The Committee decided that the Juno V approach advocated by AOMC was best and NASA started plans to utilize the Juno V booster. References: 16 .
NASA requested eight Redstone-type launch vehicles from the Army to be used in Project Mercury development flights. References: 17 .
The Source Selection Board at NASA Headquarters composed of Abe Silverstein, Ralph Cushman, George Low, Walter Schier, DeMarquis Wyatt, and Charles Zimmerman, completed their findings and reported to Dr. T. Keith Glennan, the Administrator. McDonnell Aircraft Corporation was selected as the prime contractor to develop and produce the Mercury spacecraft. References: 483 .
12 capsules to be built. Other leading contender was Grumman. Original schedule was for manned flights from January - August 1960. References: 26 .
Preliminary negotiations were started with McDonnell on the technical and legal aspects of the Mercury spacecraft research and development program. References: 483 .
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. References: 483 .
Decree 'On separation of OKB-2 from NII-88' was issued. References: 474 .
NASA signed a definitive contract with Rocketdyne Division, NAA, for $102 million covering the design and development of a single-chamber, liquid-propellant rocket engine in the 1- to l.5-million-pound-thrust class (the F-1, to be used in the Nova superbooster concept). NASA had announced the selection of Rocketdyne on December 12. References: 16 .
Missile test failure. Missed aimpoint by 1,189 m. References: 439 .
The first Chrysler production qualification missile was fired from AMR at 1910 hours EST. The nose cone impacted in the pre-selected target area at a range of 1,302 nm. Miss distance was 3 nm over and 1 nm to the left of the target. The overshoot was caused by failure of the vernier engine to cut off high resistance of the squib firing circuit. Primary missions were successfully accomplished. References: 439 .
Fist flight test of Thor-Agena for KH program. References: 279 .
First stage shut down at wrong time. Partial failure. Suborbital.. References: 5 .
The pilot egress trainer was received from McDonnell and rough water evaluation of the equipment was started immediately by Space Task Group personnel. References: 483 .
NASA completed contract negotiations with McDonnell for the design and development of the Mercury spacecraft. At that time, McDonnell estimated that the first 3 spacecraft could be delivered in 10 months. Spacecraft refinements slipped this estimated goal by only 2 months. References: 483 .
After consultation and discussion with DOD, NASA formulated a national space vehicle program. The central idea of the program was that a single launch vehicle should be developed for use in each series of future space missions. The launch vehicle would thus achieve a high degree of reliability, while the guidance and payload could be varied according to purpose of the mission. Four general-purpose launch vehicles were described: Vega, Centaur, Saturn, and Nova. The Nova booster stage would be powered by a cluster of four F-1 engines, the second stage by a single F-1, and the third stage would be the size of an intercontinental ballistic missile but would use liquid hydrogen as a fuel. This launch vehicle would be the first in a series that could transport a man to the lunar surface and return him safely to earth in a direct ascent mission. Four additional stages would be required in such a mission. References: 16 .
Nike-Cajun successfully launched 12-foot-diameter test inflatable sphere to a height of 75 miles over NASA Wallops Island, the sphere inflating satisfactorily. References: 17 .
Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations, advised Dr. T. Keith Glennan that Navy candidates for Project Mercury had started in the first selection process. References: 483 .
Some 508 records were reviewed for prospective pilot candidates of which about 110 appeared to qualify. The special committee on Life Sciences decided to divide these into two groups and 69 prospective pilot candidates were briefed and interviewed in Washington. Out of this number, 53 volunteered for the Mercury program, and 32 of the 53 were selected for further testing. The committee agreed there was no further need to brief other individuals, because of the high qualities exhibited in the existing pool of candidates. These 32 were scheduled for physical examination at the Lovelace Clinic, Albuquerque, New Mexico. References: 483 .
The 72nd Brigade had actually been formed in Germany in 1946, to assist in testing of V-2 technology. It later moved to Kaputsin Yar, where it had conducted the first R-1 trials. In 1955 it was moved to Medved, Novgorod, to form the first R-5 brigade. In January 1959 it was redeployed to Gvardeisk, Kaliningrad. Then two divisions were detached for a test German deployment - one division by train, the control division by airplane to Templin air base. The divisions deployed over a wide area of north-east East Germany. The total deployment consisted of 4 launchers and 12 rockets. In August-September 1959 the divisions returned to Gvardeisk and began conversion to R-12.
The Army proposed that the name of the large clustered-engine booster be changed from Juno V to Saturn, since Saturn was the next planet after Jupiter. Roy W. Johnson, Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, approved the name on February 3. References: 16 .
A Working Group on Lunar Exploration was established by NASA at a meeting at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Members of NASA, JPL, Army Ballistic Missile Agency, California Institute of Technology, and the University of California participated in the meeting. The Working Group was assigned the responsibility of preparing a lunar exploration program, which was outlined: circumlunar vehicles, unmanned and manned; hard lunar impact; close lunar satellites; soft lunar landings (instrumented). Preliminary studies showed that the Saturn booster with an intercontinental ballistic missile as a second stage and a Centaur as a third stage, would be capable of launching manned lunar circumnavigation spacecraft and instrumented packages of about one ton to a soft landing on the moon. References: 16 .
Following industry-wide competition, a formal contract for research and development of the Mercury spacecraft was negotiated with the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation. The contract called for design and construction of 12 Mercury spacecraft, but it did not include details on changes and ground support equipment which were to be negotiated as the project developed. Later, orders were placed with the company for eight additional spacecraft, two procedural trainers, an environmental trainer, and seven checkout trainers. McDonnell had been engaged in studying the development of a manned spacecraft since the NACA presentation in mid-March of 1958. References: 483 .
First test launch of USAF Titan ICBM (A-3) from Cape Canaveral. Dummy second stage (500 km range).
At the Lovelace Clinic, Albuquerque, New Mexico, the medical tests for the Mercury astronaut selection were started. References: 483 .
By the end of the year, over 70 different models had been tested by facilities at the Air Force's Arnold Engineering Development Center and the NASA Langley, Ames, and Lewis Research Centers. References: 483 .
The medical examinations at the Wright Air Development Center for the final selection of the Mercury astronauts were started. References: 483 .
Missile test failure. Missed aimpoint by 17,942 m. References: 439 .
Roy W. Johnson, Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), testified before the House Committee on Science and Astronautics that DOD and ARPA had no lunar landing program. Herbert F. York, DOD Director of Defense Research and Engineering, testified that exploration of the moon was a NASA responsibility. References: 16 .
Monorail two-stage rocket-research sled attained 3,090 mph, or roughly Mach 4.1, at Holloman AFB. References: 17 .
Erroneous operation of the AVD abort system in one of the boosters prevented launch.
In testimony before the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Deputy Administrator Hugh L. Dryden and DeMarquis D. Wyatt described the long-range objectives of the NASA space program: an orbiting space station with several men, operating for several days; a permanent manned orbiting laboratory; unmanned hard-landing and soft-landing lunar probes; manned circumlunar flight; manned lunar landing and return; and, ultimately, interplanetary flight. References: 16 .
Decree 'On adoption of the R-11FM into armaments' was issued. The first Soviet SLBM system was accepted, but never deployed on an operational vessel. However the project had cemented Makeyev's relationship with the Soviet Navy, which decided to make him their sole source for all future naval ballistic missiles. References: 474 .
Korolev was to begin development of the three stage rocket, which was to have a range of 800 to 2500 km and a lift-off mass of 35 tonnes.
Fired from AMR at 1850 hours EST. The primary mission of impacting the nose cone in a pre-calculated target (MILS Network) was successfully accomplished, The nose cone impacted in the 1,302 nm target area, 2.8 nm over, with no lateral deviations. Again, the vernier engine ran to cut-off rather than the commanded 14 seconds -- a near perfect flight. For the first rime, missile roll was controlled by a turbine exhaust nozzle designed to eliminate problems experienced on previous flights. References: 439 .
Suborbital. References: 5 .
H. Kurt Strass and Leo T. Chauvin of STG proposed a heatshield test of a fullscale Mercury spacecraft at lunar reentry speeds. This test, in which the capsule would penetrate the earth's radiation belt, was called Project Boomerang. An advanced version of the Titan missile was to be the launch vehicle. The project was postponed and ultimately dropped because of cost. References: 16 .
The first design sketched out was known as Sever (North). The reentry capsule had the same configuration as the ultimate Soyuz design but was 50% larger. By summer 1959 Feoktistov had reduced the size to that of the later Soyuz, while retaining the three-man crew size. References: 23 .
"Poor man's rocket," Scout, was jointly announced by NASA and AF. The concept of Scout originated at Langley Research Center in 1958, based upon extensive experience with staged solid-propellant rockets. References: 17 .
The fourth U.S.-IGY lunar probe effort, Pioneer IV, a joint project of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency and Jet Propulsion Laboratory under the direction of NASA, was launched by a Juno II rocket from the Atlantic Missile Range. Intended to impact on the lunar surface, Pioneer IV achieved earth-moon trajectory, passing within 60,200 km of the moon before going into permanent orbit around the sun. References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 16 .
Decree 'On adoption of the R-12 into armaments' was issued. References: 474 .
The thrust chamber of the F-1 engine was successfully static-fired at the Santa Susana Air Force-Rocketdyne Propulsion Laboratory in California. More than one million pounds of thrust were produced, the greatest amount attained to that time in the United States. References: 16 .
First French Veronique sounding rocket launched from Columb Bechar to an altitude of 104 km (64.6 mi.). References: 17 .
An abort test was conducted at Wallops Island on a full-scale model of the spacecraft with the escape tower, using a Recruit escape rocket. The configuration did not perform as expected (erratic motion), and as a result, the Langley Research Center was requested to test small-scale flight models of the abort system to determine its motion in flight. References: 483 .
Tests were in progress at Langley and Wallops Island on several types of ablating materials under environmental conditions that would be experienced by a spacecraft reentering from orbit. References: 483 .
The Space Task Group was notified by McDonnell that several of its subcontractors were experiencing difficulties in procuring material necessary to fabricate Project Mercury components. This delay was being caused by the lack of a DX priority procurement rating. References: 483 .
Langley's Pilotless Aircraft Research Division conducted, at Wallops Island, the first full-scale test simulating a pad-abort situation. A full weight and size spacecraft was used. For the first 50 feet the flight was essentially straight, indicating the successful functioning of the abort rocket. Thereafter, the spacecraft pitched through several turns and impacted a short distance from the shore. The malfunction was traced to the loss of a graphite insert from one of the three abort rocket nozzles, which caused a misalignment of thrust. References: 483 .
Second British Black Knight rocket reached 350-mile altitude at Woomera, Australia. References: 17 .
The Army Ordnance Missile Command (AOMC) submitted the "Saturn System Study" which had been requested by the Advanced Research Projects Agency ARPA on December 18, 1958. From the 1375 possible configurations screened, and the 14 most promising given detailed study, the Atlas and Titan families were selected as the most attractive for upper staging. Either the 120-inch or the 160inch diameter was acceptable. The study included the statement: "An immediate decision by ARPA as to choice of upper stages on the first generation vehicle is mandatory if flight hardware is to be available to meet the proposed Saturn schedule." Additional Details: Saturn System Study. References: 16 .
Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of Soviet Ministers Decree 'On Work on the R-7 Product and Flight-Design Testing of the R-7A Product-- testing of the R-7 and R-7A ICBMs' was issued. References: 474 .
Successful missile test. Army Redstone ejected miniature TV camera which transmitted pictures of its target impact area. Missed aimpoint by 144 m. References: 439 .
Purchase approval in the amount of $125,000 was requested by the Space Task Group from NASA Headquarters for the procurement of five developmental pressure suits for Project Mercury. References: 483 .
A Mock-Up Inspection Board meeting was held at the McDonnell plant to review the completed spacecraft mock-up. As a result of this meeting, the contractor was directed to restudy provisions made for pilot egress; rearrange crew space to make handles, actuators, and other instruments more accessible to the pilot; and modify the clock, sequence lights, and other displays. This same type of meeting was held on many subsequent occasions to review production spacecraft. References: 483 .
First flight launching of a spin-stabilized 20-inch-diameter spherical rocket, by NASA Langley's PARD at Wallops Station, Va. References: 17 .
Deputy Secretary of Defense Quarles announced that three atomic blasts were secretly fired in space (Project Argus) in 1958, using modified X-17 rockets. References: 17 .
An Army task force was formed to develop a plan for establishing a manned lunar outpost by the quickest practical means. The effort was called Project Horizon. The first phase of the project was to make a limited feasibility study, with estimated time and costs. The task force worked under the direction of Maj. Gen. John B. Medaris of the Army Ordnance Missile Command and in full collaboration with the von Braun team. The report was completed on June 8. References: 16 .
Suborbital. References: 5 .
As of this date, the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation listed some 32 items that required a DX priority procurement rating in support of Project Mercury. This highest national priority procurement rating had been requested by NASA on November 14, 1958. References: 483 .
NASA announced that Wallops Station had made over 3,300 rocket firings since 1945. References: 17 .
The Langley Research Center received approval for funds to conduct hypersonic flight tests for the Mercury spacecraft. Langley's Pilotless Aircraft Research Division would conduct tests on heat transfer rates at a velocity of mach 17, and dynamic behavior tests from a velocity of mach 10 to a subsonic speed. References: 483 .
Dr. T. Keith Glennan, the NASA Administrator, provided instructions for the marking of vehicles launched for the NASA, including the Mercury spacecraft. He stated that policy would be to paint UNITED STATES in bold block form. References: 483 .
Cruise stage tanks 1 and 4 empty. The flight continued to T+25 minutes 20 seconds over a distance of 1,315 km. Booster stage operation and separation were normal, no vibrations were detected. The cruise stage ignited but the Air Sensor System (SVD) operated abnormally. As a result there was a reduction of velocity from that planned.
Space Task Group personnel visited the Atlantic Missile Range at the invitation of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency to observe a Jupiter launch vehicle firing and the procedures followed on the day preceding the firing. The group toured the blockhouse and received briefings on various recorders that might be used in the centralized control facility for Mercury-Redstone and Mercury-Jupiter flights. References: 483 .
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