|astronautix.com||Chronology - 1959 - Quarter 2|
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John W. Crowley, Jr., NASA Director of Aeronautical and Space Research, notified the Ames, Lewis, and Langley Research Centers, the High Speed Flight Station (later Flight Research Center), the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Office of Space Flight Development that a Research Steering Committee on Manned Space Flight would be formed. Harry J. Goett of Ames was to be Chairman of the Committee, which would assist NASA Headquarters in carrying out its responsibilities in long-range planning and basic research on manned space flight. References: 16 .
In the recovery landing system, the extended-skirt main parachute was found to be unsafe for operation at altitudes of 10,000 feet and was replaced by a 'ring-sail' parachute of similar size. This decision was made after a drop when the main parachute failed to open and assumed a 'squidding' condition. Although little damage was sustained by the spacecraft on water impact, parachute experts decided that the ring-sail configuration should be adopted, and the air drop spacecraft were fitted. References: 483 .
Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of Soviet Ministers Decree 'On production of the R-7A missile at Plant No. 1001 at Krasnoyarsk-26 and establishment of a branch' was issued. References: 474 .
H. Kurt Strass of the Space Task Group (STG) at Langley Field, Virginia described some preliminary ideas of STG planners regarding a follow-on to Mercury: (1) an enlarged Mercury capsule to place two men in orbit for three days; (2) a two-man Mercury capsule and a large cylindrical structure to support a two-week mission. (In its 1960 budget, NASA had requested $2 million to study methods of constructing a manned orbiting laboratory or converting the Mercury spacecraft into a two-man laboratory for extended space missions.) Additional Details: Two-man Mercury capsule proposed..
The advanced manned space program to follow Project Mercury was discussed at a NASA Staff Conference held in Williamsburg, Va. Three reasons for such a program were suggested:
A preliminary briefing was conducted for prospective bidders on construction of the worldwide tracking range for Project Mercury. This meeting was attended by representatives from 20 companies. At this time the preliminary plan called for an orbital mission tracking network of 14 sites. Contacts had not been made with the governments of any of the proposed locations with the exception of Bermuda. It was planned that all the sites would have facilities for telemetry, voice communications with the pilot, and teletype (wire or radio) communications with centers in the United States for primary tracking. The tracking sites would provide the control center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, with trajectory predictions; landing-area predictions; and vehicle, systems, and pilot conditions. References: 483 .
NASA and the military services conducted meetings to draft final plans for the Project Mercury animal payload program. The animal program was planned to cover nine flights, involving Little Joe, Redstone, Jupiter, and Atlas launch vehicles. References: 483 .
Seven astronauts were selected for Project Mercury after a series of the most rigorous physical and mental tests ever given to U.S. test pilots. Chosen from a field of 110 candidates, the finalists were all qualified test pilots: Capts. Leroy G. Cooper, Jr., Virgil I. Grissom, and Donald K. Slayton, (USAF); Lt. Malcolm S. Carpenter, Lt. Comdr. Alan B. Shepard, Jr., and Lt. Comdr. Watler M. Schirra, Jr. (USN); and Lt. Col. John H. Glenn (USMC). References: 17 .
Fired from AMR at 1934 hours EST. The primary mission of impacting a nose cone in a pre-calculated target area (MILS Network) was successfully accomplished with an impact of 0.8 nm under end 5.0 nm to the left of the 1,302 nm range. The lateral miss was believed to have been caused by a drifting gyro. References: 439 .
A subsonic aerodynamic test vehicle of the RSR trisonic missile, the NM-1 was first flown oby test p[ilot Amert-Khan Sultan.
Suborbital. References: 5 .
Investigations of two escape configurations for Mercury spacecraft were conducted in a 16-foot transonic circuit at the Arnold Engineering Development Center, Tullahoma, Tennessee, for determination of static stability and drag characteristics of the configurations. References: 483 .
At a press conference in Washington, D.C., NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan announced the seven pilots had been selected for the Mercury program. References: 16 .
Escape-motor canting-angle tests were completed at Wallops Island. Tests were conducted in 5 degree increments between 10 degrees to 30 degrees, and visually it appeared stability was better at the larger angle. References: 483 .
Tests were in progress at Langley in which an aluminium honeycomb structure was used partially to absorb the spacecraft impact load. Robert R. Gilruth, Project Mercury Director, had stated his belief of this requirement on January 16, 1959. References: 483 .
A deliberate thrust misalignment of 1 inch was programed into the escape combination. Lift-off was effected cleanly, and a slow pitch started during the burning of the escape rocket motor. The tower separated as scheduled and the drogue and main parachutes deployed as planned. The test was fully successful. References: 483 .
Two small-scale spacecraft escape-tower combinations were launched successfully at Wallops Island. On the next day a full-scale spacecraft escape system was launched. The complete sequence of events - escape system firing, escape tower jettisoning, parachute deployment, landing, and helicopter recovery - was satisfactory. References: 483 .
In response to a request by the DOD-NASA) Saturn Ad Hoc Committee, the Army Ordnance Missile Command (AOMC) sent a supplement to the "Saturn System Study" to the Advanced Research Projects Agency ARPA describing the use of Titan for Saturn upper stages. Additional Details: Use of Titan for Saturn upper stages. References: 16 .
NASA requested that the Air Force furnish two TF-102B and two T-33 aircraft to be used by the Project Mercury astronauts. One of the requirements in the astronaut training program was to maintain proficiency in high performance aircraft. References: 483 .
Integrated Weapon System Training 1. First Thor IRBM launched by British crew at Vandenberg AFB. References: 17 .
Launched after prior 20 Februry flight attempt. The suspect booster was replaced. Successful flight lasting T+33.5 minutes, achieving a range of 1,766 km and a speed of Mach 3.15 at 17.0 km altitude.
NASA announced acceptance of proposals by the Canadian Defense Research Telecommunications Establishment for continuing joint rocket and satellite ionospheric experiments of a nonmilitary nature. References: 17 .
In a meeting at Langley, NASA officials concluded that the tower configuration was the best escape system for the Mercury spacecraft and development would proceed using this concept. However, limited studies of alternate configurations would continue. References: 483 .
Fourth recovery of a data capsule at AMR, USAF Thor 1,500-mile accuracy test flight. References: 17 .
Testifying before the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Maj. Gen. Bernard A. Schriever, Commander of the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, stated that all three military services should be studying the possibility of a base on the moon. Up to that point, he felt, all such studies had been "in the blue thinking." References: 16 .
Meeting of DOD working group on Project Mercury search and recovery operations was held at Patrick Air Force Base, with major emphasis placed on the first two ballistic Atlas shots, and command relationships. References: 17 , 278 .
The seven Project Mercury astronauts reported for duty. A tentative schedule of Mercury astronaut activities for the first months of training was issued. Actual training began the next day. Within 3 months the astronauts were acquainted with the various facets of the Mercury program. The first training week was as follows: Monday, April 27, check in; April 28, general briefing; April 29, spacecraft configuration and escape methods; April 30, support and restraint; May 1, operational concepts and procedures. These lectures were presented by specialists in the particular field of study. Besides the above, unscheduled activities involved 3 hours flying time and 4 hours of athletics. References: 483 .
NASA announced the signing of a $24 million contract with Douglas Aircraft Co., Inc., for a three-stage Thor-Vanguard launching rocket called Delta. References: 17 .
NASA's Administrator announced the naming of Goddard Space Flight Center under construction near Greenbelt, Md., in commemoration of Robert H. Goddard, American pioneer in rocket research. Dr. Harry J. Goett was appointed Director in September. STG was transferred to the authority of the newly formed Goddard Space Flight Center but remained based at Langley Field, Va. References: 17 .
The Army Ordnance Missile Command submitted to NASA a report entitled "Preliminary Study of an Unmanned Lunar Soft Landing Vehicle," recommending the use of the Saturn booster. References: 16 .
The first Rocketdyne H-1 engine for the Saturn arrived at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA ). The H-1 engine was installed in the ABMA test stand on May 7, first test-fired on May 21, and fired for 80 seconds on May 29. The first long-duration firing - 151.03 seconds - was on June 2. References: 16 .
Fired from AMR at 2047 hours EST. All primary missions were essentially successful, although the impact was 69 nm short and 4.9 nm to the right of the 1,302 nm predicted impact point. This undershoot was due to thrust controller deviation which commanded the exceedingly high thrust level during the main power flight pre-selected flight path. Cut-off occurred at 144 seconds of flight. References: 439 .
Pigs were eliminated as Little Joe flight test subjects when studies disclosed that they could not survive long periods of time on their backs. However, McDonnell did use a pig, 'Gentle Bess,' to test the impact crushable support, and the test was successful. References: 483 .
Milton W. Rosen of NASA Headquarters proposed a plan for obtaining high-resolution photographs of the moon. A three-stage Vega would place the payload within a 500-mile diameter circle on the lunar surface. A stabilized retrorocket fired at 500 miles above the moon would slow the instrument package sufficiently to permit 20 photographs to be transmitted at a rate of one picture per minute. Additional Details: High-resolution photographs of the moon using Vega rocket. References: 16 .
The first extended field deployment of the R-5M from a field location was undertaken during Army exercises at Simferopol. This was the first field deployment with nuclear weapons in Soviet history and verified the ability of the ballistic missile systems to operate in an integrated manner with the ground forces. The R-5M was formally accepted into military service in 1960. The missile continued in service until 1968.
Missile test failure. Missed aimpoint by 1,091 m. References: 439 .
Decree 'On creation of the Computer Centre of NII-88' was issued. References: 474 .
Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of Soviet Ministers Decree 'On start of dedicated work on the R-9 and R-16 ICBMs' was issued. References: 474 .
Fired from AMR at 0052 hours EST to test impact accuracy. This shot may be considered as having hit the target. The impact was: .26 nm over and 0.4 nm to the left of the predicted point of impact. Accuracy of the MILS Network was approximated at plus-or-minus 0.25 nm. All primary and secondary missions were accomplished except for photographic recording of the second separation. This could not be accomplished because of the firing date. References: 439 .
Tsybin’s design was called the gliding spacecraft (PKA). The draft project, undertaken in co-operation with Korolev’s OKB-1, was signed by Tsybin on 17 May 1959.The piloted PKA would be inserted into a 300 km altitude orbit by a Vostok launch vehicle. After 24 to 27 hours of flight the spacecraft would brake from orbit, gliding through the dense layers of the earth’s atmosphere. At the beginning of the descent, in the zone of most intense heating, the spacecraft would take advantage of a hull of original shape (called ‘Lapotok’ by Korolev after the Russian wooden shoes that it resembled). After braking to 500 to 600 m/s at an altitude of 20 km, the PKA would glide to a runway landing on deployable wings, which would move to a horizontal position from a stowed vertical position over the back of the spacecraft. Control of the PKA in flight was by rocket jets or aerodynamic surfaces, depending on the phase of flight.
The Langley Research Center was in the process of preparing a one-fourteenth scale model of the Mercury spacecraft for launch from Wallops Island on a five-stage rocket to a speed of mach 18. References: 483 .
Suborbital. References: 5 .
Langley Specification Number S-45, entitled 'Specifications for Tracking and Ground Instrumentation System for Project Mercury,' was issued. Proposals were received from seven contractor teams by June 22, 1959, and technical evaluations were started. References: 483 .
Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of Soviet Ministers Decree 569-264 'On work on a reconnaissance satellite and piloted spaceship' was issued. Due to a bitter fight with the military over the nature and priority of the manned spacecraft and photo-reconnaissance space programs, the final decree for the Vostok manned spacecraft was delayed until seven months after drawing release began. This authorised production of a single design that could be used either as a manned spacecraft or as a military reconnaissance satellite. These were the Zenit-2 and Zenit-4 spacecraft based on the Vostok design. This marked the end of the original Zenit configuration. The military had to develop the recovery forces and techniques for both spacecraft, including appropriate aircraft, helicopters, and handling equipment. At that time it was felt that there was a 60% chance on each launch of an abort requiring rescue operations for the cosmonaut. References: 474 .
The Space Task Group oficials determined that the spacecraft could be tested environmentally in the Lewis Research Center's altitude wind tunnel. This included correct temperature and altitude simulations to 80,000 feet. The pilot could exercise the attitude control system and retrorockets could be fired in the tunnel. Because an active contract did exist with the Air Force, it was decided the two balloon drop tests with unmanned boiler-plate spacecraft would be accomplished. References: 483 .
Due to a bitter fight with the military over the nature and priority of the manned spacecraft and photo-reconnaissance space programs, the final decree for the Vostok manned spacecraft was delayed until seven months after drawing release began. This authorised production of a single design that could be used either as a manned spacecraft or as a military reconnaissance satellite. These were the Zenit-2 and Zenit-4 spacecraft based on the Vostok design. This marked the end of the original Zenit configuration.
The national booster program, Dyna-Soar, and Project Mercury were discussed by the Research Steering Committee. Members also presented reviews of Center programs related to manned space flight. Maxime A. Faget of STG endorsed lunar exploration as the present goal of the Committee although recognizing the end objective as manned interplanetary travel. George M. Low of NASA Headquarters recommended that the Committee:
Tentative manned space flight priorities were established by the Research Steering Committee: Project Mercury, ballistic probes, environmental satellite, maneuverable manned satellite, manned space flight laboratory, lunar reconnaissance satellite, lunar landing, Mars Venus reconnaissance, and Mars-Venus landing. The Committee agreed that each NASA Center should study a manned lunar landing and return mission, the study to include the type of propulsion, vehicle configuration, structure, anti guidance requirements. Such a mission was an end objective; it did not have to be supported on the basis that it would lead to a more useful end. It would also focus attention at the Centers on the problems of true space flight. References: 16 .
Director Robert R. Gilruth met with members of his STG staff (Paul E. Purser, Charles J. Donlan, James A. Chamberlin, Raymond L. Zavasky, W. Kemble Johnson, Charles W. Mathews, Maxime A. Faget, and Charles H. Zimmeman) and George M. Low from NASA Headquarters to discuss the possibility of an advanced manned spacecraft. References: 16 .
The design consisted of a continuous double explosive train to assure that all bolts were actually broken upon activation of the device. References: 483 .
North American Aviation delivered the first two Little Joe booster airframes, and noted that the four remaining were on fabrication schedule. The planned program was moving smoothly, for rocket motors to be used in the first flight were available at Wallops Station, Virginia, the test flight launching site. In addition, procurement of the test spacecraft incorporating Mercury flight items was on schedule, and the first spacecraft had been instrumented by Space Task Group personnel. Work was also in progress on other test spacecraft. References: 483 .
Fired from AMR at 0235 hours EST. The flight was successful with impact ranging from 0.1 to 0.4 nm from the target. The missile travelled a 1,302 nm range. The significant mission of the missile was to test the effects of cosmic radiation, increased gravity, and weightlessness on live passengers and biomedical experiments of material housed in the nose cone. On board were an American-born rhesus monkey, Able; a squirrel monkey, Baker; and the biomedical experiments -- yeast , corn, mustard seeds, fruit-fly larvae, human blood, mould spore, and fish eggs. Able and Baker were recovered unharmed within one and one-half hours after lift-off. This milestone marked the first recovery of living creatures from a flight through near space. The biomedical experiments were for NASA analysis. Telemetry data disclosed that the responses of the animals were normal for the conditions they were experiencing. During the boost phase, when the higher g-loads were being sustained, body temperature, respiration, pulse rate, and heartbeat rose but were well within tolerable limits. During the weightless period along the trajectory arc, the physiological responses of Able and Baker approached normal - so near, in fact, that according to telemetry data, Baker appeared either to doze or to become drowsy. Upon reentry, the responses rose again, but at landing the animals were nearing a settled physiological state. This flight was another milestone proving that life could be sustained in a space environment. References: 439 .
McDonnell selected Northrop as the subcontractor to design and fabricate the landing system for Project Mercury. Northrop technology for landing and recovery systems dated back to 1943 when that company developed the first parachute recovery system for pilotless aircraft. For Project Mercury, Northrop developed the 63-foot ring-sail main parachute. References: 483 .
A report entitled "Recoverable Interplanetary Space Probe" was issued at the direction of C. Stark Draper, Director of the Instrumentation Laboratory, MIT. Several organizations had participated in this study, which began in 1957. References: 16 .
Construction of the first Saturn launch area, Complex 34, began at Cape Canaveral, FIa. References: 16 .
At a staff meeting, Space Task Group Director Robert R. Gilruth suggested studying a Mercury follow-on program using maneuverable Mercury capsules for land landings in predetermined areas.
Decree 191 'On creation of OKB-1 Branch No. 2 at Krasnoyarsk-26 GKOT' was issued. References: 474 .
At an STG staff meeting, Director Robert R. Gilruth suggested that study should be made of a post-Mercury program in which maneuverable Mercury spacecraft would make land landings in limited areas. References: 16 .
Army announced that sea urchin eggs fertilized before Jupiter nose cone flight continued to grow normally. References: 17 .
The Project Horizon Phase I report was completed. In it, a U.S. manned landing on the moon in 1965 was proposed, to be followed in 1966 by an operational lunar outpost. Expenditures would average $667 million a year from Fiscal Year 1960 through Fiscal Year 1968. The guiding philosophy of the report was one of "enlightened conservatism of technical approach." On July 28 the report was presented to the Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff. Additional Details: Project Horizon Phase I report. References: 16 .
In a Project Horizon report, Wernher von Braun, then with the Army Ballistic Missile Agency, advanced a theory that he had conceived years earlier for using a booster's spent stage as a space station's basic structure. This later evolved into the 'wet stage' concept for the Skylab Program.
Suborbital. References: 5 .
A visit was made to McDonnell and it was learned that the Mercury spacecraft was being designed structurally to withstand 149 decibels overall noise level. McDonnell, however, anticipated that the actual maximum level would not be above 128 decibels. Space Task Group personnel felt that even the 128 decibels were too high for pilot comfort, and extensive research toward the resolution of this matter was started. References: 483 .
A centrifuge program was conducted at Johnsville, Pennsylvania, to investigate the role of a pilot in the launch of a multi-stage vehicle. Test subjects were required to perform boost-control tasks, while being subjected to the proper boost-control accelerations. The highest g-force experienced was 15, and none of the test subjects felt they reached the limit of their control capability. As a note of interest, one of the test subjects, Neil Armstrong, was later selected for the Gemini program in September 1962. References: 483 .
NASA authorized $150,000 for Army Ordnance Missile Command studies of a lunar exploration program based on Saturn-boosted systems. To be included were circumlunar vehicles, unmanned and manned; close lunar orbiters; hard lunar impacts; and soft lunar landings with stationary or roving payloads. References: 16 .
The Soviet CPCE advises China it will not provide prototype or drawings of atomic bombs as agreed previously. References: 87 .
Members of STG - including H. Kurt Strass, Robert L. O'Neal, Lawrence W. Enderson, Jr., and David C. Grana - and Thomas E. Dolan of Chance Vought Corporation worked on advanced design concepts of earth orbital and lunar missions. The goal was a manned lunar landing within ten years, rather than an advanced Mercury program. References: 16 .
H. Kurt Strass of Space Task Group's Flight Systems Division (FSD) recommended the establishment of a committee to consider the preliminary design of a two-man space laboratory. Representatives from each of the specialist groups within FSD would work with a special projects group, the work to culminate in a set of design specifications for the two-man Mercury.
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. References: 483 .
During the Research Steering Committee meeting, John H. Disher of NASA Headquarters discussed the lunar mission studies under way at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA). Additional Details: Lunar mission studies under way at the Army. References: 16 .
Navy surface vessels and aircraft were used in a recovery operation after an airdrop of a spacecraft off the coast from Jacksonville, Florida. The spacecraft was purposely dropped 40 miles away from the predicted impact point and 45 miles away from the nearest ship. Recovery was effected in 2 and one half hours. References: 483 .
A report on a projected manned space station was made to the Research Steering Committee by Laurence K. Loftin, Jr., of the Langley Research Center. In discussion, Chairman Harry J. Goett expressed his opinion that consideration of a space laboratory ought to be an integral and coordinated part of the planning for the lunar landing mission. George M. Low of NASA Headquarters warned that care should be exercised to assure that each step taken toward the goal of a lunar landing was significant, since the number of steps that could be funded was extremely limited. References: 16 .
Alfred J. Eggers, Jr., of the Ames Research Center told the members of the Research Steering Committee of studies on radiation belts, graze and orbit maneuvers on reentry, heat transfer, structural concepts and requirements, lift over drag considerations, and guidance systems which affected various aspects of the manned lunar mission. Eggers said that Ames had concentrated on a landing maneuver involving a reentry approach over one of the poles to lessen radiation exposure, a graze through the outer edge of the atmosphere to begin an earth orbit, and finally reentry and landing. Additional Details: Research Steering Committee briefed on technical studies. References: 16 .
Laurence K. Loftin, Jr., of Langley Research Center, presented to the Research Steering Committee on Manned Space Flight a report on a projected manned space station. During subsequent discussion, Committee Chairman Harry J. Goett stated that considerations of space stations and orbiting laboratories should be an integral part of coordinated planning for a lunar landing mission. Additional Details: Space stations second priority to a lunar landing mission..
At the second meeting of the Research Steering Committee on Manned Space Flight, held at the Ames Research Center, members presented reports on intermediate steps toward a manned lunar landing and return.
Bruce T. Lundin of the Lewis Research Center reported to members on propulsion requirements for various modes of manned lunar landing missions, assuming a 10,000-pound spacecraft to be returned to earth. Lewis mission studies had shown that a launch into lunar orbit would require less energy than a direct approach and would be more desirable for guidance, landing reliability, etc. From a 500,000 foot orbit around the moon, the spacecraft would descend in free fall, applying a constant-thrust decelerating impulse at the last moment before landing. Research would be needed to develop the variable-thrust rocket engine to be used in the descent. With the use of liquid hydrogen, the launch weight of the lunar rocket and spacecraft would be 10 to 11 million pounds. Additional Details: Steps toward a manned lunar landing. References: 16 .
Members of the Research Steering Committee determined the study and research areas which would require emphasis for manned flight to and from the moon and for intermediate flight steps: Additional Details: Study and research areas for manned flight to and from the moon. References: 16 .
Between June 28 and July 11, 1959, 12 heat-transfer tests were made in the Preflight Jet Test facility at Wallops Island on several ablation materials being considered for use on the spacecraft afterbody (not heat shield) for the Little Joe flights. Test conditions simulated those of actual Little Joe trajectories. Of the materials used, triester polymer and thermolag demonstrated the capability to protect the spacecraft against expected heat loads. References: 483 .
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