|Atlas D OV - Atlas D OV-1 (2x) - COSPAR 1966-111|
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First operational version of Atlas ICBM and used as launch vehicle for Project Mercury.
Launches: 77. Failures: 27. Success Rate: 64.94% pct. First Launch Date: 14 April 1959. Last Launch Date: 27 July 1967. LEO Payload: 1,360 kg. to: 185 km Orbit. at: 28.0 degrees. Liftoff Thrust: 161,850 kgf. Total Mass: 117,730 kg. Core Diameter: 3.1 m. Total Length: 25.0 m. Flyaway Unit Cost $: 14.21 million. in 1985 unit dollars.
The Air Force disclosed that a $41 million guided missile production facility would be built at Sorrento, California, for the Atlas launch vehicle. Convair was announced as the prime contractor.
Department of Defense transferred northern portion of Camp Cooke, Calif. (now Vandenberg AFB), to the Air Force to be used as first ICBM base. The Secretary of Defense directed the United States Army to transfer 64,000 acres of Camp Cooke's 86,000 acres to the Air Force.
Air Research and Development Command activated the 704th Strategic Missile Wing (Atlas) at Cooke AFB.
Estimated operational capability date for Atlas changed from March 1959 to June 1959.
In 1958, the year after Sputnik 1, Krafft Ehricke, then with General Dynamics' Convair Division, designed a four-man space station known as Outpost. Ehricke proposed that the Atlas ICBM being developed by Convair could be adapted as the station's basic structure. The Atlas, 3 m in diameter and 22.8 m long, was America's largest rocket at the time.
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.
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.
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.
During a meeting between personnel of the Space Task Group and the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, the responsibilities of the two organizations were outlined for the first two Atlas firings. Space Technology Laboratories, under Air Force Ballistic Missile Division direction, would select the design trajectories according to the specifications set forth by the Space Task Group. These specifications were to match a point in the trajectory at about 450,000 feet, corresponding to a normal reentry condition for the manned spacecraft after firing of the retrorockets at an altitude of 120 nautical miles. Space Technology Laboratories would also provide impact dispersion data, data for range safety purposes, and the necessary reprograming of the guidance computers. The spacecraft for the suborbital Atlas flights would be manufactured under the deriction of the Lewis Research Center, based on Space Task Group designs. Space Task Group was developing the spacecraft instrumentation, with a contingent of personnel at the Lewis Research Center. The attitude control system was being developed by Lewis.
Discussions were held at Langley Field between the Space Task Group and the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division covering aspects of the use of Atlas launch vehicles in Project Mercury. Specifically discussed were technical details of the first Atlas test flight (Big Joe), the abort sensing capability for later flights, and overall program objectives.
Space Technology Laboratories and Convair completed an analysis of flight instrumentation necessary to support the Mercury-Atlas program. The primary objective of the study was to select a light-weight telemetry system. A system weighing 270 pounds was recommended, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration concurred with the proposal.
An agreement was made with the Air Force for Space Task Group to place microphone pickups on the skin of the Atlas launch vehicle as a part of the instrumentation to measure noise level during the Big Joe-Atlas launching. Distribution of the microphones was as follows: one inside the Mercury spacecraft, three externally about midway of the launch vehicle, and one on the Atlas skirt.
NASA Headquarters authorized the Space Task Group to enter into negotiations with the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division for the procurement of additional Atlas launch vehicles in support of Project Mercury. The authorization was to be incorporated into Contract No. HS-36.
|Atlas D Mercury BW|
Credit: NASA. 30,134 bytes. 361 x 474 pixels.
A Big Joe Atlas boilerplate Mercury spacecraft model was successfully launched and flown from Cape Canaveral, although booster-engine separation did not occur. Objectives of this test flight were to determine the performance of the ablation shield and measure afterbody heating; to determine the flight dynamics of the spacecraft during reentry; to evaluate the adequacy of the spacecraft recovery system and procedures; to familiarize operating personnel with Atlas launch procedures; to evaluate loads on the spacecraft while in the flight environment; to observe and evaluate the operation of the spacecraft control system; and to recover the spacecraft. The flight was considered to be highly successful, and a majority of the test objectives were attained. The heat shield temperatures (reaching a peak of 3,500 degrees F) were below those expected, but were close enough to provide data for the engineering design of the Mercury heat shield. Space Task Group officials were also pleased that the spacecraft could reenter the atmosphere at high angles-of-attack and maintain its heat shield in a forward position without using the control system. The spacecraft was picked up by the recovery force about 8 hours after lift-off. Because of the success of this flight, a similar launch was considered unnecessary and accordingly was canceled.
First West Coast launch of an Atlas (12D). Afterwards, General Thomas S. Power, Commander in Chief of Strategic Air Command, declared the Atlas system to be operational.
Suborbital. NASA boilerplate model of Mercury capsule successfully launched on an Atlas (Big Joe) missile from AMR and recovered in South Atlantic after surviving reentry heat of more than 10,000°F.
USAF Atlas successfully launched from Cape Canaveral carrying a nose-cone camera which took a series of photographs of the earth's cloud cover from a 300-mile altitude.
A proposal was made by Walter C. Williams, Associate Director of Project Mercury Operations, that the Mercury-Atlas flight test working group become an official and standing coordination body. This group brought together representation from the Space Task Group, Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, Convair Astronautics, McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, and the Atlantic Missile Range. Personnel from these organizations had met informally in the past on several occasions.
At a meeting to draft fiscal year 1962 funding estimates, the total purchase of Atlas launch vehicles was listed as 15, and the total purchase of Mercury spacecraft was listed as 26.
Credit: © Mark Wade. 1,712 bytes. 75 x 399 pixels.
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.
The Mercury-Atlas working panels were reorganized into four groups: coordination, flight test, trajectory analysis, and change control. Each panel was composed of at least one representative from NASA (Space Task Group), McDonnell, Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, Space Technology Laboratory, and Convair-Astronautics.
Atlas ICBM fired 9,040 statute miles from AMR to Indian Ocean, longest known flight of an ICBM to date. Missile attained an apogee of about 1,000 miles.
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-Atlas 1 (MA-1) was launched from the Atlantic Missile Range in a test of spacecraft structural integrity under maximum heating conditions. After 58.5 seconds of flight, MA-1 exploded and the spacecraft was destroyed upon impact off-shore. None of the primary capsule test objectives were met. The mission objectives were to check the integrity of the spacecraft structure and afterbody shingles for a reentry associated with a critical abort and to evaluate the open-loop performance of the Atlas abort-sensing instrumentation system. The spacecraft contained no escape system and no test subject. Standard posigrade rockets were used to separate the spacecraft from the Atlas, but the retrorockets were dummies. The flight was terminated because of a launch vehicle and adapter structural failure. The spacecraft was destroyed upon impact with the water because the recovery system was not designed to actuate under the imposed flight conditions. Later most of the spacecraft, the booster engines, and the liquid oxygen vent valve were recovered from the ocean floor. Since none of the primary flight objectives was achieved, Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) was planned to fulfill the mission.
|Atlas D Mercury|
Credit: NASA. 15,917 bytes. 261 x 386 pixels.
Because of the failure of the Big Joe Atlas test flight and the Mercury-Atlas 1 (MA-1) flight to attain all its mission objectives, the overall Mercury-Atlas program underwent an exhaustive review. In the Big Joe firing, velocity and range had been considerably below nominal values because the launch vehicle had failed to stage, and spacecraft separation had been delayed because of recontact. In the Mercury-Atlas 1 flight, launch vehicle performance was normal until about 57.6 seconds of flight, and the launch vehicle was destroyed at 59 seconds. Neither flight had sufficient instrumentation to pinpoint the exact cause of the failures; therefore, an extensive evaluation and test program was initiated. Meetings on these matters began immediately among the interested parties to coordinate findings and recommendations for solutions (for instance, Aug. 9 - summary evaluation of Mercury-Atlas 1 data at Los Angeles; Aug. 11 - evaluation summary meeting at the Atlantic Missile Range; Aug. 22 - Investigation Panel meeting at McDonnell; Sept. 9 - Investigation Panel meeting at Convair Astronautics; Sept. 14 - management meeting at Atlantic Missile Range; Sept. 26 - Instrumentation and Wind Tunnel Test Conference at Space Task Group; Oct. 3-8 - Vibration Tests at McDonnell; Oct. 3-8 - wind tunnel tests at the Arnold Engineering Development Center; and Nov. 16 - test program summary at Space Task Group. During the course of these meetings and tests, it was the considered opinion of Space Task Group and other interested parties that the trouble had developed in the spacecraft interface area. One of the tests involved stiffening the adapter rings, and later tests showed that this solution was quite satisfactory. Tests also showed there were some moderately high stresses in the launch vehicle near a welded joint just aft of the adapter, and this area was strengthened by adding a band stiffener, which proved to be satisfactory. It was also decided for the upcoming Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) mission that additional instrumentation would be integrated with the spacecraft and launch vehicle in order to define loads on the vehicle in the interface area, to measure pressure on and in the adapter, and to measure any undue responses in this area. Still another decision was that the Atlas launch vehicle, commencing with Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) would be a 'thick-skin' configuration. These findings and recommendations were presented to a NASA/Air Force ad hoc group on February 13 through 17, 1961, commonly known as the Rhode (NASA)-Worthman (Air Force) committee. The committee studied the Space Task Group proposals for the Atlas launch vehicle and adapter modifications and approved the test findings and the contemplated action.
Representatives of NASA, McDonnell, Ballistic Missile Division, Space Technology Laboratories, and Convair met at Cape Canaveral and later at Convair Astronautics (Aug. 30, 1960) to discuss the Mercury-Atlas 1 (MA-1) mission malfunction. James A. Chamberlin of the Space Task Group was appointed chairman of a joint committee to resolve the problems and to provide a solution prior to the Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) mission. Work accomplished at this meeting is as follows: A complete analysis of Mercury-Atlas 1 flight data and correlation of the data with data of all previous Atlas flights; a special dynamic load analysis; study of vibration tests of spacecraft, adapter, and the Atlas upper tank section; and review of wind tunnel studies of buffeting loads on spacecraft, adapter, and the Atlas upper tank sections.
Atlas ICBM fired 9,000 miles from Cape Canaveral to the Indian Ocean in 50 minutes, the second record distance flight.
The Atlas launch vehicle 67-D was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) reentry test mission.
The roll-out inspection of Mercury Atlas launch vehicle 77-D was conducted at Convair-Astronautics. This launch vehicle was allocated for the Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) mission, but was later canceled and Atlas booster 100-D was used instead.
|Mercury Atlas 9|
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USAF Atlas launched at AMR placed nose cone containing three black mice 650 miles up and 5,000 miles downrange at 17,000 mph. Nose cone was recovered in target area near Ascension Island, the three mice surviving the flight in "good condition."
Spacecraft No. 8 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) unmanned orbital mission.
Final test flight of USAF Atlas D traveled 5,000 miles to target down Atlantic Missile Range, representing 35 successes, 8 partials, and 6 failures in 49 test launchings for D model.
Spacecraft, mission, and launch vehicle flight safety rules for the Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) mission were reviewed by Space Task Group personnel.
Information was released by NASA Headquarters that Space Task Group engineers directing Project Mercury had selected the flight trajectory for the Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) mission. This trajectory was designed to provide the most severe reentry heating conditions which could be encountered on an emergency abort during an orbital flight attempt. The reentry heating rate was estimated to be 30 percent higher than a normal Mercury orbital reentry, and temperatures were predicted to be about 25 percent higher at certain locations on the afterbody of the spacecraft. In addition, the deceleration g-load was calculated to be about twice that expected for a normal reentry from orbit.
Mercury-Atlas 2 (MA-2) was launched from Cape Canaveral in a test to check maximum heating and its effects during the worst reentry design conditions. The flight closely matched the desired trajectory and attained a maximum altitude of 114.04 statute miles and a range of 1,431.6 statute miles. Inspection of the spacecraft aboard the recovery ship some 55 minutes after launch (actual flight time was 17.56 minutes) indicated that test objectives were met, since the structure and heat protection elements appeared to be in excellent condition. The flight control team obtained satisfactory data; and the complete launch computing and display system, operating for the first time in a flight, performed satisfactorily.
Spacecraft No. 9 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5) orbital primate (Enos) mission.
Factory roll-out inspection of Atlas launch vehicle No. 100-D was conducted at Convair-Astronautics. This launch vehicle was allocated for the Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) mission.
Atlas launch vehicle 100-D was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) mission.
The Mercury-Atlas Missile Range Projects Office, headed by Elmer H. Buller, was designated as a staff function of the Space Task Group Director's office.
Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) was launched from Cape Canaveral in an attempt to orbit the spacecraft with a 'mechanical astronaut' aboard. After lift-off, the launch vehicle failed to roll to a 70 degree heading and to pitch over into the proper trajectory. The abort-sensing system activated the escape rockets prior to the launch vehicle's destruction by the range safety officer after approximately 40 seconds of flight that had attained an altitude of 16,400 feet. The spacecraft then coasted up to 24,000 feet, deployed its parachutes, and landed in the Atlantic Ocean 2,000 yards north of the launch pad. The spacecraft was recovered and was found to have incurred only superficial damage; it was then shipped to McDonnell for refitting.
|Mercury Atlas 5|
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Mercury spacecraft 8A was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) orbital unmanned (mechanical astronaut) mission.
An Atlas investigation board was convened to study the cause of the Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) mission launch vehicle failure. Several possible areas were considered, and three were isolated as probable causes based on a review of test data.
A 30 day centrifuge training program was conducted at the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory directed entirely toward training the astronauts for the Mercury-Atlas orbital missions.
Factory roll-out inspection of Atlas launch vehicle 88-D, designated for the Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) mission, was conducted at Convair.
Atlas launch vehicle 88-D was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) mission.
Retrofire-from-orbit mission rules were published for the unmanned Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) orbital flight.
Key personnel operational assignments for the Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) unmanned orbital mission were made by the Space Task Group.
Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) was launched from Cape Canaveral with special vibration and noise instrumentation and a mechanical crewman simulator aboard in addition to the normal spacecraft equipment. This was the first Mercury spacecraft to attain an earth orbit. The orbital apogee was 123 nautical miles and the perigee was 86 nautical miles. After one orbit, the spacecraft's orbital timing device triggered the retrograde rockets, and the spacecraft splashed in the Atlantic Ocean 161 miles east of Bermuda. Recovery was made by the USS Decatur. During the flight, only three slight deviations were noted - a small leak in the oxygen system; loss of voice contact over Australia; and the failure of an inverter in the environmental control system. Overall, the flight was highly successful: the Atlas booster performed well and demonstrated that it was ready for the manned flight, the spacecraft systems operated well, and the Mercury global tracking network and telemetry operated in an excellent manner and was ready to support manned orbital flight.
Mission rules for the Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5) orbital flight were published. Revisions were issued on October 16 and 25, 1961, and November 11, 1961.
Factory roll-out inspection of Atlas booster No. 93-D was conducted at Convair. This booster was designated for the Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5) mission.
USAF Atlas fired 9,000 miles for Atlantic Missile Range into Indian Ocean, carrying dummy nuclear warhead and a data capsule which was recovered.
Atlas booster No. 93-D was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5) orbital flight mission.
USAF Atlas with capsule containing squirrel monkey destroyed by range safety officer at Atlantic Missile Range when main sustainer engine failed 15 seconds after launch.
Mercury-Atlas 5, scheduled for launch no earlier than November 14, ran into technical difficulties, postponing launch for several days.
|Atlas manned lab|
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Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5), the second and final orbital qualification of the spacecraft prior to manned flight was launched from Cape Canaveral with Enos, a 37.5 pound chimpanzee, aboard. Scheduled for three orbits, the spacecraft was returned to earth after two orbits due to the failure of a roll reaction jet and to the overheating of an inverter in the electrical system. Both of these difficulties could have been corrected had an astronaut been aboard. The spacecraft was recovered 255 miles southeast of Bermuda by the USS Stormes. During the flight, the chimpanzee performed psychomotor duties and upon recovery was found to be in excellent physical condition. The flight was termed highly successful and the Mercury spacecraft well qualified to support manned orbital flight.
Atlas launch vehicle 109-D was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) first manned orbital mission.
Recovery area swimmers were trained at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, Florida, for use in the Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) manned orbital mission. Instruction included films, briefings, auxiliary flotation collar deployment, and jumps from a helicopter.
Spacecraft 16 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the third manned (Schirra) orbital flight, Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8).
The Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) manned orbital flight was postponed at T-minus 29 minutes due to weather conditions.
The Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) mission was postponed because of technical difficulties with the launch vehicle.
Unfavorable weather conditions caused the Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) manned orbital mission to be postponed.
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).
First US manned orbital mission. John Glenn finally puts America in orbit. False landing bag deploy light led to reentry being started with retropack left in place on heat shield. It turned out that indicator light was false and a spectacular reentry ensued, with glowing chunks of the retropack whizzing by the window. After four hours and 43 minutes the spacecraft reentered the atmosphere and landed at 2:43 pm EST in the planned recovery area NE of the Island of Puerto Rico. All flight objectives were achieved. Glenn was reported to be in excellent condition. Beause of failure of one of the automatic systems, the astronaut took over manual control of the spacecraft during part of the flight. With this flight, the basic objectives of Project Mercury had been achieved. Additional Details: Mercury 6.
A metal fragment, identified by numbers stamped on it as a part of the Atlas that boosted Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) into orbit, landed on a farm in South Africa after about 8 hours in orbit.
Factory roll-out inspection of Atlas launch vehicle 107-D, designated for the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) manned orbital mission, was conducted at Convair.
Atlas launch vehicle 107-D was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) mission.
NASA Headquarters publicly announced that Scott Carpenter would pilot the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) manned orbital mission replacing Donald Slayton. The latter, formerly scheduled for the flight, was disqualified because of a minor erratic heart rate.
NASA sponsored a 1-day symposium in Washington on the results of the Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) three-orbit flight of John Glenn. One of the items of particular interest was Glenn's 'fire-flies,' or luminous particles, and their possible origin.
Swimmer training was started for the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) manned orbital mission recovery area. Instruction consisted of films, briefings, exercises in deploying the auxiliary flotation collar, and jumps from a helicopter.
Scott Carpenter in Aurora 7 is enthralled by his environment but uses too much orientation fuel. Yaw error and late retrofire caused the landing impact point to be over 300 km beyond the intended area and beyond radio range of the recovery forces. Landing occurred 4 hours and 56 minutes after liftoff. Astronaut Carpenter was later picked up safely by a helicopter after a long wait in the ocean and fears for his safety. NASA was not impressed and Carpenter left the agency soon thereafter to become an aquanaut. Additional Details: Mercury 7.
Atlas launch vehicle No. 113-D was inspected at Convair and accepted for the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) manned orbital mission.
Atlas launch vehicle 113-D was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) manned orbital mission.
Atlas launch vehicle 113-D for the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) manned orbital mission was static-fired at Cape Canaveral. This test was conducted to check modifications that had been made to the booster for the purpose of smoother engine combustion.
The Sigma 7 spacecraft with Astronaut Walter M. Schirra, Jr., as pilot was launched into orbit by a Mercury-Atlas vehicle from Atlantic Missile Range. In the most successful American manned space flight to date, Schirra traveled nearly six orbits, returning to earth at a predetermined point in the Pacific Ocean 9 hours, 13 minutes after liftoff. Within 40 minutes after landing, he and his spacecraft were safely aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Kearsarge. Schirra attempted and achieved a nearly perfect mission by sticking rigorously to mission plan. Additional Details: Mercury 8.
Astronaut Schirra expressed his belief that the spacecraft was ready for the 1-day mission, that he experienced absolutely no difficulties with his better than 9 hours of weightlessness, and that the flight was of the 'textbook' variety.
Spacecraft 20 was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) 1-day mission flight.
Gordon Cooper was named as the pilot for Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) 1-day orbital mission slated for April 1963. Alan Shepard, pilot of Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) was designated as backup pilot.
Mercury spacecraft 15A was delivered to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10) orbital manned 1-day mission.
Retrofire was reported to have initiated 2 seconds late during the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) mission. Because of this, the mechanics and tolerances of the Mercury orbital timing device were reviewed for the benefit of operational personnel, and the procedural sequence for Mercury retrofire initiation was outlined.
Mercury Simulator 2 was modified to the 1-day Mercury orbital configuration in preparation for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) flight.
Tentative plans were made by NASA to extend the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) flight from 18 to 22 orbits.
This was the ninth flight of a production Mercury spacecraft to be boosted by an Atlas launch vehicle and the sixth manned United States space flight. According to plans, MA-9 would complete almost 22 orbits and be recovered approximately 70 nautical miles from Midway Island in the Pacific Ocean. Primary objectives of the flight were to evaluate the effects of the space environment on an astronaut after more than 1 but less than 2 days in orbit. During this period, close attention would be given to the astronaut's ability to function as a primary operating system of the spacecraft while in a sustained period of weightlessness. The capability of the spacecraft to perform over the extended period of time would be closely monitored. From postflight information, data would be available from the pilot and the spacecraft to ascertain, to a degree, the feasibility of space flights over a much greater period of time - Project Gemini, for example. In addition, the extended duration of the MA-9 mission provided a check on the effectiveness of the worldwide tracking network that could assist in determining the tracking requirement for the advanced manned space flight programs.
Originally scheduled for April, the launch date was delayed by a decision to rewire the Mercury-Atlas flight control system, as a result of the launch vehicle checkout at the plant inspection meeting.
Spacecraft 20 was moved from Hanger S at Cape Canaveral to Complex 14 and mated to Atlas launch vehicle 130-D in preparation for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) mission. The first simulated flight test was begun immediately.
A number of improvements had been made to the Mercury pressure suit for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) flight. These included a mechanical seal for the helmet, new gloves with an improved inner-liner and link netting between the inner and outer fabrics at the wrist, and an increased mobility torso section. The MA-9 boots were integrated with the suit to provide additional comfort for the longer mission, to reduce weight, and to provide an easier and shorter donning time. Another change relocated the life vest from the center of the chest to a pocket on the lower left leg. This modification removed the bulkiness from the front of the suit and provided for more comfort during the flight. These are but a few of the changes.
Final Mercury mission, Faith 7, was piloted by Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. After 22 orbits, virtually all spacecraft systems had failed, and Cooper manually fired the retrorockets and the spacecraft reentered the atmosphere, landing safely in the Pacific Ocean 34 hours, 19 minutes, and 49 seconds after liftoff. Cooper was reported in good condition, and this turned out to be the final Mercury flight. Additional Details: Mercury 9.
In preparation for the Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10) mission, should the flight be approved by NASA Headquarters, several environmental control system changes were made in spacecraft 15B. Particularly involved were improvements in the hardware and flexibility of the urine and condensate systems. With regard to the condensate portion, Gordon Cooper, in his press conference, indicated that the system was not easy to operate during the flight of Faith 7 (MA-9).
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.
Radiation data. Space craft engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A).
Optical radiation test. Space craft engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A).
Thermal control experiments. Space craft engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A).
Space craft engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A).
Radiation bio-hazard experiments. Space craft engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A).
Radiation data. Space craft engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A).
Carried cosmic ray telescope. Space craft engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A).
Solar flare observations. Space craft engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A).
OV-1 11 did not reach orbit.
Final launch of an Atlas D missile (first operational at Vandenberg on 9 September 1959).