Daily Archives: December 5, 2017

5 December 2014, 12:05 UTC, T minus Zero

The first Orion spacecraft lifts off from LC 37, Kennedy Space Center, Cape canaveral, Florida, aboatd a Delta IV Heavy. (Reuters)
The first Orion spacecraft lifts off from Space Launch Complex 37, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a Delta IV Heavy. (Mike Brown/Reuters)

5 December 2014: At 7:05 a.m., EST, a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy carried the first Lockheed Martin Corp. Orion spacecraft, EFT-1, into Earth orbit.

This was the first test flight of the new deep space vehicle. There were no astronauts aboard.

Liftoff weight of the Orion/Delta IV Heavy was 1,630,000 pounds (739,356 kilograms).

The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle is produced by Lockheed Martin Corporation, and consists of a Launch Abort System, Crew Module, Service Module and a Stage Adapter. Gross weight at liftoff is 78,010 pounds (35,385 kilograms). The Crew Module accommodates 4 astronauts. Its gross liftoff weight is 22,900 pounds (10,387 kilograms), and landing weight is 20,500 pounds (9,299 kilograms). The crew area has a volume of 316 cubic feet (8.95 cubic meters).

Artist's conception of an Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle in Low Earth Orbit. (NASA)
Artist’s conception of an Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle in Low Earth Orbit. (NASA)

A series of eight parachutes decelerates the Orion Crew Module on re-entry. Touch-down speed is planned for less than 20 miles per hour (32 kilometers per hour).

On its second orbit, the space craft reached an altitude of approximately 3,600 miles (5,794 kilometers). This allowed the vehicle’s re-entry speed to exceed 20,000 miles per hour (32,187 kilometers per hour), generating heat shield temperatures of over 4,000 °F. (2,204 °C.)

The Orion completed two orbits and landed in the eastern Pacific Ocean, approximately 650 miles (1,046 kilometers) southwest of San Diego, California.

The Delta IV Heavy combines a Delta IV two-stage liquid-fueled rocket with two Common Core Boosters. It is capable of placing a 63,471 pound (28,790 kilograms) payload into Low Earth Orbit.

The Delta IV Common Booster Core is 134.0 feet (40.8 meters) long and 16 feet, 10.0 inches (5.131 meters) in diameter. They are each powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A engine, producing 705,250 pounds of thrust (3,137.11 kilonewtons), at Sea Level, each, giving the Delta IV Heavy a total of 2,115,750 pounds of thrust (9,411.32 at liftoff. The RS-68A is 17.1 feet (5.21 meters) long, 8.0 feet (2.44 meters) in diameter, and weighs 14,870 pounds (6,745 kilograms).

The Delta IV Heavy’s second stage is 42.8 feet (13.05 meters) long, and is also 16 feet, 10.0 inches in diameter. It uses an Aerojet Rocketdyne RL-10B-2 engine, producing 24,750 pounds of thrust (110.09 kilonewtons) of thrust. The RL-10B-2 is 13.6 feet (4.15 meters) long, 7.0 feet (2.13 meters) in diameter, and weighs 611 pounds (277 kilograms).

All engines are fueled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

47–49 seconds after liftoff, depending on launch profile, the first stage (center CBC) engine throttles down to 54.5%, while the boosters remain at full throttle. After 235 seconds of flight, the booster engines throttle down to 54.5%, and 7 seconds later, cut off. The boosters are jettisoned at 245 seconds. 1 second later, the first stage RS-68 throttles up to 108.5%. It cuts of at 328 seconds, and the first and second stage separate at 334 seconds. The second stage engine ignites at 347 seconds, and cuts off at 411–421 seconds.

Orion/Delta IV Heavy liftoff at Launch Complex 37B, 5 December 2014. (United Launch Alliance)
Orion/Delta IV Heavy liftoff at Launch Complex 37B, 7:05 a.m., 5 December 2014. (United Launch Alliance)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 December 1963

RUSHWORTH, Robert H., Major General, USAF5 December 1963: On Flight 97 of the X-15 Program, Major Robert A. Rushworth flew the number one aircraft, Air Force serial number 56-6670, to an altitude of 101,000 feet 30,785 meters) and reached Mach 6.06 (4,018 miles per hour/6,466 kilometers per hour).

The rocketplane was dropped from the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress “mother ship” 52-008, Balls 8, flying at 450 knots (833.4 kilometers per hour) at 45,000 feet (13,716 meters) over Delamar Dry Lake, Nevada. Rushworth ignited the Reaction Motors XLR-99-RM-1 rocket engine, which burned for 81.2 seconds before shutting down.

The flight plan had called for an altitude of 104,000 feet (31,699 meters), a 78 second burn and a maximum speed of Mach 5.70. With the difficulties of flying such a powerful rocketplane, Rushworth’s flight was actually fairly close to plan. During the flight the right inner windshield cracked.

Bob Rushworth landed the X-15 on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, California, after a flight of 9 minutes, 34.0 seconds.

Mach 6.06 was the highest Mach number reached for an unmodified X-15.

56-6670 flew 81 of the 199 flights of the X-15 Program. It is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

From 1960 and 1966, Bob Rushworth made 34 flights in the three X-15s, more than any other pilot.

North American Aviation Inc./U.S. Air Force/NASA X-15A 56-6670 hypersonic research rocketplane on display at the National Air and Space Museum. (Photo by Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)
North American Aviation Inc./U.S. Air Force/NASA X-15A 56-6670 hypersonic research rocketplane on display at the National Air and Space Museum. (Photo by Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 December 1961

Commander George W. Ellis, United States Navy, with his World Record-holding McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 142260. (U.S. Navy)
Commander George W. Ellis, United States Navy, with his World Record-holding McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 142260. Commander Ellis is wearing B.F. Goodrich Mark IV full-pressure suit. (U.S. Navy)

5 December 1961: Commander George William Ellis, United States Navy, established a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude in Horizontal Flight when he flew the McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 142260, to 20,252 meters (66,444 feet)¹ over Edwards Air Force Base, in the high desert of southern California. The Phantom II maintained this altitude while traveling at Mach 2.2 (1,452 miles per hour, or 2,236 kilometers per hour).

For this flight, Commander Ellis was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by Admiral George Whelen Anderson, Jr., Chief of Naval Operations.

McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 142260, during Operation Skyburner, 22 November 1961. (U.S. Navy)
McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 142260, during Operation Skyburner, 22 November 1961. (U.S. Navy)

This was the same Phantom II which set a world speed record only 13 days earlier, when Lieutenant Colonel Robert B. Robinson, U.S. Marine Corps, flew it to 2,585.425 kilometers per hour (1,606.509 miles per hour) in Operation Skyburner, 22 November 1961.²

Two years earlier, 6 December 1959, 142260 almost made it into space when Commander Lawrence E. Flint, Jr., U.S. Navy, used a zoom climb maneuver to fly it to 98,557 feet (30,040 meters) in Operation Top Flight.³

McDonnell YF4H-1 Bu. No. 142260 was the second prototype of the Phantom II. The world record-holding aircraft is reported to be in storage at the San Diego Air and Space Museum’s Gillespie Field Annex restoration facility, El Cajon, California.

Commander George William Ellis, United States Navy
Commander George William Ellis, United States Navy
George W. Ellis as a senior at Ardmore High School, circa 1941. (The Criterion)
George W. Ellis as a senior at Ardmore High School, circa 1941. (The Criterion)

George William Ellis was born at Ardmore, Oklahoma, 22 June 1924. He was the second of three children of Fred Roscoe Ellis, a corporate attorney, and Jeannette Manning Moore Ellis.

He attended Ardmore High School, participated in oratory and was a member of the honor society. After graduating from high school in 1941, Ellis attended the Marion Military Institute, Marion, Alabama. He entered the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, 11 July 1942, as a midshipman in the Class of 1945. (Because of the war, classes at Annapolis were accelerated.) George Ellis graduated and was commissioned as an Ensign, United States Navy, 6 June 1945. (Signal No. 25000)

On the same day, Ensign Ellis married Miss Elizabeth Adelheid Schlack at Annapolis. They had one son, John Manning Ellis, who died in infancy. They divorced in 1970. Mrs. Ellis died in 1985.

Ensign and Mrs. George W. Ellis, 6 June 1945.
Ensign and Mrs. George W. Ellis, 6 June 1945.

Ensign Ellis served aboard USS Bataan (CVL-29), an Independence-class light aircraft carrier, which was part of Operation Magic Carpet, returning American soldiers home from Europe after the end of World War II, and then repatriating Italian prisoners of war from the United States to Italy. Ellis was then assigned to USS Duluth (CL-87), a Cleveland-class light cruiser, on a cruise to the Far East.

Ensign Ellis was promoted to the rank lieutenant, junior grade, effective 6 June 1948. He was trained as a pilot, and was designated as a Naval Aviator in January 1949. He was assigned to Anti-Submarine Squadron 22 (VS-22, “Checkmates”) at NAS Norfolk, Virginia, flying the TBF/TBM Avenger. Lieutenant (j.g.) Ellis also was assigned to the staff of a carrier division commander, and the went the Advanced Training Command as a flight instructor.

Ellis was promoted to lieutenant, 1 August 1951. He attended the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, 1954–55. His next operational assignment was to VF-211 (“Checkmates”) aboard USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31). The fighter squadron was transitioning from the North American Aviation FJ-3 Fury to the Chance Vought F8U-1 Crusader. Ellis was promoted to lieutenant commander, 1 June 1957. He was assigned to VF-124 (“Gunfighters”) at NAS Moffett Field, California, as an instructor and maintenance officer for the F8U.

In June 1959, Lieutenant Commander Ellis attended the United States Naval Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. After graduating, he was assigned as project pilot on the new McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II. He was promoted to Commander with date of rank 1 July 1961.

McDonnell F-4B Phantom II Bu. No. 148381 of VF-74, assigned to USS Forrestal (CV-59). (United States Navy)
McDonnell F-4B-6-MC Phantom II Bu. No. 148381 of VF-74, assigned to USS Forrestal (CV-59). (United States Navy)

In August 1962, Commander Ellis was assigned as executive officer of Fighter Squadron 74 (VF-74, “Be-Devilers”) aboard USS Forrestal (CVA-59), for the first operational deployment of the Phantom II (the F4H-1 was redesignated F-4B in 1962). He took command of VF-211 in May 1963, then in May 1964, took over VF-101 (“Grim Reapers”) at NAS Key West, Florida.

In 1965, Commander Ellis served as the Operations Officer of USS Forrestal, and became the aircraft carrier’s executive officer in 1966. Ellis was promoted to the rank of Captain, 1 October 1966. He was then assigned to the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Thomas Hinman Moorer. After his tour at the Pentagon, Captain Ellis went to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) at NAS Patuxent River as project manager for the F-8 Crusader Service Life Extension Program.

From 10 December 1968 to21 January 1970, Captain Ellis commanded USS Arcturus (AF-52), an Alstede-class stores ship. (A “deep-draft command,” that is, command of a large naval ship, is generally considered a prerequisite to being selected for command of an aircraft carrier.)

USS Arcturus (AF-52)
USS Arcturus (AF-52) (BMCS Richard Miller, United States Navy)

After assignment as the head of the Fleet Operations Branch in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Capatin Ellis retired from the Navy in 28 February 1973 after 31 years of service.

On 30 November 1974, Captain Ellis married Mrs. Barbara Young Clayton at Fort Myer, Virginia.

Captain Ellis died at Harrisonburg, Virginia, 6 July 2010, at the age of 86 years.

¹ FAI Record File Number 8535

² FAI Record File Number 9060

³ FAI Record File Number 10352

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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