Category Archives: Space Flight

22 May 1969, 21:30:43 UTC, T + 100:41:43

After descending to within 8.2 miles of the Moon's surface, Lunar Module Snoopy rendezvous with Command Module Charlie Brown in Lunar Orbit, 22 May 1969. (NASA)
After descending to within 8.2 miles (14.4 kilometers) of the Moon’s surface, Lunar Module Snoopy rendezvouses with Command and Service Module Charlie Brown in Lunar Orbit, 22 May 1969. (NASA)

22 May 1969, 21:30:43 UTC: Just over 100 hours after launch from Kennedy Space Center, Snoopy, the Lunar Module for the Apollo 10 mission came within 47,400 feet (14,447.5 meters) of the Lunar surface during a full dress rehearsal for the upcoming Apollo 11 landing. Mission Commander Thomas P. Stafford and Lunar Module Pilot Eugene A. Cernan rode Snoopy toward the surface and back, while John W. Young remained in orbit around the Moon aboard the Command and Service Module, Charlie Brown.

Thomas P. Stafford had flown two previous missions in the Gemini Program, Gemini 6 and Gemini 9. Apollo 10 was his third space flight.

John Watts Young flew six space missions: Gemini 3 and Gemini 10, Apollo 10 and Apollo 16, and Space Shuttle missions STS-1 and STS-9. He was to command STS-61J when the space shuttle fleet was grounded following the loss of Challenger. Young has flown 34 days, 19 hours, 39 seconds in space. He made 3 EVAs with a total of 20 hours, 14 minutes, 14 seconds outside his spacecraft.

Eugene A. Cernan had flown Gemini 9 with Stafford. He would later fly Apollo 17 back to the Moon. On 13 December 1972, Gene Cernan was the last man to stand on the surface of the Moon.

Charlie Brown, the Apollo 10 Command and Service Module in lunar orbit, 22 May 1969. (NASA)
Charlie Brown, the Apollo 10 Command and Service Module in lunar orbit, 22 May 1969. (NASA)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 May 1969

Apollo 11/Saturn V (AS-506) on the crawler transporter at Kennedy Space center, Cape Canaveral Florida, 20 May 1969. (NASA)
Apollo 11/Saturn V (AS-506) and its Mobile Launch Platform on one of the two Crawler–Transporters at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, 20 May 1969. (NASA)

20 May 1969: The Apollo 11 Saturn V (SA-506) “stack” was rolled out of the Vehicle Assembly Building aboard a Mobile Launch Platform, carried by a Crawler-Transporter, and moved to Launch Complex 39A. The rocket would be launched for the Moon at 13:32:00 UTC, 16 July 1969.

The two Crawler-Transporters are the world’s largest self-propelled land vehicles. They were designed and built by Marion Power Shovel Company, Marion, Ohio, and were assembled on Merritt Island. (The Crawlerway connected the island to mainland Florida, so that it now forms a peninsula.) They are 131 feet (39.9 meters) long and 113 feet  (34.4 meters) wide. The height is adjustable from 20 feet (6.1 meters) to 26 feet (7.9 meters). The load deck is 90 feet × 90 feet (27.4 × 27.4 meters). The transporters weigh 2,721 metric tons (3,000 tons).

A Crawler-Transporter carrying a Mobile Launch Platform. (NASA)

The Crawler-Transporters were powered by two 10,687.7-cubic-inch-displacement (175.1 liters) liquid-cooled, turbosupercharged, American Locomotive Company (ALCO) V-16 251C 45° sixteen-cylinder 4-cycle diesel engines. This engine produced 2,750 horsepower. The engines drive four 1,000 kilowatt electric generators. These in turn supply electricity to sixteen 375 horsepower traction motors.

Two 1,065 horsepower White-Superior eight-cylinder diesel engines provide electrical and hydraulic power to operate the crawlers’ systems. The hydraulic system operates at 5,200 p.s.i.

The maximum loaded speed is 0.9 miles per hour (1.4 kilometers per hour).

Since the time of the Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs, the Crawler-Transporters have been upgraded to handle the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rockets. The original ALCO locomotive engines have been replaced by two Cummins QSK95 16-cylinder diesel/C3000-series 1,500 kW power generation units. The new engine displaces 5,797 cubic inches and produces a maximum 4,200 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m. The QSK95 has 46% less displacement than the old ALCO, weighs 39% less, but produces 57% more horsepower. The generators also double the electrical output.

Inside the Vehicle Assembly Building, a Cummins power generation unit is lowered into a Crawler-Transporter. (NASA)

The Saturn V rocket was a three-stage, liquid-fueled heavy launch vehicle. Fully assembled with the Apollo Command and Service Module, it stood 363 feet (110.642 meters) tall. The first and second stages were 33 feet (10.058 meters) in diameter. Fully loaded and fueled the rocket weighed 6,200,000 pounds (2,948,350 kilograms). It could lift a payload of 260,000 pounds (117,934 kilograms) to Low Earth Orbit.

A Saturn V S-IC first stage being lifted inside the Vehicle Assembly Building. (NASA 68-HC-70)

The first stage was designated S-IC. It was designed to lift the entire rocket to an altitude of 220,000 feet (67,056 meters) and accelerate to a speed of more than 5,100 miles per hour (8,280 kilometers per hour). The S-IC stage was built by Boeing at the Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, Louisiana. It was 138 feet (42.062 meters) tall and had an empty weight of 290,000 pounds (131,542 kilograms). Fully fueled with 203,400 gallons (770,000 liters) of RP-1 and 318,065 gallons (1,204,000 liters) of liquid oxygen, the stage weighed 5,100,000 pounds (2,131,322 kilograms). It was propelled by five Rocketdyne F-1 engines, producing 1,522,000 pounds of thrust, each, for a total of 7,610,000 pounds of thrust at Sea Level. These engines were ignited seven seconds prior to lift off and the outer four burned for 168 seconds. The center engine was shut down after 142 seconds to reduce the rate of acceleration. The F-1 engines were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation at Canoga Park, California.

A Saturn V S-II second stage being positioned above the S-IC first stage. (NASA MSFC-67-58331)

The S-II second stage was built by North American Aviation at Seal Beach, California. It was 81 feet, 7 inches (24.87 meters) tall and had the same diameter as the first stage. The second stage weighed 80,000 pounds (36,000 kilograms) empty and 1,060,000 pounds loaded. The propellant for the S-II was liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The stage was powered by five Rocketdyne J-2 engines, also built at Canoga Park. Each engine produced 232,250 pounds of thrust, and combined, 1,161,250 pounds of thrust.

A Saturn V S-IVB third stage with its Rocketdyne J-2 engine. ( NASA)

The Saturn V third stage was designated S-IVB. It was built by McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Company at Huntington Beach, California. The S-IVB was 58 feet, 7 inches (17.86 meters) tall with a diameter of 21 feet, 8 inches (6.604 meters). It had a dry weight of 23,000 pounds (10,000 kilograms) and fully fueled weighed 262,000 pounds. The third stage had one J-2 engine and also used liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for propellant. The S-IVB wou place the Command and Service Module into Low Earth Orbit, then, when all was ready, the J-2 would be restarted for the Trans Lunar Injection.

Eighteen Saturn V rockets were built. They were the most powerful machines ever built by man.

Saturn V SA-506 traveles the 3.5 mile "crawlerway" from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Complex 39A, 20 May 1969. (NASA)
Saturn V SA-506 travels the 3.5 mile “crawlerway” from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Complex 39A, 20 May 1969. (NASA)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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18 May 1969, 16:49:00 UTC, T plus 000:00:00.58

Apollo 10 (AS-505) lifts off from Launch Complex 39B at teh Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, 16:49:00 UTC, 18 May 1969. (NASA)
Apollo 10 (AS-505) lifts off from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, 16:49:00 UTC, 18 May 1969. (NASA)

18 May 1969: At 16:49:00 UTC, Apollo 10 Saturn V AS-505 lifted off from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a full dress rehearsal for the landing on the Moon that would follow with Apollo 11, two months later. On board were Colonel Thomas P. Stafford, U.S. Air Force, Mission Commander, on his third space flight; Commander John W. Young, U.S. Navy, Command Module Pilot, also on his third mission; and Commander Eugene A. Cernan, U.S. Navy, Lunar Module Pilot, on his second space flight. This was the first Apollo mission in which all three flight crew members had previous space flight experience.

Apollo 10 Mission Commander Thomas P. Stafford pats the Snoopy mascot held by Miss Jayme Lee Flowers on the way to the launch pad. (NASA)
Charlie Brown, the Apollo 10 Command and Service Module in lunar orbit, 22 May 1969. (NASA)
Charlie Brown, the Apollo 10 Command and Service Module in lunar orbit, 22 May 1969. (NASA)

During the Apollo 10 mission, everything except an actual landing was done. The Lunar Module separated from the Command Service Module in lunar orbit and descended to within 47,400 feet (14,447.5 meters) of the surface. The CSM and LM were in lunar orbit for 2 days, 13 hours, 37 minutes, 23 seconds before returning to Earth. During the return, the CSM reached a maximum speed of 24,791 miles per hour (39,897 kilometers per hour).

At T+192:03:23 (16:52:25 UTC, 26 May) the Apollo capsule and the three astronauts splashed down in the Pacific Ocean 400 miles (643.7 kilometers) east of American Samoa. The duration of the mission was 8 days, 3 minutes, 23 seconds.

The flight crew of Apollo 10, left to right, Eugene A Cernan, Thomas P. Stafford, and John W. Young. (NASA)
The flight crew of Apollo 10, left to right, Eugene A. Cernan, Thomas P. Stafford, and John W. Young. (NASA)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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15 May 1963, 13:04:13.106 UTC, T plus 00:00:00.106

Mercury Atlas 9 (MA-9), consisting of  Faith 7 and Atlas 130-D, lifts off from Launch Complex 14 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 13:04:13 UTC, 15 May 1963. (NASA)

15 May 1963: At 8:04:13.106 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, Mercury-Atlas 9, carrying NASA astronaut, L. Gordon Cooper aboard Faith 7, lifted off from Launch Complex 14, Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, Florida. Cooper reported, “The liftoff was smooth, but very definite, the acceleration was very pleasant. The booster had a very good feel to it and it felt like we were real on the go, there.” The maximum acceleration experienced during launch was 7.6 gs.

Faith 7 separated from the Atlas booster at T+00:05:05.5.3 and entered low Earth orbit with an apogee of 165.9 statute miles (267.0 kilometers) and perigee of 100.3 statute miles (161.4 kilometers). The orbital period was 88 minutes, 45 seconds. The spacecraft’s velocity was 25,714.0 feet per second (7,837.6 meters per second), or 17,532.3 miles per hour (28,215.5 kilometers per hour).

Major L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., United States Air Force. NASA Astronaut. (March 6, 1927 – October 4, 2004). Major Cooper is wearing a modified U.S. Navy Mark IV full-pressure suit produced by B.F. Goodrich. (NASA)

MA-9 was the final flight of Project Mercury. Gordon Cooper flew 22.5 orbits. Due to electrical system problems that began on the 21st orbit, he had to fly a manual reentry which resulted in the most accurate landing of the Mercury program.

The spacecraft’s three retrorockets fired 5 second intervals beginning at T+33:59:30. 34 hours, 19 minutes, 49 seconds after lift off, Faith 7 “splashed down” approximately 70 miles (112.7 kilometers) southeast of Midway Atoll in the North Pacific Ocean, just 4.4 miles (7.1 kilometers) from the primary recovery ship, the United States Navy Ticonderoga-class aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge (CV-33).

Mercury spacecraft profile with dimensions. (NASA)

The Mercury spacecraft, which Cooper named Faith 7, was built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri, which would also build the follow-on, two-place Gemini spacecraft. It was the 20th and final Mercury capsule to be built, and was one of four which were modified to support a day-long mission. Some items considered unnecessary were deleted and extra oxygen and battery capacity was added.

Designed to carry one pilot, the Mercury space craft could be controlled in pitch, roll and yaw by thrusters. The space capsule was truncated cone with sides angled 20° from the longitudinal axis. It was 6 feet, 10 inches (2.083 meters) long and had a maximum diameter of 6 feet, 2.50 inches (1.892 meters). The total height of the spacecraft, from the tip of the aero spike to the booster adapter, was 26 feet, 1.26 inches (7.957 meters). Faith 7 weighed 4,330.82 pounds (1,964.43 kilograms) at liftoff.

During flight outside the atmosphere, the Mercury spacecraft could be controlled in its pitch, roll and yaw axes by hydrogen peroxide-fueled reaction control thrusters. Both manual and automatic attitude control were available. It could not accelerate or decelerate (except for reentry) so it could not change its orbit.

The spacecraft cabin was pressurized to 5.5 psi with 100% oxygen. Gordon Cooper wore a modified  B.F. Goodrich Mark IV full-pressure suit and flight helmet for protection in the event that cabin pressure was lost. Cooper’s suit varied considerably from those worn by previous Mercury astronauts.

Mercury-Atlas 9 at Laucnh Complex 14. The gantry has been pulled back, but the rocket has not been filled with propellants. (NASA)
Mercury-Atlas 9 at Launch Complex 14. The gantry has been pulled back, but the rocket has not been filled with propellants. Two men at the lower right of the image provide scale.(NASA)

The rocket, a “1-½ stage” liquid-fueled Atlas LV-3B, number 109-D, was built by the  Convair Division of General Dynamics at San Diego, California. It was developed from a U.S. Air Force SM-65 Atlas D intercontinental ballistic missile, modified for use as a “man-rated” orbital launch vehicle.

The LV-3B was 65 feet (19.812 meters) long from the base to the Mercury adapter section, and the tank section is 10 feet (3.038 meters) in diameter. The complete Mercury-Atlas orbital launch vehicle is 93 feet (28.436 meters) tall, including the escape tower. When ready for launch it weighed approximately 260,000 pounds (117,934 kilograms).

Diagram of Atlas LV-3B with Metric dimensions. (Space Launch Report)

The Atlas’ three engines were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Canoga Park, California. Two Rocketdyne LR89-NA-5 engines and one LR105-NA-5 produced 341,140 pounds (1,517.466 kilonewtons) of thrust. The rocket was fueled by a highly-refined kerosene, RP-1, with liquid oxygen as the oxidizer.

Faith 7 is displayed at the Space Center Houston, the visitor center for the Johnson Space Flight Center, Houston, Texas.

Mercury-Atlas 9 at Launch Complex 14. (NASA GPN-2000-000609)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 May 1973, 17:30:00 UTC, T plus 000:00:00.22

SA 513/Skylab 1 (SL-1) launch from LC 39A, 17:30:00 UTC, 14 May 1973. (NASA)

14 May 1973: At 12:30:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, America’s first orbital space station, Skylab, was launched by a Saturn V Launch Vehicle, SA-513, from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. First motion was detected at T + 000:00:00.22.

After first stage separation, the S-IC/S-II interstage connector failed to separate from the second stage. because of this, orbital insertion occurred at T + 000:09:59.0; 0.64 seconds later than planned, and 0.6 meters per second faster than predicted. The S-II stage followed the Skylab into Earth orbit. Skylab’s orbit was almost perfectly circular, with an apogee of 234.2 nautical miles (433.7 kilometers), and perigee of 233.0 nautical miles (431.5 kilometers). The orbital period was 93.23 minutes, with a velocity of 17,111 miles per hour (27,537 kilometers per hour).

Skylab was unmanned at launch. Three 3-man crews were carried to the station aboard Apollo command/service modules launched by the smaller Saturn IB rocket.

Skylab’s mission was to demonstrate that humans could live and work in orbit for extended periods of time, and that they could also perform useful work and research. The first crew had to make repairs in orbit to extend a damaged solar array and to use a spare solar panel as a shade to prevent sunlight from overheating the station. This was the first orbital repair mission. Astronauts occupied Skylab for 171 days, 13 hours and conducted over 300 scientific projects.

Cutaway illustration of Skylab. (NASA)
Cutaway illustration of Skylab. (NASA)

The Skylab was built from an empty Saturn V third stage, S-IVB number 213, modified by McDonnell Douglas. The launch vehicle consisted of the first two stages of a Saturn V rocket, an S-IC first stage and an S-II second stage.

The total vehicle weight at engine ignition was 6,297,336 pounds (2,856,424 kilograms). Post-launch analysis determined that the five Rocketdyne F-1 engines of SA-513’s S-IC first stage generated 7,551,000 pounds of thrust (33,588.52 kilonewtons) at Sea Level.

The first stage was designated S-IC. It was designed to lift the entire rocket to an altitude of 220,000 feet (67,056 meters) and accelerate to a speed of more than 5,100 miles per hour (8,200 kilometers per hour). The S-IC stage was built by Boeing at the Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, Louisiana. It was 138 feet (42.062 meters) tall and 33 feet (10.058 meters) in diameter. Its empty weight was 290,000 pounds (131,542 kilograms). Fully fueled with 203,400 gallons (770,000 liters) of RP-1 and 318,065 gallons (1,204,000 liters) of liquid oxygen, the stage weighed 5,100,000 pounds (2,131,322 kilograms).

The S-IC was propelled by five Rocketdyne F-1 engines, producing 1,522,000 pounds of thrust, each, for a total of 7,610,000 pounds of thrust at Sea Level. These engines were ignited seven seconds prior to lift off and the outer four burned for 168 seconds. The center engine was shut down after 142 seconds to reduce the rate of acceleration. The F-1 engines were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Canoga Park, California.

The S-II second stage was built by North American Aviation at Seal Beach, California. It was 81 feet, 7 inches (24.87 meters) tall and had the same diameter as the first stage. The second stage weighed 80,000 pounds (36,000 kilograms) empty and 1,060,000 pounds loaded. The propellant for the S-II was liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The stage was powered by five Rocketdyne J-2 engines, also built at Canoga Park. Each engine produced 232,250 pounds of thrust, and combined, 1,161,250 pounds of thrust.

The unmanned space station’s orbit decayed and it reentered on 11 July 1979. It broke up and parts landed in the Indian Ocean and near Perth, Australia.

Skylab in Earth orbit over the Amazon River Valley, 28 July 1973. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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