Category Archives: Space Flight

18 June 1983, 11:33:00.033 UTC

Sally Ride aboard Challenger, STS-7, June 1983. (NASA)
Sally Ride aboard Challenger, STS-7, June 1983. (NASA)

18 June 1983: At 7:33:00.033 a.m., EDT, Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-099) lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on mission STS-7.

This was Challenger‘s second flight, and it carried a five-person crew, the largest aboard a single spacecraft up to that time. Commanded by Robert L. Crippen on his second shuttle flight, STS-7 was to place two communications satellites in orbit and to deploy an experimental pallet with multiple experiments.

Aboard was Mission Specialist Sally Kristen Ride, Ph.D., America’s first woman to fly in space. She operated the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System, a robotic arm, to deploy and retrieve satellites.

Wheel stop: 175:13:58:14

Challenger lifts off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center,  11:33:00 UTC, 18 June 1983. (NASA)

Sally Ride was born 26 May 1951 at Encino, California [in “The Valley”]. She was educated in the Los Angeles public school system and then attended the Westlake School for Girls, a private university prep school in the Holmby Hills area of Westwood, California, where she graduated in 1968. She then studied for three years at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and then entered Stanford University, earning a bachelor’s degree in both English (B.A) and physics (B.S.) in 1973. Continuing post-graduate studies at Stanford, she was awarded a master of science degree (M.S., 1975) and then a doctorate in physics (Ph.D., 1978).

Dr. Ride was selected as a NASA astronaut candidate in 1978 an underwent a year of training as a mission specialist. While awaiting assignment to a space shuttle mission, she served as CAPCOM (“capsule communicator”) for the second and third shuttle missions.

Sally Ride flew aboard Challenger for Mission STS-7, between 18–24 June 1983, with 147 hours of space flight. Her next flight was STS 41-G, also aboard Challenger, 5–13 October 1984, for 197 hours. She was assigned to STS-61M, which was also to have been flown with Challenger, but the mission was cancelled following the destruction of Challenger, 28 January 1986.

Sally K. Ride, Ph.D., with th3 Rogers Commission, 1986. (Getty Images)
Dr. Sally Ride, with the Rogers Commission, 1986. (Getty Images/Corbis News/Mark Reinstein)

She served aboard the Rogers Commission investigating the tragic loss of the shuttle, along with physicist Richard P. Feynman, Ph.D., astronaut Neil A. Armstrong and test pilot Chuck Yeager.

Sally Ride left NASA in 1987 and worked at the Center for International Arms Control at Stanford University, and in 1989, became a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. In 2001, she formed Sally Ride Science, an advanced educational program at UC San Diego. In 2003 Ride was appointed to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.

Sally Kristen Ride, Ph.D., died 23 July 2012, at the age of 61 years.

Sally Kristen Ride, Ph.D., Astronaut (1951–2012)
Sally Kristen Ride, Ph.D., Astronaut (1951–2012)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 June 1963, 09:29:52 UTC

Valentia Vladimirovna Tereshkova. (RIA Novosti)
Major Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova, Hero of the Soviet Union, photographed in 1969. (RIA Novosti)

16 June 1963, 09:29:52 UTC: Cosmonaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova (Валенти́на Влади́мировна Терешко́ва) was launched aboard Vostok 6 from Gagarin’s Start, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. The spacecraft was a Vostok 3KA and the launch vehicle was a Vostok 8K72K rocket. She was the first human female in space.

Vostok 6 just prior to engine start, Gagarin's Start, Baikonur Cosmodrome, 16 June 1963.
Vostok 6 engine start, Gagarin’s Start, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, 09:29:52 UTC,16 June 1963. (Space Facts)

Prior to her acceptance in the cosmonaut corps, Tereshkova had been a textile worker. She was also an amateur parachutist. The qualifications for the Soviet space program were that the women be parachutists under the age of 30 years, less than 170 centimeters (5 feet, 7 inches) tall and weigh less than 70 kilograms (154.3 pounds). After an extensive training program with included pilot training in the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG 15UTI fighter and 120 parachute jumps, Tereshkova and three other women were commissioned as Junior Lieutenants in the Soviet Air Force.

Vostok 5 with Cosmonaut Valery Fyodorovich Bykovsky had been launched two days earlier on the same orbital path. During their flights they came within approximately 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of each other.

Valentina Tereshkova completed 48 orbits of the Earth, reaching a maximum altitude of 212 kilometers (131.7 miles). Vostok 6 re-entered the atmosphere and Tereshkova parachuted from the capsule near the Pavinskiy Collective Farms, Altai Krai (approximately 150 miles/240 kilometers southwest of Novosibirsk), landing at 08:20 UTC, 19 June 1963. The total duration of her flight was 2 days, 22 hours, 50  minutes.

Cosmonaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tershkova before launch, 16 June 1963.
Cosmonaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova before launch, 16 June 1963. 

The Vostok 3KA spacecraft consisted of a spherical crew module and a service module. It could support one person in a full-pressure suit for a maximum of 10 days. There were two view ports. The Vostok used pressurized gas jets for attitude control while in orbit, but was not capable of changing its orbit. The vehicle had a total height of 4.40 meters (14 feet, 5¼ inches) and total mass of 4,730 kilograms (10,428 pounds). The descent module diameter was 2.3 meters (7 feet, 6½ inches) and had a mass of 2,460 kilograms (5,423 pounds).

On descent, the cosmonaut used an ejection seat to leave the capsule prior to Earth landing, and parachuted to the ground.

Tershkova (center, with back toward camera) with the Vostok descent module, (Space Facts)
Valentina Tereshkova (center, with back toward camera) with the Vostok descent module, 19 June 1963. (Space Facts)

The Korolev Design Bureau Vostok 8K72K launch vehicle was a three-stage liquid-fueled rocket developed from the Soviet R-7 “Semyorka” intercontinental ballistic missile, using RP-1, a highly refined form of kerosene, and liquid oxygen as propellant. It was 38.36 meters (125 feet, 10 inches) tall and had a maximum diameter of 10.3 meters (33 feet, 9 inches). Total mass at liftoff was 287,375 kilograms (633,553 pounds).

The first stage consisted of four boosters surrounding a central core. Each was powered by one Glushko Design Bureau RD-108 (8D75) engine with four combustion chambers and exhaust nozzles. The RD-108 was rated at 713.600 kilonewtons of thrust (160,424 pounds-force) at Sea Level. Burn time was 118 seconds. The second stage used one RD-108 engine fired for 301 seconds. The third stage had one Kosberg Design Bureau RD-0109 engine rated at 54.520 kilonewtons (12,257 pounds-force) of thrust, with a burn time of 365 seconds.

Valentina Tereshkova Monument at the site of Vostok 6 landing.
Valentina Tereshkova Monument at the site of Vostok 6 landing.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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10 June 1969

 North American Aviation Inc. 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., X-15A-1 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)

10 June 1969: The U.S. Air Force gave the first North American Aviation X-15, serial number 56-6670, to the Smithsonian Institution for display at the National Air and Space Museum.

The North American Aviation, Inc., X-15A-1, 56-6670, being brought into the Arts and Industries building, June 1969. (Smithsonian Institution Archives SI-A-4145-23-A)
The North American Aviation, Inc., X-15A-1, 56-6670, being brought into the Arts and Industries building, June 1969. The wings and sections of the dorsal and ventral fins have been removed. (Smithsonian Institution Archives SI-A-4145-23-A)

The first of three X-15A hypersonic research rocketplanes built by North American for the Air Force and NASA, 56-6670 made the first glide flight and the first and last powered flights of the X-15 Program. It made a total of 82 of the 199 X-15 flights.

Scott Crossfield, North American’s Chief Engineering Test Pilot, made the first unpowered flight 8 June 1959 and the first powered flight, 17 September 1959. NASA Research Test Pilot William H. “Bill” Dana made the last flight on 24 October 1968.

North American Aviation, Inc., X-15A-1 56-6670 at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. (D. Ramey Logan via Wikipedia)
The first North American Aviation, Inc., X-15A, 56-6670, at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. Above and behind the X-15 is the Douglas D558-II Skyrocket that Scott Crossfield flew to Mach 2.005, 20 November 1953. (D. Ramey Logan via Wikipedia)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 June 1959, 16:38:40 GMT

Albert Scott Crossfield (1921–2006) (AP)

8 June 1959: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, North American Aviation’s Chief Engineering Test Pilot, A. Scott Crossfield, made the first flight of the X-15A hypersonic research rocketplane.

56-6670 was the first of three X-15s built for the U.S. Air Force and NASA. It was airdropped from a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, NB-52A-1-BO 52-003, at 37,550 feet (11,445 meters) over Rosamond Dry Lake at 08:38:40 a.m, Pacific Time.

This was an unpowered glide flight to check the flying characteristics and aircraft systems, so there were no propellants or oxidizers aboard other than hydrogen peroxide which powered the pumps and generators.

The aircraft reached 0.79 Mach (522 miles per hour, 840 kilometers per hour) during the 4 minute, 56.6 second flight.

North American Aviation Chief Engineering Test Pilot Albert Scott Crossfield in the cockpit of X-15A 56-670 before a flight. (NASA)
North American Aviation Chief Engineering Test Pilot Albert Scott Crossfield in the cockpit of an X-15 before a flight. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas)

In his autobiography, Scott Crossfield described the first flight:

“Three” . . . “Two” . . . “One” . . .

“DROP”

Inside the streamlined pylon, a hydraulic ram disengaged the three heavy shackles from the upper fuselage of the X-15. They were so arranged that all released simultaneously, and if one failed they all failed. The impact of the release was clearly audible in the X-15 cockpit. I heard a loud “kerchunk.”

X-15A 56-6670 under the wing of NB-52A 52-003 at high altitude. Scott Crossfield is in the cockpit of the rocketplane. Air Force Flight Test Center History Office, U.S. Air Force)
X-15A 56-6670 under the wing of NB-52A 52-003 at high altitude. Scott Crossfield is in the cockpit of the rocketplane. (Air Force Flight Test Center History Office, U.S. Air Force)

The X-15 hung in its familiar place beneath the pylon for a split second. Then the nose dipped sharply down and to the right more rapidly than I had anticipated. The B-52, so long my constant companion, was gone. The X-15 and I were alone in the air and flying 500 miles an hour. In less than five minutes I would be on the ground. . . .

There was much to do in the first hundred seconds of flight. First I had to get the “feel” of the airplane, to make certain it was trimmed out for landing just as any pilot trims an airplane after take-off or . . . when dwindling fuel shifts the center of gravity. Then I had to pull the nose up, with and without flaps, to feel out the stall characteristics, so that I would know how she might behave at touchdown speeds . . . My altimeter unwound dizzily: from 24,000 to 13,000 feet in less than forty seconds. . . .

X-15A 56-6670 drops from the wing of the B-52 mothership. This is a glide flight as there is no frost from cryogenic propellants showing of the fuselage. The vapor trail is from hydrogen peroxide that powers the aircraft power systems. Note the roll to the right as the X-15 drops from the pylon. (NASA)
X-15A 56-6670 drops from the wing of the B-52 mothership, 8 June 1959. The vapor trail is from venting hydrogen peroxide used to power the aircraft pumps and generators. Note the roll to the right as the X-15 drops away from the Stratofortress. (NASA)

The desert was coming up fast. At 600 feet altitude I flared out. . . .

In the next second without warning the nose of the X-15 pitched up sharply. It was a maneuver that had not been predicted by the computers, an uncharted area which the X-15 was designed to explore. I was frankly caught off guard. Quickly I applied corrective elevator control.

The nose went down sharply. But instead of leveling out, it tucked down. I applied reverse control. The nose came up but much too far. Now the nose was rising and falling like a skiff in a heavy sea. Although I was putting in maximum control I could not subdue the motions. The X-15 was porpoising wildly, sinking toward the desert at 200 miles an hour. I would have to land at the bottom of an oscillation, timed perfectly; otherwise, I knew, I would break the bird. I lowered the flaps and the gear. . . .

. . . With the next dip I had one last chance and flared again to ease the descent. At that moment the rear skids caught on the desert floor and the nose slammed over, cushioned by the nose wheel. The X-15 skidded 5,000 feet across the lake, throwing up an enormous rooster tail of dust. . . .

Always Another Dawn: The Story of a Rocket Test Pilot, by A. Scott Crossfield and Clay Blair, Jr., The World Publishing Company, Cleveland and New York, 1960, Chapter 37 at Pages 338–342.

This photograph shows the second North American Aviation X-15A, 56-6671, flaring to land on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base, California The rear skids are just touching down. The white patches on the aircraft's belly is frost from residual cryogenic propellants remaining in its tanks. (U.S. Air Force)
This photograph shows the second North American Aviation X-15A, 56-6671, flaring to land on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base, California. The rear skids are just touching down. The white patches on the aircraft’s belly are frost from residual cryogenic propellants remaining in its tanks after a powered flight. (U.S. Air Force)

Before the drop, it was discovered that the aircraft’s Stability Augmentation System was inoperative in pitch mode. During the flight it was found that the hydraulic-assisted flight control system was responding too slowly to Crossfield’s inputs. Engineers analyzed the problem and increased the hydraulic system pressure. The problem never recurred.

Scott Crossfield was the most experienced rocketplane pilot with 82 rocketplane flights before the X-15 program. “. . . he was intimately involved in the design of the aircraft and contributed immensely to the success of the design.”

At The Edge Of Space, by Milton O. Thompson, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992, Introduction, at Page 3.

North American Aviation X-15A 56-6670 made the first glide flight and the first and last powered flights of the X-15 Program. It made a total of 82 of the 199 X-15 flights. It is in the collection of National Air and Space Museum at Washington, D.C.

Scott Crossfield in a David Clark Co. XMC-2 full-pressure suit with an MA-3 conformal helmet, and the first North American Aviation X-15A, 56-6670. (Scott Crossfield Foundation)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 June 1989

Antonov An-225 Mriya with Buran at Paris Air Show, 5 June 1989. (Ralf Manteufel)

5 June 1989: The Antonov An-225 Mriya took off from Kiev with the space shuttle Buran, enroute to the Paris Air Show. The total weight at takeoff was a 1,234,600 pounds (560,005 kilograms)—the greatest weight ever lifted by an aircraft.

The An-225 was derived from the earlier four-engine An-124. It is powered by six Ivchenko Progress D-18T turbofan engines producing 51,600 pounds of thrust, each. The transport has a maximum speed of 460 knots (852 kilometers per hour) and a range just under 10,000 miles (16,093 kilometers).

The world’s heaviest airplane, Mriya is the only one in existence. It was built specifically to transport Buran. A second An-225 was partially constructed, but never finished.

Buran, the Soviet space shuttle, has made one unmanned flight into orbit, 15 November 1988. It was destroyed 12 May 2002 when its hangar collapsed, killing eight Workers.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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