Tag Archives: Astronaut

18 July 1966, 22:20:26.648 UTC, T minus Zero

Gemini 10 launches from LC-19, Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, at 22:20:26 UTC, 18 July 1966. (NASA)

18 July 1966: At 22:20:26.648 UTC, Gemini 10 launched from Launch Complex 19 at the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station. The two astronauts aboard were John W. Young, on his second space flight, and Michael Collins. The launch vehicle was a liquid-fueled Martin SLV-4 Titan II, serial number 62-12565.

John Watts Young, Command Pilot, and Michael Collins, Pilot,  the flight crew of Gemini 10. (NASA)

The objective of the Gemini 10 mission was to demonstrate orbital rendezvous and docking with another spacecraft, as well as “EVA”—Extra Vehicular Activity. The Gemini capsule docked with an Agena target vehicle which had been launched one hour before. The flight crew opened the hatches and Michael Collins stood in the opening, taking photographs.

Agena Target Docking Vehicle 5005. (Michael Collins/NASA)

After undocking, the Gemini located and docked with another Agena from the earlier Gemini 8 flight. Collins this time left the capsule and retrieved some experiments from the dormant target vehicle before returning to Gemini 10.

After nearly three days in space, they landed in the Pacific Ocean, 3.86 miles (6.21 kilometers) from the primary recovery ship, USS Guadalcanal (LPH-7). This set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) Absolute World Record for Precision Landing.¹  The total duration of the flight was 2 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes, 39 seconds.

Gemini 10 Command Pilot John Watts Young is hoisted aboard a recovery helicopter, 21 July 1966. (NASA S66-42773)

The two-man Gemini spacecraft was built by the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis, the same company that built the earlier Mercury space capsule. The spacecraft consisted of a reentry module and an adapter section. It had an overall length of 19 feet (5.791 meters) and a diameter of 10 feet (3.048 meters) at the base of the adapter section. The reentry module was 11 feet (3.353 meters) long with a diameter of 7.5 feet (2.347 meters). The weight of the Gemini varied from ship to ship. At launch, Gemini 10 weighed 8,295 pounds (3763 kilograms).

Gemini Spacecraft. (NASA)

The Titan II GLV was a “man-rated” variant of the Martin SM-68B intercontinental ballistic missile. It was assembled at Martin’s Middle River, Maryland, plant so as not to interfere with the production of the ICBM at Denver, Colorado. Twelve GLVs were ordered by the Air Force for the Gemini Program.

The Titan II GLV was a two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket. The first stage was 63 feet (19.202 meters) long with a diameter of 10 feet (3.048 meters). The second stage was 27 feet (8.230 meters) long, with the same diameter.

The 1st stage was powered by an Aerojet Engineering Corporation LR-87-7 engine which combined two combustion chambers and exhaust nozzles with a single turbopump unit. The engine was fueled by a hypergolic combination of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide. Ignition occurred spontaneously as the two components were combined in the combustion chambers. The LR-87-7 produced 430,000 pounds of thrust.² It was not throttled and could not be shut down and restarted. The 2nd stage used an Aerojet LR-91 engine which produced 100,000 pounds of thrust.³

The Gemini/Titan II GLV combination had a total height of 109 feet (33.223 meters) and weighed approximately 340,000 pounds (154,220 kilograms) when fueled.⁴

Gemini/Titan GLV-4. (NASA)
This well-used Omega Speedmaster chronograph was worn by John Young during the Gemini 10 mission. (Smithsonian Institution)

Both astronauts went on to the Apollo program, with Collins serving as Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, and John Young as CMP for Apollo 10. Young commanded Apollo 16, and the first space shuttle flight, Columbia STS-1 and Columbia STS-9. He was scheduled to command STS-61J to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope, but that flight  was put off by the Challenger disaster. Michael Collins went on to head the National Air and Space Museum and LTV Aerospace.

Gemini 10 is at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, awaiting restoration.

¹ FAI Record File Number 10285

² The Gemini 10 first stage engine produced a flight average of 462,750 pounds of thrust (2,058.42 kilonewtons).

³ The Gemini 10 second stage engine produced a flight average of 99,168 pounds of thrust (441.12 kilonewtons).

⁴ Gemini 10/Titan II GLV combination weighed 344,856 pounds (156,424 kilograms) at 1st Stage ignition.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 July 1975

Apollo CSM-111 in orbit, as seen from Soyuz 19, 17 July 1975. (NASA )

At 12:20 UTC, 15 July 1975, Soyuz 19 launched from Gagarin’s Start at Baikonur Cosmosdrome, Kazakh SSR with Alexei Leonov and Valeri Kubasov, both on their second space flights. The launch vehicle was a Soyuz-U three-stage rocket.

At 19:50 UTC, 15 July 1975, Apollo ASTP lifted off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. The crew was Thomas P. Stafford on his fourth space flight, Vance D. Brand on his first, and Donald K. “Deke” Slayton also on his first. The launch vehicle was a Saturn IB.

At 16:19:09 UTC, 17 July 1975, the two orbiting spacecraft rendezvoused in orbit and docked. Using a Docking Module airlock, the two crews each opened their spacecraft hatches and shook hands. The two ships remained joined for 44 hours, separating once for the Soyuz crew to take its turn to maneuver for docking with the Apollo Command and Service Module.

The Apollo command module from the mission is on display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. The descent module of Soyuz 19 is on display at the RKK Energiya museum in Korolyov, Moscow Oblast, Russia.

This was the final flight of the Apollo spacecraft.

Soyuz 19 in orbit, as seen from Apollo CSM-111, 17 July 1975. (NASA)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 July 1962

With the X-15 under its right wing, the Boeing NB-52A, 52-003, takes of from Edwards Air Force Base, 17 July 1962. The rocketplane's belly is covered with frost from the cryogenic propellants. (U.S. Air Force)
With Major Robert M. White and the X-15 under its right wing, the Boeing NB-52A Stratofortress, 52-003, takes of from Edwards Air Force Base, 17 July 1962. The rocketplane’s belly is covered with frost from the cryogenic propellants. (U.S. Air Force)

17 July 1962: At 9:31:10.0 a.m., the Number 3 North American Aviation X-15, 56-6672, was airdropped from a Boeing NB-52A Stratofortress, 52-003, over Delamar Dry Lake, Nevada. Air Force project test pilot Major Robert M. (“Bob”) White was in the cockpit. This was the 62nd flight of the X-15 Program, and Bob White was making his 15th flight in an X-15 hypersonic research rocketplane. The purpose of this flight was to verify the performance of the Honeywell MH-96 flight control system which had been installed in the Number 3 ship. Just one minute before drop, the MH-96 failed, but White reset his circuit breakers and it came back on line.

North American Aviation X-15 56-6672 immediately after being dropped by the Boeing NB-52 Stratofortress. (NASA)
North American Aviation X-15 56-6672 immediately after being dropped by the Boeing NB-52 Stratofortress. (NASA)

After dropping from the B-52’s wing, White fired the X-15’s Reaction Motors XLR-99 rocket engine and began to accelerate and climb. The planned burn time for the 57,000-pound-thrust engine was 80.0 seconds. It shut down 2 seconds late, driving the X-15 well beyond the planned peak altitude for this flight. Instead of reaching 280,000 feet (85,344 meters), Robert White reached 314,750 feet (95,936 meters). This was an altitude gain of 82,190 meters (269,652 feet), which was a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world record.¹ The rocketplane reached Mach 5.45, 3,832 miles per hour (6,167 kilometers per hour).

Because of the increased speed and altitude, White was in danger of overshooting his landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He passed over the north end of Rogers Dry Lake and crossed the “high key”—the point where the X-15 landing maneuver begins—too high and too fast at Mach 3.5 at 80,000 feet (24,384 meters). Without power, White made a wide 360° turn over Rosamond Dry Lake then came back over the high key at a more normal 28,000 feet (8,534.4 meters) and subsonic speed. He glided to a perfect touch down, 10 minutes, 20.7 seconds after being dropped from the B-52.
A North American Aviation X-15 rocketplane just before touchdown on Rogers dry Lake. A Lockheed F-104 Starfighter chase plane escorts it. The green smoke helps the pilots judge wind direction and speed. (NASA)
North American Aviation X-15 56-6672 just before touchdown on Rogers Dry Lake. A Lockheed F-104 Starfighter chase plane escorts it. The green smoke helps the pilots judge wind direction and speed. (NASA)

This was the first time that a manned aircraft had gone higher than 300,000 feet (91,440 meters). It was also the first flight above 50 miles. For that achievement, Bob White became the first X-15 pilot to be awarded U.S. Air Force astronaut wings. His 314,750-foot altitude (95,936 meters) also established a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world altitude record, which will probably never be broken. To qualify, a new record would have to exceed White’s altitude by at least 3%, or more than 324,419 feet (98,882.9 meters). As the FAI-recognized boundary of Space is 328,083.99 feet (100,000 meters), any prospective challenger would have to hit a very narrow band of the atmosphere.

Command Pilot Astronaut insignia, United States Air Force
Command Pilot Astronaut insignia, United States Air Force

Major White had been the first pilot to fly faster than Mach 4, Mach 5 and Mach 6. He was the first to fly over 200,000 feet, then over 300,000 feet. He was a graduate of the Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School and flew tests of many aircraft at Edwards before entering the X-15 program. He made at total of sixteen X-15 flights.

A P-51 Mustang fighter pilot with the 355th Fighter Group in World War II, he was shot down by ground fire on his fifty-third combat mission, 23 February 1945, and captured. He was held as a prisoner of war until the war in Europe came to an end in April 1945.

After the war, White accepted a reserve commission while he attended college to earn a degree in engineering. He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War, and assigned to a P-51 fighter squadron in South Korea. Later, he commanded the 22nd Tactical Fighter Squadron (flying the Republic F-105 Thunderchief supersonic fighter bomber) based in Germany, and later, the 53rd TFS. During the Vietnam War, Lieutenant Colonel White, as the deputy commander for operations of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, flew seventy combat missions over North Vietnam in the F-105D, including leading the attack against the Paul Doumer Bridge at Hanoi, 11 August 1967, for which he was awarded the Air Force Cross.

He next went to Wright-Patterson AFB where he was director of the F-15 Eagle fighter program. In 1970 he returned to Edwards AFB as commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center. White was promoted to Major General in 1975.

General White retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1981. He died 10 March 2010.

Major Robert M. White, U.S. Air Force, with a North American Aviation X-15 on Rogers Dry Lake, 1961. (NASA)
Major Robert M. White, U.S. Air Force, with a North American Aviation X-15 on Rogers Dry Lake, 1961. (NASA)

¹ FAI Record File Number 9604

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 July 1969, 13:32:00.3 UTC, T plus 00.00.00.3

Apollo 11/Saturn V AS-506 at the moment of first stage ignition, T -6.9 seconds, 13:31:53.9 UTC, 16 July 1969. (NASA)

On Wednesday morning, 16 July 1969, the Apollo 11/Saturn V launch vehicle, AS-506), stood on the pad at Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. On board were Neil Alden Armstrong, Mission Commander; Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., Lunar Module Pilot. Their destination was Mare Tranquillitatis, The Moon.

Neil Alden Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., flight crew of Apollo 11, 16–23 July 1969. (NASA)

The cryogenic liquid oxygen in the rocket’s propellant tanks cooled the humid Florida air to the point that frost formed on the tanks’ skin.

Saturn V AS-506 reaches full thrust. (NASA)

The mission was on schedule. At T – 6.1 seconds (13:31:53.9 UTC) the first of the five F-1 engines ignited, followed in quick succession by the others. When the engines had reached full thrust, the pad’s hold-down arms were released. First Motion—10.47 m/s² (34.35 ft/s²)—1.07 gs , was detected at T + 0.3 seconds (13:32:00.3 UTC, 9:32:00.3 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time). The umbilical was released at T + 0.6 seconds. The Saturn V cleared the gantry tower and rolled onto its programmed course.

LIFT OFF! Apollo 11 (AS-506) launches from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 13:32:00.06 UTC, 16 July 1969. (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, 0.15 inches (110.64621 meters) tall, from the tip of the escape tower to the bottom of the F-1 engines. Fully loaded and fueled, AS-506 weighed  6,477,875 pounds (2,938,315 kilograms).

The Saturn V 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, 33 feet, 1.2 inches (10.089 meters) in diameter, and had an empty weight of 287,531 pounds (130,422 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 5,023,648 pounds (2,131,322 kilograms). It was propelled by five Rocketdyne F-1 engines, which were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Canoga Park, California.

Saturn V first stage Rocketdyne F-1 engines running, producing 7.5 million pounds of thrust. Ice falls from the rocket. The hold-down arms are releasing. (NASA)

The AS-506 S-IC stage’s five F-1 engines  produced 7,552,000 pounds of thrust (33,593 kilonewtons). According to the post-mission flight evaluation report, “The F-1 engines performance levels during the AS-506 flight showed the smallest deviations of any S-IC Flight.” The center engine shut down at T + 135.20 to limit the rocket’s acceleration, and the outer four were shut down at T + 161.63 seconds.

The S-II second stage was built by North American Aviation, Inc., at Seal Beach, California. It was 81 feet, 7 inches (24.87 meters) tall and had the same diameter as the first stage. The AS-506 second stage weighed 79,714 pounds (36,158 kilograms), dry, and 1,058,140 pounds (479,964 kilograms), fueled. 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 Saturn V third stage was designated S-IVB. It was built by Douglas Aircraft 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). The AS-506 S-IVB third stage had a dry weight of 24,852 pounds (11,273 kilograms) and fully fueled, it weighed 262,613 pounds (119,119 kilograms). The third stage had one J-2 engine which also used liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for propellant. At the first burn, the J-2 produced 202,603 pounds of thrust (901.223 kilonewtons). The S-IVB would 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. At this second burn, it produced 201,061 pounds  of thrust (894.364 kilonewtons).

Apollo 11 Command and Service Module CSM-107 being assembled to the SA-506 Saturn V in the Vehicle Assembly Building, April 1969. (NASA)

The Apollo Command/Service Module was built by the Space and Information Systems Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Downey, California. The Apollo 11 Command and Service Module, CSM-107, weighed 109,646 pounds (49,735 kilograms).

The SPS engine was an AJ10-137, built by Aerojet General Corporation of Azusa, California. It burned a hypergolic fuel combination of Aerozine 50 and nitrogen tetraoxide, producing 20,500 pounds of thrust (91.19 kilonewtons). It was designed for a 750 second burn, or 50 restarts during a flight.

The Apollo Lunar Module was built by Grumman Aerospace Corporation to carry two astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface, and return. There was a descent stage and ascent stage. The LM was intended only for operation in the vacuum of space, and was expended after use.

The LM was 23 feet, 1 inches (7.036 meters) high with a maximum landing gear spread of 31 feet (9.449 meters). It weighed 33,500 pounds (15,195 kilograms). The spacecraft was designed to support the crew for 48 hours, though in later missions, this was extended to 75 hours.

The Descent Stage was powered by a single TRW LM Descent Engine. The LMDE used hypergoloc fuel and was throttleable. It produced from 1,050 pounds of thrust (4.67 kilonewtons) to 10,125 pounds (45.04 kilonewtons). The Ascent Stage was powered by a Bell Aerospace Lunar Module Ascent Engine. This also used hypergolic fuels. It produced 3,500 pounds of thrust (15.57 kilonewtons).

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

The Moon. The terminator is bisecting Mare Tranquillitatis. (Rob Pettengill)

Note: All timing, acceleration, weight/mass, and thrust data is from: Saturn V Launch Vehicle Flight Evaluation Report—AS-506, George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, MPR-SAT-FE-69-9, 20 September 1969.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 June 1965

Captain Joe Henry Engle, United States Air Force
Captain Joe Henry Engle, United States Air Force

29 June 1965: At 10:21:17.6 PDT, Captain Joe H. Engle, United States Air Force, flying the Number Three North American Aviation X-15A-3 research rocketplane, 56-6672, was air-dropped from the NB-52B Stratofortress mothership, Balls 8, over Delamar Dry Lake in Nevada. This was the 138th flight of the X-15 Program, and Joe Engle’s 12th. He fired the Reaction Motors XLR99-RM-1 engine for 81.0 seconds and accelerated to Mach 4.94 (3,432 miles per hour, 5,523 kilometers per hour). The X-15 climbed to an altitude of 280,600 feet (85,527 meters, 53.14 miles). He touched down at Edwards Air Force Base after 10 minutes, 34.2 seconds of flight. His parents were at Edwards to witness his flight.

Captain Engle qualified for Astronaut wings on this flight, the third and youngest Air Force pilot to do so.

Command Pilot Astronaut insignia, United States Air Force
Command Pilot Astronaut insignia, United States Air Force

From 1963 and 1965, Joe Engle made 14 flights in the three X-15s. After leaving the X-15 Program, he was assigned to the Apollo Program, the only NASA astronaut with prior spaceflight experience. He was the back-up Lunar Module pilot for Apollo 14 and he was the designated LM pilot for Apollo 17 but was replaced by Harrison Schmidt when Apollo 18 was cancelled. Next he went on to the Space Shuttle Program. He was a Mission Commander for the Enterprise flight tests and for Columbia‘s second orbital flight, during which he became the only pilot to manually fly a Mach 25 approach and landing. Finally, he commanded the Discovery STS 51-1 mission.

Joe Engle retired from the Air Force in 1986. He was then promoted to the rank of Major General and assigned to the Kansas Air National Guard. He has flown at least 185 aircraft types and accumulated 14,700 flight hours, with 224 hours in space.

Captain Joe H. Engle, U.S. Air Force, with the North American Aviation X-15A-2, 56-6671, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1965. (NASA)
Captain Joe H. Engle, U.S. Air Force, with the North American Aviation X-15A-2, 56-6671, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1965. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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