3 June 1965, 15:15:59.562 UTC: Gemini 4/Titan II GLV ¹ lifted off from Launch Complex 19 at the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, Cape Kennedy, Florida. On board were Major James Alton McDivitt, United States Air Force, command pilot; and Major Edward Higgins White II, U.S.A.F., pilot.
The mission was planned to include an orbital rendezvous with the Titan II booster, and an Extravehicular Activity (“EVA”). For a number of reasons, the rendezvous attempt was not successful.
Unusually, the flight crew were not allowed to name their spacecraft, and there was no mission patch worn on their pressure suits.
The Gemini IV spacecraft separated from the Titan II GLV launch vehicle 6 minutes, 5.6 seconds after liftoff at an altitude of 532,349 feet (162,260 meters) traveling 25,743 feet (7,846.5 meters) per second. It entered a 152.2 × 87.6 nautical mile (281.9 × 162.2 kilometers) orbit with a period of 1 hour, 28 minutes, 54 seconds.
Gemini 4 returned to Earth on 7 June, “splashing down” in the North Atlantic Ocean at 17:12:11 UTC. The mission duration was 4 days, 1 hour, 56 minutes, 12 seconds. The recovery ship was the United States Navy aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CVS-18).
The Gemini 4 spacecraft is on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.
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 but was approximately 7,000 pounds (3,175 kilograms). At launch, Gemini IV weighed 7,879.05 pounds (3,573.88 kilograms).
The Titan II GLV was a “man-rated” variant of the Martin Marietta 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.
¹ When identifying spaceflight missions, NASA was inconsistent in using Roman numerals (Gemini IV) or Arabic (Gemini 4), even switching from one to the other in consecutive paragraphs in official reports.
² The Gemini IV first stage engine produced a flight average of 467,870 pounds of thrust (2,081.19 kilonewtons).
³ The Gemini IV second stage engine produced a flight average of 103,103 pounds of thrust (458.63 kilonewtons).
© 2019, Bryan R. Swopesby
24 May 1962: Lieutenant Commander Malcolm Scott Carpenter, United States Navy, NASA Astronaut, was launched aboard Mercury-Atlas 7 at 12:45:16.57 UTC (7:45:16 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time) from Launch Complex 14 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Florida. This was the fourth manned space flight of the American space program. Carpenter was the sixth human to fly in space.
Scott Carpenter reported,
When the ignition signal was given, everything became quiet. I had expected to feel the launch vehicle shake, some machinery start, the vernier engines light off, or to hear the lox valve make some noise, but I did not. Nothing happened until main engine ignition; then I began to feel vibration. There was a little bit of shaking. Lift off was unmistakable.
— RESULTS OF THE SECOND U.S. MANNED ORBITAL SPACE FLIGHT MAY 24, 1962, NASA SP-6. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Manned Spacecraft Center, Project Mercury. Pilot’s Flight Report, Page 69, Column 2
According to the NASA post-flight mission report, “The performance of the launch vehicle was exceptionally good. . . .”
During the launch, Carpenter experienced a maximum of 7.8 gs acceleration. 5 minutes, 12.2 seconds after liftoff, Aurora 7 separated from the Atlas booster and entered Earth orbit, having reached a speed of 17,534 miles per hour (28,219 kilometers per hour). The orbit was elliptical, with a minimum altitude of 86.87 nautical miles (160.88 kilometers) and a maximum of 144.96 nautical miles (268.47 kilometers). Carpenter completed an orbit every 88 minutes, 32 seconds.
During the orbital phase of the mission, a pitch horizon scanner—part of the automatic flight control system—malfunctioned, causing the capsule’s attitude jets to fire to correct perceived errors in the ship’s attitude. This caused an excessive consumption of the hydrogen peroxide fuel for the reaction controls.
At T+04:30:00 (four hours, thirty minutes after launch) the Mercury capsule’s retrorockets fired to slow the capsule and begin the reentry phase of the flight. Each of the retro rockets fired at 5 second intervals and burned for 10 seconds. The capsule decelerated 550 feet per second (168 meters per second) and fell out of orbit. The PHS failed again, yawing Aurora 7 25° off track, which prevented the full thrust of the retrorockets from being directed along the correct path. Scott Carpenter had to fire the rockets manually, resulting in a 3 second delay, and this, along with the misalignment of the capsule, caused Aurora 7 to overshoot the planned splashdown point in the Atlantic ocean by approximately 250 nautical miles (288 statute miles/463 kilometers). (N. 19° 27′, W. 63° 59′)
At 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) Aurora 7‘s main parachute opened. The spacecraft “splashed down” at 17:41:21 UTC. The total duration of the flight was 4 hours, 55 minutes, 57 seconds.
Scott Carpenter was hoisted aboard a Sikorsky HSS-2 Sea King helicopter from USS Intrepid (CVS-11). Aurora 7 was recovered by the Allan M. Sumner-class destroyer, USS John R. Pierce (DD-753), 6 hours after its landing.
The flight of Scott Carpenter and Aurora 7 was a success, but Carpenter was subject to criticism for his performance during the mission.
In 1963, Carpenter was injured in a motorcycle accident and lost some mobility in his left arm. Despite two surgical procedures, it was determined that he was ineligible for spaceflight. He resigned from NASA in 1967 and retired from the U.S Navy in 1969 with the rank of Commander.
Mercury 18, named Aurora 7 by Carpenter, was built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri. 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). Aurorra 7 weighed 4,244.09 pounds ( kilograms) at Launch.
The rocket, a “1-½ stage” liquid-fueled Atlas LV-3B, number 107-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).
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.
Malcolm Scott Carpenter died 10 October 2013 at the age of 88. His spacecraft, Aurora 7, is on display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, Lakeshore Drive, Chicago, Illinois.
© 2019, Bryan R. Swopesby
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.
© 2015, Bryan R. Swopesby