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  Space Cover 228: Boilerplate mail

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Author Topic:   Space Cover 228: Boilerplate mail

Posts: 141
From: Charleston, SC USA
Registered: Jun 2005

posted 08-25-2013 08:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NAAmodel#240   Click Here to Email NAAmodel#240     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space Cover of the Week, Week 228 (August 25, 2013)

Space Cover #228: Boilerplate mail

A boilerplate is a space capsule the same size, weight, and shape as the real thing but devoid of all the complex, expensive and delicate innards. It is used to qualify parachutes, floatation devices, recovery hoists and the crews that use them. The astronauts practice egress at sea and recovery personnel become proficient stabilizing, wrangling, and recovering spacecraft bobbing in the open ocean.

The NASA Motor Vessel (MV) Retriever was a Landing Craft Utility (LCU) built for the U.S. Army in 1953. LCU-15301 was acquired from the Army in 1963. After modifications (the sides of the vessel's midsection were cut down, a new bridge built, and a hoist added), it arrived at its Seabrook, Texas docking facility near the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) in June 1963. The modified Army LCU, painted NASA blue and white, was named “Retriever” to signify its mission of recovering spacecraft. The LCU was selected because its shallow draft allowed it to operate in Galveston Bay as well as in the Gulf of Mexico off of Galveston, Texas.

Training was not confined to the calm of Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The USS Escape conducted exercises off the coast of Virginia. Since there were no postal facilities on board the ship the envelope was postmarked on return to port.

As Project Gemini was preparing to conduct the first launch the USS Wallace L. Lind, a destroyer that would later participate in the Gemini XI mission, used the newly installed crane to practice lifting a Gemini boilerplate out of the Atlantic. George Goldey recycled a cachet with a Mercury capsule for the artwork.

Antoni RIGO
New Member

Posts: 5
From: Palma de Mallorca, Is. Baleares - SPAIN
Registered: Aug 2013

posted 08-26-2013 02:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Antoni RIGO   Click Here to Email Antoni RIGO     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
David, thanks for adding this interesting and maybe not enough known space topic.

As boilerplates are basically tests, many collectors can't be aware of them. Sometimes the word boilerplate appears in the cover and it is easy to identify it, but sometimes not and then is necessary a great memory or an extensive database. Only with the purpose to see more boilerplate covers, two of these covers are here shown.

A Swanson rubber stamp cachet for Mercury Boilerplate capsule, previous to Shepard's launch:

A SpaceCraft cover records the first Apollo unmanned Boilerplate:


Posts: 460
From: Northville MI USA
Registered: Aug 2005

posted 08-28-2013 09:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for yeknom-ecaps   Click Here to Email yeknom-ecaps     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
David - Great topic.

Are there any references to the 1963 boilerplate trials off Virginia? I have searched but haven't found anything specific on the trials or USS Escape involvement.

Also, is there any references to the Norfolk cover actually being from the USS Escape on return to port? With the photo added to the left side of the envelope it would cover the usual corner card unless it is on the back and you just didn't show it.


Posts: 56
From: Edgewater, MD, USA
Registered: Oct 2012

posted 08-28-2013 07:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for JBoe     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Speaking of boilerplate trials off of Virginia, is there any plans or does any one know of plans for a cover detailing the USS Arlington and Orion capsule?

All times are CT (US)

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