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Author Topic:   Space Cover 240: AS-201

Posts: 565
From: Northville MI USA
Registered: Aug 2005

posted 11-20-2013 09:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for yeknom-ecaps   Click Here to Email yeknom-ecaps     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space Cover of the Week, Week 240 (November 17, 2013)

Space Cover #240: AS 201

Apollo-Saturn 201 (AS-201) flown on February 26, 1966, was the first unmanned test flight of an entire production Block I Apollo Command/Service Module and the Saturn IB launch vehicle. The spacecraft consisted of the second Block I command module and the first Block I service module. The suborbital flight was a partially successful demonstration of the service propulsion system and the reaction control systems of both modules, and successfully demonstrated the capability of the Command Module's heat shield to survive re-entry from low Earth orbit.

This first flight of the Saturn IB lifted off from Space Launch Complex (SLC) 34. The first stage worked perfectly lifting the rocket to 57 km, when the S-IVB J-2 engine took over and accelerated Apollo CSM to 29,000 kilometers per hour lifting the spacecraft to 425 km. The CSM separated and continued upwards to 488 km apogee.

The CSM then fired its own engine to accelerate the spacecraft towards Earth. The first burn lasted for 184 seconds. It then fired ten seconds later for ten seconds. This proved that the engine could restart in space, a crucial part of any manned flight to the Moon.

It entered the atmosphere traveling 8300 m/s. It splashed down only 37 minutes after launch, 72 km from the planned touchdown point 8,472 km downrange, east of Ascension Island and was on board the USS Boxer two hours later. Now for more of the story from a participant...

The cover above was sent from the USS Boxer on the day of the recovery by Robert John Seeke, RD3, of the OI Division aboard the USS Boxer. Describing his role in the AS-201 mission aboard the USS Boxer he writes:

At the time of the AS201 launch I was a radarman third class (RD3) on the U.S.S. Boxer LPH-4. Most of my time was spent in the Combat Information Center (CIC), where the radar scopes and plotting boards were located and manned 24 hours a day.

There was training aboard the Boxer in preparation for the recovery of the AS201 capsule. The radar division (Operational Intelligence Div.) had no part in the training, other than our on-going training and practice drills.

When the day of the AS201 launch arrived the Combat Information Center (CIC) had more than its usual allotment of one or two officers on hand. These included the CIC officer LCDR. Brown and the Operations officer whose name escapes me, as I had very little contact with him.

Everyone was at their assigned duty stations. Mine was the surface radar to track the capsule after it splashed down. The mission commands were piped in to the CIC so we would know what was happening. With about 10 minutes to go before launch, a hold was placed on the launch. The groan from CIC could probably be heard at the launch site. The hold lasted about 10 minutes, then AS201 launched.

The entire flight, from launch to splashdown, was about 15 minutes. Boxer was close to the splashdown point and the capsule appeared on my radar screen. Range and distance to the capsule were quickly sent to the bridge and the ship steered toward the capsule. Once the ship was along-side the capsule, my job was done. I asked LCDR. Brown (he was a good guy) if I could be relieved and go take pictures. He said yes, and I went to one of the flying bridges on the starboard side near the recovery equipment. I was able to get good pictures of the recovery.

That ended CIC's involvement in the recovery of AS201. The crew never saw the capsule again, as it was moved below-decks and wrapped before it was off-loaded. I don't recall where that was.

/s/Robert John Seeke

It is always interesting to know the history behind the names that appear on the covers in our collections. That is what our hobby is... preserving history!


Posts: 197
From: Boston, Mass.
Registered: Jun 2005

posted 11-21-2013 09:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NAAmodel#240   Click Here to Email NAAmodel#240     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks Tom for the great crew cover. Astrophilately can be so much more than just postmarks and cachets when we look for return addresses and enclosed letters.


Posts: 658
From: Albany, Oregon
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 11-21-2013 01:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mach3valkyrie   Click Here to Email mach3valkyrie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A friend of mine was also on board the Boxer during the recovery. He gave me a similar cover that he had sent to his girlfriend (later wife) at the time. It's not in as good of shape as yours, but still cool.

He was looking forward to the recovery of Gemini 8 a few weeks later. He said he had his camera ready to take a lot of photos of the crew, but we know how that played out.

Anyway, thanks for sharing.


Posts: 427
From: Australia
Registered: Jul 2003

posted 11-22-2013 08:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ross   Click Here to Email Ross     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great cover Tom. And it has the scarcer hand cancel. The accompanying note is a really nice addition. Below is an example with a machine cancel and it is also signed by the main Recovery helicopter pilot.


Posts: 681
From: Longview, Texas, USA
Registered: Apr 2000

posted 09-05-2016 11:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dtemple   Click Here to Email dtemple     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is my AS-201/USS Boxer cover signed by Apollo program manager at the time, Joseph Shea.

All times are CT (US)

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