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  Mercury - Gemini - Apollo
  Mercury launch escape system (LES) tests

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Author Topic:   Mercury launch escape system (LES) tests
NavyPilot
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Posts: 10
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Registered: Nov 2015

posted 01-06-2018 11:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NavyPilot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I cannot seem to find a reliable, complete source of Mercury launch escape system (LES) subject testing at Wallops Flight Facility. Common internet literature is inexact and occasionally contradictory.

It appears that tests were subdivided into three basic phases: (1) initial propulsion development, presumably using only GCRC rockets and early capsule prototype shapes, to determine nozzle configuration with key detailed design elements for desired dynamics and performance, (b) more integrated testing using pre-production-representative capsule prototypes with towers of unknown pedigree, and finally (3) LES qualification tests using production-represent prototype capsules plus SC-1, the latter test mentioned to use a McDonnell-sourced integrated tower.

I have culled ostensible test events from various online sources as including (using posted and personal descriptions):

  • 03/08/59 LES rocket motor
  • 03/11/59 1st beach abort LES
  • 04/12/59 2nd beach abort LES
  • 04/13/59 LES rocket motor
  • 07/22/59 Escape system
  • 07/28/59 Escape system
  • 05/09/60 Escape tower test
I have seen documentation of "Beach Abort Test #1" having occurred both on 07/22/59 and 04/01/60. Presumably the 1959 date was the first integrated escape test (compared to previous rocket motor/escape tower development tests) and the 1960 test was the "production" McDonnell capsule/tower integrated qual test (?). But as mentioned, the sources cited are inexact.

I was looking for a list of events with dates, configurations and objectives, including presiding org -- for the latter, I presume that the vast majority are PARD-controlled, but perhaps the 1960 test could have involved McAir under a equipment qual test contract or clause?

I would appreciate any references or cites for coherent program data.

Lou Chinal
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Posts: 1281
From: Staten Island, NY
Registered: Jun 2007

posted 01-06-2018 08:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You are certainly stretching my brain to the limit. I have never come across a list of LES tests. However I have picked up a few facts you may find interesting.

There were two sizes of towers, 111 inches and 118 inches. To pull the capsule away from the booster the aerodrome spike was misaligned 3/4 inch. Hope this helps.

NavyPilot
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Posts: 10
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Registered: Nov 2015

posted 01-06-2018 09:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NavyPilot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks Lou. When folks like you don't know, it worries me that no one does!

NavyPilot
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Posts: 10
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Registered: Nov 2015

posted 01-07-2018 10:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NavyPilot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nothing in Dr. Baker's book or in SP-45, but SP-4201 states:
The first major proof test occurred on April 12, 1959. After a dismal failure a month before, the escape tower rocket attached to a full-scale boilerplate model demonstrated its ability to lift...
This lines up the March 11th-April 12th dates.

Still looking for other references. Thanks.

NavyPilot
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Posts: 10
From:
Registered: Nov 2015

posted 01-07-2018 11:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NavyPilot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For those interested in the topic, this Astronautix page summarizes the LES development cycle. Not all the data I wanted, but sufficient. Thanks.

All times are CT (US)

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