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Other Test Flights
July 8, 2009
 

Pad Abort Tests of Launch Escape Tower

Mission
Pad Abort Test 1 (PA-1)

Mission Objective
Launch escape tower test in simulated pad abort
Result: Successful

Launch
November 7, 1963; 9:00:01 a.m. MST
White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
Area No. 3

Spacecraft
Launch escape tower
Boilerplate 6

Orbit
Altitude: 1.6 km

-> Distance: 1.38 km downrange

Mission Highlights
In the first off-the-pad abort test of the Apollo launch escape system at White Sands Missile Range, a boilerplate version of the command module - Boilerplate 6 - lifted off the pad by the 155,000-pound-thrust launch escape motor mounted on a launch escape tower. The thrust continued to a height of 4,100 feet, at eight seconds. The escape tower jettisoned at 4,900 feet, at 15.5 seconds, and the parachutes deployed for recovery. The primary purpose of the test was to determine the stability and operational characteristics of the escape configuration during a pad abort. The postflight investigation disclosed only one significant problem - exhaust impingement that resulted in soot deposits on the command module.

Landing
1.38 km downrange





Mission
Pad Abort Test 2 (PA-2)

Mission Objective
Launch escape tower test in simulated pad abort
Result: Successful

Launch
June 29, 1965; 6:00:01 a.m. MST
White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
Area No. 3

Spacecraft
Little Joe II
Boilerplate 23A

Orbit
Altitude: 1.578 km
-> Duration: one minute
Distance: 2.316 km downrange

Mission Highlights
This test simulated an abort from ground level using the Apollo launch escape system for propulsion. This type of abort would be necessary in an actual mission if serious trouble developed with the Saturn launch vehicle just before or during ignition of the Saturn engines. Boilerplate 23A, the command module used for this test, traveled 5,000 feet above the range. Eleven seconds after ignition signaled from the blockhouse, canards deployed near the top of the escape motor, causing the spacecraft to pitch aerodynamically to a blunt-end-forward position. Three seconds later, the tower jettison motor ignited, removing the tower and boost protective cover from the spacecraft. The forward heat shield jettisoned .4 seconds later to uncover the parachute containers. Two seconds after the lunar excursion module jettisoned, dual drogue parachutes deployed by mortars from the upper deck. They slowed the spacecraft's descent to stabilize the module in a blunt-end-forward position. When the drogue parachutes jettisoned, three pilot chutes deployed to extract the three main chutes from their containers. The main parachutes deployed, then lowered the spacecraft to a gentle landing about one mile from the launch site. The flight sequence took about one minute. This was the first Apollo boilerplate to be reused. It was previously used in test A-002 on Dec. 8, 1964.

Landing
2.316 km downrange





Little Joe II Tests

Mission
A-001

Mission Objective
Verify dynamic shape of launch escape tower
Result: Successful

Launch
May 13, 1964; 5:59:59 a.m. MST
White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
Spacecraft
Boilerplate 12

Orbit
Altitude: 4.7 km
-> Duration: five minutes, 50 seconds
Distance: 3.53 km downrange

Mission Highlights
A boilerplate model of the Apollo command and service module was mounted on a Little Joe II rocket. At an altitude of 17,000 feet, the Little Joe II exploded. Instantly, the rockets in the escape tower ignited and propelled the command module away from the exploding booster to a maximum altitude of 24,000 feet. The escape tower then was jettisoned automatically. The drogue parachute opened from the nose to stabilize the spacecraft as it descended. At about 7,500 feet, three large parachutes deployed from the nose. The first chute broke loose from the spacecraft, but the spacecraft landed safely with two chutes at a speed of about 30 feet per second. The 7 1/2-minute test was deemed successful, with all objectives achieved.

Landing
3.53 km downrange





Mission
A-002

Mission Objective
Max Q launch escape tower test close to guidance limits
Result: Successful

Launch
December 8, 1964; 8:00 a.m. MST
White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico

Spacecraft
Boilerplate 23

Orbit
Altitude: 4.683 km
-> -> Distance: 2.316 km downrange

Mission Highlights
This was the third successful test of the functioning 33-foot launch escape tower, which was designed to jettison the command module and three Apollo astronauts to safety in an abort before or during the launch phase of a Saturn V mission. It was the first test of the boost-protective cover subsystem, a contoured shell fitting over the command module. It was designed to protect the docking mechanism of the lunar module, or LM, from excessive heat during high temperatures of first-stage flight. It also protected command module windows from the exhaust of the launch escape motor. Apollo command and service Boilerplate 23 boosted to the region of maximum dynamic pressure at an altitude of 29,000 feet, where launch vehicle failure was simulated. The escape vehicle, mated to the spacecraft by a connecting tower, yanked the Apollo module free of the Little Joe rocket and carried it almost two miles higher. The rocket fell to Earth and the module returned gently to the ground by three 88-foot parachutes.

Landing
2.316 km downrange





Mission
A-003

Mission Objective
High altitude abort test
Launch vehicle broke up
Result: Failure

Launch
May 19, 1965; 6:01:04 a.m. MST
White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
Spacecraft
Boilerplate 22

Orbit
Altitude: 5.944 km
-> -> Distance: 5.486 km downrange

Mission Highlights
The 71-ton Little Joe II rocket split into fragments three miles above ground following a series of excessive rolls about 25 seconds after launch. The escape rocket fired immediately, however, and carried the 14-ton Apollo boilerplate free of the debris. The parachute recovery system operated normally, lowering the command module to the ground.

Landing
5.486 km downrange





Mission
A-004

Mission Objective
Abort qualification program high altitude abort test
Result: Success

Launch
Jan. 20, 1966; 8:17:01 a.m. MST
White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico

Spacecraft
CSM-002

Payload
Block I production model 002

Orbit
Altitude: 22.6 km
-> -> Distance: 34.63 km downrange

Mission Highlights
NASA had hoped to finish the Little Joe II abort qualification program by the end of 1965, but on Dec. 17, 1965, the flight readiness board refused to accept the booster and canceled a launch set for the next day. A month later, the last Little Joe II headed toward an altitude of 24 km and a downrange distance of 14 km. Then, as designed, the launch vehicle started to tumble. The launch escape system sensed trouble, fired its abort rocket and carried the command module away from impending disaster. All went well - the launch, the test conditions, the telemetry, the spacecraft and postflight analysis. The spacecraft windows picked up too much soot from the tower jettison motor, but the structure remained intact. The only significant anomaly recorded was loss of RF telemetry about two seconds after abort. Little Joe II was honorably retired and its basic purpose to assure the launch escape and Earth landing systems could protect the astronauts in emergency or normal operations was accomplished.

Landing
34.63 km downrange
 

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Page Last Updated: September 19th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator