Mission: Little Joe 1
Launch Pad: Wallops Island Pad
Vehicle: Little Joe (1)
Boiler Plate Capsule
Max Q abort and escape test. Objective was to determine how well the escape rocket would function under the most severe dynamic loading conditions anticipated during a Mercury-Atlas launching.
Altitude: .4 statute miles
Duration: 0 Days, 0 hours, 0 minutes, 20 seconds
Distance: .5 statute miles
At 35 minutes before launch, evacuation of the area had been proceeding on schedule and the batteries for the programmer and destruct system in the test booster were being charged. Suddenly, half an hour before launchtime, an explosive flash occured. When the smoke cleared it was evident that only the capsule-and-tower combination had been launched, on a trajectory similar to an off-the-pad abort. The booster and adapter-clamp ring remained intact on the launcher. Near apogee, at about 2000 ft, the clamping ring that held tower to capsule released and the little pyro-rocket for jettisoning the tower fired.
The accident report for LJ-1, issued September 18, 1959, blamed the premature firing on the Grand Central escape rocket on an electrical leak, or what missile engineers call transients or ghost voltages in a relay circuit. The fault was found in a coil designed to protect biological specimens from too rapid an abort. (Reference SP-4201 p. 208)
The mission failed to meet its objectives.