Development and Qualification

January 1963 through December 1963

January 4

Manned Spacecraft Center directed McDonnell to study requirements for a spacecraft capable of performing rendezvous experiments on the second and third Gemini flights. The experimental package would weigh 70 pounds and would include an L-band radar target, flashing light, battery power supply, and antenna systems. On the second flight, a one-day mission, the experiment was to be performed open-loop, probably optically - the astronaut would observe the target and maneuver the spacecraft to rendezvous with it. On the third flight, a seven-day mission, the experiment was to be performed closed-loop, with spacecraft maneuvers controlled automatically by the data it received from its instruments.

January 8-9

Representatives of Manned Spacecraft Center, NASA Headquarters, Flight Research Center, Langley Research Center, and Ames Research Center conducted a Design Engineering Inspection of the advanced trainer for the Paraglider Development Program, Phase II-B(1). North American received 36 requests for alterations.

January 8-9

Manned Spacecraft Center outlined requirements for McDonnell to consider concerning aborts in orbit. These included onboard controlled reentry for all aborts, except in the event of guidance and control system failure; onboard selection of one of the emergency abort target areas; navigational accuracy to a two-mile radius error at the point of impact; and crew capability to eject from the spacecraft with the paraglider deployed.

January 9

Flight Operations Division outlined detailed requirements for the remote stations of the worldwide tracking network. Each station would need five consoles: Gemini system, Agena system, command, aeromedical, and maintenance and operations. The Gemini and Agena consoles would have 42 analog display meters and 40 on/off indicators.

Figure 45. The five consoles to be installed in each tracking network remote station. (NASA Photos S-63-22136 and S-63-22135, undated.)

January 10

Representatives of Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), McDonnell, and the Eagle-Picher Company, Joplin, Missouri, met to review plans for developing and testing the silver-zinc batteries for the Gemini spacecraft. McDonnell had selected Eagle-Picher as vendor for the batteries about 6 months earlier. Current plans called for five batteries to provide part of the primary (main bus) electrical power requirements during launch, and all primary electrical power for one orbit, reentry, and the postlanding period. Three additional high-discharge-rate batteries, isolated electrically and mechanically from the main batteries, provided power to control functioning relays and solenoids. Eagle-Picher completed a test plan proposal on February 9. On February 21, MSC directed McDonnell to use four batteries instead of five for main bus power on spacecraft Nos. 2 and up, after McDonnell's analysis of battery power requirements disclosed that a four-battery installation, if closely monitored, would be adequate.

January 11

To stimulate contractor employees to better performance, Gemini Project Office Manager James A. Chamberlin suggested that astronauts visit with workers at various contractors' plants. Donald K Slayton, Astronaut Activities Office, informed Chamberlin that such visits would be made, beginning with the Martin Company in February 1963.

January 14

In the opinion of Flight Operations Division's Project Gemini working group: "One of the biggest problem areas seems to be the [spacecraft] on-board computer; exactly what is it going to do; what is its sequence of operation; what does it need from the ground computer complex and how often; exactly how is it used by astronauts; what is the job of the on-board computer for early missions?"

January 14

Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) assumed complete responsibility for the Gemini target vehicle program from Marshall Space Flight Center following a meeting between MSC and Marshall on January 11 establishing procedures for the transfer. Marshall was to continue to participate actively in an advisory capacity until March 1 and thereafter as technical consultant to MSC upon request. All other NASA Atlas-Agena programs were transferred to Lewis Research Center in a move aimed at freeing Marshall to concentrate on Saturn launch vehicle development and consolidating Atlas launch vehicle technology at Lewis. NASA Headquarters had decided to effect the transfer on October 12, 1962.

January 17

NASA Administrator James E. Webb and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara signed a new agreement on Department of Defense (DOD) and NASA management responsibilities in the Cape Canaveral area. The Air Force would continue as single manager of the Atlantic Missile Range and host agency at the 15,000-acre Cape Canaveral launch area. NASA's Launch Operations Center would manage and serve as host agency at the Merritt Island Launch Area, north and west of existing DOD installations. DOD and NASA would each be responsible for their own logistics and administration in their respective areas. Specific mission functions - e.g., preparation, checkout, launch, test evaluation - would be performed by each agency in its own behalf, regardless of location. DOD retained certain fundamental range functions, including scheduling, flight safety, search and rescue operations, and downrange airlift and station operation.

January 21

James E Webb, Administrator of NASA, and Robert S McNamara, Secretary of Defense, concluded a major policy agreement defining the roles of NASA and Department of Defense (DOD) in Project Gemini. The agreement provided for the establishment of a joint NASA-DOD Gemini Program Planning Board. The board would plan experiments, conduct flight tests, and analyze and disseminate results. NASA would continue to manage Project Gemini, while DOD would take part in Gemini development, pilot training, preflight checkout, launch, and flight operations, and would be specifically responsible for the Titan II launch vehicle and the Atlas-Agena target vehicle. DOD would also contribute funds toward the attainment of Gemini objectives.

January 22

In an electrical systems coordination meeting at Manned Spacecraft Center, results of operating the first fuel cell section were reported: a fuel cell stack had failed and the resultant fire had burned a hole through the case. Another section was being assembled from stacks incorporating thicker ion-exchange membranes. One such stack, of six fuel cells, had operated for 707 hours within specification limits, and after 875 hours was five percent below specified voltage; a similar stack was well within specification after operating 435 hours.

Gemini Fuel Cell
Figure 46. Gemini fuel cell stack. (McDonnell, "Project Gemini Familiarization Manual: Manned Spacecraft Rendezvous Configuration," June 1, 1962, p. 4-6.)

January 22

North American received a letter contract for Phase III, Part I, of the Paraglider Development Program, to produce a Gemini paraglider landing system. This contract was subsequently incorporated as Change No. 6 to Contract NAS 9-539, Phase II-B(1) of the Paraglider Development Program.

January 26

Manned Spacecraft Center announced specialty areas for the nine new astronauts: trainers and simulators, Neil A. Armstrong; boosters, Frank Borman; cockpit layout and systems integration, Charles Conrad, Jr.; recovery systems, James A. Lovell, Jr.; guidance and navigation, James A. McDivitt; electrical, Sequential, and mission planning, Elliot M. See, Jr.; communications, instrumentation, and range integration, Thomas P. Stafford; flight control systems, Edward H White II; and environmental control systems, personal and survival equipment, John W Young.

January 29-30

At a launch guidance and control coordination meeting, Aerospace described three Titan II development flight failures that had been caused by problems in the General Electrical Mod III airborne radio guidance system. Although these failures did not appear to be the result of inherent design faults that might react on the Gemini program, Aerospace felt that a tighter quality assurance program was needed: "GE has a poor MOD III (G) quality control program, basically poor workmanship."

January 30

Gemini Project Office asked NASA Headquarters for authorization to use preflight automatic checkout equipment for Project Gemini. The Mercury Program had been successful in everything except meeting schedules, in which lengthy checkout time was a major obstacle. Automatic checkout equipment could cut down the time required top test components in Gemini. After reviewing this request, George M. Low, Director of Spacecraft and Flight Missions, Office of Manned Space Flight, asked that four automatic checkout stations be provided for Project Gemini as quickly as possible. Initially approved, the use of automatic checkout equipment in the Gemini program was subsequently dropped as an economy measure.

February 5

Crew Systems Division representatives presented results of investigations into equipment and procedures for extravehicular operations. McDonnell was to begin a review of current extravehicular capabilities and to proceed with a study of requirements. Areas of study were to include (1) extent of crew maneuverability with hatch closed and cabin pressurized as currently provided, (2) requirements to allow the crew to stand in open hatches but not actually leave the cabin, and (3) requirements to allow a crew member to leave the cabin and inspect the spacecraft's exterior. McDonnell was directed to provide for extravehicular operations for spacecraft Nos. 2 and up.

February 5-6

At a Gemini Rendezvous and Reentry Panel meeting, it was reported that attempts to obtain information on flight controller procedures to command the Agena in orbit had been delayed by the Air Force Agena security program.

February 6

Titan II development flight N-16 was launched from Cape Canaveral. This was the eleventh Titan II flight and the third to use increased pressure in the propellant tanks of stage I to reduce longitudinal oscillations (POGO). This was successful in reducing POGO levels to about 0.5 g, more than satisfactory from the standpoint of the weapon system. The Air Force was reluctant to expend weapon system funds in an effort to reduce POGO still further to the 0.25-g level NASA regarded as the maximum acceptable for manned flight.

Titan II N-15 launch
Figure 47. Titan II flight N-15 was launched from Cape Canaveral on January 10, 1963. It was the tenth in the series of Titan II research and development flights, and the second to achieve significantly reduced levels of longitudinal oscillations by means of propellant tank pressurization. (USAF Photo 33-1, Jan. 10, 1963.)

February 6

Astronaut trainees concluded their formal academic training with a course on orbital mechanics and flight dynamics. Flight crew personnel had been receiving basic science training for two days a week over the past four months. During this period, they also received Gemini spacecraft and launch vehicle familiarization courses and visited several contractor facilities, including McDonnell, Martin, Aerojet, and Lockheed. Among subjects studied were astronomy, physics of the upper atmosphere and space, global meteorology, selenology, guidance and navigation, computers, fluid mechanics, rocket propulsion systems, aerodynamics, communications, environmental control systems, and medical aspects of space flight. Flight-crew training plans for the rest of the year, which were being formulated during February, called for space science and technology seminars, celestial recognition training, monitoring the Mercury-Atlas 9 flight, weightless flying, pressure suit indoctrination, parachute jumping, survival training, instruction in spacecraft systems and launch support, paraglider flying, centrifuge experience, docking practice, and work with the flight simulator.

February 7

Simulated off-the-pad ejection test No. 8 was conducted at Naval Ordnance Test Station. Two dummies were ejected, and for the first time the test incorporated a ballute system. The ballute (for balloon + parachute) had been introduced as a device to stabilize the astronaut after ejection at high altitudes. Ejection seat and dummy separated satisfactorily and the personnel parachute deployed properly; but faults in the test equipment prevented the canopy from fully inflating. The ballute failed to inflate or release properly on either dummy. As a result, the parachute was redesigned to ensure more positive inflation at very low dynamic pressures. The redesigned chute was tested in a series of five entirely successful dummy drops during March.

Ballute stabilization device
Figure 48. Proposed deployment sequence for the ballute stabilization device. (NASA Photo No. 63-Gemini-12, Jan. 18, 1963.)

February 8

Colonel Kenneth W Schultz of Headquarters, Air Force Office of Development Planning, outlined Department of Defense objectives in the Gemini program at the first meeting of the Gemini Program Planning Board. He defined three general objectives: conducting orbital experiments related to such possible future missions as the inspection and interception of both cooperative and passive or noncooperative objects in space under a variety of conditions, logistic support of a manned orbiting laboratory, and photo reconnaissance from orbit; gaining military experience and training in all aspects of manned space flight; and assessing the relationship between man and machine in the areas of potential military missions.

February 8

Northrop Ventura successfully completed the first series of 20 drop tests in developing the parachute recovery system for Project Gemini. The first four drops, during the last two weeks of August 1962, used a dummy rendezvous and recovery (R and R) section with the 18-foot drogue parachute to determine the rate of descent of the R and R section. Subsequent drops tested the 84-foot ring-sail main parachute using boilerplate spacecraft No. 1, a steel mock-up of the Gemini spacecraft ballasted to simulate the weight and center of gravity of the flight article. Boilerplate No. 1, manufactured by McDonnell, was delivered to Northrop Ventura on August 1. Drops Nos. 5 and 6 were simple weight drops to determine the structural characteristics of the main parachute. Beginning with drop No. 7, tests were conducted through the entire sequencing of the system from a altitude of 10,000 feet. Through drop No. 13, the main problem was tucking; the edge of the parachute tended to tuck under, hindering full inflation. Drop tests Nos. 5 through 13 were conducted from September through November 1962. The tucking problem was resolved with drop No. 14. Remaining tests in the series demonstrated the structural integrity of the parachute system when deployed at maximum dynamic pressure. Qualification drop tests were expected to begin in April.

February 13

The first biweekly Network Coordination Meeting was held. Gemini Project Office had established the meetings to ensure the compatabilty of ground network equipment configuration with mission requirements and airborne systems. At a meeting on November 20, 1962, the PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) Working Group had concluded that Project Gemini telemetry system presented no major compatibility problems.

February 15

Agena target vehicle checkout plans were presented at a meeting of the Gemini Management Panel. Upon receipt at Cape Canaveral, the target vehicle would be inspected and certified. After this action, mechanical mate and interface checks with the target docking adapter would be accomplished. Agena-Gemini spacecraft compatibilty tests would then be conducted, and the Agena would undergo validation and weight checks. Subsequently, a joint checkout of the spacecraft and Agena would be conducted with tests on the Merritt Island radar tower.

February 18

In a letter transmitting copies of the Gemini Launch Vehicle Pilot Safety Program to Gemini contractors and other organizations engaged in Gemini development and operations, Air Force Space Systems Division explained that pilot safety philosophy and procedures would be carried over from Mercury-Atlas to Gemini-Titan.

February 26-27

Gemini Project Office (GPO) decided that spacecraft separation from the launch vehicle would be accomplished manually on spacecraft Nos. 2 and up. In addition, no second-stage cutoff signal to the spacecraft would be required. GPO directed McDonnell to remove pertinent hardware from the spacecraft and Martin to recommend necessary hardware changes to the launch vehicle.

February 28

Gemini Project Office reported that spacecraft No. 3 had been reassigned to the Gemini flight program. It had originally been scheduled for use in Project Orbit tests, a program of simulated manned orbital flights in the McDonnell vacuum chamber. Static article No.1, which had been intended for load tests of the paraglider, ejection seat, hatch, and cabin pressurization, was redesignated spacecraft No. 3A and replaced spacecraft No. 3 in the Project Orbit test program. A McDonnell review of the entire static test program in December 1962 had resulted in eliminating static article No. 1 and making static articles Nos. 3 and 4 the primary structural test articles. No. 3 was subjected to launch, reentry, abort, landing, and parachute loads; and No. 4 to seat, hatch, and pressurization loads plus dynamic response tests.

February 28

Gemini Project Office (GPO) published a bar chart depicting preflight check-out of the Gemini spacecraft in the industrial area at Cape Canaveral. The chart outlined tests on all sections of the spacecraft, the target docking adapter, and the paraglider, from initial receiving inspection through completion of preparations for movement to the launch pad. GPO expected industrial testing to take about 90 working days, based on two full shifts of testing per day and a third shift of partial testing and partial maintenance.

February 28

Gemini Project Office reported Rocketdyne's successful achievement of the full 270-second burn-time duration specified for steady-state operation of the orbit attitude and maneuver system (OAMS) 25-pound thruster. This had been the primary focus of Rocketdyne's research effort, in line with McDonnell's position that meeting steady-state life operations with the 25-pound OAMS thrust chamber assembly (TCA) was the key to resolving major problems in the development of spacecraft liquid propulsion systems. McDonnell engineers believed that a TCA design able to meet the steady-state life performance required of the 25-pound OAMS TCA would also be adequate to meet pulse-life performance requirements, and that a satisfactory 25-pound TCA would only have to be enlarged to provide a satisfactory 100-pound TCA. They were wrong on both counts. Rocketdyne subsequently shifted its primary TCA effort to obtaining life during pulse operation for 25-pound thrusters and steady-state life operation for 100-pound thrusters.

March 1

The stage II oxidizer tank from Gemini launch vehicle (GLV) 2 was airlifted from Martin-Denver to Martin-Baltimore to be used in GLV-1. GLV propellant tank and skirt assemblies were manufactured, pressure-tested, and calibrated at Martin-Denver, then shipped to Baltimore where the GLV was assembled. Martin-Denver had begun major weld fabrication of GLV-1 and GLV-2 tanks in September 1962 and delivered the GLV-1 tanks to Martin-Baltimore on October 10. After extensive testing, the tanks went through a roll-out inspection February 14-16, 1963, by Air Force, NASA, Aerospace, and Martin personnel. The inspecting team rejected the stage II oxidizer tank because it was found to be cracked. The rejected tank was returned to Denver and replaced by the GLV-2 stage II oxidizer tank.

Figure 49A. Procedure for assembling fuel and oxidizer tanks for stage I of the Gemini launch vehicle. (Martin Photo 8B65793, undated.)

Figure 49B. Procedure for assembling fuel and oxidizer tanks for stage II of the Gemini launch vehicle. (Martin Photo 8B65794, undated.)

March 5

Gemini Project Office discussed with contractors the establishment of a philosophy for the final phase of the rendezvous mission. They agreed on the following general rules: (1) when the launch was on time, the terminal maneuver would be initiated when the Agena came within range of the spacecraft's sensors, which would occur between spacecraft insertion and first apogee; (2) automatic and optical terminal guidance techniques would always back each other up, one method being selected as an objective for each mission and the other serving as a standby; (3) during early rendezvous missions, the terminal phase would be initiated by the third spacecraft apogee or delayed until the twelfth because of range radar tracking limitations; (4) for the same reason, no midcourse corrections should be made during orbits 4 through 11; (5) in case of extreme plane or phase errors, the Agena would be maneuvered to bring it within the spacecraft's maneuver capability; and (6) after such gross Agena maneuvers, the Agena orbit would be recircularized and two orbits of spacecraft catchup would precede the initiation of terminal rendezvous plan.

March 7

The Gemini Program Planning Board, meeting in Washington, agreed to the establishment of an ad hoc study group to compare NASA and Department of Defense (DOD) objectives for the Gemini program and to recommend DOD experiments for inclusion in the Gemini flight program. The group met in continuous session March 25 to April 26, presenting its final report to the board on May 6. The board then recommended that a program of inflight military experiments be immediately approved, that the Air Force establish a field office at Manned Spacecraft Center to manage DOD participation in the Gemini program in general and integration of experiments in particular, and that work on preventing longitudinal oscillations in stage I and combustion instability in stage II of the Gemini launch vehicle to be urgently pursued. The board declined to recommend additional flights in the Gemini program, as suggested by the study group, to encompass experiments that would not fit into the framework of the planned Gemini program. The Secretary of Defense and NASA Administrator concurred in the Board's recommendations.

March 11

A series of problems in the Paraglider Development Program culminated in the loss of a second half-scale test vehicle in a deployment flight test. As early as October 19, 1962, budget pressure had prompted some consideration of dropping a paraglider from the Gemini Program. Paraglider was retained but the Paraglider Development Plan was reoriented. On March 27-28, 1963, representatives of NASA and North American met to discuss several revised paraglider programs as a basis for potential redirection. At a Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) senior staff meeting on March 29, Andre J Meyer Jr., of Gemini Project Office (GPO) reported that GPO now intended to delay use of paraglider until the tenth Gemini mission, although the consensus of the Gemini Management Panel at a meeting on May 2 was that paraglider might yet be ready for spacecraft No. 7 and GPO's Quarterly Status Report for the period ending May 31, 1963, also projected the use of paraglider from flight No. 7 on. In response to an inquiry from MSC, North American reported on April 9 that funds for Contract NAS 9-167 would be exhausted by April 15, and for Contract NAS 9-539 by April 25. Paraglider was downgraded to a research and development program. All three earlier paraglider contracts where terminated; on May 5 a new letter contract, NAS 9-1484, was issued to North American to cover work on what was now called the Paraglider Landing System Program.

March 12

North American let the first of three major subcontracts for the Gemini Paraglider Landing System Program to Northrop for a parachute recovery system in the amount of $461,312. A $1,034,003 subcontract for the paraglider control actuation assembly went to the Aerospace Division of Vickers, Inc., Detroit, Michigan, on March 25. The third major subcontract, $708,809 for the paraglider electronic control system, was let to the Aeronautical Division of Minneapolis-Honeywell on May 13.

March 14

McDonnell presented results of its study to determine the minimum recycle time in the event of a mission "scrub". Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) need this information to determine capability of meeting launch windows on successive days in the rendezvous portion of the Gemini program. According to the company's best estimate, recycle would require at least 24 and a half hours. MSC, desiring a shorter period, studied whether the recycle could be compressed by doing more concurrent work.

March 19

James A Chamberlin was reassigned from Manager of Project Gemini to Senior Engineering Advisor to Robert R Gilruth, Director of Manned Spacecraft Center. Charles W Mathews was reassigned from Chief, Spacecraft Technology Division, to Acting Manager of Project Gemini.

March 20

Qualification tests of the production prototype ablation heatshield for the Gemini spacecraft began. Structural and material properties specimen tests had already shown that the shield either satisfied or exceeded the required design level.

March 21

A meeting at Manned Spacecraft Center established guidelines for extra-vehicular operations. The current concept of the pressure suit as a single-wall pressure vessel was to be retained; the basic suit could be modified by such additions as loose thermal covering or gloves and boots. To attach the astronaut to the spacecraft during extravehicular operations, a tether long enough to allow access to the spacecraft adapter section would be used; it would include 12 nylon-encapsulated communications wires. The tether's only purpose was to attach the astronaut to the spacecraft; maneuvering and maintaining stability would be accomplished by other means. Provisions for extravehicular operations were to be provided from spacecraft No. 4 on. One-half hour of useful time outside the cabin was specified as the basis for systems design.

March 21

A contract for $33,797,565, including fixed fee, was signed with Philco Corporation, Philadelphia, Pennysylvania, to implement the Integrated Mission Control Center. Philco would provide all the flight information and control display equipment except the real-time computer complex, which was to be built and maintained by International Business Machines Corporation. Philco would also assist Manned Spacecraft Center in maintaining and operating the equipment for at least one year after acceptance. Philco had been selected from seven qualified bidders, and final contract negotiations had begun February 25, 1963.

April 1

The Titan II-Gemini Coordination Committee was established to direct efforts to reduce longitudinal vibration (POGO) in the Titan II and to improve engine reliability. Air Force Space Systems Division (SSD) and Aerospace had presented to NASA and the Air Force a series of briefings on the POGO problem that culminated in a briefing to the Gemini Program Planning Board. The main problem was that POGO level satisfactory in the weapon system was too high to meet NASA standards for the Gemini program, and further reduction in the POGO level required a much more elaborate and extensive analytic and experimental program than had so far been considered necessary. The board approved the SSD/Aerospace proposals and established a committee to oversee work toward a POGO remedy. The high-level committee was composed of officials from Air Force Ballistic Systems Division, SSD, Space Technology Laboratories, and Aerospace.

April 2

Testifying before the Subcommittee on Manned Space Flight of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, D Brainerd Holmes, Director of Manned Space Flight, sought to justify a $42.638 million increase in Gemini's actual 1963 budget over that previously estimated. Holmes explained: "This increase is identified primarily with an increase of $49.9 million in spacecraft. The fiscal 1963 congressional budget request was made at the suggestion of the contractor. The increase reflects McDonnell's six months of actual experience in 1963." The subcommittee was perturbed that the contractor could so drastically underestimate Gemini costs, especially since it was chosen without competition because of supposed competence derived from Mercury experience. Holmes attributed McDonnell's underestimate to unexpectedly high bids from subcontractors and provided for the record a statement of some of the reasons for the change: "These original estimates made in December 1961 by NASA and McDonnell were based on minimum changes from Mercury technology ..... As detailed specifications for subsystems performance were developed ....... realistic cost estimates, not previously available, were obtained from subcontractors. The first of these ....... were obtained by McDonnell in April 1962 and revealed significantly higher estimates than were originally used. For example: (a) In data transmission, it became necessary to change from a Mercury-type system to a pulse code modulation (PCM) system because of increased data transmission requirements, and the need to reduce weight and electrical power. The Gemini data transmission system will be directly applicable to Apollo. (b) Other subsystems have a similar history. The rendezvous radar was originally planned to be similar to ones used by the Bomarc Missile, but it was found necessary to design an interferometer type radar for low weight, small volume, and to provide the highest reliability possible. (c) The environmental control system was originally planned as two Mercury-type systems, but as the detail specifications became definitive it was apparent that the Mercury ECS was inadequate and, although extensive use of Mercury design techniques were utilized, major modifications were required."

April 2

NASA announced the signing of a contract with McDonnell for the Gemini spacecraft. Final negotiations had been completed February 27, 1963. Estimated cost was $428,780,062 with a fixed fee of $27,870,000 for a total estimated cost-plus-fixed-fee of $456,650,062. NASA Headquarters spent two weeks on a detailed review of the contract before signing. Development of the spacecraft had begun in December 1961 under a preliminary letter contract which the final contract superseded. The contract call for a 13 flight-rated spacecraft, 12 to be used in space flight, one to be used for ground testing. In addition, McDonnell would provide two mission simulator trainers, a docking simulator trainer, five boilerplates, and three static articles for vibration and impact ground tests.

April 9

George M Low, Director of Spacecraft and Flight Missions, Office of Manned Space Flight, explained to the House Subcommittee on Manned Space Flight why eight rendezvous missions were planned: "In developing the rendezvous capability, we must study a number of different possible ways of conducting the rendezvous ..... For example, we can conduct a rendezvous maneuver in Gemini by purely visual or optical means. In this case there will be a flashing light on the target vehicle. The pilot in the spacecraft will look out of his window and he will rendezvous and fly the spacecraft toward the flashing light and perform the docking. This is one extreme of a purely manual system. On the opposite end of the spectrum we have a purely automatic system in which we have a radar, computer, and stabilized platform and, from about 200 or 500 miles out, the spacecraft and the target vehicle can lock on to each other by radar and all maneuvers take place automatically from that point on. We know from our studies on the ground and our simulations that the automatic way is probably the most efficient way of doing it. We would need the least amount of fuel to do it automatically. On the other hand it is also the most complex way. We need more equipment, and more equipment can fail this maneuver so it might not be the most reliable way. The completely visual method is least efficient as far as propellants are concerned, but perhaps the simplest. In between there are many possible combinations of these things. For example, we could use a radar for determining the distance and the relative velocity between the two without determining the relative angle between the two spacecraft and let the man himself determine the relative angle. We feel we must get actual experience in space flight of a number of these possibilities before we can perform the lunar orbit rendezvous for Apollo."

April 22

Representatives of Air Force Space Systems Division (SSD), Manned Spacecraft Center, and Lockheed met in Sunnyvale for the first management review of the Gemini Agena target vehicle (GATV). Patterned after similar meetings regularly held between SSD, Lewis Research Center, and Lockheed on medium space vehicle satellite and probe programs, the Gemini Target Management Review Meetings encompassed a comprehensive monthly review of the status of the GATV program.

April 23-24

The Gemini Abort Panel met. Martin-Baltimore's analysis of the last three Titan II flight tests tended to show that successful crew escape would have been possible. McDonnell presented data on spacecraft structural capabilities, but lack of data on what to expect from Titan II catastrophic failure meant that spacecraft structural capabilities remained a problem. Also some questions had existed as to what could happen to the adapter retrosection during and after an abort. A study had been made of this problem, assuming a 70,000 foot altitude condition, and there appeared to be no separation difficulties. This study investigated the period of up to 10 seconds after separation, and there was no evidence that recontact would occur.

April 27

Final design review of complex 14 modifications and activation of facilities was held under the aegis of Air Force Space Systems Division (SSD) in Los Angeles. All drawings and specifications were accepted. SSD's activation of the complex was scheduled to begin January 1, 1964, with an estimated 10 months required to prepare complex 14 for Project Gemini Atlas-Agena launches.

April 29

NASA Headquarters approved rescheduling of the Gemini flight program as proposed by Gemini Project Office (GPO). Late delivery of the spacecraft systems coupled with the unexpectedly small number of Mercury systems incorporated in the Gemini spacecraft had forced GPO to review the flight program critically. In the revised program, the first flight was still set for December 1963 and was still to be unmanned, but it was now to be orbital rather than suborbital to flight-qualify launch vehicle subsystems and demonstrate the compatibility of the launch vehicle and spacecraft; no separation or recovery was planned. The second mission, originally a manned orbital flight, now became an unmanned suborbital ballistic flight schedule for July 1964. Its primary objection was to test spacecraft reentry under maximum heating-rate reentry conditions; it would also qualify the launch vehicle and all spacecraft systems required for manned orbital flight. The third flight, formerly planned as a manned orbital rendezvous mission, became the first manned flight, a short-duration (probably three-orbit) systems evaluation flight scheduled for October 1964. Subsequent flights were to follow at three-month intervals, ending in January 1967. Rendezvous terminal maneuvers were planned for missions 3 (if flight duration permitted) and 4, a seven-day mission using a rendezvous pod. The sixth flight was to be a 14-day long-duration mission identical to 4 except that no rendezvous maneuver missions with the Atlas-launched Agena D target vehicle. Water landing by parachute was planned for the first six flights and land landing by paraglider from flight 7 on.

April 30

In a NASA position paper, stimulated by Secretary of Defense McNamara's testimony on the fiscal year 1964 budget and an article in Missiles and Rockets interpreting his statements, Robert C. Seamans, Jr., NASA Associate Administrator, stressed NASA's primary management responsibility in the Gemini program. McNamara's remarks had been interpreted as presaging an Air Force take-over of Project Gemini. Seamans recognized the vital role of the Department of Defense in Gemini management and operations but insisted that NASA had the final and overall responsibility for program success.

April (during the month)

Bell Aerosystems successfully completed initial firing of the Gemini Agena Model 8247 engine at its Buffalo plant early in the month. The Model 8247 engine for the Gemini Agena's primary propulsion system was developed from the Model 8096 currently being flown in satellite and probe programs for NASA and the Air Force. Unlike the operational engine, the new engine was capable of being restarted several times in orbit, a Gemini program requirement. The principle change in the new engine was the substitution of liquid propellants for solid pyrotechnic "starter cans" to start the gas generator. The unit tested was the development engine that had been assembled in March. In mid-April, the test engine was shipped to Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC), Tullahoma, Tennessee, for further development tests. At AEDC, test cell arrangements were completed April 12, with testing scheduled to begin in May.

GATV primary propulsion system
Figure 50. Schematic and drawing of the primary propulsion system of the Gemini Agena target vehicle. (Lockheed, Gemini Agena Target Press Handbook, LMSC-A766871, Feb. 15, 1966, pp. 4-19, 4-20.)

May 1

McDonnell began tests to qualify the attitude control and maneuver electronics (ACME) system for the Gemini spacecraft, after completing development testing. Subject of the qualification tests was the first production prototype ACME unit received from Minneapolis-Honeywell.

May 2

Charles W Mathews, new Acting Manager of Project Gemini, reviewed the current status of the spacecraft, launch vehicles, and ground facilities for the Gemini Management Panel. Modifications of launch complexes 19 and 14, of the tracking network, and of Atlantic Missile Range checkout facilities were all on schedule, although no margin remained for complex 19 work. The Atlas and Agena presented no problems, but the Gemini launch vehicle schedule was tight; technical problems, notably stage I longitudinal oscillations and stage II engine instability, were compounded by funding difficulties. The Gemini spacecraft, suffering from late deliveries by subcontractors, was being reprogrammed.

May 3

Development testing of the Gemini Agena Model 8247 main engine at Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) began with an instrumentation run. After oxidizer contamination resulted in a scrubbed test on May 7, test firing began on May 13. The major objective of AEDC testing was to verify the engine's ability to start at least five times. The AEDC rocket test facility permitted firing of the engine in an environment simulating orbital temperature and pressure. During the course of the tests, two major problems emerged: turbine overspeed and gas generator valve high temperature operations. At the Atlas/Agena coordination meeting of July 2, Air Force Space Systems Division reported that a turbine overspeed sensing and shutdown circuit had been proposed to resolve the first problem and that solutions to the gas generator problem were being intensively investigated.

May 5

NASA awarded Letter Contract NAS 9-1484 to North American for the Paraglider Landing System Program. Work under the contract was to be completed by May 1, 1964, and initial funding was $6.7 million. This contract reflected a reorientation of the paraglider program. Its primary purpose was to develop a complete paraglider landing system and to define all the components of such a system. Among the major tasks this entailed were: (1) completing the design, development, and testing of paraglider subsystems and building and maintaining mock-ups of the vehicle and its subsystems; (2) modifying the paraglider wings procured under earlier contracts to optimize deployment characteristics and designing a prototype wing incorporating aerodynamic improvements; (3) modifying the two full-scale test vehicles produced under Contract NAS 9-167 to incorporate prototype paraglider landing system hardware, modifying the Advanced Paraglider Trainer produced under Contract NAS 9-539 to a tow test vehicle, and fabricating a new, second tow test vehicle; and (4) conducting a flight test program including half-scale tow tests, full-scale boilerplate parachute tests, full-scale deployment tests, and tow test vehicle flight tests. Contract negotiations were completed on July 12, and the final contract was dated September 25, 1963.

May 6

The Gemini Program Planning Board approved the Air Force Systems Command development plan for the Gemini/Titan II improvement program. The plan covered the development work required to man-rate the Titan II beyond the requirements of the Titan II weapon system and included three major areas: (1) reducing longitudinal oscillation levels to NASA requirements, (2) reducing the incidence of stage II engine combustion instability, and (3) cleaning up the design of stage I and II engines and augmenting the continuing engine improvement program to enhance engine reliability. The work was to be funded by the Titan Program Office of Air Force Ballistics Systems Division and managed by the Titan II/Gemini Coordination Committee, which had been established April 1. NASA found the plan satisfactory.

May 7-17

Aerojet-General delivered the first flight engines for Gemini launch vehicle No. 1 to Martin-Baltimore. Aerojet-General had provided a set of Type "E" dummy engines March 18. These were installed and used to lay out tubing and wiring while the launch vehicle was being assembled. They were later removed and flight engines installed in stage II, May 7, and stage I, May 17. Some rework was required because of differences in configuration between the dummy and flight engines, and engine installation was completed May 21. Wiring and continuity checks followed (May 22-25), and final horizontal tests were completed May 27.

May 9

Qualification testing of the Gemini parachute recovery system began at E1 Centro, California. Boilerplate spacecraft No. 5, a welded steel mock-up of the spacecraft reentry section, was dropped from a C-130 aircraft at 20,000 feet to duplicate dynamic pressure and altitude at which actual spacecraft recovery would be initiated. Four more land-impact tests followed, the last on June 28; all test objectives were successfully accomplished. The main parachute tucking problem, which had appeared and been resolved during development tests, recurred in drops 4 and 5 (June 17, 28). Although this problem did not affect parachute performance, Gemini Project Office decided to suspend qualification testing until the condition could be studied and corrected. Northrop Ventura attributed the tucking to excessive fullness of the parachute canopy and resolved the problem by adding control tapes to maintain proper circumference. Four bomb-drop tests during July proved this solution satisfactory, and qualification testing resumed August 8.

May 15

Simulated off-the-pad ejection seat testing resumed with test No. 9. McDonnell and Weber Aircraft had completely redesigned the blackboard and mechanism linkage to obtain more reliable load paths and mechanism actuation, and to eliminate the "add-on" character of the many features and capabilities introduced during seat development which contributed to the unsuccessful test in February. The new design was proved in a series of tests culminating in a preliminary ejection test on April 22. Test No. 9 was followed by test No. 9a on May 25. Both tests were completely successful. Test Nos. 10 and 11 (July 2, 16) completed the development phase of pad ejection testing. Both were dual ejection tests. No. 10 was completely unsuccessful, but No. 11 was marred by the failure of a seat recovery chute (not part of the spacecraft ejection system), resulting in major damage to the seat when it hit the ground.

May 18

Rocketdyne successfully tested a 25-pound thrust chamber assembly (TCA) for the reentry control system (RCS) in pulse operation. Earlier efforts had aimed primarily at achieving steady-state performance, until tests revealed that such performance was no guarantee of adequate pulse performance. Char rate on pulse-cycled, 25-pound RCS TCAs proved to be approximately 1.5 times greater than identical TCAs tested in continuous runs. Several TCAs failed when the ablative material in the combustion chamber was exhausted and the casing charred through. To correct this problem, the ratio of oxidizer to fuel was reduced from 2.05:1 to 1.3:1, significantly decreasing chamber temperature; the mission duty cycle was revised, with required firing time reduced from 142 seconds of specification performance to 101 seconds, without catastrophic failure before 136 seconds; and the thickness of the ablative chamber wall was increased, raising motor diameter from 2.54 to 3.75 inches. The development of a suitable ablative thrust chamber, however, remained a major problem. No RCS TCA design was yet complete, and no 25-pound orbit attitude and maneuver system TCAs had yet been tested on a pulse-duty cycle. Rocketdyne was already three months late in delivering TCA hardware to McDonnell, and all other components had been rescheduled for later delivery. Completion of development testing of components had also been slipped three months.

May 20

Flight Crew Operations Division reported that the nine new flight crew members had completed a zero-gravity indoctrination program at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, with the support of the 6750th Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory. A modified KC-135 aircraft carried the astronauts on two flights each. A flight included 20 zero-gravity parabolas, each lasting 30 seconds.

May 21

Manned Spacecraft Center began a Gemini atmospheric reentry simulation study. The fixed-base simulator contained a handcontroller and pilot displays to represent the Gemini reentry vehicle. Purpose of the study was to evaluate manual control of the Gemini spacecraft during reentry, before beginning the centrifuge program to be conducted at Naval Air Development Center. The reentry simulation study was completed June 20.

May 21

As part of the general revision of the Gemini flight program that NASA Headquarters had approved April 29, representatives of NASA, Air Force Space Systems Division, and Lockheed met to establish basic ground rules for revising Agena development and delivery schedules. The first rendezvous mission using the Agena target vehicle was now planned for April 1965, some seven and one half months later than had been anticipated in October 1962. Six months would separate the second Agena launch from the first, and subsequent flights would be at three-month, rather than two-month, intervals. The revised schedule was agreed on at the Atlas/Agena coordination meeting on June 6-7, 1963. Among the major features of the new schedule: Agena communications and control subsystem development was to be completed by December 1963 (back six weeks); other Lockheed development work was to be completed by January 1964 (back three and one-half months); assembly and modification of the first target vehicle was to start April 2, 1964, with the vehicle to be accepted and delivered in January 1965; the first Atlas target launch vehicle was to be delivered in December 1964; the schedule for component manufacturing and deliveries was to be so arranged that the second target vehicle could back up the first, given about nine months' notice.

May 23

The first engineering prototype of the onboard computer completed integration testing with the inertial platform at International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) and was delivered to McDonnell. At McDonnell, the computer underwent further tests. Some trouble developed during the initial test, but IBM technicians corrected the condition and the computer successfully passed diagnostic test checks.

May 27

North American began testing the half-scale two test vehicle (HSTTV) for the Paraglider Landing System Program. The first series of tests, 121 ground tows, ended on July 29. Various wing angle settings and attach points were used to provide preliminary data for rigging analysis and dynamic tow characteristics. The HSTTV was then delivered to Edwards Air Force Base on August 19, where Flight Research Center began its own series of ground tows on August 20. This series of 133 runs was concluded in September and was followed by 11 helicopter tow tests in October. Primary test objectives were to investigate paraglider liftoff characteristics, helicopter tow techniques, and the effects of wind-bending during high speed tows.

May 29

Titan II flight N-20, the 19th in the series of Air Force research and development flights, was launched from Cape Canaveral. It carried oxidizer standpipes and fuel accumulators to suppress longitudinal oscillations (POGO). During the spring of 1963, static firings of this configuration had been successful enough to confirm the hypothesis that POGO was caused by coupling between the missile structure and its propulsion system, resulting in an unstable closed loop system. Standpipes and accumulators, by interrupting the coupling reduced the source of instability. Flight N-20 failed 55 seconds after launch and yielded no POGO data. Although the failure was not attributed to the installed POGO fix, Air Force Ballistics Systems Division decided officially that no further Titan II development flights would carry the POGO fix because so few test flights remained to qualify the weapon system operationally. This decision did not stand, however, and the POGO fix was flown again on N-25 (November 1), as well as on two later flights.

POGO suppression equipment
Figure 51. POGO suppression equipment proved out in the Titan II development program. (Martin Photo 8B65766, undated.)

May 29

The vertical test facility (VTF) at Martin-Baltimore was activated. The VTF comprised a 165-foot tower and an adjacent three-story blockhouse with ground equipment similar to that used at complex 19. In it, the completely assembled Gemini launch vehicle was tested to provide a basis for comparison with subsequent tests conducted at complex 19. Each subsystem was tested separately, then combined systems tests were performed, concluding with the Combined Systems Acceptance Test, the final step before the launch vehicle was presented for Air Force acceptance.

May (during the month)

Rocketdyne reactivated the test program on the 100-pound thrust chamber assembly (TCA) for the orbit attitude and maneuver system. Through March, testing had been at a very low level as Rocketdyne concentrated on the 25-pound TCAs. Testing had ceased altogether in April because hardware was unavailable. Tests had shown, however, that a satisfactory 100-pound TCA design could not be derived from an enlarged 25-pound TCA design. The major objection of the reactivated test program was to achieve steady-state life. Two tests late in May were encouraging: one achieved 575 seconds of operation with no decay in chamber pressure and a performance efficiency of 92 percent; the other operated for 600 seconds with 10 percent decay in chamber pressure and 91.9 percent performance efficiency. Specification performance was 530 seconds with less than 3 percent chamber pressure decay and 93 percent performance efficiency.

June 2

Stage I of Gemini launch vehicle 1 was erected in Martin-Baltimore's vertical test facility. Stage II was erected on June 9, and posterection inspection was completed June 12. Subsystem Functional Verification Tests began June 10.

GLV 1 in Vertical Test Facility
Figure 52. Gemini launch vehicle 1 undergoing tests in the vertical test facility at Martin's Baltimore plant. (Martin Photo B-58332, undated.)

June 4-5

At a Gemini Abort Panel meeting, McDonnell reported the possibility of dropping the mode 2 lower abort limit to 35,000 to 40,000 feet. McDonnell also presented computer data on studies using a combination of mode 2 and mode 1 for launch to T + 10-second aborts; during this period, mode 1 abort might not be adequate. Current Gemini abort modes: mode 1, ejection seats - from pad to 70,000 feet; mode 2, booster shutdown/retrosalvo - 70,000 to approximately 522,000 feet; mode 3, booster shutdown/normal separation - from approximately 522,000 feet until last few seconds of powered flight.

June 8

Representatives of NASA, Air Force Space Systems Division, Aerospace, McDonnell, and Martin met to initiate an investigation of the structural integrity and compatibility of the spacecraft and launch vehicle during the powered phase of the mission. This had been a problem in the first Mercury-Atlas flight. Contractors were instructed to furnish NASA and Space Systems Division with all available structural data by July 15, 1963.

June 10

Instructors from McDonnell's training department began conducting two weeks of courses on Gemini spacecraft systems for flight controllers at Manned Spacecraft Center. During May, the nine new astronauts had received similar instruction; the veteran astronauts went through the same course in late June and early July.

June 12

The editorial committee formed to compile Gemini Network Operations Directive 63-1 met at Goddard Space Flight Center to plan the writing of the directive. The purpose of this directive was to establish the overall concept of the tracking in instrumentation network for the Gemini program; it was an outgrowth of Mercury Network Operations Directive 61-1, then in force.

June 13

McDonnell's Project Mercury contract was terminated; McDonnell had already essentially concluded its Mercury activities and spacecraft 15-B had been delivered to Cape Canaveral. A termination meeting held at the Manned Spacecraft Center on June 14 settled the disposition of Mercury property and personnel. McDonnell was to screen all Mercury property for possible use in the Gemini program; any property McDonnell claimed would be transferred to Gemini by authority of the contracting officer at St Louis or the Cape. McDonnell was directed to furnish Gemini Project Office with a list of key Mercury personnel who might be reassigned to Gemini.

June 13

Rocketdyne completed its initial design of the 25-pound thrust chamber assembly (TCA) for both the reentry control system (RCS) and orbit attitude and maneuver system. Less than a month later, Rocketdyne recommended an entirely new design, which McDonnell approved on July 5. The redesigned TCA was planned for installation in spacecraft Nos. 5 and up. Meanwhile, however, Rocketdyne had established a thrust chamber working group to improve TCA performance. This group designed, built and successfully tested in pulse operation two 25-pound RCS thrusters much more quickly than Rocketdyne had anticipated; thus the new design configuration was incorporated in the manufacturing plan for spacecraft Nos. 2 and up. The design of all TCAs, 25-85-, and 100-pound, were now identical. In reporting these developments, Gemini Project Office attributed the success of the new design to relaxed test requirements rather than to any breakthrough in design or material. In addition to reduced oxidizer-to-fuel ratios and less required firing time, thrust performance requirements were also lowered to 22.5 pounds for the 25-pound thrusters, 77.5 for the 85-pound thrusters, and 91.2 for the 100-pound thrusters.

June 13

Manned Spacecraft Center - Atlantic Missile Range Operations Office reported that the malfunction detection system would be flown on Titan II launches N-24, N-25, N-29, N-31, and N-32. The first launch in this so-called "piggyback program" was scheduled for June 21. All preparations for this flight, including installation and checkout of all malfunction detection system components, were reported complete at a Titan II coordination meeting on June 14.

Figure 53. (A) Malfunction detection system (MDS) block diagram; (B) MDS display on Gemini spacecraft instrument panel. (Martin Photos 8B-67547 and 8B-65781, undated.)

June 13

The definitive contract for Gemini space suit was signed with the David Clark Company. Negotiations had been completed May 28. The estimated cost was $788,594.80, with fixed fee of $41,000 for a total cost-plus-fixed-fee contract of $829,594.80.

June 15

Gemini Project Office (GPO) reported that the first manned Gemini mission would be three orbits. Whether so short a mission would allow time to perform the rendezvous experiment called for by the original mission plan remained in doubt, although Flight Operations Division's Rendezvous Analysis Branch had decided during the week of June 2 that a three-orbit mission was long enough to conduct a useful experiment. GPO had directed McDonnell to study the problem.

June 17

AiResearch installed the environmental control system (ECS) developmental test unit in a boilerplate spacecraft and began system development testing. Tests were conducted with gaseous rather than cryogenic oxygen until cryogenic tanks became available. AiResearch system development tests ended in September. Early in June, AiResearch shipped an ECS unit to McDonnell, where it was installed in boilerplate spacecraft No. 2 for manned testing which began July 11.

June 18

A flight evaluation test was conducted on the prototype recovery beacon of the Gemini spacecraft in Galveston Bay. A boilerplate spacecraft was placed in the Bay, and ranging runs were flown on the beacon by airplanes equipped with receivers. The maximum receiving range at 10,000-foot altitude was 123 miles.

June 19

The Cape Gemini/Agena Test Integration Working Group met to define "Plan X" test procedures and responsibilities. The purpose of Plan X was to verify the Gemini spacecraft's ability to command the Agena target vehicle both by radio and hardline; to exercise all command, data, and communication links between the spacecraft, target vehicle, and mission control in all practical combinations, first with the two vehicles about six feet apart, then with the vehicles docked and latched but not rigidized; and to familiarize the astronauts with operating the spacecraft/target vehicle combination in a simulated rendezvous mission. Site of the test was to be the Merritt Island Launch Area Radar Range Boresight Tower ("Timber Tower"), a 65 x 25 x 50-foot wooden structure.

June 20

Sled test No. 2, the first dynamic dual-ejection test of the Gemini escape system, was run at China Lake. Both seats ejected and all systems functioned properly. The test was scheduled to be rerun, however, because the sled failed to attain high enough velocity. The purpose of sled tests in the ejection seat development program was to simulate various high-altitude abort situations. Sled test No. 3 was successfully run on August 9. Further tests were delayed while the ejection system was being redesigned. A modified egress kit was tested in two dummy drops on December 12, with no problems indicated. Gemini Project Office directed McDonnell to proceed with plans for the next sled test. Developmental sled testing on the escape system, incorporating the redesigned egress kit and a soft survival pack, resumed on January 16, 1964, with test No. 4; all systems functioned normally. Test No. 5, the planned repetition of test No. 2, brought developmental sled testing to an end on February 7.

Test of Ejection Seat System
Figure 54. Instrumented mannequin being lowered into a boilerplate Gemini spacecraft in preparation for a dynamic sled test of the Gemini ejection system. Notice the rocket motors at the rear of the sled that propelled it along the track. (NASA Photo 63-Gemini-60, released Sept. 30, 1963.)

June 20-21

A design review meeting was held at McDonnell to obtain comments and recommendations on the design of the Gemini spacecraft from experienced NASA personnel, including those who were active in the Mercury program. The meeting produced 76 requests for review, which NASA and McDonnell studied for possible changes in the spacecraft. A crew station mock-up review was held in conjunction with the design review.

June 24

Arnold Engineering Development Center conducted a retrorocket abort test. Although test objectives were met, failures in the nozzle assembly and cone of the retrorocket led to the redesign of the nozzle assembly. Another abort test was scheduled for October 1963 to verify the redesign.

June 24

North American began a series of five drop tests, using a boilerplate test vehicle, to qualify the parachute recovery system for the full-scale test vehicle in the Paraglider Landing System Program. The reoriented paraglider program had begun with two successful bomb-drop tests of the parachute recovery system on May 22 and June 3. The first boilerplate drop test saw both the main parachute and the boilerplate suffer minor damage; but boilerplate drops No. 2 (July 2), No. 3 (July 12), and No. 4 (July 18) were successful. A series of malfunctions in the fifth drop test on July 30 produced a complete failure of the recovery system, and the test vehicle was destroyed on impact. North American considered the objectives of the flight qualification program on the parachute system to have been met, despite this failure, and requested, since the boilerplate vehicle had been damaged beyond repair, that the parachute program be considered complete. Manned Spacecraft Center denied this request and, in Change Notice No. 3 to contract NAS 9-1484, directed North American to support McDonnell in conducting two further drop tests. Wind tunnel tests on a 1/20-scale spacecraft model isolated the source of trouble, and the modified parachute recovery system was successfully tested with a new boilerplate test vehicle on November 12. Results from this test were confirmed by a second drop test on December 3, and the parachute recovery system for the full-scale test vehicle was judged and fully qualified.

June 25

Martin-Baltimore received the stage II fuel tank for Gemini launch vehicle 2 from Martin-Denver. This was a new tank, replacing a tank rejected for heat treatment cracks. Stage II oxidizer tank and stage I fuel and oxidizer tanks were received July 12 after a roll-out inspection at Martin-Denver July 1-3.

June 27

Charles W Mathews, Acting Manager of Gemini Project Office, reported to the Gemini Management Panel that the launching azimuth of the first Gemini mission had been changed from 90 to 72.5 degrees (the same as the Mercury orbital launches) to obtain better tracking network coverage. The spacecraft would be a complete production shell, including shingles and heatshield, equipped with a simulated computer, inertial measuring unit, and environmental control system in the reentry module. Simulated equipment would also be carried in the adapter section. The spacecraft would carry instruments to record pressures, vibrations, temperatures, and accelerations.

June 28

At a meeting on spacecraft operations, McDonnell presented a "scrub" recycle schedule as part of a continuing investigation of the capability of a delayed Gemini launch to meet successive launch windows during rendezvous missions. With no change in either existing aerospace ground equipment or the spacecraft, the recycle time was 48 hours (an earlier estimate had been 24 1/2 hours) for a trouble-free recycle. Gemini Project Office wanted to recycle time reduced to 24 hours and ultimately to something less than 19 hours to meet successive launch windows, possibly by replacing fuel cells with batteries for rendezvous missions only.

July 5

McDonnell began the first phase of Spacecraft Systems Tests (SST) on the instrumentation pallets to be installed in spacecraft No. 1. Numerous troubles brought a halt to SST on July 21 for two weeks of corrective action, including the return of one telemetry transmitter and the C-band beacon to the vendors for out-of-specification performance. Phase I of SST resumed August 5 and was completed well within test specifications August 21.

Reentry Control System unit
Figure 55. The reentry control system unit for Gemini spacecraft No. 1 at the McDonnell plant. (NASA Photo #124, June 1963.)

July 5

The first engineering prototype inertial guidance system underwent integration and compatibility testing with a complete guidance and control system at McDonnell. All spacecraft wiring was found to be compatible with the computer, and the component operated with complete accuracy.

July 8

McDonnell warned Gemini Project Office that the capacity of the spacecraft computer was in danger of being exceeded. The original function of the computer had been limited to providing rendezvous and reentry guidance. Other functions were subsequently added, and the computer's spare capacity no longer appeared adequate to handle all of them. McDonnell requested an immediate review of computer requirements. In the meantime, it advised International Business Machines to delete one of the added functions, orbital navigation, from computers for spacecraft Nos. 2 and 3.

July 9

The Gemini Phase I Centrifuge Program began at Naval Air Development Center, using the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory centrifuge equipped to simulate the command pilot's position in the Gemini spacecraft. The program had two parts: an engineering evaluation of command pilot controls and displays required for the launch and reentry phases of the Gemini mission, including evaluation of prototype Gemini seat contours, pressure suit operation under acceleration, and the restraint system; and pilot familiarization with Gemini launch, reentry, and selected abort reentry acceleration profiles. The engineering evaluation was completed August 2. Pilot familiarization was conducted between July 16 and August 17. The participating astronauts were generally satisfied with the design and operation of displays and controls, though they recommended some minor operational changes. They were unable to cope with the reentry tasks without undue difficulty, even under the high acceleration of extreme abort conditions.

Slayton in centrifuge
Figure 56. Dr. Howard A. Minners observes Astronaut Donald K. Slayton being readied for a run in the centrifuge at Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory, Johnsville, Pennsylvania. (NASA Photo
S-63-11195, July 1963.)

July 9

During evaluation of the G2C Gemini pressure suit in the engineering mock-up of the Gemini spacecraft at McDonnell, the suit torso was found to have been stretched out of shape, making it an unsatisfactory fit. David Clark Company had delivered the suit to McDonnell earlier in July. Evaluation in the mock-up also revealed that the helmet visor guard, by increasing the height of the helmet, compounded the problem of interference between the helmet and the spacecraft hatch. After preliminary evaluation, McDonnell returned the suit to David Clark with instructions to modify the helmet design to eliminate the fixed visor guard and to correct the torso fit problem. Final evaluation and start of production was delayed for about 6 weeks while the prototype suit was being reworked.

July 11

Walter C Williams, Deputy Director for Mission Requirements and Flight Operations, Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), and NASA Director of Flight Operations, wrote to Major General Leighton I Davis, DOD Representative for Project Gemini Operations, summarizing the range safety problems inherent in the Gemini program which had been identified jointly by representatives of Range Safety Office, MSC, and contractors. The major unresolved problems concerned the effects of a catastrophic failure of the launch vehicle. In September Aerojet-General began a test program comparing cryogenic and hypergolic propellants, which showed that hypergolic propellants burn rather than explode if tanks rupture.

July 12

Gemini Project Office (GPO) completed a test program on the centrifuge at Ames Research Center to evaluate the effects on pilot performance of longitudinal oscillations (POGO) of the Gemini launch vehicle. When subjected to oscillatory g-loads ranging from 0 to 3g superimposed on a steady-state load of 3.5g, pilot perception and performance decreased markedly above ± 0.25g. Primary effects were impaired pilot vision, reduced eye scan rate, masked sensory perception and kinesthetic cues, and degraded speech. GPO reconfirmed the need to reduce POGO to a maximum of 0.25g.

July 12

Acting Manager Charles W Mathews informed Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) senior staff that Gemini Project Office was exploring the possibility of backing up the first Gemini flight with a payload consisting of a boilerplate reentry module and a production adapter. NASA Headquarters approved the additional flight article in August and requested that the mission be designated Gemini-Titan (GT) 1A. Estimated cost was $1.5 to $2 million. The boilerplate to be used was originally planned for flotation tests at MSC. It was manufactured by local contractors and modified by MSC after it was delivered in September. The adapter, identical in configuration and instrumentation to the one used for spacecraft No. 1, was to be shipped directly from McDonnell to Cape Canaveral, along with telemetry equipment and wiring harnesses to be installed in the boilerplate at the Cape. The GT-1A mission, if it were flown, would be identical to GT-1, but it would be flown only if GT-1 failed to achieve its objectives. Boilerplate flight article 1A left for the Cape on December 13.

July 15

Development tests of the Agena Model 8247 main engine at Arnold Engineering Development Center ended when the latch-type gas generator valve failed in testing, making an emergency shutdown of the engine necessary. The wrong choice of emergency shutdown procedures caused turbine overspeed and total failure of the engine's turbine pump assembly. As a result of this failure, the valve was redesigned. Because success of the new design was doubtful, a parallel program was initiated to design and develop an alternative valve configuration, solenoid-operated rather than latch-type. Intensive development testing followed; and in a meeting at Bell Aerosystems on November 15, the solenoid type was selected for use in the first flight system of the Agena target vehicle. The new valve allowed significant reductions in engine complexity and increased reliability, but the development effort imposed a serious delay in Preliminary Flight Rating Tests, which had been scheduled to begin in September 1963.

July 18

In support of the Paraglider Landing System Program, Ames Research Center began wind tunnel tests of a half-scale paraglider test vehicle. Principle objectives of these tests were to obtain data on the longitudinal aerodynamic characteristics, lateral aerodynamic stability characteristics, and the static deployment characteristics of the new low-lobe wing which North American and NASA had jointly agreed on. The new configuration was expected to present lateral stability problems. This series of tests ended August 8.

July 20

Gemini Project Office reported that the fuel cell development had slipped, although the amount of slippage had not been completely estimated. Causes of the slippage had been rejection of vendor parts, extension of vendor delivery schedules, and lack of early determination of production procedures.

July 31

Electronic-Electrical Interference (EEI) Tests of Gemini launch vehicle (GLV) 1 began in the vertical test facility at Martin-Baltimore, following a review by Air Force Space Systems Division and Aerospace of data from Sub-system Verification Tests. Purpose of EEI was to uncover any interference between GLV electrical and electronic systems. In the second EEI (August 2), five systems were found to produce unacceptable interference. Two systems still did not meet specification in the third EEI (August 10), but all interference problems were eliminated in the fourth (August 20). After modification of the flight control system, a fifth EEI revealed minor interference (September 3), all of which was cleared up in the final test on September 5. Problems were resolved by adding filters and grounds to aerospace ground equipment and airborne circuits. EEI tests were performed in conjunction with Combined Systems Tests, which began August 2.

August 1

A Design Engineering Inspection of the full-scale test vehicle (FSTV), with associated wing and hardware, for the Paraglider Landing System Program was held at North American's Space and Information Systems Division. This was the first such inspection under the new paraglider contract, NAS 9-1484. Under this contract, the two FSTVs were to be used solely to develop systems and techniques for wing deployment. As originally conceived, they were also to provide the means of evaluating flight performance and control characteristics during glide; but this objective was dropped to minimize cost and to simplify vehicle systems. The inspection resulted in 30 requests for alterations, most of them mandatory.

Paraglider Test Vehicle
Figure 57. The paraglider full-scale test vehicle in the Design Engineering Inspection briefing room at North American. (NASA Photo S-63-20931, undated.)

August 5

The new flight crew members and two of the Mercury astronauts began a five-day desert survival course at Stead Air Force Base, Nevada. The course, oriented toward Gemini missions, was divided into three phases: (1) one and one-half days of academic presentations on characteristics of world desert areas and survival techniques; (2) one day of field demonstrations on use and care of survival equipment and use of the parachute in construction of clothing, shelters, and signals; and (3) two days of remote site training, when two-man teams were left alone in the desert to apply what they had learned from the academic and demonstration phases of the program.

Desert training
Figure 58. Astronauts after a training session in desert near Stead Air Force Base, Nevada. Front row, left to right: Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, Jr., John W. Young, Charles Conrad, Jr., James A. McDivitt, Edward H. White II. Back row, left to right: Raymond G. Zedekar (Astronaut Training Officer), Thomas P. Stafford, Donald K. Slayton, Neil A. Armstrong, and Elliot M. See, Jr. (NASA Photo No. 63-Astronauts-135, released Aug. 16, 1963.)

August 8

Qualification testing of the Gemini parachute recovery system resumed over the Salton Sea Range, California, following a month's delay occasioned by resolving the parachute tucking problem. This test, the sixth in the qualification series, and the seventh (August 20) differed from the first five only in being water-impact rather than land-impact tests. They successfully demonstrated water-impact accelerations low enough to make water landing safe. Further qualification testing was suspended on September 3 by the decision to incorporate a high-altitude stabilization parachute in the recovery system.

Parachute recovery system test
Figure 59. Water impact test of the Gemini parachute recovery system in the Salton Sea, California. (Northrop Ventura Photo 0748-65-33328, undated.)

August 9

Representatives of Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), Arnold Engineering Development Center, McDonnell, and Thiokol met to analyze problems in the retrorocket abort system. Several components, including retrorocket nozzle exit cones and mounting structure, had failed in recent tests at Arnold. The primary cause of failure was a deficiency in the design for joining and retaining the retrorocket nozzle throat and exit cones. MSC and McDonnell decided to terminate development testing of the current nozzle assembly and initiate a redesign effort. Thiokol ran preliminary tests on the redesigned nozzle assembly on September 18-20. Full-scale tests at Arnold on October 4 then verified the structural integrity of the redesigned assembly, which operated without malfunction.

August 20

Rocketdyne began a series of tests to verify its new thrust chamber assembly (TCA) design for the reentry control system (RCS) and the orbit attitude and maneuver system (OAMS). The test plan called for each type TCA, 25-pound RCS, 25-, 85-, and 100-pound OAMS, to be tested to mission duty cycle, steady state life, limited environmental exposure, and performance. Rocketdyne submitted its design verification test schedule to McDonnell and Gemini Project Office on August 27, with seven of the 16 tests already completed. The remaining nine tests were to be finished by September 10. This proved an optimistic estimate; design verification testing was not completed until October.

August 21

Titan II development flight N-24 was launched from the Atlantic Missile Range. This was the first of five flight tests in the Gemini malfunction detection system (MDS) piggyback series. All MDS parameters were lost 81 seconds after liftoff because of a short circuit in the MDS. Operation in the second flight (N-25 on November 1) was normal except for two minor instrumentation problems. Three more test flights (N-29 on December 12, 1963; N-31 on January 15, 1964; and N-33 on March 23, 1964) verified the performance of the Gemini MDS under actual conditions of flight environment and engine operation.

August 21

Manned Spacecraft Center released a work statement for the procurement of eight Atlas launch vehicles for the Gemini program. A defense purchase request followed on August 28 with an initial obligation of $1.4 million and an estimated final cost of $40 million. The Atlas, like the other launch vehicles used in the Gemini program, was procured through Air Force Space Systems Division.

August 24

McDonnell reported that spacecraft No. 2 was roughly one month behind schedule, primarily because of late deliveries of onboard systems from the vendors. Critical items were orbit attitude and maneuver system, reentry control system, fuel cells, and cryogenic storage tanks. Several systems had failed to pass vibration qualification and required modification. The Development Engineering Inspection of the spacecraft was scheduled for October 1963, but further delays postponed it until February 12-13, 1964.

August 25

McDonnell completed the fabrication and assembly of spacecraft No. 1 with the mating of the spacecraft's major modules. Phase II of Spacecraft Systems Tests (SST) on the complete launch configuration, including adapter, began August 27. Tests alternated with final manufacturing cleanup over the next three weeks. Vibration testing was conducted September 17-20; Altitude Chamber Tests, September 21-23; and SST concluded September 30 with an Integrated Systems Test. The spacecraft passed its final roll-out inspection on October 1 and was shipped to Atlantic Missile Range October 4.

August 31

Gemini Project Office (GPO) reported that it was investigating the use of a parasail and landing rocket system to enable the Gemini spacecraft to make land landings. Major system components were the parasail, drogue parachute, retrorocket, control system, and landing rocket. Unlike the conventional parachute, the parasail was capable of controlled gliding and turning. Landing rockets, fired just before touchdown, reduced the spacecraft terminate rate of descent to between 8 and 11 feet per second. Research and development testing was being conducted by the Landing and Impact System Section of Systems Evaluation and Development Division at Manned Spacecraft Center, while McDonnell had just completed a limited study of the advantages and disadvantages, including time required, of incorporating the new landing system on the spacecraft. GPO briefed NASA Headquarters on the system September 6, when it was decided that no further action would be taken on the parasail.

Parasail landing system
Figure 60. Sketch of the parasail landing system proposed for the Gemini spacecraft. (NASA Photo
S-64-481, undated.)

August 31

Gemini Project Office reported that systems testing of the orbit attitude and maneuver system (OAMS) and reentry control system (RCS) was scheduled to be resumed early in October. Systems tests had begun in August 1962 but had been brought to a halt by the unavailability of thrust chambers. Three categories of systems tests were planned: (1) Research and Development Tests, comprising gas calibrations, aerospace ground equipment, evaluation, surge pressure evaluations, pulse interactions, steady-state evaluations, and vacuum soak tests; (2) Design Information Tests, comprising extreme operating condition evaluations, a group of fill-drain-decontamination-storage tests, pulse performance, skin heating, expulsion efficiency, liquid calibration, manual regulation, and propellant gauging; and (3) Design Approval Tests, comprising acceleration testing, RCS mission duty cycle tests at ambient temperature, OAMS two-day mission duty cycle tests at ambient temperature, and OAMS 14-day mission duty cycle tests at ambient temperature. Systems testing did not actually resume until May 1964.

August 31

Gemini Project Office reported that the first production computer was in its final factory testing phase and would be ready for inertial guidance system integration testing on September 6, 1963.

August (during the month)

The Gemini Pyrotechnic Ad Hoc Committee submitted its final report. As a result of the spacecraft design review of June 20-21, Acting Manager Charles W Mathews of Gemini Project Office (GPO) had requested Mercury Project Office (MPO) to organize an ad hoc committee to review the Gemini pyrotechnic systems, design, qualification, and functions. The committee was headed by Russell E Clickner of MPO and included members from MPO, GPO, Technical Services Division, and Systems Evaluation and Development Division. The committee's findings resulted in significant modifications to pyrotechnic circuitry, redundancy, system design, and qualification testing.

September 3

A Mission Planning Coordination Group was established at the request of the Gemini Project Office to review monthly activities in operations, network guidance and control, and trajectories and orbits; and to ensure the coordination of various Manned Spacecraft Center elements actively concerned with Gemini mission planning. Its first meeting was scheduled for September 9 to discuss Gemini mission planning documentation, Gemini-Titan (GT) 1 mission plan, MISTRAM (missile tracking and measurement system) requirements and use of the J-1 computer, and mission objectives and tests for GT-2 and GT-3.

September 3

Gemini Project Office (GPO) suspended qualification testing of the parachute recovery system to permit incorporating a drogue parachute in the system as a means of stabilizing the spacecraft during the last phase of reentry, at altitudes between 50,000 and 10,000 feet. This function had originally been intended for the reentry control system (RCS), currently suffering from serious development problems. The revised design would also permit RCS propellants to be dumped before deploying the main recovery parachute. GPO outlined a three-phase drop test program to develop the drogue chute and qualify the revised recovery system. Phase I, scheduled for January and February 1964 and using boilerplate No. 5, as a test vehicle, would develop the technique of deploying the pilot parachute by the stabilization chute. The deployment sequence was planned to begin with deployment of the stabilization chute at 50,000 feet. At 10,600 feet, the astronaut would release the stabilization chute. A lanyard connecting the stabilization and pilot chutes would then deploy the pilot chute. Two and one-half seconds later, the rendezvous and recovery (R and R) section would separate from the spacecraft, allowing the main chute to deploy. Phase II of the drop test program, scheduled for March through August 1964 and using a parachute test vehicle (an instrumented weight bomb), would complete development of the stabilization chute. From June through October 1964, Phase III tests would qualify the recovery system, using static article No. 7, a boilerplate pressure vessel and heatshield equipped with production RCS and R and R sections. Since this program was not expected to be finished before the third Gemini mission, qualification of the existing system was to be completed with three more drops in February and March 1964. Static article No. 7 would serve as the test vehicle before being diverted to Phase III testing.

Parachute recovery system
Figure 61. The sequence of events in the operation of the Gemini parachute recovery system incorporating the drogue chute. (Northrop Ventura Photo 0748-94-38242, undated.)

September 4

Representatives of Manned Spacecraft Center's Instrumentation and Electronics Systems Division and McDonnell met to coordinate the Gemini radar program. Gemini Project Office had requested an increased effort to put the rendezvous radar system in operational status.

September 5

Lockheed's contract for the Gemini Agena target vehicle (GATV) was amended. As a result of the seven-and-one-half-month relaxation of the required launch date for the first GATV, Lockheed was directed to use the improved version of the standard Agena, the AD-62 block of vehicles, instead of AD-13. The AD-62 block originally included the multistart engine, subsequently slipped to the AD-71 block. Lockheed accordingly was directed in January 1964 to substitute the AD-71 for AD-62. The combined effect of these changes was to use up much of the seven-and-one-half-month leeway. The change to AD-62 caused a two-month slip, and changing to AD-71 added a five-week slip. With much of the contingency time gone, the Agena schedule was now tight, and further slippage threatened to cause launch delays.

September 6

Department of Defense approved the Titan II Augmented Engine Improvement Program. On November 15, Aerojet-General received an Air Force contract to develop and test new engine components to correct weak and potentially dangerous problem areas of engine design. Aerojet-General had already initiated the development effort on September 30. The goal was to enhance engine reliability by a complete redesign rather than resort to piecemeal fixes as problems came up. While the primary goal was not achieved, the program did yield several side benefits, including the correction of several minor design deficiencies, the improvement of welding techniques, and the development of better assembly procedures.

September 6

The formal Combined Systems Acceptance Test (CSAT) of Gemini launch vehicle No. 1 was conducted in the vertical test facility at Martin-Baltimore. Two preliminary CSAT dry runs had been conducted on August 2 and 17, in conjunction with Electronic-Electrical Interference (EEI) Tests. A third CSAT with EEI monitoring had been run on September 3 to clarify checkout procedures and recheck EEI results. CSAT included a complete launch countdown, simulated engine start, liftoff, and flight through stage II engine shutdown, ending with the simulated injection of the spacecraft into Earth orbit. Both primary and secondary guidance and control combinations were tested. Martin engineers reviewed the test data collected by aerospace ground equipment recorders and telemetry and presented the vehicle for final acceptance to the Air Force Space Systems Division/Aerospace Vehicle Acceptance Team on September 11.

September 8

The 16 astronauts began training in water and land parachute landing techniques. This training was necessary because in low level abort (under 70,000 feet) the pilot would be ejected from the spacecraft and would descend by personnel parachute. A towed 24-foot diameter parasail carried the astronauts to altitudes as high as 400 feet before the towline was released and the astronaut glided to a landing.

September 11-12

Following up Gemini Project Office's request to bring the Gemini rendezvous radar system to operational status, Manned Spacecraft Center Instrumentation and Electronics System Division personnel met with Westinghouse at Baltimore to review the test program. Westinghouse had completed its radio frequency anechoic chamber test, but test anomalies could not be pinpointed to the radar system, since chamber reflections might have been responsible. An outdoor range test was planned to determine whether the chamber was suitable for testing the radar.

September 11-20

The vehicle acceptance team for Gemini launch vehicle (GLV) 1 inspected the vehicle and reviewed its manufacturing and testing history, focusing on the results of the Combined Systems Acceptance Test (CSAT) of September 6. The team found GLV-1 to be unacceptable, primarily because of severely contaminated electrical connectors. In addition, the qualification of a number of major components had not been properly documented. Between September 21 and 29, Martin engineers inspected all of the 350 electrical connectors on GLV-1 for contamination and found 180 requiring cleaning or replacement. All electrical connectors on GLV-2 were also reinspected and cleaned or replaced as needed. This extensive inspection invalidated much previous testing, requiring sub-system tests and CSAT to be rerun. Preliminary CSAT was completed October 2, final CSAT October 4.

September 14

Gemini Project Office reported a delay of about three weeks in the battery qualification program. McDonnell had sent a team to investigate the problem of high porosity welds in titanium battery cases. Another problem had turned up with the batteries in prequalification vibration test. The batteries vibrated excessively, although they did not fail electrically; the vibration's amplification factor was apparently low enough to be remedied by potting.

September 23

A technical development plan for Department of Defense experiments to be carried on Gemini missions was issued. The plan described 13 Air Force experiments and nine Navy experiments costing an estimated $22 million. Manned Spacecraft Center reviewed the experiments for feasibility while the plan was being prepared, but their inclusion on Gemini flights was tentative, pending further technical definition of the experiments themselves and clarification of spacecraft weight and volume constraints.

September 27

Electro-Mechanical Research successfully tested the compatibility of airborne and ground station PCM (pulse code modulated) telemetry equipment. The tests demonstrated that Gemini spacecraft and Agena telemeter and recorder formats were compatible with NASA ground stations.

September 27

A Development Engineering Inspection of the tow test vehicle (TTV), its associated wings, hardware, and mock-up, for the Paraglider Landing System Program was held at North American's Space and Information Systems Division. The TTVs (the contract called for two) were manned vehicles to be flown with the wing predeployed to evaluate flight performance and control with particular emphasis on the landing maneuvers. The inspection resulted in 33 requests for alteration, 24 of them mandatory.

September 27

North American stopped its effort to retrofit the full-scale test vehicle (FSTV) to Gemini prototype paraglider deployment hardware. The contract for the Paraglider Landing System Program had provided for North American to incorporate Gemini equipment, insofar as possible, in the FSTV as it became available - this was the so-called retrofit. The decision to stop work on retrofit was made at a conference between North American and NASA on September 26; retrofit was deleted as a contract requirement on November 7 by Change Notice No. 5 to Contract NAS 9-1484.

September 30

Manned Spacecraft Center awarded its first incentive-type contract to Ling-Temco-Vought, Inc., Dallas, Texas for the fabrication of a trainer to be used in the Gemini launch vehicle training program. The fixed-price-incentive-fee contract had a target cost of $90,000, a target profit of $9,000, and a ceiling of $105,000. The incentive was based on cost only and provided for an 80/20 sharing arrangement; that is, the contractor would pay from his profit 20 percent of all savings under the target cost, or, alternatively, would receive 20 percent of all savings under the target cost. This meant that the contractor's profit would be zero after $97,500 was spent, and would be minus if costs exceeded $105,000.

September 30

Air Force Space Systems Division contracted with Aerojet-General for a program to develop a backup for the injectors of the second stage engine of the Gemini launch vehicle. Titan II development flights had shown the stage II engine tended toward incipient combustion instability. The Gemini Stability Improvement Program, begun as a backup, became a program aimed at maximum probability of success on December 24, 1963. The 18-month program produced a completely redesigned stage II engine injector.

GLV stage II engine
Figure 62. Diagram of the Gemini launch vehicle stage II engine. (Martin Photo 8B-66461, undated.)

October 1

Gemini Project office (GPO) requested McDonnell to do a design study of the requirements and configuration necessary for using batteries instead of fuel cells in all spacecraft scheduled for two-day rendezvous missions. Personnel from GPO had visited General Electric to review the results of experiments conducted to determine the theoretical operating life of the fuel cells to power the Gemini spacecraft. Tests results showed a life of about 600 hours, but changes in the spacecraft coolant system increased the fuel cell operating temperatures and reduced fuel cell life by about two-thirds. The theoretical life of the cells was between 150 and 250 hours; until some method of increasing the operating life of the fuel cell could be achieved, the development program would remain a problem.

October 1

Gemini Project Office prepared an abstract of flight qualification requirements for experimental equipment to be carried on Gemini missions. The document presented a brief synopsis of the important environmental criteria which would affect the design, fabrication, and mounting of experimental equipment to be carried in the spacecraft.

October 4

Gemini spacecraft No. 1 arrived at Atlantic Missile Range and was transferred to Hangar AF. After a receiving inspection (October 7) and Voltage Standing Wave Ratio Test (October 8), its instrument pallets were removed for laboratory test and checkout (October 9) while the spacecraft was being checked out, weighed, and balanced. Instrument pallets were reinstalled November 26. Individual and integrated communications, instrumentation, and environmental control systems were then performed. Final industrial area testing of the spacecraft concluded with a confidence level test on February 12, 1964.

Figure 63. Instrumentation pallet for Gemini spacecraft No. 1: (A) left pallet, (B) right pallet. (NASA Photos S-64-3069 and S-64-3066, undated.)

Right instrumentation pallet
Figure 64. Installation of right ballast seat and instrumentation pallet in Gemini spacecraft No. 1. (NASA-USAF Photo 63-13025, Dec. 7, 1963.)

October 8

Martin-Baltimore completed its evaluation of data from the second Combined Systems Acceptance Test of Gemini launch vehicle (GLV) 1, found it acceptable, and presented it to the GLV-1 vehicle acceptance team (VAT). VAT inspection resulted in the decision, on October 12, to ship GLV-1 to Atlantic Missile Range (AMR). Although the vehicle still lacked flight-qualified components, the VAT critique noted that having the GLV at AMR, even with non-flight equipment, would expedite the Gemini program by permitting early checkout of launch vehicle and complex compatibility and final acceptance of complex 19. GLV-1 was removed from the vertical test facility on October 12, tested for tank leaks, painted, weighed, inspected, and prepared for shipment. Air Force Space Systems Division formally accepted GLV-1 on October 25; the vehicle was airlifted to AMR the following day.

October 14

North American completed work on the first full-scale prototype paraglider wing for the Paraglider Landing System Program and shipped it to Ames Research Center for wind tunnel tests. Test objectives were to determine the longitudinal aerodynamic characteristics, structural deflections, and spreader bar buckling limits of the full-scale wing. Testing ended October 28 but yielded very limited data. As a result, a second test of the full-scale wing was conducted from December 4 to December 9; this time all test objectives were met.

October 14

The Mission Planning Coordination Group discussed the feasibility of rendezvous at first apogee, as proposed by Richard R Carley of the Gemini Project Office. The group concluded that developing the ability to rendezvous at first apogee as a test objective and that capability for performing the maneuver should be provided in the mission plan for all rendezvous flights.

October 15

Personnel from Air Force Space Systems Division (SSD), Air Force Ballistic Systems Division (BSD), and Titan II contractors met in Los Angeles to reconsider flying Gemini launch vehicle (GLV) fixes on Titan II development flights. BSD, which was responsible for the weapon system development program, had halted the installation of GLV fixes on the Titan II flights because of the limited number of flights remaining to qualify the missile. General Bernard A Schriever, Commander of Air Force Systems Command (of which BSD and SSD were subordinate division), intervened in support of an active program to clean up launch vehicle problem areas. The incorporation of GLV fixes on Titan II flights resumed on November 1 with the flight of Titan II N-25.

October 18

Fourteen new astronauts were introduced by officials of the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) at a press conference in Houston, bringing to 30 the total number assigned to NASA's astronaut training center. The new group of astronauts was composed of seven volunteers from the Air Force, four from the Navy, one from the Marine Corps, and two civilians. From the Air Force: Major Edwin E Aldrin, Jr.; Captains William A Anders, Donn F Eisele, Charles A Bassett II, Theodore C Freeman, David R Scott, and Michael Collins. The Navy volunteers were Lieutenant Commander Richard F Gordon, Jr., and Lieutenants Eugene A Cernan, Alan L Bean, and Roger B Chaffee; the Marine was Captain Clifton C Williams, Jr. The two civilians were R Walter Cunningham and Russell L Schweickart. The group was selected from approximately 500 military and 225 civilian applicants who had responded to NASA's request for volunteers early in May 1963. The new astronauts reported to MSC to begin training February 2, 1964.

October 21

Rocketdyne test-fired an orbit attitude and maneuver system (OAMS) 85-pound thruster to a new mission duty cycle requiring 550 seconds of normal operation and 750 seconds before catastrophic failure. In noting McDonnell's reevaluation of the OAMS mission duty cycles, which imposed increased life requirements on OAMS thrust chamber assemblies (TCA), Gemini Project Office pointed out that this change compounded the TCA problem: the current (and briefer) mission duty cycles had yet to be demonstrated under specification conditions on the 25-pound and 100-pound TCAs. During the next two months, Rocketdyne stopped testing and concentrated on analyzing the performance characteristics of small ablative rocket engines, while McDonnell completed revising of duty cycles. Representatives of NASA, McDonnell, and Rocketdyne met in January 1964 to clarify the new life requirements for OAMS engines, which were significantly higher: required life of the 25-pound OAMS thruster in pulse operation was raised from 232.5 seconds to 557 seconds; that of the 85- and 100-pound thrusters, from 288.5 to 757 seconds.

October 25

North American finished modifying the Advanced Paraglider Trainer to a full scale tow test vehicle (TTV), as required by the Paraglider Landing System Program. The vehicle was then shipped to Edwards Air Force Base, where ground tow tests began on December 28. Preliminary ground tow testing was completed on January 14, 1964. The second TTV was completed on January 28 and shipped to Edwards on February 14. Further ground tow tests were conducted through June. Installation of flightworthy control system hardware began in April.

October 26

Gemini launch vehicle 1 arrived at Atlantic Missile Range and was transferred to complex 19. Stage I was erected in the complete vehicle erector October 28, stage II in the second stage erector October 29. The two stages were cabled together in the side-by-side configuration required for the Sequence Compatibility Firing scheduled for mid-December. A limited Electronic-Electrical Interference Test was completed November 7, and power was applied to the vehicle November 13.

October 30

A meeting was held to discuss ejection seat system problems. Of major concern was the ejection seat ballute that was planned to stabilize the astronaut after he ejected and separated from the seat. Wind tunnel test data had suggested two problem areas: the ballute was failing at supersonic speeds and was not opening at subsonic speeds. Increasing the diameter and lengthening the riser lines improved performance considerably. A major system change recommended at the meeting was the incorporation of provisions for automatic separation of the seat backboard and egress kit before touchdown; Gemini Project Office directed McDonnell to study the feasibility of this recommendation.

November 1

Titan II development flight N-25 was launched from the Atlantic Missile Range. It carried the oxidizer surge chamber and fuel accumulator kit intended to reduce the amplitude of longitudinal vibration which had characterized earlier flights. NASA regarded 0.25g as the maximum level tolerable in manned space flight; this flight achieved a level of 0.22g, the first to fall within acceptable limits. Although the kit had been tested on only one flight, Gemini Project Office had sufficient confidence in it to decide, on November 6, to procure several more such kits for subsequent installation in Gemini launch vehicles. Two later Titan II development flights (N-29 on December 12, 1963, and N-31 on January 15, 1964) and the flight of Gemini-Titan 1 confirmed the validity of this decision. The required kits for the remaining Gemini launch vehicles were then procured.

November 5

McDonnell reviewed work on the beryllium shingles to protect the reentry control system and rendezvous and recovery structures of the spacecraft from reentry heat. A strike earlier in the year, as well as manufacturing difficulties, had delayed shingle tests. Problems in manufacturing the cross-roll beryllium shingles for Gemini included flaking, lamination, and cracking flaws in the finished shingles. At a meeting to discuss these problems, held at Pioneer Astro Industries, Chicago, Illinois, November 14, 1963, the decision was made to substitute chemical etching for machine tooling wherever possible and to use lighter cuts where machine tooling was unavoidable.

November 7

Major General Leighton I Davis, Department of Defense (DOD) Representative for Project Gemini Support Operations, issued DOD's plan for carrying out Gemini operations. The DOD representative, acting as the single point of contact between DOD and NASA, was responsible for meeting NASA's needs for DOD support in the areas of launch, tracking network, planned and contingency recovery, communications, public affairs, and medical assistance.

November 12

Delays in the fuel cell development program prompted Gemini Project Office to direct McDonnell to modify the electrical system for spacecraft No. 3 so that either fuel cells or a silver-zinc battery power system could be installed after the spacecraft had been delivered to the Cape. A contract change incorporating this directive was issued January 20, 1964.

November 13

The Gemini Management Panel, after reviewing the status of spacecraft and launch vehicle, decided that Gemini launch schedules need reexamination, especially the amount of testing at Cape Canaveral necessary to establish confidence in mission success. The panel directed Gemini Project Manager Charles W Mathews and Colonel Richard C Dineen, Chief, Gemini Launch Vehicle, Air Force Space Systems Division, to form an ad hoc group to make an intensive 30-day study of work plans and schedules, with the goal of achieving manned flight in 1964. The next day (November 24), NASA, Air Force, and industry program managers met at Cape to lay out study areas and then met at 10-day intervals to develop ground rules, review progress, and coordinate their efforts. Mathews reported the results of the study at the next panel meeting, December 13, and described the ground rules that might bring Gemini-Titan (GT) 3, the first manned flight, to a 1964 launch. The primary factory affecting the spacecraft would be reducing Cape duplication of tests already accomplished at McDonnell and integrating the entire test effort. Although integration of launch vehicle testing at the Cape and Martin was already fairly good, there was still room for improvement. The master schedule that emerged from this study showed the following launches: GT-1, March 17, 1964; GT-2, August 11; and GT-3, November 6. GT-1A was strictly a backup, to be flown only if GT-1 failed.

November 14

Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) began a drop-test program over Galveston Bay using a helicopter-towed paraglider half-scale tow test vehicle to investigate trim conditions and stability characteristics indifferent deployment configurations. The first drop successfully tested the U-shaped deployment configuration. The second test (November 19) was abortive, but damage was slight. The third test (November 26) was also abortive, and the wing was damaged beyond repair on impact. MSC procured another wing from North American and conducted a fourth test, partially successful, on December 19. No further tests were conducted.

November 15

The first production version of the inertial guidance system developed for Gemini was delivered to McDonnell. Special tests on the configuration test unit, using spacecraft No. 2 guidance and control equipment, were expected to be completed in January 1964.

November 16

Flight Crew Support Division reported an agreement with Flight Operations Division on a flight profile and rendezvous evaluation experiment for the Gemini-Titan 4 mission. Objective of the experiment was to stimulate normal Agena/Gemini rendezvous and to repeat part of the maneuver using loss of signal/manual technique. Basically, the mission would use circular phasing and catch-up orbit as proposed by the Flight Crew Support Division. Exact fuel requirements and ground tracking requirement were under study by Flight Operations Division.

November 17

Douglas Aircraft Corporation, Tulsa, Oklahoma, began a series of tests to demonstrate the structural integrity of the Gemini target docking adapter (TDA) during shroud separation. The shroud, which protected the TDA during the launch and ascent of the Agena target vehicle, was tested under simulated altitude conditions to show proper operation of pyrotechnic devices and adequate clearance between shroud and TDA during separation. Successfully concluded on November 21, and tests demonstrated the compatibility of the TDA with the shroud system during operational performance, with no indication of damage or failure of the TDA structure.

November 22

A series of 24 test drops to develop the ballute stabilization system for the Gemini escape system began with a live jump over El Centro. Five more live jumps and four dummy drops, the last two on January 9, 1964, all used a ballute three feet in diameter. Excessive rates of rotation dictated increasing ballute diameter and substituting two-point for single-point suspension. Between January 14 and February 4, 14 more tests (12 human and two dummy) were conducted at altitudes from 12,500 to 35,000 feet using ballutes 42 and 48 inches in diameter. These tests established a 48-inch diameter as the optimum configuration for the Gemini ballute, and Gemini Project Office directed McDonnell to use this size in the coming qualification drop test program. Qualification of the ballute was also to include a structural test program to be conducted in the wind tunnel at Arnold Engineering Development Center.

Ballute jump test
Figure 65. Jump test of the 36-inch ballute with dual suspension at the Naval Parachute Facility, El Centro, California. The second figure is a free-falling photographer with a camera mounted in his helmet. A second observer jumped later and took this picture. (NASA Photo 64-Gemini-120, released Dec. 18, 1963.)

November 25

Manned Spacecraft Center received proposals for the Gemini extravehicular life support package and expected to complete evaluation by the end of December. Requests for proposals had gone out in October. The system would include a high-pressure gaseous oxygen supply bottle plus suitable regulators and valves for control of oxygen flow, which would be in an open loop. It would provide necessary life support for initial extravehicular operations, using a hardline tether, of 10 to 15 minutes. A contract was awarded to the Garrett Corporation in January 1964.

November 30

Gemini Project Office (GPO) reported the results of a survey of testing being done at Rocketdyne on the orbit attitude and maneuver system (OAMS). The research and development phase of testing OAMS components appeared likely to extend well into 1964, with the development of an adequate thrust chamber assembly (TCA) continuing as the major problem. Hardware availability remained uncertain, no definite method of resolving the TCA life problem had yet been selected, and McDonnell's current revision of mission duty cycles compounded the problem. Lack of hardware was also delaying system testing, which would be completed no sooner than the second quarter of 1964. Persistent delays in the research and development test program were in turn responsible for serious delays in the qualification test program. To meet the manned Gemini launch scheduled for 1964, GPO was considering the possibility of beginning qualification tests before development testing had been completed.

November (during the month)

Lockheed included a milestone schedule for the Gemini Agena target vehicle (GATV) in its monthly progress report for the first time since January 1963. The new schedule reflected the revised Gemini flight program of April 29 and the corresponding revision of the Agena program which followed. It displayed key events in the progress of the first GATV taking place between five and six months later than the January schedule. Engineering development was now scheduled to be completed by May 15, 1964, rather than by December 11, 1963. Completion of modification and final assembly was now planned for June 12 rather than January 10, 1964; preliminary vehicle systems testing was rescheduled from April 10 to September 11, 1964. Special tests, including a Radio frequency Interference Test in the later schedule in addition to the hot-firing scheduled earlier, were to end November 20 instead of May 22, 1964. Final Vehicle Systems Tests were to be completed December 18 instead of June 19, 1964, with shipment to follow on January 6, 1965, rather than June 30, 1964. Launch was now expected on April 15, 1965, seven and one-half months later than the September 1, 1964, date that had been planned in January 1963.

December 3

The Gemini Program Planning Board issued a memorandum of understanding of the correction of the Titan II deficiencies for the Gemini program. This agreement formalized NASA specifications and Air Force plans to clean up problems related to longitudinal oscillations (POGO), combustion instability, and engine improvement. The program to alleviate the POGO effect included ground proof tests of all subsystems modified to control oscillations. Flight tests of the solutions would be flown on Titan II missiles before application to the Gemini launch vehicle. For the combustion stability program, dynamic stability would be demonstrated through the use of artificially produced disturbances, with the engines being flight tested on unmanned vehicles as final proof of man-rating. Engine improvement was a program to correct all design deficiencies that had cropped up during the Titan II development flights.

December 9

McDonnell delivered Gemini boilerplate No. 201, an egress trainer, to Houston. Preparations began for egress tests in a water tank at Ellington Air Force Base, Texas, in January 1964.

December 10

Aerojet-General delivered the stage II engine for Gemini launch vehicle (GLV) 2 to Martin-Baltimore. The engine was installed December 31. An interim stage I engine was received December 29 and installed January 9, 1964. This engine was to be used only for tests at the Martin plant, after which it was to be replaced by a flight engine before GLV-2 was shipped to the Cape. Horizontal testing of GLV-2 was completed January 17. Before GLV-2 was erected in the vertical test facility, a longitudinal oscillation (POGO) kit was installed in stage I. The kit comprised an oxidizer standpipe and a fuel surge chamber designed to suppress pressure pulses in the propellant feed lines and thus reduce POGO to a level consistent with manned flight.

December 13

Martin-Baltimore received the propellant tanks for Gemini launch vehicle (GLV) 3 from Martin-Denver, which had begun fabricating them in June. Splicing the oxidizer and fuel tanks for each stage was completed April 17, 1964. Flight engines arrived from Aerojet-General on May 10, and installation was completed June 6. Final horizontal tests of the assembled launch vehicle began June 1 and were concluded on June 17 with an Air Force inspection of GLV-3 before the vehicle was erected in the vertical test facility.

December 17-18

The G2C training and qualification pressure suit underwent further evaluation in conjunction with a mock-up review of the spacecraft crew station at McDonnell. In general, the suit was found to be acceptable to the crew and compatible with the spacecraft. The helmet design had been corrected satisfactorily and no new design problems were encountered. Eleven G2C suits, including five astronaut suits, would be delivered by the end of February 1964. The remaining 23 suits were scheduled for a March 1964 delivery date, when qualification and reliability testing would begin. The qualification program would be managed by the Crew Systems Division of Manned Spacecraft Center.

December 20

McDonnell shipped its portion of Gemini mission simulator No. 1 to Cape Kennedy. The computers for the training device were expected by mid January 1964.

December 21

Gemini Project Office (GPO) reported that a silver-zinc battery power system would be flown in spacecraft No. 3 instead of a fuel cell system, which could not be qualified in time for the mission. Late in January, 1964, McDonnell reviewed for GPO the status of the fuel cell program and discussed the design of an improved fuel cell into spacecraft No. 5 and to delete fuel cells from spacecraft Nos. 3 and 4, substituting the battery power system.

December 21

Gemini Project Office reported that McDonnell, as a result of a flammability test that it had conducted, would incorporate teflon-insulated wiring throughout the spacecraft. This modification would be initiated as early as possible.

December 23

Persistent problems in the development of engines for the Gemini orbit attitude and maneuver system prompted a review by the management of Manned Spacecraft Center. After discussion three decisions were reached. The possibility for further reducing the oxidizer to fuel ratio (currently 1.3:1) while still maintaining stable combustion and good starting characteristics was to be investigated. Lowering this ratio would reduce operating temperatures and enhance engine life. Another investigation was to be conducted to determine the feasibility of realigning the lateral-firing thrusters more closely with the spacecraft center of gravity. Such a realignment would reduce the demand placed on the 25-pound thrusters (which had yet to demonstrate a complete mission duty cycle operation without failure) in maintaining spacecraft attitude during lateral maneuvers. The third decision was to build an engine billet with ablation material laminates oriented approximately parallel to the motor housing. A recently developed parallel laminate material in its initial tests promised to resolve the problem of obtaining the thrusters' full operational duty cycle.

December 31

The two stages of Gemini launch vehicle 1, standing side by side on complex 19, completed the Combined Systems Test (CST) in preparation for Sequence Compatibility Firing (SCF). CST had been scheduled for December 13 but was delayed by late completion of the complex support systems for operational compatibility with the launch vehicle. The Wet Mock Simulated Flight for SCF was successfully completed January 7, 1964. The SCF scheduled for January 10 was discontinued at T-20 and rescheduled for January 14, when cold weather forced cancellation of the test. The SCF, a static firing of the stage I and stage II engines, was successfully conducted on January 21. Stage II erection in tandem followed on January 31.

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