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Relighting the FIRE: A 1966 Proposal for Piloted Interplanetary Mission Reentry Tests

12 Aug 2017, 21:53 UTC
Relighting the FIRE: A 1966 Proposal for Piloted Interplanetary Mission Reentry Tests
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Cutaway of a reentering Apollo Command Module showing the position of its crew. Image credit: NASAOn 14 April 1964, a NASA Atlas-D rocket lifted off from Cape Kennedy, Florida, bearing the first Flight Investigation Reentry Environment (FIRE) payload. Project FIRE aimed to gather data on atmosphere reentry at lunar-return speed - about 36,000 feet per second (fps) - to Apollo engineers develop the heat shield for the conical Apollo Command Module (CM). Initiated in 1961 and managed by NASA's Langley Research Center (LaRC) under direction of the NASA Headquarters Office of Advanced Research and Technology, FIRE focused mainly on testing instrumented sub-scale model CM capsules in wind tunnels and thermal chambers at LaRC. Engineers realized, however, that there could be no substitute for data gathered in the actual space environment.NASA rolls back the gantry structure surrounding the Atlas-D rocket bearing the first Project FIRE spacecraft, April 1964. Image credit: NASAThe Atlas-D rocket lobbed the Project FIRE payload, the 14-foot-long, 4150-pound Velocity Package (VP), onto an arcing course toward remote Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean, a British possession that since 1957 had been home to U.S. missile tracking facilities. The VP cast off its two-part aerodynamic shroud and separated ...

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