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Giving Mercury Its Wings: The First Test Flights of NASA’s Mercury Program

9 Sep 2019, 06:22 UTC
Giving Mercury Its Wings: The First Test Flights of NASA’s Mercury Program
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

As 1959 opened, the newly created NASA appeared to be well on its way with Project Mercury. In January 1959 the Space Task Group (STG) based at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia had chosen McDonnell as the capsule’s contractor and had already made key decisions on its design (see “The Origins of NASA’s Mercury Program”). While a modified Atlas ICBM would eventually launch Mercury into orbit, it was recognized early on that smaller rockets would also be required for various test flights. As soon as NASA was formed and Project Mercury organized in October of 1958, STG officials had begun negotiations to procure the rockets they needed.

The Redstone
One of the smaller new rockets required was the Chrysler-built Redstone. This short range tactical missile was developed by a team at the ABMA (Army Ballistic Missile Agency) under the direction of Wernher von Braun (see “Redstone: The Missile that Launched America into Space”). Since its inception in August 1953, the Redstone had been developed into a highly reliable rocket. A modified version of the Redstone was used by the von Braun and his team as the basis of a launch vehicle that sent America’s first satellite into ...

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