Encyclopedia Astronautica
1963.05.29 - Department of Defense support of the Mercury MA-9


The Department of Defense submitted a summary of its support of the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) mission, with a notation that the department was prepared to provide support for the MA-10 launch.

Other than the provision of the Atlas launch vehicle, the Department of Defense supplied the Air Force Coastal Sentry Quebec, positioned south of Japan to monitor and backup retrofire for orbits 6, 7, 21, and 22. In the southeast Pacific, the Atlantic Missile Range telemetry command ship Rose Knot Victor was positioned to provide command coverage for orbits 8 and 13. At a point between Cape Canaveral and Bermuda, the Atlantic Missile Range C-band radar ship Twin Falls Victory was stationed for reentry tracking, while the Navy's Range Tracker out of the Pacific Missile Range provided similar services in the Pacific. Other Department of Defense communications support included fixed island stations and aircraft from the several services. Rear Admiral Harold G. Bowen was in command of Task Force 140, positioned in the Atlantic Ocean in the event of recovery in that area. In addition, aircraft were available at strategic spots for sea recovery or recovery on the American or African Continents. In the Pacific, recovery Task Force 130, under the command of Rear Admiral C.A. Buchanan, was composed of one aircraft carrier and 10 destroyers. This force was augmented by aircraft in contingency recovery areas at Hickam; Midway Island; Kwajalein; Guam; Tachikawa, Japan; Naha, Okinawa; Clark Field, Phillippines; Singapore; Perth, Australia; Townsville; Nandi; Johnston Island; and Tahiti. Pararescuemen were available at all points except Kwajalein. The Middle East recovery forces (Task Force 109) were under the direction of Rear Admiral B.J. Semes and consisted of a seaplane tender and two destroyers supported by aircraft out of Aden, Nairobe, Maritius, and Singapore for contingency recovery operations. For bioastronautic support, the Department of Defense deployed 78 medical personnel, had 32 specialty team members on standby, committed 9 department hospitals and provided over 3,400 pounds of medical equipment. During the actual recovery, the spacecraft was sighted by the carrier USS Kearsarge (Task Force 130), and helicopters were deployed to circle the spacecraft during its final descent. Swimmers dropped from the helicopters to fix the flotation collar and retrieve the antenna fairing. Cooper remained in his spacecraft until he was hoisted aboard the carrier. A motor whaleboat towed the spacecraft alongside the ship.

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