Encyclopedia Astronautica
1961.10.27 - Program of manned spaceflight for 1963-1965.


Space Task Group (STG), assisted by George M. Low, NASA Assistant Director for Space Flight Operations, and Warren J. North of Low's office, prepared a project summary presenting a program of manned spaceflight for 1963-1965. This was the final version of the Project Development Plan, work on which had been initiated August 14.

A two-man version of the Mercury spacecraft would be lifted by a modified Titan II booster. The Atlas-Agena B combination would be used to place the Agena B into orbit as the target vehicle for rendezvous. The proposed plan was based on extensive use of Mercury technology and components for the spacecraft. A suggestion was incorporated to negotiate a sole-source, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract with McDonnel Aircraft Corporation for the Mark II Mercury spacecraft. Launch vehicle procurement would be arranged through the Air Force: with General Dynamics/Astronautics, San Diego, California, for Atlas launch vehicles; with Martin-Marietta Space Systems Division (Martin-Baltimore), Baltimore, Maryland, for the modified Titan II launch vehicles; and with Lockheed Missiles and Space Company, Sunnyvale, California, for the Agena target vehicles. A project office would be established to plan, direct, and supervise the program. Manpower requirements for this office were expected to reach 177 by the end of fiscal year 1962. Estimated cost of the proposed program was about $530 million. STG justified this plan by suggesting that the next step in manned space exploration after Mercury would be to gain experience in long-duration and rendezvous missions. The Mark II program was to provide an immediate continuation of a successful Project Mercury, using equipment and vehicles already developed for other programs as much as possible. The Mark II would allow a much wider range of mission objectives than Mercury, which could not readily be adapted to other than simple orbital missions of up to one day's duration. Mark II objectives encompassed flights of longer duration than the 18 orbits to which Mercury was limited, making a multiman crew necessary, contributing to the development of operational techniques and equipment for extended space flights, and providing data on the psychological and physiological effects on the crew of lengthy periods in the space environment. Objectives also included flights to develop techniques for achieving rendezvous in orbit--a necessary prelude to advanced flights in order to extend the limits on mission capabilities imposed by the limitations of available boosters--and controlled land landing to avoid or minimize the magnitude of the effort required to recover spacecraft at sea and to put spaceflight on something like a routine basis. The Mark II project would be quickly accomplished; not only would most hardware be modifications of what already existed, but equipment would be modularized, allowing mission requirements and available hardware to be maintained in balance with minimum dislocations. Twelve flights were planned, beginning with an unmanned qualification flight in May 1963. Succeeding flights would occur at two-month intervals, ending in March 1965. Flight No. 2 would be a manned 18-orbit mission with the twin objectives of testing crew performance in missions of that length and of further qualifying the spacecraft for longer missions. The next two flights (Nos. 3 and 4) would be long-duration tests to demonstrate the crews' ability to function in space for up to 14 days. Remaining flights were to establish orbital rendezvous techniques and to demonstrate the capability to rendezvous and dock in space.

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