Encyclopedia Astronautica
Mercury Balloon Flight Tests


In January 1959, balloon flights were planned for the Mercury spacecraft. These would occur from July 1959 to January 1961. Final flights would be manned tests of up to 24 hours duration, with recovery of the capsule at sea. Cancelled May 1959.

In January 1959, a series of balloon flights were planned for qualification of the Mercury spacecraft. These would occur from July 1959 to January 1961, take the capsule to high altitudes at the edge of space, then release it for a test of the recovery ssytems. The final flights would be manned tests of up to 24 hours duration, with recovery of the capsule at sea. This program was sharply cut back in the March 1959 to two balloon flights to qualify the spacecraft at altitudes up to 24 km. On May 22, 1959 the balloon flights were cancelled entirely. The necessary data would be obtained in the altitude wind tunnel at the Lewis Research Center. The Soviets conducted an analogous test series, however, with the Vostok spacecraft. On one such test a (non-cosmonaut) parachutist died when his suit depressurised in a high-altitude jump.

First Launch: January 1961.

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See also
Associated Programs
  • Mercury Mercury was America's first man-in-space project. Setting the precedent for the later Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle programs, any capsule configuration proposed by the contractors was acceptable as long as it was the one NASA's Langley facility, and in particular, Max Faget, had developed. McDonnell, at that time a renegade contractor of innovative Navy fighters that had a history of problems in service, received the contract. The capsule had to be as small as possible to match the payload capability of America's first ICBM, the Atlas, which would be used for orbital missions. The resulting design was less than a third of the weight of the Russian Vostok spacecraft, and more limited as a result. More...

Mercury Balloon Flight Tests Chronology


January 1961 - .
  • Mercury Balloon Flight Tests (cancelled) - . Nation: USA. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury Balloon Flight Tests. In January 1959, a series of balloon flights were planned for qualification of the Mercury spacecraft. The final flights would be manned tests of up to 24 hours duration, with recovery of the capsule at sea. On May 22, 1959 the balloon flights were cancelled.

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