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Saturn I SA-4 Mission

Forty-nine years ago this week, the United States successfully conducted the fourth Saturn I test flight designated as Saturn-Apollo No. 4 (SA-4).  Launched from LC-34 at Cape Canaveral, Florida on Thursday, 28 March 1963, SA-4  reached an apogee of 70 nm, attained a maximum speed of 3,670 mph and flew 216 nm downrange during the brief 15 minute suborbital mission.  The Saturn I measured 180 feet in length, featured a maximum diameter of 21.4 feet and weighed 1,123,600 l bs at lift-off.  The first stage propulsion system consisted of an octet of H-1 engines generating a total sea level thrust of 1,600,000 lbs.  Nominal burn time was 150 seconds.  Part of the early Apollo Program, SA-4 was the last flight to fire just the first stage rocket engines.  As with the previous three launches, the primary goal of SA-4 was to validate the structural integrity of the Saturn I vehicle.  However, a significant additional objective of SA-4 was to verify the GNC system’s ability to properly handle an engine-out anomaly during first stage operation.  As such, one of the H-1 engines was programmed to intentionally shutdown at approximately T+100 seconds.  The GNC system did indeed respond properly to this anomaly by rerouting propellants to the remaining seven (7) engines which burned longer to compensate for the loss of thrust.  SA-4 also employed a nonfunctional second stage which incorporated the external shape of the ultimate second stage design.  This included the presence of vent ducts, fairings, simulated camera pods and various externally-mounted antennae.  SA-4 also fired a retrorocket system that would be employed to aid separation of various rocket stages on later flights.  Despite dire warnings in some quarters, the shutdown H-1 engine remained intact despite the build-up of heat caused by the lack of cooling propellant flowing around the nozzle.  This survivability feature underscored the robustness of the clustered engine concept employed in the Saturn series of space boosters.  Interestingly, the engine-out compensation capability demonstrated on SA-4 was in fact successfully employed during a pair of later Apollo missions; Apollo 6 and Apollo 13.

Posted in Aerospace, History

Yogi Goes Ballistic

Fifty-years ago this week, a supersonic flight test of the B-58A Hustler’s crew escape system was successfully conducted with a black bear named Yogi as the test subject.  Ejection took place with the test aircraft maintaining a speed of 850 mph at 35,000 feet.  The USAF/Convair B-58A Hustler was the world’s first operational supersonic strategic bomber.  With a GTOW of 176,000 lbs and powered by a quartet of General Electric J79-GE-5A turbojets, the aircraft featured a maximum speed of Mach 2 at 40,000 feet.  The Hustler air crew consisted of a pilot, bombardier/navigator and defensive systems officer seated in separate, tandem flight stations.  When the Hustler entered the operational inventory in 1960, standard ejection seats were used for air crew emergency egress.  However, the chances of surviving a supersonic ejection in the B-58A or any other aircraft were quite low due to severe wind blast and exposure effects.  The resolution of this issue came in the form of an encapsulation system that protected the crew member during ejection, deceleration, parachute deployment and landing.  Upon activation, clamshell doors would close and seal the crew member in the escape capsule.  The entire assembly was then fired out the top of the aircraft and into the air stream.  Flight testing of this system was initially performed using bears due to the similarity of their internal organ arrangement with that of a man’s.  On Wednesday, 21 March 1962, a 2-year old female black bear named Yogi served as the first live test subject.  The tranquilized bear survived the ride upstairs, the ejection event, 7.5 minute parachute descent and landing with no apparent ill effect.  Subsequent testing with other bears helped prove the escape system’s airworthiness.  Although many sources claim that this was the first supersonic ejection of a live creature, such is not the case.  That particular distinction (if it can be called that) goes to North American Aviation pilot  George F. Smith who bailed out of his stricken F-100 Super Sabre at 777 mph on Sunday, 26 February 1955.  Although battered and terribly injured in the process, Smith survived and lived to fly another day.

Posted in Aerospace, History

Delta M-6 Orbits Explorer 43

Forty-one years ago this month, the first long-tank thrust-augmented Delta rocket with six Castor-2 strap-on boosters was launched from LC-17A at Cape Canaveral, Florida.  Known as Delta M-6, the thrust-augmented launch vehicle was capable of placing 1,000 lbs in geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) or about 2,850 lbs in low earth orbit (LEO).  Three of the solid strap-on boosters were ignited on the pad along with the MB-3-3 first stage liquid rocket motor which generated 195,000 lbs of vacuum thrust.  Each solid rocket strap-on produced 58,000 lbs of vacuum thrust and burned for 37 seconds.  At T+38 seconds, the remaining three strap-ons were air-ignited just as the ground-ignited motors were burning out.   All of the Castor-2 solid rockets separated from the launch vehicle shortly after burnout of the trio of air-ignited motors.  The ground-ignited boosters went first, followed 5 seconds later by the air-ignited set.  The primary payload for the Delta M-6 mission was the Explorer 43 satellite which was inserted into a highly-elliptical orbit on Saturday, 13 March 1971.  Orbital parameters included an apogee of 122,146 statute miles a perigee of 146 statute miles and an orbit inclination of 28.75 degees.  Outfitted with a dozen specialized instruments, Explorer 43 obtained detailed scientific measurements of solar ray, cosmic ray, electrical field and energetic particle activity in space.  These data allowed scientists to study the cislunar environmnt during a period of decreasing solar flare activity.  Explorer 43 performed well right up to the day it reentered the Earth’s atmosphere on Thursday, 02 October 1974.

Posted in Aerospace, History

EO/IR Expert John L. Minor Teaches Next Month

White Eagle Aerospace is pleased to announce the return of the in-demandFundamentals of Electro-Optics and Infrared (EO/IR) Sensors (FEOIR) 5-day short course taught by instructor John L. Minor. The course will be held at the AERO Institute in Palmdale, CA from 16th – 20th April 2012. Minor is a world-renowned instructor and expert in Electro-Optics and Infrared Sensors who brings unsurpassed knowledge and experience to the course, both academically and professionally. In addition, he has over 1500 flight test hours as a flight test engineer, flight test instructor, and aircrew member.

FEOIR News March 2012

Academic qualifications include: Associates of Science in Electronics Technology; Yuba College, Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (Minor in Mathematics); University of New Mexico/Air Force Institute of Technology; Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (with Electro-Optics Emphasis); University of New Mexico/Air Force Institute of Technology; PhD Qualifying Exam Passed; University of New Mexico; and United States Air Force Test Pilot School, Class 87B.

Flight qualifications include: Master Instructor Flight Test Engineer for USAF Test Pilot School 1988-1989, 1999-2003; Senior Flight Test Engineer; Senior Non-Rated Aircrew Member; Technical Director & Senior Instructor Flight Test Engineer for USAF Test Pilot School 2004-2008

Flight test experience includes: F-16 A/B & C/D Avionics, Electro-Optics and Infrared (EO/IR) Sensors, RADAR, and Electronic Warfare (EW);  AN/ALQ-179 CORONET PRINCE EO Countermeasures System; HH-60D Night Hawk Search and Rescue (SAR); AN/AAQ-13 & -14 Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) System; F-16D Tactical Reconnaissance (F-16 TAC RECCE); BQM-145A Medium Range Unmanned Air Vehicle; AGM-136A Tacit Rainbow Extended Loiter Anti-Radiation Missile; CL-227 Sentinel (Flying Peanut) Rotary Wing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle; Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System (ATARS); F/A-18D(RC) Tactical Reconnaissance (F-18 TAC RECCE); AN/AVD-5 Electro-Optical Long Range Oblique Photography System (EOLOROPS); RQ-3A DARKSTAR; NF-16D Variable Inflight Stability Test/Training Aircraft (VISTA); Plus Numerous Classified Special Projects.

Major aircraft & simulators flown: Aircraft: F-16B/D, NF-16D, F-15E, F-15B, RF-4C, F-4D/E/F, T-38, NC-131, C-130, C-12, T-39, B-52, C-5, C-141, U-6A, UV-18, UH-1H&N & HH-1H, HH-60D, P-3, F-14, F-18, OH-58, EMB-312, EMB-120, and numerous gliders; Simulators: F-16, F-15E, F-18, SR-71, B727, B737, B757, L1011, A-380

Test range experience includes: Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards AFB, CA; Air Force Development Test Center, Eglin AFB, FL;  Arnold Air Development Center (AEDC), TN; Pacific Missile Range Facility, CA; Naval Air Warfare Center-Weapons Division (NAWC-WD), CA; Naval Air Warfare Center-Aircraft Division (NAWC-AD), CA; Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR), NV; Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR); White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), NM; Joint Interoperability Test Range, Fort Huachuca, AZ; Yuma Electronic Proving Ground, AZ.

Professional affiliations include: Fellow of the Society of Flight Test Engineers (SFTE); Past President of the Society of Flight Test Engineers (SFTE); Senior Member of AIAA; Member of ITEA; Member of IEEE; Member of INCOSE; Member of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Association; Member of the Flight Test Historical Foundation.

Posted in News

Apollo Lunar Module Debut

Forty-three years ago this month, the Apollo Lunar Module (LM) flew in space for the first time during the Apollo 9 earth-orbital mission.  This technological achievement was critical to the success of the first lunar landing mission which occurred a little over 4 months later.  The Apollo Lunar Module (LM) was the world’s first true spacecraft in that it was designed to operate in vacuum conditions only.  It was the third and final element of the Apollo spacecraft; the first two elements being the Command Module (CM) and the Service Module (LM). The LM had its own propulsion, life-support and GNC systems.  The vehicle weighed about 32,000 lbs on Earth and was used to transport a pair of astronauts from lunar orbit to the lunar surface and back into lunar orbit.  The spacecraft was really a two-stage vehicle; a descent stage and an ascent stage weighing 22,000 lbs and 10,000 lbs on Earth, respectively.  The descent stage rocket motor was throttable and produced a maximum thrust of 10,000 lbs while the ascent stage rocket motor was rated at 3,500 lbs of thrust.  On Monday, 03 March 1969, Apollo 9 was rocketed into earth-orbit by the mighty Saturn V launch vehicle.  The primary purpose of this mission was to put the first LM through its paces preparatory to the first lunar landing attempt.  During the 10-day mission, the crew of Commander James A. McDivitt, CM Pilot David R. Scott and LM Pilot Russell L. “Rusty” Schweickart fully verified all moon landing-specific operational aspects (short of an actual landing) of the LM.  Key activities included multiple-firings of both rocket motors and several rendezvous and docking exercises in which the LM flew as far as 113 miles from the CM/SM pair.  By the time the crew splashed-down in the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, 13 March 1969, America had a new operational spacecraft and a fighting chance to land men on the moon and safely return them to Earth by the end of the decade.

Posted in Aerospace, History