Analysis of data gathered during the attempted Mercury flight test at Cape Canaveral on Monday, November 21, has now produced significant indications of the cause of the malfunction.
Analysis of data gathered during the attempted Mercury flight test at Cape Canaveral on Monday, November 21, has now produced significant indications of the cause of the malfunction. Mr. Robert T. Gilruth, NASA's Director of Project Mercury, said it appears to be a relatively simple ground support equipment problem.
One of the purpose of Monday's test, the first of the Redstone-boosted flights for Mercury spacecraft, was to investigate the compatibility of spacecraft with booster and booster-spacecraft combination with ground support equipment. In that respect, the test produced valuable constructive results.
After ignition and at the instant of liftoff, the engine received a premature cutoff signal. The specific source of the signal is undetermined at this time but it is believed to have originated in the Redstone engine ground booster circuit. When the cause is specifically located, modifications will be made in the circuitry to prevent a recurrence of the malfunction.
Upon receipt of the engine cutoff signal, the Redstone engine shut down just as it would at the end of the powered portion of the flight in space. Similarly, the Mercury spacecraft began a normal sequence of events upon receipt of an engine cutoff indication just as it would on a normal flight in space.
This sequence begins with the jettisoning of the escape rocket and tower. Since the sequence was initiated at ground level rather than in space, the Mercury spacecraft pressure sensing switches automatically determined that the premature landing system should be activated. Both the drogue and main landing parachutes were deployed.
The Mercury spacecraft was not damage in the test. After a complete inspection and ground checkout, the spacecraft will be ready for flight. The Redstone booster was damaged in the test attempt and will require repair. A new booster is being readied at the Marshall Space Flight Centre at Huntsville, Alabama. No firm date has been set for a new test.