Wednesday, June 1, 2016

50 YA: Gemini IX Premission Glitch

Atlas-ATDS mission lifts off from pad LC-14, June 1, 1966.

Fifty years ago, NASA tried a second time to start the Gemini IX mission. Earlier in May 17, 1966, the mission was scrubbed when the Atlas-Agena target vehicle mission failed by a malfunction in the Atlas rocket and the inability of the ATV to reach orbit. Astronauts Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan were supposed to launch hours later, but the mission was postponed.
Cernan (L) and Stafford (R) discuss the postponement of their mission on May 17, 1966.

 Now on June 1st, a backup Atlas rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 14 at Cape Canaveral. It's payload was the Augmented Target Docking Adapter (ATDP), a variation of the ATV. The Agena rocket section was replaced with the re-entry control section of a Gemini Capsule, so it was a bit shorter than the typical Agena Target Vehicle. Flight planners determined that the ATDP would function just fine for the objectives of the mission, and after launch, the ATDP was determined to have successfully entered a 161-mile high orbit.  Unfortunately, sensors indicated that the aerodynamic shroud over the ATDP had not jettisoned properly.

It was decided to proceed with the Gemini IX launch, and that during the expected EVA Cernan would try to release the shroud. Preparations then continued with preparing the Gemini Titan for launch on the 3rd.

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