Monday, August 22

Mercury Blast Off!

Mercury Redstone blasting off, November 29, 1961. The Redstone used Alcohol as its fuel and liquid oxygen as its oxidizer. At launch the vehicle weighed 60,000-pounds, stood 83.38 feet tall and produced 78,000-pounds of thrust. The Mercury Redstone engine burned for 142 seconds.

My model, the Mercury Redstone V, a direct descendant of the German V-2, designed by the German rocket engineering team led by Wernher von Braun and , from the Army's point of view, was to act as a long range artillery piece. The first Redstone flew successfully on August 20, 1953, from Cap Canaveral. In the years that followed the Redstone was developed into the tactical weapon that the army wanted, but it was never used as such. Instead, the Redstone found a better way to serve its country -- the duty of sending the first two Americans into space.

Boosting the first of the Project Mercury spacecraft into space on a sub-orbital trajectory would be the new role that the Redstone would play. Originally it was planned that all seven original astronauts would each fly atop the Redstone before each would fly an orbital mission. The first Mercury Redstone flight glitched at liftoff, only rising 2 inches - enough to pull two plugs out of the tail that were supposed to come out simultaneously. Instead they came out a micro-second apart and the abort system sensed the difference and shut the engine down - it also sensed its own shutdown and jettisoned the escape tower on the pad.

The next Mercury Redstone flight, MR-1A, was another test and was successful. Following that, MR-2 lofted "Ham" the chimp, but suffered an over-boost problem. MR-3 was scheduled to fly Alan Shepard on March 24, 1961, but when the von Braun team saw that there were ten data points of failure on the previous flight , they demanded another test. This delay in the schedule really ticked many in manned spaceflight operations who refused to give them a real Mercury capsule or let them use the MR-3 designation.

Still the von Braun team went ahead using a boilerplate capsule from the Little Joe 5B flight, an inert escape tower, and the designation MRBD for Mercury Redstone Booster Development. The flight proved out the ten corrections the team had made and effectively set the dominoes in motion that landed Americans on the moon. You see the delay it caused on Shepard's flight allowed the Russionas to place Yuri Gagain into space first. This turned a tepid US space program into a red hot space race and forced JFK to challenge the nation to go to the moon.

Politically, if Shepard had been first the attitude of the public and the politicians would have been "We won so the race is over" and landing on the moon may have remained just a dream to this day. In retrospect MRBD was, historically, the most important of the Mercurty Redstone flights for its delay.

On May 5, 1961, Shepard got his ride into space on MR-3. Only July 21, 1961, Gus Grissom flew aboard MR-4, but then the space race was so heated that the Mercury Redstone flights for the other five astronauts were cancelled as Project Mercury sped toward orbit and the use of the Atlas Booster.
Source: Flier included with Rocket Kit

My Mercury Redstone V Kit Specifications:
Skill Level 5: Extremely Challenging
Length: 13.75” (34.93 cm)
Diameter: .95" (24 mm)
Motor Mount Size: 18mm diameter
Fin Span: 2.00" (5.08 cm)
Weight (without motor): 1.25 oz (35.5 g)
Recovery Method: Plastic Parachute