AS -202 (also known as SA -202 ) was the third unmanned test flight of the Apollo program, NASA.
After the largely successful flight test of AS -201, the second flight should have a longer duration and try a multiple firing of the Apollo engine. In addition, a shallower angle reentry was provided so that the heat shield would be suspended higher temperatures.
This was also the first flight of the Apollo Guidance Computer on-board computer and the fuel cells in the Apollo spacecraft.
The Apollo spacecraft carried the serial number 011, it was broadly the instance 012, with the first manned Apollo flight should be. Since the spacecraft was not available in time, the originally planned as a third test flight AS -203 was preferred. During this flight, which took place in July 1966, the Saturn rocket was tested, so that no functional spacecraft was necessary.
The individual parts of the rocket arrived by sea: the second stage on January 29, 1966, the first stage on February 7 and the instrument unit on 21 February. On July 2, 1966 AS -202 was fully assembled on launch pad 34 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base.
History of the flight
The countdown had four times be interrupted until AS -202 took off on August 25th, 1966 at 17:15:32 UTC. The first stage worked for about two minutes and sent the rocket to 56 km altitude. The second stage burned for seven minutes and was separated in 216 km altitude. Shortly thereafter, the Apollo engine was ignited and worked for 3 minutes and 35 seconds. This brought the spacecraft to its maximum altitude of 1128 km.
25 minutes later the Apollo engine was ignited three times in a row in order to investigate the behavior under these circumstances. This brought the spacecraft to a re-entry speed of 8.9 km / sec, and the command module was separated from the service module. The re-entry angle into the atmosphere was chosen to be very flat, so that the Apollo landing capsule, although first fell to 66 km altitude, but then removed again to 81 km altitude, before it went down for good.
AS -202 landed at 18:48 UTC in the Pacific Ocean near Wake Iceland, where the target was missed by 370 km. An airplane rescue teams reached the landing point 36 minutes later. Over the next three hours, the landing capsule was secured by a floating collar, which required several attempts. The recovery ship USS Hornet took eight hours to reach the landing site. The landing capsule had now drifted to the position 16 ° 4'N 168 ° 39'O.
Impact on the Apollo program
In essence, the flight was successful. The large deviation of the calculated landing point was reduced to too low entrance angles. In addition, they had assessed the air resistance of the Apollo landing capsule in the supersonic range wrong. The wind tunnel measurements were apparently not sufficient.
This third flight of the Saturn IB completed the preparatory phase of the unmanned Apollo program. The next flight was to take place under the designation AS -204 in late 1966 or early 1967. It was planned a manned mission of about a week in orbit. While preparing for this flight the selected astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee were killed in a ground test killed, bringing the Apollo program provisionally to a halt. Retrospectively this mission was renamed Apollo 1.
The Apollo landing capsule can now be seen on the museum ship converted USS Hornet in Alameda.