Milestone-Nomination:Mercury Spacecraft MA-6
Docket Number: 2009-12
In the space below the line, please enter your proposed citation in English, with title and text. Text absolutely limited to 70 words; 60 is preferable for aesthetic reasons. NOTE: The IEEE History Committee shall have final determination on the wording of the citation
Mercury Spacecraft MA-6
Col John Glenn piloted the Mercury Spacecraft "Friendship 7" as the first USA manned orbital flight
on February 20, 1962. His spaceflight was extraordinary because of the utilization of the electrical
and electronic systems invented by McDonnell Engineers, some being members of IRE and subsequently
IEEE. Project Mercury's electronics included Navigation & Control Instruments; Auto Pilot; Rate
Stabilization & Control; and Fly-By-Wire (FBW) manual electrical systems.
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In the space below the line, please describe the historic significance of this work: its importance to the evolution of electrical and computer engineering and science and its importance to regional/national/international development.
When the request for proposals was issued by NASA, there had not been a manned spaceflight by the United States. Amazingly, James S. McDonnell, founder of the McDonnell Aircraft Company, dedicated resources and personnel to design a spacecraft capable of putting humans into space and returning them safely to earth at least two years before the signing of the Project Mercury contract. Because space flight was different than conventional air flight electrical systems had new challenges. The electrical and electronics systems had to be able to operate in a new environment including but not limited to the vacuum of space, the weightlessness of orbital flight, and the rigors of launch and recovery. McDonnell electrical and electronics engineers took extra precautions because the spacecraft had to be man rated.
Its systems epitomize the field of interest of the IEEE Aerospace and Electronics Systems Society. Project Mercury's electronics included Navigation and control instruments; auto pilot; rate stabilization and control, manual proportional control system and Fly-By-Wire (FBW)manual-electrical system. The FBW manual-electrical systems proved critical to Friendship 7's mission success because a yaw attitude control jet apparently clogged at the end of the first orbit, forcing astronaut Glenn to abandon the automatic control system for the manual-electrical fly-by-wire system. (ref http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/history/mercury/ma-6/ma-6.html). This established the United States of America’s foundation for future manned spaceflight, eventually resulting in the landing of humans on the Moon.
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