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Agena Target Vehicle

From Academic Kids

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Agena.jpg
An Agena Target Vehicle

The Agena Target Vehicle was designed to develop and practice orbital rendezvous and docking in space, in preparation for the lunar mission.

The ATV consisted of the Lockheed Agena spacecraft and the McDonnell docking adapter. The Agena was launched from AMR (Cape Canaveral) Complex 14 on top of a Convair Atlas booster. The Agena first burn would occur shortly after shroud jettison and separation from the Atlas over the Atlantic Ocean. Over Ascension Island, a second burn would boost the Agena into a low circular orbit.

The McDonnell Gemini spacecraft would then launch (as close as 90 minutes) from Complex 19 (both countdowns would proceed in parallel and required close synchronization) and, toward the end of the program, would dock with the Agena within the first orbit after launch.

The Gemini astronauts would then fly in a stabilized mode and perform a number of experiments:

  • letting the Agena stabilize the formation to save the capsule's propellants (on the first docking, during the Gemini 8 mission, a stuck nozzle on the capsule resulted in an emergency undock and the mission termination)
  • EVA and work on a tool panel (this required installing handrails on the next flight after one astronaut's heart rate exceeded safe limits due to the effort expended just holding on)
  • lighting the Agena engine and reaching an altitude of 400 miles (a human record at the time)
  • undocking, unreeling a 50 foot (15.24 meter) nylon strap between the capsule and the Agena and flying in a "dumbbell" configuration with the Agena below the astronauts (to check the gravitational effect on the formation stability in uncontrolled mode. This is now known as gravity gradient stabilization.)
  • using a similar tether and a few thruster bursts to rotate the two craft around each other as an early test of artificial gravity.

After the Gemini capsule separated for the last time, the Agena remained in orbit for a short time and was used to verify the command system.

Agena target vehicle flight statistics

Agena Gemini mission Launched Reentered NSSDC ID Comments
GATV-5002 Gemini 6 October 25, 1965
15:00:04 UTC
October 25, 1965
15:06:20 UTC
GEM6T (http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog?sc=GEM6T) Exploded during launch. 3,261-kg
GATV-5003 Gemini 8 March 16, 1966
15:00:03 UTC
September 15, 1967 1966-019A (http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog?sc=1966-019A) First docking. 3,175-kg. Gemini 10 later
rendezvoused with Agena 8
GATV-5004 Gemini 9A May 17, 1966
15:12:00 UTC
May 17, 1966
15:19:00 UTC
GEM9TA (http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog?sc=GEM9TA) Failed to orbit. 3,252-kg
ATDA #02186 Gemini 9A June 1, 1966
15:00:02 UTC
June 11, 1966 1966-046A (http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog?sc=1966-046A) Shroud did not separate. 794 kg. Built from
docking portion of Agena Target Vehicle and
Gemini reentry thruster section.
GATV-5005 Gemini 10 July 18, 1966
20:39:46 UTC
December 29, 1966 1966-065A (http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog?sc=1966-065A) Boosted Gemini 10 to a 763-km apogee. 3,175-kg.
GATV-5006 Gemini 11 September 12,1966
13:05:01 UTC
December 30, 1966 1966-080A (http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog?sc=1966-080A) Boosted Gemini 11 to a record 1,374-km apogee.
3,175-kg. Tether experiment.
GATV-5001A Gemini 12 November 11, 1966
19:07:58 UTC
December 23,1966 1966-103A (http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog?sc=1966-103A) No apogee boost due to a defective main
Agena engine. 3,175-kg. Tether experiment.

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