The events on this day in history for our heritage companies are noted below.
The earliest event was in 1955, the latest was in 2019
1975 – MM X-24B flight 58, Dryden Lake – Pilot Bill Dana
2019 – NASA awards LM a contract to build six Orion spacecraft
Military and Classified Programs:
1963 – LAUNCH: Classified mission, Thor SLV-2A/Lockheed Agena D, SLC2W, VAFB
1964 – LAUNCH: Classified mission, GD Atlas SLV-3/Lockheed Agena D, SLC4E, VAFB
1977 – LAUNCH: Classified mission, MM Titan 24B, SLC4W, VAFB
1985 – US Space Command activated at Peterson AFB, Colorado
Exploration and Interplanetary Programs:
1999 – FAILURE: Mars Climate Orbiter failed at Mars orbital insertion – units error for thrusters resulted in spacecraft being off-course
Earth-Monitoring and Civil Weather Satellite programs:
1997 – LAUNCH: LM (GE) Intelsat 803, Ariane 42L, ELA2, Kourou, French Guiana
1999 – LAUNCH: Echostar 5, LM Atlas IIAS, LC36A, CCAFS
Test, ICBM, FBM programs:
1955 – LAUNCH FAILURE: Lockheed X-17, LC3, CCAFS
1960 – LAUNCH: Lockheed Polaris A1, LC29A, CCAFS
1960 – LAUNCH FAILURE: Lockheed Polaris A1, SSBN599, ETR
1961 – LAUNCH: Martin Titan I, 395-A1, VAFB
1963 – LAUNCH: MM Titan II, 395-D, VAFB
1983 – LAUNCH MM Pershing 1A, LC16, CCAFS
The photos today are of Mars Climate Orbiter (MCO) in acoustic testing and a graphic showing the expected versus actual trajectories of the spacecraft.
From a Wikipedia article about the failure: On November 10, 1999, the Mars Climate Orbiter Mishap Investigation Board released a Phase I report, detailing the suspected issues encountered with the loss of the spacecraft.
Previously, on September 8, 1999, Trajectory Correction Maneuver-4 (TCM-4) was computed, and was then executed on September 15, 1999. It was intended to place the spacecraft at an optimal position for an orbital insertion maneuver that would bring the spacecraft around Mars at an altitude of 226 km (140 miles) on September 23, 1999.
However, during the week between TCM-4 and the orbital insertion maneuver, the navigation team reported that it appeared the insertion altitude could be much lower than planned, at about 150 to 170 km (93 to 106 miles). Twenty-four hours prior to orbital insertion, calculations placed the orbiter at an altitude of 110 km (68 miles). 80 km (50 miles) was the minimum altitude that Mars Climate Orbiterwas thought to be capable of surviving during this maneuver.
During insertion, the orbiter was intended to skim through Mars’ upper atmosphere, gradually aerobraking for weeks, but post-failure calculations showed that the spacecraft’s trajectory would have taken it within 57 km (35 miles) of the surface. At this altitude, the spacecraft would likely have skipped violently off the denser-than-expected atmosphere and it was either destroyed in the atmosphere, or re-entered heliocentric space.
The primary cause of this discrepancy was that one piece of ground software supplied by Lockheed Martin produced results in United States units (English) contrary to its Software Interface Specification (SIS), while a second system, supplied by NASA, expected those results to be in SI units, in accordance with the SIS. Specifically, software that calculated the total impulse produced by thruster firings produced results in pound-force seconds. The trajectory calculation software then used these results – expected to be in newton-seconds (incorrect by a factor of 4.45) – to update the predicted position of the spacecraft.
Still, NASA does not place the responsibility on Lockheed for the mission loss; instead, various officials at NASA have stated that NASA itself was at fault for failing to make the appropriate checks and tests that would have caught the discrepancy.
The discrepancy between calculated and measured position, resulting in the discrepancy between desired and actual orbit insertion altitude, had been noticed earlier by at least two navigators, whose concerns were dismissed because they “did not follow the rules about filling out [the] form to document their concerns”. A meeting of trajectory software engineers, trajectory software operators (navigators), propulsion engineers, and managers was convened to consider the possibility of executing Trajectory Correction Maneuver-5, which was in the schedule. Attendees of the meeting recall an agreement to conduct TCM-5, but it was ultimately not done.
NOTE: I did a detailed study of this failure and the failure of Mars Polar Lander in my working days to create a tutorial for other programs. There are a number of other factors that were involved in the MCO failure, but I did not keep a copy of that tutorial given its proprietary and technical nature. This failure continued a string of failures for LM in 1999 (three Titans, Athena/IKONOS) and culminated in the failure of Mars Polar Lander in early December.