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Early Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV) Flight Test
160x120 QuickTime Movie (1.3 MB)
320x240 QuickTime Movie (2.6 MB)
480x360 QuickTime Movie (3.9 MB)
640x480 QuickTime Movie (6.3 MB)
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This 33 second video clip shows a Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV) flight test.
The LLRV's, humorously referred to as "flying bedsteads," were created by a predecessor of the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center and Bell Aerosystems Company, Niagra Falls, New York, to study and analyze piloting techniques needed to fly and land the tiny Apollo Lunar Module in the Moon's airless environment. (Dryden was known simply as the NASA Flight Research Center from 1959 to 1976.)
Success of the LLRV's led to the building of three Lunar Landing Training Vehicles (LLTV) used by Apollo astronauts at the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas, predecessor of the NASA Johnson Space Center.
Apollo 11 astronaut, Neil Armstrong -- first human to step onto the Moon's surface -- said the mission would not have been successful without the type of simulation that resulted from the LLRV's.
When Apollo planning was underway in 1960, NASA was looking for a simulator to profile the descent to the Moon's surface. Three concepts developed: an electronic simulator, a tethered device, and the ambitious Flight Research Center (FRC) contribution, a free-flying vehicle. All three became serious projects, but eventually the FRC's LLRV became the most significant one. Hubert Drake is credited with originating the idea, while Donald Bellman and Gene Matranga were senior engineers on the project, with Bellman the project manager.
After conceptual planning and meetings with engineers from Bell Aerosystems, a company with experience in vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, NASA issued Bell a $50,000 study contract in December 1961. Bell had independently conceived a similar, free-flying simulator, and out of this study came the headquarters' endorsement of the LLRV concept, resulting in a $3.6 million production contract awarded to Bell February 1, 1963, for delivery of the first of two vehicles for flight studies at the FRC within 14 months.
Built of aluminum alloy trusses and shaped like a giant four-legged bedstead, the vehicle was to simulate a lunar landing profile. To do this, the LLRV had a General Electric CF-700-2V turbofan engine mounted vertically in a gimbal, with 4200 pounds of thrust. The engine got the vehicle up to the test altitude and was then throttled back to support five-sixths of the vehicle's weight, simulating the reduced gravity of the Moon. Two hydrogen peroxide lift rockets with thrust that could be varied from 100 to 500 pounds handled the LLRV's rate of descent and horizontal movement. Sixteen smaller hydrogen peroxide rockets, mounted in pairs, gave the pilot control in pitch, yaw, and roll. As safety backups on the LLRV, six 500-pound rockets could take over the lift function and stabilize the craft for a moment if the main jet engine failed. The pilot had a zero-zero ejection seat that would then lift him away to safety.
The two LLRV's were shipped from Bell to the FRC in April 1964, with program emphasis on vehicle No. 1. It was first readied for a captive test on a tilt-table affair. The scene then shifted to the old South Base area of Edwards. On the day of the first flight, October 30, 1964, research pilot Joe Walker flew it three times for a total of just under 60 seconds to a peak altitude of ten feet (three meters). Later flights were shared between Walker, another Center pilot named Don Mallick, the Army's Jack Kleuver, NASA Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas, pilots Joseph Algranti and H.E. "Bud" Ream.
NASA had accumulated enough data from the LLRV flight program at the FRC by mid-1966 to give Bell a contract to deliver three LLTV's at a cost of $2.5 million each.
In December 1966 vehicle No. 1 was shipped to Houston, followed by No. 2 in January 1967, within weeks of its first flight. Modifications already made to No. 2 had given the pilot a three-axis side control stick and a more restrictive cockpit view, both features of the real Lunar Module that would later be flown by the astronauts down to the Moon's surface.
When the LLRV's arrived at Houston, where research pilots would learn how to become LLTV instructor pilots, No. 2 had been flown just seven times while No. 1, the veteran, had a total of 198 flights. In December 1967, the first of the LLTV's joined the FRC's LLRV's to eventually make up the five-vehicle training and simulator fleet.
Three of the five vehicles were later destroyed in crashes at Houston - LLRV No. 1 in May 1968 and two LLTVs, in December 1968 and January 1971.
The two accidents in 1968, before the first lunar landing, did not deter Apollo program managers who enthusiastically relied on the vehicles for simulation and training.
Donald "Deke" Slayton, then NASA's astronaut chief, said there was no other way to simulate a Moon landing except by flying the LLTV. LLRV No. 2 was eventually returned to Dryden, where it is on display as a silent artifact of the Center's contribution to the Apollo program.
|Keywords||LRV; Lunar Landing Research Vehicle; "flying bedstead"; Dryden Flight Research Center; Bell Aerosystems; Flight Research Center; Lunar Landing Training Vehicle; LLTV; Neil Armstrong; Hubert Drake; Donald Bellman; Gene Matranga; General Electric; CF-700-2V; Joseph Walker; Don Mallick; Jack Kleuver; Joseph Algranti; H.E. "Bud" Ream; Lunar Module; Donald "Deke" Slayton|