Mercury-Atlas 3

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Mercury-Atlas 3
Mercury-Atlas 3 launch.jpg
Launch of MA-3
Mission type Test flight
Operator NASA
Mission duration 7 minutes, 19 seconds
Failed to orbit
Distance travelled 1.8 kilometres (1.1 mi)
Apogee 7.2 kilometres (4.5 mi)
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft Mercury No.8
Manufacturer McDonnell Aircraft
Launch mass 1,179 kilograms (2,599 lb)
Start of mission
Launch date April 25, 1961, 16:15 (1961-04-25UTC16:15Z) UTC
Rocket Atlas LV-3B
Launch site Cape Canaveral LC-14
End of mission
Landing date April 25, 1961, 16:23 (1961-04-25UTC16:24Z) UTC

Mercury insignia.png

Project Mercury
Mercury-Atlas series
← Mercury-Atlas 2 Mercury-Atlas 4

Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) was an unmanned spaceflight of the Mercury program. It was launched unmanned on April 25, 1961 at 16:15 UTC, from Launch Complex 14 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Mercury capsule contained a robotic "mechanical astronaut". Mercury spacecraft No. 8 and Atlas No. 8 100-D were used in the mission.[1]

The mission was terminated by the range safety officer after 43.3 seconds due to failure of the launch vehicle to follow its roll and pitch programs. Although the Atlas was destroyed, considerable benefit was derived from the flight test. The launch escape system saved the Mercury spacecraft from destruction. The capsule flew to an apogee of 7.2 km and downrange only 1.8 km.

The flight of the Mercury capsule lasted 7 minutes and 19 seconds, most of that time descending on its parachute. The spacecraft was recovered some 20 minutes after launch in the Atlantic Ocean and reused on the next flight (MA-4) as spacecraft No. 8A.

Two months after the MA-3 flight, the Atlas's guidance system programmer was discovered buried in mud on a beach not far from the launch pad and analyzed. NASA and Convair engineers came to the conclusion that vibration during liftoff had caused a pin connector in the programmer to come loose, resulting in loss of control.


  1. ^ Loyd S. Swenson Jr., James M. Grimwood, Charles C. Alexander (1966). "10". This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury - NASA SP-4201. NASA Special Publication-4201 in the NASA History Series. p. 9. Archived from the original on 2009-04-07. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.