Atlas LV-3B, Atlas D Mercury Launch Vehicle or Mercury-Atlas Launch Vehicle, was a human-rated expendable launch system used as part of the United States Project Mercury to send astronauts into low Earth orbit.
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Components used in the Mercury-Atlas LV-3B vehicles were given thorough testing to ensure proper manufacturing quality and operating condition, in addition components and subsystems with excessive operating hours, out-of-specification performance, and questionable inspection records would be rejected.
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NASA Quality Assurance Program meant that each Mercury-Atlas LV-3B vehicle took twice as long to manufacture and assemble as an Atlas LV-3B designed for uncrewed missions and three times as long to test and verify for flight.
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Mercury launch escape system used on Redstone and Atlas LV-3B launches was identical, but the ASIS system varied considerably between the two boosters as Atlas LV-3B was a much larger, more complex vehicle with five engines, two of which were jettisoned during flight, a more sophisticated guidance system, and inflated balloon tanks that required constant pressure to not collapse.
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Mercury-Atlas LV-3B 5 added a new reliability feature—motion sensors to ensure proper operation of the gyroscopes prior to launch.
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Mercury-Atlas LV-3B vehicles utilized the boil-off valve from the C-series Atlas LV-3B rather than the standard D-series valve for reliability and weight-saving reasons.
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The posigrade rocket motors on the top of the Atlas LV-3B, designed to push the spent missile away from the warhead, were moved to the Mercury capsule itself.
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Common and normally harmless phenomenon on Atlas LV-3B vehicles was the tendency of the booster to develop a slight roll in the first few seconds following liftoff due to the autopilot not kicking in yet.
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Atlas LV-3B launches were conducted from Launch Complex 14 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
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The last LV-3B launch was conducted on 15 May 1963, for the launch of Mercury-Atlas 9.
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