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Little Joe 5A was an unmanned launch escape system test of the Mercury spacecraft, conducted as part of the U.S. Mercury program. It was an attempted re-test of the failed Little Joe 5 flight. The mission used production Mercury spacecraft #14 atop a Little Joe booster rocket. The mission was launched March 18, 1961, from Wallops Island, Virginia. The LJ-5 failure sequence was repeated when capsule escape rocket again ignited prematurely with the capsule remaining attached to the booster. In this flight however, a ground command was sent to separate the capsule from the booster and escape tower. This allowed the main and reserve parachutes to deploy and the capsule was recovered with only minor damage. It would be used again on the subsequent Little Joe 5B mission, in a third attempt to achieve mission objectives. The Little Joe 5A flew to an apogee of 7.7 miles (12 km) and a range of 18 miles (29 km). The mission lasted 5 minutes 25 seconds. Maximum speed was 1,783 miles per hour (2,869 km/h) and acceleration was 8 G (78 m/s²).[1]

Little Joe 5A
Little Joe 5B capsule mating.jpg
Little Joe 5A being prepared for launch, Wallops Island
Mission typeAbort test
Mission duration5 minutes, 25 seconds
Distance travelled29 kilometres (18 mi)
Apogee12.4 kilometres (7.7 mi)
Spacecraft properties
SpacecraftMercury No.14
ManufacturerMcDonnell Aircraft
Launch mass1,141 kilograms (2,515 lb)
Start of mission
Launch dateMarch 18, 1961, 16:49 (1961-03-18UTC16:49Z) UTC
RocketLittle Joe
Launch siteWallops LA-1
End of mission
Landing dateMarch 18, 1961, 16:54 (1961-03-18UTC16:55Z) UTC
Mercury insignia.png
Project Mercury
Abort Tests

Mercury spacecraft # 14 used in the Little Joe 5A mission, is currently displayed at the Virginia Air and Space Center, Hampton, Virginia.[2]


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

  1. ^ "LJ-5A (14)". NASA Public Affairs Office. Archived from the original on 2010-06-06.
  2. ^ Little Joe 5A in A Field Guide to American Spacecraft Archived 2012-05-06 at the Wayback Machine