The first major flight tests in the Apollo program were performed by the Little Joe II launch vehicle. These unmanned flights tested the command module launch escape system and qualified it for operational use in the Apollo program. The test series involved five Little Joe II launches at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Launch Dates
August 28, 1963 · May 13, 1964 · December 8, 1964 · May 19, 1965 · January 20, 1966
During its time, the Little Joe II was the most powerful solid rocket launch vehicle in the U.S. inventory, with a maximum total thrust of 816,200 pounds provided by seven Aerojet Algol 1D motors. The trajectory of the vehicle was controlled by varying the launch angle. It was guided by a combination of aerodynamic fins and reaction jets. Atop this Little Joe II is the boilerplate 22 command module, flown on the fourth flight. Little Joe II was designed and manufactured for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration by the General Dynamics Convair Division, San Diego, California.
( placard on the rocket stand )
The Little Joe The Little Joe II launch vehicle was used for Apollo spacecraft transonic and abort testing at White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico during 1964-1966, and represented an important milestone in the lunar landing program. It
was powered by a variety of solid-propellant rocket motors.
In May 1965, this Command Module(CM) boilerplate (BP22) and Launch Escape System(LES) were launched atop a Little Joe ll like this one for a high-altitude abort test at White Sands. Twenty-five seconds after liftoff the Little Joe unexpectedly began to break up and destroyed itself at 14,000 feet. The LES sensed the malfunction and fired, boosting this Command Module to 19,000 feet and away from danger, and the parachute system lowered the boilerplate to the desert below. Though unplanned, this emergency demonstrated successfully what the LES was designed to do.
During the actual launch of the three-man Apollo CM the LES was designed to propel the spacecraft and its crew to safety in the event of a Saturn launch vehicle failure on the pad or during powered flight.