Big Joe (Project Mercury)

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Big Joe 1
Big Joe 1
Big Joe 1 launch preparations

Big Joe was a subprogram of America's Project Mercury space program. It launched a single flight using an Atlas launch vehicle with a boilerplate Mercury capsule. The purpose of the Big Joe program was to prove the ablative heat shield which would be needed for the re-entry of orbital Mercury missions. The flight, Big Joe 1, occurred on September 9, 1959.[1]

The Big Joe name has been attributed to Maxime Faget at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. It was a progression of the smaller test booster Little Joe. Faget also coined the Little Joe name basing it on its four large fins which reminded him a roll of four in craps.[2]

Mission numbering[edit]

The official Mercury mission numbering designation was a two-letter designation which corresponded to the launch vehicle type, followed by a dash then a one- or two-character designation of the flight/test number. The official designation for Big Joe 1 was BJ-1.

Atlas launch vehicle numbering[edit]

The launch vehicle used for BJ-1 (628/10-D) had a slightly different numbering scheme than those used for the later Mercury-Atlas flights.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ NASA BJ-1 Archived 2011-05-14 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Helen T. Wells; Susan H. Whiteley & Carrie E. Karegeannes. Origin of NASA Names. NASA Science and Technical Information Office. p. 10.