Please make a donation to support Gunter's Space Page.
Thank you very much for visiting Gunter's Space Page. I hope that this site is useful and informative for you.
If you appreciate the information provided on this site, please consider supporting my work by making a simple and secure donation via PayPal. Please help to run the website and keep everything free of charge. Thank you very much.

Pilot (NOTS-EV-1)

Pilot under F4D-1Skyray carrier airplane [USN]

Air launch of the second Pilot [USN]

Project Pilot was the first attempt to create a air launched satellite launch vehicle. The vehicle was better known by its nickname 'NOTSNIK', a combination of NOTS and Sputnik. The NOTS-EV1 was also the first all solid orbital vehicle. It was launched by a Douglas F-4D1 Skyray airplane. After separation from the aircraft, the first pair of HOTROC motors, derived from the SUBROC anti submarine missile, were ignited. Five seconds later, the second pair was ignited. After jettisoning the first stage, the X-241 and NOTS Extruded motors put the payload into a transfer orbit, which was circularised half a orbit later by the fourth stage, which was mounted backwards in front of the payload. As the vehicle was designed for maximum simplicity it featured no moving parts.

Four ground launched tests were made with only on pair of live HOTROCS. The first 2 failed due to exploding motors, the other two due to structural failure.

All launches apparently failed, most due to structural failures. Some rumours exist, that the payloads of the first and third orbital launch attempt reached orbit, but this remains very doubtful as an engineer involved in the project recalls, that there were some signals picked up by ground stations, but those were most probably not from the satellite.

After 10 launches the program was discontinued and an improved vehicle, called Caleb, was developed.

→ complete list of all Pilot related launches.

Version Aircraft Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4
Pilot (NOTS-EV1H) F-4D1 2 × 2 × HOTROC X-241 NOTS-100 NOTS Spherical
No  TNo:  Aircrft Type             Date           LS    Payload

 3    1   F4D1   Pilot             25.07.1958 F  In    Pilot 1
 4    2   F4D1   Pilot             12.08.1958 F  In    Pilot 2
 7    3   F4D1   Pilot             22.08.1958 F  In    Pilot 3
 8    4   F4D1   Pilot             25.08.1958 F  In    Pilot 4
 9    5   F4D1   Pilot             26.08.1958 F  In    Pilot 5
10    6   F4D1   Pilot             28.08.1958 F  In    Pilot 6


Pilot and the project Pilot payloads are sometimes dubbed "NOTSnik"


Launch sites:

In  = Inyokern airfield, Naval Ordnance Test Station, China Lake, California, USA USA

Pilot air launches used F-4D1 Skyray


Failures:
          
Flight 1:   vehicle exploded after 1 sec
Flight 2:   vehicle exploded before lift-off
Flight 3:   Radio contact lost, possibly reached orbit
Flight 4:   vehicle exploded at ignition
Flight 5:   structural failure after 3.2 sec
Flight 6:   structural failure after 3 sec
Flight 7:   Radio contact lost, possibly reached orbit
Flight 8:   vehicle exploded after 0.75 sec
Flight 9:   Stage 1 failed to ignite, vehicle crashed into the Pacific
Flight 10:  one stage 1 motor failed to ignite causing structural failure

Some rumours exist, that the payloads of Flight 3 and 7 reached orbit, but 
this remains very doubtful as an engineer involved in the project recalls, 
that there were some signals picked up by ground stations, but those were
most probably not from the satellite.

References: