aviation history month

Bessie Coleman by John de la Vega 

Bessie Coleman (January 26, 1892 – April 30, 1926)  was the first black woman to earn a pilot’s license. Because flying schools in the United States denied her entry, she taught herself French and moved to France, earning her license from France’s well-known Caudron Brother’s School of Aviation in just seven months. Coleman specialized in stunt flying and parachuting, earning a living barnstorming and performing aerial tricks. She remains a pioneer of women in the field of aviation.


 The Scout Rocket Testing Phase

Today’s post was written by Grace DiAgostino, Student Trainee at the National Archives at Philadelphia.

The Development and Design Phase of the Scout Launch Vehicle Program took place from 1957 to 1962. Langley awarded LTV, a private rocket motor vendor named Ling-Temco-Vought that was based out of Dallas, Texas, the development contract for the Scout in 1959. To keep cost down, the Scout Program Office opted to use off-the-shelf hardware and existing solid rocket motors, which they purchased from LTV. This marked the beginning of a collaborative effort to produce a relatively inexpensive, reliable, solid fuel vehicle that could be used for NASA and DOD [Department of Defense] payloads.

The first launch of a Scout rocket vehicle occurred in July of 1960. Between the time of the first launch and March 1962, the Scout Program Office completed nine rocket launches, only six of which were executed successfully. The Scout Rocket Program aimed to develop a dependable rocket for the U.S. Space Program, and the Scout scientists set a reliability goal of 90 percent at the beginning of the program. With only six successful launches out of nine attempts, the success rate of 67 percent fell far below the desired goal of a 90 percent success rate.

After examining operating procedures, the Scout Rocket Program Office reconfigured the entire structure of the program in an attempt to increase reliability in September 1963. In collaboration with LTV’s office, Scout developed new procedures for quality and reliability testing of parts at the LTV Plant in Dallas. As a part of these new procedures, Scout and LTV established a configuration control board which would test the rocket parts before they were transported to Langley for launch testing.

Between the beginning of the Recertification Program in 1963 and 1989, the Scout Rocket Program launched 89 vehicles, 85 of which were successful. Having exceeded the initial 90 percent goal with a 96 percent launch success rate, the scientists at the Scout Program Office were thrilled with the success of the Recertification Program.

Want to know more about the Scout Rocket Program? Visit our exhibit on Google Cultural Institute: https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/exhibit/nasa-s-unsung-hero-the-scout-launch-vehicle-program/twISgejPzIk_KQ.

Citation:  Office Records of the Solid Controlled Orbital Utility Test (SCOUT) Project, 1956 - 1995; National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Langley Research Center, 1958 - 1996; Record Group 255: Records of the National Aeronautics Space Administration; National Archives at Philadelphia; (Record Entry ID: PH-6684) (NAID: 616672).

Black history month day 23: American aviator Bessie Coleman.

Bessie Colman was born January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas as tenth of thirteen children born to sharecroppers George and Susan Coleman. At the age of six, Coleman began walking four miles each day to a segregated one-room schoolhouse, where she loved to read and excelled in math. When she was 23, she moved with her brothers to Chicago and became a manicurist at a barber shop. It was there when she first heard stories of the pilots in World War I and decided she wanted to fly.

At the time, both black and female pilots in the United States were practically unheard of, so Coleman studied French so she could learn flying and get her license in Paris. On June 15, 1921, Coleman became the first woman of Black and Native American descent (as her father was part Choctaw or possibly Cherokee) to earn an aviation pilot’s license and an international aviation license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

Coleman begin a successful career of stunt flying, saying: “The air is the only place free from prejudices. I knew we had no aviators, neither men nor women, and I knew the Race needed to be represented along this most important line, so I thought it my duty to risk my life to learn aviation.”

Coleman’s dream was to start a school for young black aviators. Unfortunately, On April 30, 1926, she died after being thrown from a malfunctioning plane. But her numerous accomplishments served as inspiration for many future aviators.


Iceland By Air with Flight Instructor @robinfarago

For more photos and videos from Iceland’s skies, follow @robinfarago on Instagram

Ísafjörður airport in Iceland is considered one of the most exciting and difficult landing approaches in the world,” says flight instructor Robin Farago (@robinfarago), who gave up a career in law to pursue his childhood dream of being a pilot and trains students at the Keilir Aviation Academy (@keilir) in Iceland. “You are flying into a very tight fjord on a runway heading directly into a mountain, but it’s really spectacular.”

Robin first fell in love with flying when he had the chance to see the inside of a cockpit as a child. “I remember meeting the captain on Scandinavian airlines and they had candy and you could see the buttons and the amazing views. That was when I decided to become a pilot without knowing it.”

Now Robin’s day to day depends on the weather, taking to the skies with students if it’s clear, or working on lectures and administration if the weather is bad. Flight training in the Iceland’s windy and icy conditions can be challenging, but Robin is rewarded by the breathtaking scenery he sees everyday, from the northern lights in winter to summer’s midnight sun. He took a recent trip to Holuhraun, an active volcano close to the Vatnajökull glacier. “To see the erupting volcano on a close, but safe distance was truly amazing, and now I realize why Iceland is called the country of fire and ice.”

The Scout Rocket Program - Manual

Today’s post was written by Grace DiAgostino, Student Trainee at the National Archives at Philadelphia.

Shown here is an illustration of a saluting Boy Scout standing in front of a Scout rocket of the cover of a Scout Program manual. Created by a member of the Scout Program team, this manual cover is an amusing example of the synergy and team work of the people who worked on Scout. 

The Solid Controlled Orbital Utility Test, otherwise known as Scout, Launch Vehicle Program began in 1957 after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial Earth satellite. The launch of Sputnik ignited the Space Race, during which the United States and the Soviet Union competed to conquer the next frontier— outer space. To gain a lead on the USSR, the United States initiated the Scout Launch Vehicle Program to produce an inexpensive, reliable, versatile, solid fuel launch vehicle for smaller payloads. The first launch of a Scout rocket occurred in July of 1960.

Total, there have been 118 Scout launches with a 96 percent success rate. Scout has launched 23 satellites for international space organizations including the European Space Research Organization, Germany, Netherlands, France, Italy and the United Kingdom. The Scout vehicles have been tested and have completed a variety of missions, including orbital, probe, and re-entry. Multiple programs utilized Scout launch vehicles, such as the Navy Navigational Satellites Program, the Explorer Series Program, and the San Marco Program. Through its reliability and versatility, the Scout Launch Vehicle Program developed a launch system that has made many U.S. space missions and programs possible, and thus has made a significant contribution to NASA and the nation. 

On January 1, 1991, NASA Langley transferred the management of the SCOUT Project to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Scout provided NASA with a unique contribution, a simple, reliable and versatile launch rocket that could be used in a variety of ways. The NASA Space Program as we know it would not exist if not for the Scout Launch Vehicle Program.

Citation: Office Records of the Solid Controlled Orbital Utility Test (SCOUT) Project, 1956 - 1995; National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Langley Research Center, 1958 - 1996; Record Group 255: Records of the National Aeronautics Space Administration; National Archives at Philadelphia; (Record Entry ID: PH-6684) (NAID: 616672).