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Mercury Atlas 4



This flight was an orbital test of the Mercury Tracking Network and the first successful orbital flight test of the Mercury program. (All previous successful launches were suborbital.) The payload consisted of a pilot simulator (to test the environmental controls), two voice tapes (to check the tracking network), a life support system, three cameras, and instrumentation to monitor levels of noise, vibration and radiation. It demonstrated the ability of the Atlas rocket to lift the Mercury capsule into orbit, of the capsule and its systems to operate completely autonomously, and succeeded in obtaining pictures of the Earth. It completed one orbit prior to returning to Earth. The capsule was recovered 161 miles east of Bermuda 82 minutes after splash-down by the destroyer U.S.S. Decatur.

Alternate Names

  • 00183
  • 1961 Alpha Alpha 1
  • MA 4
  • MercuryAtlas4

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1961-09-13
Launch Vehicle: Atlas D
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
Mass: 1224.7 kg

Funding Agency

  • NASA-Office of Manned Space Flight (United States)


  • Engineering
  • Earth Science

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. Edwin V. Bell, II



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail

Selected References

  • Grimwood, J. M., Project Mercury: A chronology, NASA, SP-4001, Wash., D.C., 1963.

Other Sources of MA-4 Information/Data

MA-4 information (NASA KSC)
MR-1 Press Release images (NASA JSC)

Project Mercury Drawings and Technical Diagrams (NASA History Office)

On-line version of Project Mercury: A Chronology (NASA History Office)

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