NW063 1/144 Little Joe II
Apollo program LES test launch vehicle
The Little Joe II was a solid-fueled launch vehicle used to
manrate the Apollo Launch Escape System (LES). The LES was a set
of solid motors mounted on a tower atop the Apollo spacecraft. In
the event of a catastrophic failure of a Saturn launch vehicle on
the pad or early in boost, the LES motors would ignite and pull
the Apollo capsule to safety. The Little Joe II provided
relatively inexpensive way to test the LES over the range of
velocity and dynamic pressure conditions in a Saturn flight.
Five Little Joe II vehicles were flown. The launches were conducted at the White Sands Missile range between August 1963 and January 1966. The Last mission (A-004) carried an early production Block I Apollo spacecraft. The Little Joe II was pitched-up prior to abort to insure that the Launch Escape vehicle (CM+LES) would tumble during the firing of the abort motors. This resulted in the soft BPC ripping off and escape motors thrust impinging onto the CM, but the abort was successful and the capsule was recovered in fine shape.