Gemini 1 was the first unmanned test flight of the Gemini
spacecraft. It launched April 8, 1964
at 16:00:01.69 UTC
from Cape Canaveral
's Launch Complex
19. Its main objectives were to test the structural integrity of the new spacecraft and modified Titan II ICBM
. As well as this it would be the first test of the new tracking and communication systems for the Gemini program and provided training for the ground support crews for the first manned missions.
The planned mission was quite short and would last only three orbits. The spacecraft would stay attached to the second stage of the rocket and there would be no plans for recovery.
Gemini Spacecraft Number 1 was built specifically for this mission. It lacked life support systems and had ballast instead. And although it featured a heat shield, this had four large holes drilled in it to make sure that the spacecraft was destroyed during reentry. In place of the crews sat measuring equipment that relayed telemetry measuring the pressure, vibration, acceleration, temperature, and structural loads during the short flight.
As with any new spacecraft, there were problems at first during system testings and also the rocket ran into problems, as the Air Force had yet to make the Titan II totally reliable as an ICBM, let alone as a manned launch vehicle. One instance was where a short circuit was discovered in the second stage due to the insulation being cut by a defective clamp. Several more were found with the same problem meaning that 1500 clamps had to be replaced.
However after several months of testing the launch vehicle and spacecraft were ready for launch. Due to the hypergolic propellants used in the Titan II, the launch lacked the red flame like appearance of a Saturn launch.
The first stage was jettisoned after two and a half minutes with the rocket 64 kilometres high and 91 kilometres downrange. It was in orbit five and a half minutes after launch. The only problem found was that the launch vehicle had provided a bit too much speed and put the spacecraft into a orbit with an apogee of 320 km instead of 299 km.
Then three orbits later the spacecraft official mission was over. There were no plans for a retrofire as the spacecraft would reenter by its self after four days. It was tracked by Manned Space Flight Network until its orbit dipped too much into the atmosphere and it reentered over the South Atlantic, midway between South America and Africa.
On The Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini: http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/SP-4203/cover.htm