Felicette Space Cat

Félicette: The Exciting Launch of the First Space Cat

Félicette, the First Cat in Space
Félicette, the First Cat in Space
Ron Frazier/Source/CC BY 2.0

Félicette was the first cat launched into space, on 18 October 1963 at 8:09 am, from the Centre interarmées d’essais d’engins spéciaux French launch site in Algeria on a Véronique AGI 47 sounding rocket as a part of the French Space Program. Félicette was one of 14 female cats trained for spaceflight. Félicette had the designation of C 341 before the flight, but after the flight, the media gave her the name Félix, after Felix the Cat. 

Centre d’Enseignement et de Recherches de Médecine Aéronautique (CERMA) modified this to the feminine Félicette and adopted it as her official name. C 341 was selected as the best of the six finalists because of her calm demeanor and appropriate weight. The flight was a sub-orbital one and lasted 13 minutes.

The rocket engine burned for 42 seconds on ascent and C 341 experienced 9.5 g of acceleration. The nose cone separated from the rocket before reaching a height of 152 kilometers (94 mi) and the cat was subjected to five minutes of weightlessness. Prior to parachute deployment, spin and vibration on the nose cone caused 7 g of acceleration.

The parachutes deployed 8 minutes and 55 seconds into the launch causing accelerations of about 9 g. Thirteen minutes after the rocket was launched, a helicopter arrived at the payload. The cat was recovered safely and high-quality data were recorded throughout the flight, other than the reticular measurements and data recorded during reentry. She has been commemorated on postage stamps around the world.

References

1. Lesage, Nelly (17 November 2017). “Félicette, la première chatte revenue de l’espace, va avoir une statue à son effigie” [Félicette, the first cat returned from space, will have a statue with her effigy]. Numerama (in French). Retrieved 24 June 2019.

2. Belleret, Chloé (18 October 2018). “18 octobre 1963 : il était une fois un chat dans l’espace” [18 October 1963: Once upon a time there was a cat in space]. Le Parisien (in French). Retrieved 24 June 2019.

3. “Space Cats”The Pittsburgh Press. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 8 March 1964. p. 26 – via Newspapers.com.

4. Dougherty, K.; Jung, P.; Serra, Jean-Jacques (October 2018). “Félicette, the only space cat”. International Astronautical Congress.

5. “Chatte Félicette”CNES (in French). Retrieved 15 July 2015.

6. “Exposition Sur L’espace Au Palais de la Découverte” [Exhibition on Space at the Palace of Discovery]. Le Monde (in French). 17 January 1964.

7. “France Sends Cat to Space”The Times Record. Troy, New York. Associated Press. 18 October 1963. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.

8. “Fugitive from Paris Alleys Survives 100-Mile Rocket Trip”St. Louis Post-Dispatch. St. Louis, Missouri. 5 January 1964. p. 21 – via Newspapers.com.

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