Mercury-Redstone 2 (MR-2) was the test flight of the Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle just prior to the first crewed American space mission in Project Mercury. Carrying a chimpanzee named Ham on a suborbital flight, Mercury spacecraft Number 5 was launched at 16:55 UTC on January 31, 1961 from LC-5 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The capsule and Ham landed safely in the Atlantic Ocean 16 minutes and 39 seconds after launch.
The Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle, designed for NASA's Project Mercury, was the first American manned space booster. It was used for six sub-orbital Mercury flights from 1960–61; culminating with the launch of the first, and 11 weeks later, the second American (and the second and third humans) in space. The four subsequent Mercury human spaceflights used the more powerful Atlas booster to enter low Earth orbit. A member of the Redstone rocket family, it was derived from the U.S. Army's Redstone ballistic missile and the first stage of the related Jupiter-C launch vehicle; but to human-rate it, the structure and systems were modified to improve safety and reliability.
In July 1959, NASA chose the Redstone missile as the basis for the Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle to be used for suborbital test flights of the Project Mercury spacecraft. Three unmanned MRLV launch attempts were made between November 1960 and March 1961, two of which were successful. The MRLV successfully launched the chimpanzee Ham, and astronauts Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom on three suborbital flights in January, May and July 1961, respectively.INFO WIKI