Apollo Expeditions to the Moon|
CHOOSING THE BUILDERS
How many prime contractors, we wondered, should NASA bring in for the development
of the Saturn V? Just one, or one per stage? How about the Instrument Unit
that was to house the rocket's inertial-guidance system, its digital computer, and an
assortment of radio command and telemetry functions? Who would do the overall
systems engineering and monitor the intricate interface between the huge rocket and
the complex propellant-loading and launching facilities at Cape Canaveral? Where
would the various stages be static-tested?
One of the J-2 engines that power the upper stages
of Saturn V. Liquid hydrogen, on its
way from the fuel turbopump, is used to cool
the walls of the thrust chamber regeneratively.
Understandably, the entire aerospace industry was attracted by both the financial
value and the technological challenge of Saturn V. To give the entire plum to a single
contractor would have left all others unhappy. More important, Saturn V needed the
very best engineering and management talent the industry could muster. By breaking
up the parcel into several pieces, more top people could be brought to bear on the
Thunder echoed in the mountains when a mighty
F-1 engine spoke out during qualification. At a remote high-thrust
test complex near Edwards, Calif.,
fuel and LOX were pumped in and tons of water cascaded
over the flame deflector while elaborate instrumentation
measured the behavior of each new engine.
It wasn't flightworthy if it didn't match specs.
The Boeing Company was the successful bidder on the first stage (S-IC); North
American Aviation won the second stage (S-11), and Douclas Aircraft fell heir to the
Saturn V's third stage (S-IVB). Systems engineering and overall responsibility for the
Saturn V development was assigned to the Marshall Space Flight Center. The
inertial-guidance system had emerged from a Marshall in-house development, and as it had to
be located close to other elements of the big rocket's central nervous system, it was only
logical to develop the Instrument Unit (IU) to house this electronic gear as a Marshall
in-house project. IU flight units were subsequently produced by IBM, which had
developed the launch-vehicle computer.
The first (S-IC) stage of the Saturn V launch vehicle being hoisted into the static test stand
at Marshall Space Flight Center. This was the "battleship," or developmental test version of the
stage, built heavily to permit repeated testing of flight-version working components. The first
three flight S-IC stages were assembled at MSFC and tested in this stand. The massively reinforced
construction of the 300-foot-tall stand was essential to withstand the 7.5 million pounds
of thrust developed by the stage's engines during static testing.
Uniquely tight procurement procedures introduced by NASA Administrator Jim
Webb made it possible to acquire billions of dollars' worth of exotic hardware and
facilities without overrunning initial cost estimates and without the slightest hint of
procurement irregularity. Before it could issue a request for bids, the contracting NASA
Center had to prepare a detailed procurement plan that required the Administrator's
personal approval, and that could not be changed thereafter. It had to include a point-scoring
system in which evaluation criteria - technical merits, cost, skill availability,
prior experience, etc. - were given specific weighting factors. Business and technical
criteria were evaluated by separate teams not permitted to know the other's rankings.
The total matrix was then assembled by a Source Evaluation Board that gave a complete
presentation of all bids and their scoring results to the three top men in the agency,
who themselves chose the winner. There was simply no room for arbitrariness or
irregularity in such a system.
The "pogo problem," a lengthwise
mode of vibration recognized in the
second Saturn V launch, was speedily
solved through mathematical analysis
supported by data collected in shake
tests. To supplement shake tests in
Marshall's Dynamic Test Tower, Boeing
quickly erected this tower for
special pressure tests at the Michoud
The tremendous increase in contracts needed for the Saturn V program required
a reorganization of the Marshall Space Flight Center. Most of our resources had been
spent in-house, and our contracts had either been let to support contractors or to producers
of our developed products. Now 90 percent of our budget was spent in industry,
much of it on complicated assignments which included design, manufacture, and
testing. So on September 1, 1963, I announced that Marshall would henceforth consist
of two major elements, one to be called Research and Development Operations, the
other Industrial Operations. Most of my old R&D associates then became a sort of
architect's staff keeping an eye on the integrity of the structure called Saturn V, and the
other group funded and supervised the industrial contractors.
A test at the "Arm Farm". Just to
the man's left a skin section representing the S-11 stage is mounted to
the Random Motion/Lift-Off Simulator,
which can simulate at ground level
the swaying of the space vehicle in a
Florida storm. A duplicate of the
Mobile Launch Tower's S-11 Forward
Swingarm projects from the left, carrying the umbilicals that are connected
to the skin section.
That same year Dr. George Mueller had taken over as NASA's Associate Administrator
for Manned Space Flight. He brought with him Air Force Maj. Gen. Samuel
Phillips, who had served as program manager for Minuteman, and now became Apollo
Program Director at NASA Headquarters. Both men successfully shaped the three
NASA Centers involved in the lunar-landing program into a team. I was particularly
fortunate in that Sam Phillips persuaded his old friend and associate Col. (later Maj.
Gen.) Edwin O'Connor to assume the directorship of Marshall's Industrial Operations.
On September 7, 1961, NASA had taken over the Michoud Ordnance plant at
New Orleans. The cavernous plant - 46 acres under one roof - was assigned to
Chrysler and Boeing to set up production for the first stages of Saturn I and Saturn V. In
October 1961 an area of 13,350 acres in Hancock County, Miss., was acquired. Huge
test stands were erected there for the static testing, of Saturn V's first and second stages.
Shipment of the oversize stages between Huntsville, Michoud, the Mississippi Test
Facility, the two California contractors, and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida
required barges and seagoing ships. Soon Marshall found itself running a small fleet
that included the barges Palaemon, Orion, and Promise.
For shipments through the
Panama Canal we used the USNS Point Barrow and the SS Steel Executive.
For rapid transport we had two converted Stratocruisers at our disposal with the descriptive
names "Pregnant Guppy" and "Super Guppy". Their bulbous bodies could accommodate
cargo up to the size of an S-IVB stage.