The Apollo Spacecraft - A Chronology.

PART 2 (D)

Design - Decision - Contract

July 1961 to September 1961

1961 July

1961 August

1961 September


July 6

At NASA Headquarters, the first meeting was held of the Manned Lunar Landing Coordination Group, attended by NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., Ira H. Abbott, Don R. Ostrander, Charles H. Roadman, William A. Fleming, DeMarquis D. Wyatt (part-time), and George M. Low (in place of Abe Silverstein). This Headquarters Group, appointed by Seamans, was to coordinate problems that jointly affected several NASA Offices, during the interim period while the manned space flight organization was being formed. Members of the steering group included NASA program directors, with participation by Wernher von Braun of Marshall Space Flight Center, Robert R. Gilruth of STG, and Wyatt and Abraham Hyatt of NASA Headquarters, as required. Fleming acted as Secretary of the Group. A list of decisions and actions required to implement an accelerated lunar landing program was drawn up as a tentative agenda for the next meeting:

  • Begin Nova systems integration studies and develop the general arrangement of second and third stages. The studies should include spacecraft propulsion stages and spacecraft.
  • Begin Saturn C-3 systems integration studies.
  • Begin developing Nova and C-3 first-stage specifications in preparation to letting contracts
  • Continue Launch Operations Directorate-Air Force Missile Test Center studies of Nova and C-3 launch sites at Atlantic Missile Range (AMR).
  • Take steps to bring the contractor aboard as soon as possible for Nova and C-3 launch facility and test stand designs.
  • Accelerate F-1 engine funding to provide adequate production engines for the Nova and C-3.
  • Examine the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) proposal for static test facilities for large vehicle stages with a view toward beginning detailed site examination.
  • Accelerate funding of the J-2 engine to provide acceptance test stands.
  • Determine the necessity for a one-million-pound-thrust liquid- hydrogen - liquid-oxygen engine.
  • Begin design studies on spacecraft propulsion systems and develop specifications. Define management responsibilities.
  • Begin preparations for letting the contract for a spacecraft operations facility at AMR.
  • Determine the relationships and responsibilities of MSFC and STG on guidance and control.
Memoranda, Low, Assistant Director for Manned Space Flight Programs, to Director of Space Flight Programs, "Meeting of Manned Lunar Landing Coordination Group," July 8, 1961; Ostrander, Director, Launch Vehicle Programs, to Staff, "Manned Lunar Landing Program," July 10, 1961.

July 7

The NASA Administrator and the Secretary of Defense concluded an agreement to study development of large launch vehicles for the national space program. For this purpose, the DOD-NASA Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group was created, reporting to the Associate Administrator of NASA and to the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Deputy Director of Defense Research and Engineering).

Memorandum, Associate Administrator to the Administrator, "Planning of a DOD - NASA Program for Development of Large Launch Vehicles," July 7, 1961; letters, James E. Webb to Robert S. McNamara, July 7, 1961; McNamara to Webb, July 7, 1961.

July 12

Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced that construction was under way on the first large space simulator in the United States capable of testing full-scale spacecraft of the Ranger and Mariner classes. Three primary space effects could be simulated: solar radiation, cold space heat sink, and a high vacuum equivalent to about one part in a billion of the atmospheric pressure at sea level.

Aeronautical and Astronautical Events of 1961, p. 32.

July 18-26

A NASA-Industry Apollo Technical Conference was held in Washington, D.C., for representatives of about 300 potential Project Apollo contractors. Scientists from NASA, the General Electric Company, The Martin Company, and General Dynamics/Astronautics presented the results of studies on Apollo requirements. Within the next four to six weeks NASA was expected to draw up the final details and specifications for the Apollo spacecraft.

Wall Street Journal, July 18, 1961; Aeronautical and Astronautical Events of 1961, p. 33; "Apollo Spacecraft Chronology," p. 10.

July 20

The Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group, established on July 7, 1961, began its formal existence with seven DOD and seven NASA members and alternates. The members of the Group included : Nicholas E.Golovin, Director of the Group, Technical Assistant to the Associate Administrator of NASA; Lawrence L. Kavanau, Deputy Director of the Group, Special Assistant (Space) in the Office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering; Warren Amster and Edward J. Barlow, Aerospace Corporation; Aleck C. Bond, STG; Lt. Col. David L. Garter and Col. Otto J. Glasser, Air Force Systems Command; Col. Matthew R. Collins, Jr., U.S. Army, Office of Chief of Ordnance; Eldon W. Hall, Harvey Hall, and Milton W. Rosen, NASA Office of Launch Vehicle Programs; Wilson B. Schramm and Francis L. Williams, Marshall Space Flight Center; Rear Adm. Levering Smith, U.S. Navy, Special Projects Office ; Capt. Lewis J. Stecher, Jr., U.S. Navy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations; H. J. Weigand, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force; Kurt R. Stehling, NASA Office of Program Planning and Evaluation; and William W. Wolman, NASA Office of Programs.

The Group, frequently called the Golovin Committee, was to concern itself only with large launch vehicle systems, including propulsion elements, guidance and control, and instrumentation. It was to suggest launch vehicle configurations and operational procedures, taking into consideration not only the manned lunar landing program but other anticipated needs of DOD and NASA. Report of DOD-NASA Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group, Vol. 1, 1961.

July 21

Liberty Bell 7, manned by Astronaut Virgil I. Grissom, was launched successfully from the Atlantic Missile Range. The Mercury capsule, boosted by a Redstone rocket, reached a peak altitude of 118.26 miles and a speed of 5,168 miles per hour. After a flight of 15 minutes and 37 seconds, the landing was made 302 miles downrange from the launch site. The spacecraft was lost during recovery operations, but Astronaut Grissom was rescued and was reported in excellent condition.

Swenson et al., This New Ocean, pp. 370-377, 640-641.

July 24

Changes in Saturn launch vehicle configurations were announced :

Stages S-I (1.5 million pounds of thrust) and S-IV
Stages S-I, S-II, and S-IV
Stages S-IB (3 million pounds of thrust), S-II, and S-IV.
Senate Staff Report, Manned Space Flight Program, p. 200.

July 24

NASA issued a letter contract to the Astro-Electronic Division of Radio Corporation of America to develop and fabricate the high-resolution television system (including associated communication and electronic equipment) for the Ranger program.

Sixth Semiannual Report of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, July 1, 1961, through December 31, 1961 (1962), p. 66.

July 28

NASA invited 12 companies to submit prime contractor proposals for the Apollo spacecraft by October 9: The Boeing Airplane Company, Chance Vought Corporation, Douglas Aircraft Company, General Dynamics/Convair, the General Electric Company, Goodyear Aircraft Corporation, Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, The Martin Company, North American Aviation, Inc., and Republic Aviation Corporation.

In the Statement of Work sent to each prospective bidder, three phases of the Apollo program were described:

Phase A:
Manned low-altitude earth orbital flights of up to two weeks' duration and unmanned reentry flights from superorbital velocities. The spacecraft designed for these missions should be capable of development for the lunar landing and return. The objectives of Phase A were to qualify the spacecraft systems and features for the lunar landing mission within the constraints of the earth orbital environment, to qualify the heat protection and other systems for the lunar mission through reentry tests from superorbital velocities, to study the physiological and psychological reactions and capabilities of human beings under extended periods in the space environment, to develop flight and ground operational techniques and equipment for space flights of extended duration, and to conduct experimental investigations to acquire information for the lunar mission. The Saturn C-1 would be used for Phase A missions.
Phase B:
Circumlunar, lunar orbital, and parabolic reentry test flights employing the Saturn C-3 launch vehicle for furthering the development of the spacecraft and operational techniques and for lunar reconnaissance.
Phase C:
Manned lunar landing and return missions using either the Nova class or Saturn C-3 launch vehicles and using rendezvous techniques for the purpose of lunar observation and exploration.
The contractor was to design and manufacture the command module, service module, and spacecraft adapter with associated ground support equipment, excluding the navigation and guidance system, research and development instrumentation, and scientific instrumentation; to design and manufacture the "test" spacecraft for use with Saturn C-1 research and development launch vehicles; to integrate the spacecraft modules and to integrate these modules with their ground support equipment and ensure compatibility of spacecraft with launch vehicle and with the ground operational support system; and to design and manufacture spacecraft mockups.

The contractor was to prepare the spacecraft for flight, man the systems monitoring positions in the ground operational support system, and support the operation of the overall space vehicle.

STG had prepared the Statement of Work, using both contractor and in- house studies. Included in the Statement of Work was a description of the major command and service module systems.

Guidance and control system
Navigation and guidance subsystem components:

  • Stable platform

  • Space sextant

  • Radar altimeter

  • Secondary inertial elements

  • Computer

  • Periscope

  • Sun trackers

  • Associated electronics

  • Displays and controls

  • Cabling

Stabilization and control subsystem to provide:

  • Flight-path control during the thrusting period of atmospheric abort and stability augmentation after launch escape system separation

  • Orientation, attitude control, and reentry stabilization and control during extra-atmospheric abort

  • Stabilization of the spacecraft plus the final stage of the launch vehicle while in a parking orbit

  • Stabilization and control during translunar and transearth midcourse flight

  • Rendezvous and docking with the space laboratory module

  • Attitude control for accomplishing landings and takeoffs from the moon and for entering and departing from lunar orbits

  • Control requirements for reentry guidance

  • Stabilization and control of the command module flight direction in the landing configuration, as well as the landing system suspension members
Vernier propulsion system
The system would be included in the service module to provide longitudinal velocity control not supplied by the reaction control system, mission propulsion system, or lunar landing module; and to furnish effective thrust-vector control during operation of the mission propulsion system. It would be pressure-fed, using storable hypergolic bipropellants.
Mission propulsion system
Representing the major portion of propulsion for translunar abort, lunar orbit injection and rejection, and velocity increment for lunar launch, the system would comprise a number of identical solid-propellant rocket motors and would be included in the service module.
Reaction control system
The system would provide attitude control, stabilization, ullage for the vernier propulsion system, and minor velocity corrections. For both the command and service modules, the system would be pulse-modulated, pressure-fed, and would use storable hypergolic fuel identical with that in the vernier propulsion system. The fuel tanks would be the positive expulsion type.
Launch escape system
During failure or imminent failure of the launch vehicle during all atmospheric mission phases, the system would separate the command module from the launch vehicle. The basic propulsion system would be a solid-fuel rocket motor with "step" or regressive burning characteristics.
Earth landing system
The system would consist of a ribbon drogue parachute and a cluster of three simultaneously deployed landing parachutes, sized so that satisfactory operation of any two of the three would satisfy the vertical velocity requirement. The command module would hang in a canted position from the parachute risers and be oriented through roll control to favor impact attenuation.
Structural system
In addition to fundamental load-carrying structures, the command and service modules would carry meteoroid protection, radiation protection inherent in the structure, and passive heat protection systems.
Crew systems
Included were:

  • Three couches, the center one stowable

  • Support and restraint systems at each duty station

  • Shock mitigation devices for individual crew support and restraint systems

  • Pressure suits for each crewman

  • Sleeping area

  • Sanitation area
Environmental control system
To provide a shirtsleeve environment in the command module, the system would consist of:

  • Cabin atmosphere - an oxygen-nitrogen mixture stabilized at 7.0 psia

  • Removal of carbon dioxide by lithium hydroxide

  • Removal of noxious gases by activated charcoal and a catalytic burner

  • Heat-exchanger water-separation system for control of temperature and humidity

  • Potable water from the fuel cells

  • Controls for pressure, humidity, and temperature
Electrical power system
The system would be composed of nonregenerative hydrogen-oxygen Bacon- type fuel-cell batteries carried, with their fuel supply, in the service module; silver-zinc primary batteries required during reentry and postlanding carried, with their associated fuel, distribution, and control equipment, in the command module.
Communication and instrumentation system
Communication subsystems:

  • Deep-space communication

  • Telemetry

  • VHF transmitter and receiver

  • Intercommunication system

  • Near-field transceiver

  • Television

  • C-band transponder

  • Altimeter and rendezvous radar

  • Minitrack beacon

  • HF/VHF recovery subsystem

  • Antennas

Instrumentation subsystem:

  • Sensors

  • Data disposition (telemetry and onboard recorders)

  • Subsystem calibration

  • Auxiliary instrumentation (clock, cameras, telescope)
Scientific equipment
The equipment was unspecified but would be fitted into ten cubic feet and weigh 250 pounds.
In addition to the description of the major command and service module systems, the Statement of Work outlined the general concepts of the lunar landing module and space laboratory module.

Lunar landing module
The basic systems comprised :

Lunar touchdown system to arrest impact, support the spacecraft during its period on the moon, and provide a launching base

Guidance and control, provided by the command and service modules

Main propulsion system, for translunar velocity control and the gross velocity decrement required for lunar landing, using liquid-hydrogen - liquid-oxygen propellant

Terminal propulsion system, to provide propulsion and attitude reaction control to perform the terminal descent maneuver, including hovering and translation

Structural system, to meet the same requirements as specified for the command and service modules

Space laboratory module
The module would be used in earth orbital flights for special experiments. It would provide its own power supply, environmental control system, etc., without demand on the command and service module systems and could support two of the three Apollo crewmen except for their food and water.
NASA, Project Apollo Spacecraft Development Statement of Work, Phase A (STG, July 28, 1961), pp. 1-1 to 1-3, A-2 to A-21; New York Times, July 29, 1961.

July 28

NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., appointed members to the Source Evaluation Board to evaluate contractors' proposals for the Apollo spacecraft. Walter C. Williams of STG served as Chairman, and members included Robert O. Piland, Wesley L. Hjornevik, Maxime A. Faget, James A. Chamberlin, Charles W. Mathews, and Dave W. Lang, all of STG; George M. Low, Brooks C. Preacher, and James T. Koppenhaver (nonvoting member) from NASA Headquarters; and Oswald H. Lange from Marshall Space Flight Center. On November 2, Faget became the Chairman, Kenneth S. Kleinknecht was added as a member, and Williams was relieved from his assignment.

Memoranda, Robert R. Gilruth to Member, Source Evaluation Board, "Instructions for Members of the Source Evaluation Board for Evaluation of Proposals for Project Apollo Spacecraft, RFP No. 9-150," September 1, 1961; Seamans to STG, "Redesignation of Source Evaluation Board Members," November 2, 1961.

July 31

Phase I of a joint NASA-DOD report on facilities and resources required at launch sites to support the manned lunar landing program was submitted to Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., by Kurt H. Debus, Director, Launch Operations Directorate, and Maj. Gen. Leighton I. Davis, Commander of the Air Force Missile Test Center. The report, requested by Seamans on June 23, was based on the use of Nova- class launch vehicles for the manned lunar landing in a direct ascent mode, with the Saturn C-3 in supporting missions. Eight launch sites were considered: Cape Canaveral (on-shore); Cape Canaveral (off- shore); Mayaguana Island (Atlantic Missile Range downrange); Cumberland Island, Ga.; Brownsville, Tex.; White Sands Missile Range, N. Mex.; Christmas Island, Pacific Ocean; and South Point, Hawaii. On the basis of minimum cost and use of existing national resources, and taking into consideration the stringent time schedule, White Sands Missile Range and Cape Canaveral (on-shore) were favored. White Sands presented serious limitations on launch azimuths because of first-stage impact hazards on populated areas.

NASA-DOD, Phase I Report: Joint Report on Facilities and Resources Required at Launch Site to Support NASA Manned Lunar Landing, July 31, 1961.

During the Month

Langley Research Center simulated spacecraft flights at speeds of 8,200 to 8,700 feet per second in approaching the moon's surface. With instruments preset to miss the moon's surface by 40 to 80 miles, pilots with control of thrust and torques about all three axes of the craft learned to establish orbits 10 to 90 miles above the surface, using a graph of vehicle rate of descent and circumferential velocity, an altimeter, and vehicle attitude and rate meters, as reported by Manuel J. Queijo and Donald R. Riley of Langley.

Aeronautical and Astronautical Events of 1961, p. 36.

During the Month

James A. Chamberlin and James T. Rose of STG proposed adapting the improved Mercury spacecraft to a 35,000-pound payload, including a 5,000-pound "lunar lander." This payload would be launched by a Saturn C-3 in the lunar orbit rendezvous mode. The proposal was in direct competition with the Apollo proposals that favored direct landing on the moon and involved a 150,000-pound payload launched by a Nova-class vehicle with approximately 12 million pounds of thrust.

Interviews with Chamberlin, Houston, Tex., June 9, 1966; Rose, St. Louis, Mo., April 13, 1966.

During the Month

Ralph Ragan of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, former director of the Polaris guidance and navigation program, in cooperation with Milton B. Trageser of the Laboratory and with Robert O. Piland, Robert C. Seamans, Jr., and Robert G. Chilton, all of NASA, had completed a study of what had been done on the Polaris program in concept and design of a guidance and navigation system and the documentation necessary for putting such a system into production on an extremely tight schedule. Using this study, the group worked out a rough schedule for a similar program on Apollo.

Interview with Ralph Ragan, Instrumentation Laboratory, MIT, April 27, 1966.


The MIT Instrumentation Laboratory and NASA completed the work statements for the Laboratory's program on the Apollo guidance and navigation system and the request for quotation for industrial support was prepared.

Interview with Ralph Ragan, Instrumentation Laboratory, MIT, April 27, 1966.

August 2

NASA Headquarters announced that it was making a worldwide study of possible launching sites for lunar spacecraft. The size, power, noise, and possible hazards of Saturn or Nova rockets would require greater isolation for public safety than currently available at NASA launch sites.

Washington Post, August 3, 1961.

August 6

The Soviet Union successfully launched Vostok II into orbit with Gherman S. Titov as pilot. The spacecraft, which weighed 10,430 pounds, carried life-support equipment, radio and television for monitoring the condition of the cosmonaut, tape recorder, telemetry system, biological experiments, and automatic and manual control equipment. After 17.5 orbits, the spacecraft reentered on August 7 and landed safely. Titov made a separate parachute landing in an ejector couch.

New York Times, August 7 and 8, 1961; Instruments and Spacecraft, p. 194.

August 7

STG appointed members to the Technical Subcommittee and to the Technical Assessment Panels for evaluation of industry proposals for the development of the Apollo spacecraft.

Memoranda, Wesley L. Hjornevik for Walter C. Williams to Member, Technical Subcommittee, "Instruction for Members of the Technical Subcommittee for the Evaluation of Contractors' Proposals for Project Apollo Spacecraft RFP-9-150," August 7, 1961; Hjornevik for Williams to Member, Technical Assessment Panel, "Instruction for Members of the Technical Assessment Panels for the Evaluation of Contractors Proposals for Project Apollo Spacecraft RFP-9-150," August 7, 1961.

August 9

NASA selected the Instrumentation Laboratory of MIT to develop the guidance and navigation system for the Apollo spacecraft. This first major Apollo contract had a long lead-time, was basic to the overall Apollo mission, and would be directed by STG.

Memorandum, William W. Petynia to Associate Director, STG, "Visit to MIT Instrumentation laboratory on September 12-13, 1961, regarding Apollo Navigation and Guidance Contract," September 21, 1961.

August 14

STG requested that a program be undertaken by the U.S. Navy Air Crew Equipment Laboratory, Philadelphia, Penna., to validate the atmospheric composition requirement for the Apollo spacecraft. On November 7, the original experimental design was altered by the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). The new objectives were:

  • Establish the required preoxygenation time for a rapid decompression (80 seconds) from sea level to 35,000 feet.
  • Discover the time needed for equilibrium (partial denitrogenation) at the proposed cabin atmosphere for protection in case of rapid decompression to 35,000 feet.
  • Investigate the potential hazard associated with an early mission decompression - i.e., before the equilibrium time was reached, preceded by the determined preoxygenation period.
  • Conduct any additional tests suggested by the results of the foregoing experiments.
Letter, Robert R. Gilruth, Director, MSC, to Director, Air Crew Equipment Laboratory, November 7, 1961.

August 14-15

STG held a pre-proposal briefing at Langley Field, Va., to answer bidders' questions pertaining to the Request for Proposal for the development of the Apollo spacecraft.

"Apollo Spacecraft Chronology," p. 11.

August 16

STG appointed members to the Business Subcommittee and to the Business Assessment Panels for evaluation of industry proposals for the development of the Apollo spacecraft.

Memoranda, Walter C. Williams to Member, Business Subcommittee, "Instructions for Members of the Business Subcommittee for Evaluation of Proposals for Project Apollo Spacecraft, RFP No. 9-150," August 16, 1961; Williams to Member, Business Assessment Panels, "Instructions for Members of the Business Assessment Panels for Evaluation of Proposals for the Project Apollo Spacecraft, RFP No. 9-150," undated.

August 23

Ranger I, a test version of the spacecraft which would attempt an unmanned crash landing on the moon, was launched from the Atlantic Missile Range by an Atlas-Agena B booster. The 675-pound spacecraft did not attain the scheduled extremely elongated orbit because of the misfiring of the Agena B rocket. Although the spacecraft systems were tested successfully, only part of the eight project experiments could be carried out. Ranger I reentered on August 29 after 111 orbits.

New York Times, August 24, 1961; Aeronautical and Astronautical Events of 1961, pp. 41, 42, 84.

August 23

The Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group (Golovin Committee) notified the Marshal! Space Flight Center (MSFC), Langley Research Center, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) that the Group was planning to undertake a comparative evaluation of three types of rendezvous operations and direct flight for manned lunar landing. Rendezvous methods were earth orbit, lunar orbit, and lunar surface. MSFC was requested to study earth orbit rendezvous, Langley to study lunar orbit rendezvous, and JPL to study lunar surface rendezvous. The NASA Office of Launch Vehicle Programs would provide similar information on direct ascent. Emphasis was to be placed on developmental problems, exclusive of vehicle design which would be handled separately.

In each case, environmental conditions peculiar to the particular mode of rendezvous, and their effects on equipment design, were to be considered so that the problems characteristic of the different rendezvous modes could be separated and compared as quantitatively as possible. Examples of problem areas were automatic versus manual operation, mission profile, and lunar surface conditions. All rendezvous modes would assume that the reentry capsule(s) should be capable of supporting three men and weigh within the range specified by STG (about 8,500 pounds).

The preliminary results of the study were to be ready in 30 days.

TWX from Harvey Hall, NASA Coordinator, NASA-DOD Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group, to MSFC, Langley Research Center, and JPL, August 23, 1961.

August 24

Expanded facilities in the Cape Canaveral area would be the site for the launch of manned lunar flights and other missions requiring the use of Saturn and Nova vehicles, NASA announced. The site of the new facilities, north and west of the Air Force Missile Test Center, had been chosen after months of NASA-DOD surveys of proposed launch areas.

Washington Post, August 25, 1961.

August 29

NASA announced that planned Ranger launchings would be increased from five to nine. These additional spacecraft would be equipped with six high-resolution television cameras. They would be programmed to begin operating at about 800 miles above the lunar surface and continue until moments before the spacecraft crash-landed. The final pictures would record features no more than eight inches across. About 1,600 photographs were expected from each spacecraft, which would no longer carry previously planned instrumented capsules. The objective of these spacecraft now was to provide information on the lunar surface in support of the manned lunar landing mission.

Sixth NASA Semiannual Report, p. 67.

August 31

C. Stark Draper, Director of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, at a meeting with NASA Administrator James E. Webb, Deputy Administrator Hugh L. Dryden, and Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., at NASA Headquarters proposed that at least one of the Apollo astronauts should be a scientifically trained individual since it would be easier to train a scientist to perform a pilot's function than vice versa. (In a letter to Seamans on November 7, Draper further proposed that he be that individual.)

Ralph Ragan and David G. Hoag, personal notes of meeting, August 31, 1961 ; letter, Draper to Seamans, November 7, l961.

During the Month

The Ad Hoc Task Group for Study of Manned Lunar Landing by Rendezvous Techniques, Donald H. Heaton, Chairman, reported its conclusions: rendezvous offered the earliest possibility for a successful lunar landing, the proposed Saturn C-4 configuration should offer a higher probability of an earlier successful manned lunar landing than the C-3, the rendezvous technique recommended involved rendezvous and docking in earth orbit of a propulsion unit and a manned spacecraft, the cost of the total program through first lunar landing by rendezvous was significantly less than by direct ascent.

Summary report of Ad Hoc Task Group Study, "Earth Orbital Rendezvous for an Early Manned Lunar Landing," Part I, August 1961.

During the Month

John C. Houbolt of Langley Research Center made a presentation to STG on rendezvous and the lunar orbit rendezvous plan. At this time James A. Chamberlin of STG requested copies of all of Houbolt's material because of the pertinence of this work to the Mercury Mark II program and other programs then under consideration.

Bird, "Short History of the Development of the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous Plan at the Langley Research Center," p. 3.

During the Month

The deep-space tracking station at Hartebeesthoek, South Africa, was completed. Dedication took place on September 8. NASA thus gained the capacity for continuous line-of-sight communication with lunar and interplanetary probes despite the earth's rotation. The other deep-space tracking stations were at Goldstone, Calif., and Woomera, Australia.

Sixth NASA Semiannual Report, p. 76; Aeronautical and Astronautical Events of 1961, p. 45.

During the Month

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory selected the Blaw Knox Company of Pittsburgh, Penna., for second-phase feasibility and design studies of an antenna in the 200-to 250-foot diameter class. The first of these antennas, which were to be used in acquiring data from advanced lunar and planetary exploration programs, would be operational at Goldstone, Calif., by early 1965.

Sixth NASA Semiannual Report, p. 76.

September 7

NASA announced that the government-owned Michoud Ordnance Plant near New Orleans, La., would be the site for fabrication and assembly of the Saturn C-3 first stage as well as larger vehicles.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 7, 1961.

September 11

NASA selected NAA to develop the second stage (S-II) for the advanced Saturn launch vehicle. The cost, including development of at least ten vehicles, would total about $140 million. The S-II configuration provided for four J-2 liquid-oxygen - liquid-hydrogen engines, each delivering 200,000 pounds of thrust.

Wall Street Journal, September 12, 1961.

September 12-13

Representatives of STG and NASA Headquarters visited the Instrumentation Laboratory of MIT to discuss the contract awarded to the Laboratory on August 9 and progress in the design and development of the Apollo spacecraft navigation and guidance system. They mutually decided that a draft of the final contract should be completed for review at Instrumentation Laboratory by October 2 and the contract resolved by October 9. Revisions were to be made in the Statement of Work to define more clearly details of the contract. Milton B. Trageser of the Laboratory, in the first month's technical progress report, gave a brief description of the first approach to the navigation and guidance equipment and the arrangement of the equipment within the spacecraft. He also presented the phases of the lunar flight and the navigation and guidance functions or tasks to be performed. Other matters discussed were a space sextant and making visual observations of landmarks through cloud cover.

Memorandum, William W. Petynia to Associate Director, STG, September 21, 1961.

September 13

Mercury-Atlas 4, carrying an astronaut simulator, was launched from the Atlantic Missile Range in the first earth orbital test of the Mercury spacecraft. After one orbit, the spacecraft reentered and was recovered safely. With minor deviations, the flight was highly successful.

Grimwood, Project Mercury: A Chronology, pp. 148-149.

September 14

In a memorandum to the Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group (LLVPG) staff, Harvey Hall of NASA described the studies being done by the Centers on rendezvous modes for accomplishing a manned lunar landing. These studies had been requested from Langley Research Center, Marshall Space Flight Center, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on August 23. STG was preparing separate documentation on the lunar orbit rendezvous mode. An LLVPG team to undertake a comparative evaluation of rendezvous and direct ascent techniques had been set up. Members of the team included Hall and Norman Rafel of NASA and H. Braham and L. M. Weeks of Aerospace Corporation.

The evaluation would consider:

  • Effect of total flight time on specifications and reliability of equipment and on personnel.
  • Effect of vehicle system reliability in each case, including the number of engine starts and restarts.
  • Dependence on data, data-rate, and distance from ground station for control of assembly and refueling operations
  • Launch and injection windows
  • Effect of differences in the total weight propelled to earth escape velocity
  • Relative merits of lunar gravity and of a lunar base in general versus an orbital station for rendezvous and assembly purposes.
Reliability estimates on vehicles would be based on LLVPG data; estimates on equipment would rely on experience with similar types in known applications.

Memorandum, Hall to Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group Staff, "Comparison of Mission Alternatives (Rendezvous versus Direct Flight)," September 14, 1961.

September 17

NASA invited 36 companies to bid on a contract to produce the first stage of the advanced Saturn launch vehicle. Representatives of interested companies would attend a pre-proposal conference in New Orleans, La., on September 26. Bids were to be submitted by October 16 and NASA would then select the contractor, probably in November.

Wall Street Journal, September 18, 1961.

September 19

NASA announced that a site near Houston, Tex., had been selected for the manned space flight research center which would design, develop, evaluate, and test Apollo spacecraft in addition to training the astronauts for lunar flights and other space missions. The laboratory would be the command center for the manned lunar landing mission and subsequent space flight missions. Selection had followed a nationwide study by NASA of prospective sites.

Washington Post, September 20, 1961.

September 24

A major reorganization of NASA Headquarters was announced by Administrator James E. Webb. Four new program offices were to be formed, effective November 1: the Office of Advanced Research and Technology, Ira H. Abbott, Director; the Office of Space Sciences, Homer E. Newell, Director; the Office of Manned Space Flight, D. Brainerd Holmes, Director; and the Office of Applications, directorship vacant. Holmes' appointment had been announced on September 20. He had been General Manager of the Major Defense Systems Division of the Radio Corporation of America. The new Directors would report to Robert C. Seamans, Jr., NASA's Associate Administrator.

At the same time, Robert R. Gilruth was named Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center to be located in Houston, Tex. The Directors of NASA's nine field centers would, like the newly appointed program Directors, report to Seamans.

Washington Post, September 24, 1961; Washington Daily News, September 21, 1961.

During the Month

Richard H. Battin published MIT Instrumentation Laboratory Report R-341, "A Statistical Optimizing Navigation Procedure for Space Flight," describing the concepts by which Apollo navigation equipment could make accurate computations of position and velocity with an onboard computer of reasonable size.

Battin, Astronautical Guidance (1964).