The Apollo Spacecraft - A Chronology.

PART 3 (A)

Lunar Orbit Rendezvous: Mode and Module

December 1961


December 4

The Project Apollo Statement of Work for development of the Apollo spacecraft was completed. A draft letter based on this Statement of Work was presented to NAA for review. A prenegotiation conference on the development of the Apollo spacecraft was held at Langley Field, Va.

"Apollo Spacecraft Chronology," p. 13.

December 4

NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., commented to D. Brainerd Holmes, Director, Office of Manned Space Flight, on the report of the Rosen working group on launch vehicles, which had been submitted on November 20. Seamans expressed himself as essentially in accord with the group's recommendations. Memorandum, Seamans to Holmes,

"Recommendations for NASA Manned Space Flight Vehicle Program," December 4, 1961.

December 5-20

NASA negotiations with NAA on the Apollo spacecraft contract were held at Williamsburg, Va. Nine Technical Panels met on December 11 and 12 to review Part 3, Technical Approach, of the Statement of Work. These Panels reported their recommended changes and unresolved questions to the Technical Subcommittee for action. Later in the negotiations, NASA and NAA representatives agreed on changes intended to clarify the original Statement of Work. Among these was the addition of the boilerplate program. Two distinct types of boilerplates were to be fabricated: those of a simple cold-rolled steel construction for drop impact tests and the more complex models to be used with the Little Joe II and Saturn launch vehicles. The Little Joe II, originally conceived in June 1961, was a solid-fuel rocket booster which would be used to man-rate the launch escape system for the command module.

In addition, the Apollo Project Office, which had been part of the MSC Flight Systems Division, would now report directly to the MSC Director and would be responsible for planning and directing all activities associated with the completion of the Apollo spacecraft project. Primary functions to be performed by the Office would include:

  • Monitor the work of the Apollo Principal Contractor NAA and Associate Contractors.
  • Resolve technical problems arising between the Principal Contractor and Associate Contractors which were not directly resolved between the parties involved.
  • Maintain close liaison with all Apollo contractors to keep fully and currently informed on the status of contract work, potential schedule delays, or technical problems which might impede progress.
[On January 15, 1962, the Apollo Spacecraft Project Office was established at MSC.]

Letter contract No. NAS 9-150, authorizing work on the Apollo development program to begin on January 1, 1962, was signed by NASA and NAA on December 21. Under this contract, NAA was assigned the design and development of the command and service modules, the spacecraft adapter, associated ground support equipment, and spacecraft integration. Formal signing of the contract followed on December 31.

Project Apollo, "Minutes of Technical Panel Meetings for Negotiation of Spacecraft Development," December 12-15, 1961; Oakley, Historical Summary, S&ID Apollo Program, pp. 4, 27; Project Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 1 for Period Ending September 30, 1962, p. 9; MSC, Project Apollo Spacecraft Development Statement of Work (December 18, 1961), Part 4, pp. 1-2.

December 6

D. Brainerd Holmes, NASA Director of Manned Space Flight, outlined the preliminary project development plan for the Mercury Mark II program in a memorandum to NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr. The primary objective of the program was to develop rendezvous techniques; important secondary objectives were long-duration flights, controlled land recovery, and astronaut training. The development of rendezvous capability, Holmes stated, was essential:

  • It offered the possibility of accomplishing a manned lunar landing earlier than by direct ascent.
  • The lunar landing maneuver would require the development of rendezvous techniques regardless of the operational mode selected for the lunar mission.
  • Rendezvous and docking would be necessary to the Apollo orbiting laboratory missions planned for the 1965-1970 period.
The plan was approved by Seamans on December 7. The Mercury Mark II program was renamed "Gemini" on January 3, 1962.]

Memorandum, Holmes to Associate Administrator, "Mercury Mark II Preliminary Project Development Plan," December 6, 1961.

December 7

Plans for the development of a two-man Mercury spacecraft were announced by Robert R. Gilruth, MSC Director. The two-man spacecraft, to be built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, would be similar in shape to the Mercury spacecraft but slightly larger and two to three times heavier. Its booster rocket would be a modified Air Force Titan II, scheduled for flight test in early 1962. One of the major objectives in the program would be a test of orbital rendezvous, in which the two-man spacecraft would be launched into orbit by the Titan II and attempt to rendezvous with an Agena stage launched by an Atlas rocket. The total cost for a dozen two-man spacecraft plus boosters and other equipment was estimated at $500 million.

Aeronautical and Astronautical Events of 1961, p. 71.

December 7

NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., and DOD Deputy Director of Defense Research and Engineering John H. Rubel recommended to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and NASA Administrator James E. Webb that detailed arrangements for support of the Mercury Mark II spacecraft and the Atlas-Agena vehicle used in rendezvous experiments be planned directly between NASA's Office of Manned Space Flight and the Air Force and other DOD organizations. NASA's primary responsibilities would be the overall management and direction for the Mercury Mark II/ Agena rendezvous development and experiments. The Air Force responsibilities would include acting as NASA contractor for the Titan II launch vehicle and for the Atlas-Agena vehicle to be used in rendezvous experiments. DOD's responsibilities would include assistance in the provision and selection of astronauts and the provision of launch, range, and recovery support, as required by NASA.

Memorandum, Deputy Director of Defense Research and Engineering, DOD, and Associate Administrator, NASA, to The Secretary of Defense and the Administrator, NASA, "Recommendation Relative to the Division of Effort between the NASA and DOD in the Development of Space Rendezvous and Capabilities," December 7, 1961.

December 15

NASA announced that The Boeing Company had been selected for negotiations as a possible prime contractor for the first stage (S-IC) of the advanced Saturn hunch vehicle. The S-IC stage, powered by five F-1 engines, would be 35 feet in diameter and about 140 feet high. The $300-million contract, to run through 1966, called for the development, construction, and testing of 24 flight stages and one ground test stage. The booster would be assembled at the NASA Michoud Operations Plant near New Orleans, La., under the direction of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

Saturn Illustrated Chronology, pp. 49-50.

December 18-19

Fred T. Pearce, Jr., of MSC visited the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory to discuss the first design-study space sextant produced at the Laboratory, The instrument was intended to be used with the guidance computer. The working mockup was demonstrated and the problem of the effect of the vehicle motion on the sextant was discussed.

Memorandum, Pearce to Associate Director, STG, "Visits to Instrument Laboratory and Ames Research Center to Discuss the Apollo Navigational Instrument," December 22, 1961.

December 20

The General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously adopted Resolution 1721 (XIV) on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

Kemp, Evolution Toward a Space Treaty: An Historical Analysis, p. 55.

December 20

The Douglas Aircraft Company was selected by NASA for negotiation of a contract to modify the Saturn S-IV stage by installing a single J-2 Rocketdyne engine of 200,000 pounds of thrust. The contract would be under the direction of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

Saturn Illustrated Chronology, p. 50.

December 21

D. Brainerd Holmes, Director of the NASA Office of Manned Space Flight, announced the formation of the Manned Space Flight Management Council. The Council, which was to meet at least once a month, was to identify and resolve difficulties and to coordinate the interface problems in the manned space flight program. Members of the Council, in addition to Holmes, were: from MSC, Robert R. Gilruth and Walter C. Williams, Director and Associate Director; from Marshall Space Flight Center, Wernher von Braun, Director, and Eberhard F. M. Rees, Deputy Director for Research and Development; from NASA Headquarters, George M. Low, Director of Spacecraft and Flight Missions; Milton W. Rosen, Director of Launch Vehicles and Propulsion; Charles H. Roadman, Director of Aerospace Medicine; William E. Lilly, Director of Program Review and Resources Management; and Joseph F. Shea, Deputy Director for Systems Engineering, Shea, formerly Space Programs Director for Space Technology Laboratories, Inc., Los Angeles, Calif., had recently joined NASA.

MSC Space News Roundup, January 10, 1962, p. 1; Senate Staff Report, Manned Space Flight Program, p. 205.

December 21

The Manned Space Flight Management Council decided at its first meeting that the Saturn C-5 launch vehicle would have a first stage configuration of five F-1 engines and a second stage configuration of five J-2 engines. The third stage would be the S-IVB with one J-2 engine. It recommended that the contractor for stage integration of the Saturn C-1 be Chrysler Corporation and that the contractor for stage integration of the Saturn C-5 be The Boeing Company. Contractor work on the Saturn C-5 should proceed immediately to provide a complete design study and a detailed development plan before letting final contracts and assigning large numbers of contractor personnel to Marshall Space Flight Center or Michoud.

MSF Management Council Minutes, December 21, 1961, pp. 1-2.

December 21

NAA's Space and Information Systems Division selected four companies as subcontractors to design and build four of the major Apollo spacecraft systems. The Collins Radio Company, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, received the telecommunications systems contract, worth more than $40 million; Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Company, Minneapolis, Minn., received the stabilization and control systems contract, $30 million; AiResearch Manufacturing Company, division of The Garrett Corporation, Los Angeles, Calif., was awarded the environmental control system contract, $10 million; and Radioplane Division of Northrop Corporation, Van Nuys, Calif., was selected for the parachute landing system contract, worth more than $1 million. The total cost for the initial phase of the NAA contract was expected to exceed $400 million.

MSC Space News Roundup, December 27, 1961.