The Apollo Spacecraft - A Chronology.|
Part 1 (B)
Defining Contractural Relations
January 1963 through March 1963
January 2MSC awarded a $3.69 million contract to the Radio Corporation of America
A drawing of the larger chamber, including the position of simulated solar sources.
RCA Service Company to design and build two vacuum chambers at MSC. The facility was used in astronaut training and spacecraft environmental testing. using carbon arc: lamps, the chambers simulated the sun's intensity, permitting observation of the effects of solar heating encountered on a lunar mission. At the end of July, MSC awarded RCA another contract (worth $3,341,750) for these solar simulators.
MSC Release 63-1, "Contract Awarded to RCA Services Company" [January 2, 1963]; MSC, "Consolidated Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, July 21-August 17, 1963," p. 3.
January 8After studying the present radar coverage provided by ground stations for representative Apollo trajectories, North American recommended that existing C-band radars be modified to increase ranging limits. The current capability for tracking to 920 kilometers (500 nautical miles), while satisfactory for near-earth trajectories, was wholly inadequate for later Apollo missions. Tracking capability should be extended to 59,000 kilometers (32,000 nautical miles), North American said; and to improve tracking accuracy, transmitter power and receiver sensitivity should be increased.
Memorandum, C. H. Feltz, NAA, to MSC, Attn: J. T. Markley, "Contract No. NAS 9-150, Research and Development for Project Apollo Spacecraft, C-Band Coverage Preliminary Report," January 8, 1963.
January 8Joseph F. Shea, Director of the Office of Systems in NASA's Office of Manned Space Flight (OMSF), briefed MSC officials on the nature and scope of NASA's contract with Bellcomm for systems engineering support. Also, Shea familiarized them with the organization and operation of the Office of Systems vis-a-vis Bellcomm. [Bellcomm, a separate corporation formed by American Telephone and Telegraph and Western Electric early in 1962, specifically at NASA's request, furnished engineering support to the overall Apollo program.] Bellcomm's studies, either in progress or planned, included computer support, environmental hazards, mission safety and reliability, communications and tracking, trajectory analyses, and lunar surface vehicles.
Memorandum, Paul E. Purser, MSC, to Distribution, "Operations of OMSF Office of Systems and Bellcomm," January 14, 1963.
January 10MSC and OMSF agreed that an unmanned Apollo spacecraft must be flown on the Saturn C-1 before a manned flight. SA-10 was scheduled to be the unmanned flight and SA-111, the first manned mission.
Memorandum, John H. Disher, NASA, to MSC, Attn: Paul E. Purser, "Review of Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 2," January 23, 1963.
January 16The MSC Flight Operations Division's Mission Analysis Branch analyzed three operational procedures for the first phase of descent from lunar orbit:
[Apocynthion and pericynthion are the high and low points, respectively, of an object in orbit around the moon (as, for example, a spacecraft sent from earth). Apolune and perilune also refer to these orbital parameters, but these latter two words apply specifically to an object launched from the moon itself.]
Memorandum, Stephen Huzar, MSC, to Chief, BOD, "Comparison of Fuel Requirements for Three Near-Moon Orbital Techniques Associated With the Planning of the Lunar Landing Mission," January 16, 1963.
January 16-February 15North American awarded Airborne Instruments Laboratory, a division of Cutler-Hammer, Inc., a contract for the CM recovery antenna system. NAA,
"Apollo Monthly Progress Report," SID 62-300-10, March 1, 1963, p. 3.
January 16-February 15Representatives of North American, Langley Research Center, Ames Research Center, and MSC discussed CM reentry heating rates. They agreed on estimates of heating on the CM blunt face, which absorbed the brunt of reentry, but afterbody heating rates were not as clearly defined. North American was studying Project Mercury flight data and recent Apollo wind tunnel tests to arrive at revised estimates.
"Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 3," p. 33; "Apollo Monthly Progress Report," SID 62-300-10, p. 7.
January 17Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., of MSC's Flight Operations Division (FOD), advised ASPO that the digital up-data link being developed for the Gemini program appeared acceptable for Apollo as well. In late October 1962, representatives of FOD and ASPO had agreed that an independent up-data link a means by which the ground could feed current information to the spacecraft's computer during a mission was essential for manned Apollo flights. Kraft proposed that the Gemini-type link be used for Apollo as well, and on June 13 MSC ordered North American to include the device in the CM.
Memorandum, Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., MSC, to Mgr., ASPO, "Apollo Up-Data Link," January 17, 1963; letter, H. P. Yschek, MSC, to NAA, Space and Information Systems Div., "Contract Change Authorization No. Fifty-Four," June 13, 1963.
January 17President John F. Kennedy sent his budget request for Fiscal Year 1964 to Congress. The President recommended a NASA appropriation of $5.712 billion, $3.193 billion of which was for manned space flight. Apollo received a dramatic increase - $1.207 billion compared with $435 million the previous year. NASA Administrator James E. Webb nonetheless characterized the budget, about half a billion dollars less than earlier considered, as one of "austerity." While it would not appreciably speed up the lunar landing timetable, he said, NASA could achieve the goal of placing a man on the moon within the decade.
The Houston Post, January 18, 1963.
January 18Two aerodynamic strakes were added to the CM to eliminate the danger of a hypersonic apex-forward trim point on reentry. [During a high-altitude launch escape system (LES) abort, the crew would undergo excessive g forces if the CM were to trim apex forward. During a low-altitude abort, there was the potential problem of the apex cover not clearing the CM. See November 1962. The strakes, located in the yaw plane, had a maximum span of one foot and resulted in significant weight penalties. The size of the strakes had to be increased later because of changes in the CM which moved the center of gravity forward and because of the additional ablative material needed to combat the increased heating of the strakes during reentry. Removal of the strakes would cause a major redesign to permit the apex cover to be jettisoned in the low angle-of-attack (apex forward) region. In the summer of 1963, however, MSC and North American representatives agreed that the strakes should be removed and an apex-mounted flap be added. The flap could be jettisoned with the LES tower during normal missions and retained with the CM during a LES abort.
North American then suggested a "tower flap dual mode" approach. This concept incorporated fixed surfaces at the upper end of the LES tower which would be exposed to the air stream after jettison of the expended rocket casing, For aborts below 9,140 meters (30,000 feet), the jettison motor would pull away the expended motor casing, the LES tower, and apex cover. The contractor carried out extensive wind tunnel tests of this configuration and reported to MSC during October that a 0.5941-square-meter (920-square-inch) planer flap located in the upper bay of the LES, coupled with a more favorable CM center of gravity, would be required to solve the reentry problem.
An independent investigation of deployable aerodynamic surfaces, or canards, at the forward end of the LES rocket motor was also being conducted. These canards would act as lifting surfaces to destabilize the LES and cause it to reorient the spacecraft to a heatshield-forward position. (See November 12, 1963, February 7 and 25, 1964.)
"Apollo Monthly Progress Report," SID 62-300-9, p. 6; ibid., SID 62-300-10, p. 5; ibid., SID 62-300-11, April 1, 1963, p. 7; ibid., SID 62-300-12, p. 8; ibid., SID 62-300-15, August 1, 1963, p. 5; ibid., SID 62- 300-16, September 1, 1963, p. 8; ibid., SID 62-300-17, October 1, 1963, p. 5; ibid., SID 62-300-18, November 1, 1963, p. 3; ibid., SID 62-300-19, December 1, 1963, p. 5; ibid., SID 62-300-20, January 1, 1964, p. 5; ibid., SID 62-300-21, February 1, 1964, p. 3; ibid., SID 62 300-23, April 1, 1964, p. 3; "ASPO Weekly Activity Report, September 19-25, 1963," p. 3; "ASPO Weekly Activity Report, September 26-October 2, 1963,"p. 2; "ASPO Status Report For Period Ending October 16, 1963"; "ASPO Status Report For Period October 16-November 12, 1963"; "ASPO Status Report For Period December 18-January 14, 1964"; "ASPO Status Report For Week Ending December 4, 1963"; "ASPO Status Report For Week Ending December 17, 1963"; "ASPO Status Report For Week Ending January 7, 1964"; "Monthly ASPO Status Report For Period January 16-February 12, 1964"; "Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 3," p. 32; "Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 4 for Period Ending June 30, 1963," p. 28; "Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 5 for Period Ending September 30, 1963," p. 40; "Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 6 for Period Ending December 31, 1963,"p. 37; MSC, "Weekly Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, June 30July 6, 1963," p. 4; "Minutes of NASA-NAA Technical Management Meeting, February 25, 1964"; Oakley, Historical Summary, S&ID Apollo Program, p. 12.
January 18NASA's Flight Research Center (FRC) announced the award of a $3.61 million contract to Bell Aerosystems Company of Bell Aerospace Corporation for the design and construction of two manned lunar landing research vehicles. The vehicles would be able to take off and land under their own power, reach an altitude of about 1,220 meters (4,000 feet), hover, and fly horizontally. A fan turbojet engine would supply a constant upward push of five-sixths the weight of the vehicle to simulate the one-sixth gravity of the lunar surface. Tests would be conducted at FRC.
Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1963 (NASA SP-4004), p. 17; Daily Press, Newport News, Va., January 13, 1963; Wall Street Journal, January 22, 1963; Aviation Daily, January 24, 1963, p. 161.
January 23The Hamilton Standard space suit contract was amended to include supplying space suit communications and telemetry equipment. (See November 27, 1962.)
Hamilton Standard, "Monthly Progress Report for the Period of January 1 through 31, 1963, for Apollo Space Suit Assembly," PR-4-1-63, p. 1.
January 24The first evaluation of crew mobility in the International Latex Corporation (ILC) pressure suit was conducted at North American to identify interface problems. Three test subjects performed simulated flight tasks inside a CM mockup. CM spatial restrictions on mobility were shown. Problems involving suit sizes, crew couch dimensions, and restraint harness attachment, adjustment, and release were appraised. Numerous items that conflicted with Apollo systems were noted and passed along to ILC for correction in the continuing suit development program. (See March 26-28.)
"Project Apollo Spacecraft, Test Program Weekly Activities Report (Period, 21 January 1963 through 27 January 1963)," p. 6.
January 26MSC announced new assignments for the seven original astronauts: L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., and Alan B. Shepard, Jr., would be responsible for the remaining pilot phases of Project Mercury; Virgil I. Grissom would specialize in Project Gemini; John H. Glenn, Jr., would concentrate on Project Apollo; M. Scott Carpenter would cover lunar excursion training; and Walter M. Schirra, Jr., would be responsible for Gemini and Apollo operations and training. As Coordinator for Astronaut Activities, Donald K. Slayton would maintain overall supervision of astronaut duties.
Specialty areas for the second generation were: trainers and simulators, Neil A. Armstrong; boosters, Frank Borman; cockpit layout and systems integration, Charles Conrad, Jr.; recovery system, James A. Lovell, Jr.; guidance and navigation, James A. McDivitt; electrical, sequential, and mission planning, Elliot M. See, Jr.; communications, instrumentation, and range integration, Thomas P. Stafford; flight control systems, Edward H. White II; and environmental control systems, personal equipment, and survival equipment, John W. Young.
MSC Fact Sheet No. 113, "Specialized Assignments for MSC Astronauts and Flight Crew Personnel," January 26, 1963; The Washington Post, January 27, 1963.
January 28NASA announced the selection of the Philco Corporation as prime contractor for the Mission Control Center (MCC) at MSC. To be operational in mid-1964, MCC would link the spacecraft with ground controllers at MSC through the worldwide tracking network.
NASA News Release 63-14, "Philco to Develop Manned Flight Mission Control Center at Houston," January 28, 1963; Wall Street Journal, January 29, 1963.
January 28Following a technical conference on the LEM electrical power system (EPS), Grumman began a study to define the EPS configuration. Included was an analysis of EPS requirements and of weight and reliability for fuel cells and batteries. Total energy required for the LEM mission, including the translunar phase, was estimated at 61.3 kilowatt-hours. Upon completion of this and a similar study by MSC, Grumman decided upon a three-cell arrangement with an auxiliary battery. Capacity would be determined when the EPS load analysis was completed. (See March 7.)
"Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 3," pp. 27-28.
Ground was broken for the MSC Operations and Checkout Building at Merritt Island January 28, 1963. Participants were, left to right, Walter C. Williams, Director of Flight Operations, MSC; G. Merritt Preston, Director of Pre-Flight Operations Division, MSC; Kurt H. Debus, Director, Launch Operations Center; D. Brainerd Holmes, Director, NASA Office of Manned Space Flight; Wernher von Braun, Marshall Space Flight Center; Col. H. R. Parfitt, District Engineer, U.S. Army; and Col. E. Richardson, U.S. Air Force.
January 30Grumman and NASA announced the selection of four companies as major LEM subcontractors:
During the MonthMSC awarded a contract to Chance Vought Corporation for a study of guidance system techniques for the LEM in an abort during lunar landing.
NASA News Release 63-41, "January Contracts," March 4, 1963.
Letter, H. P. Yschek, MSC, to NAA, Space and Information Systems Div., "Contract Change Authorization No. Thirteen, Revision 2," March 11, 1963.
February 1Walter C. Williams, MSC's Associate Director, defined the Center's criteria on the location of earth landing sites for Gemini and Apollo spacecraft: site selection as well as mode of landing (i.e., land versus water) for each mission should be considered separately. Constraints on trajectory, landing accuracy, and landing systems must be considered, as well as lead time needed to construct landing area facilities. Both Gemini and Apollo flight planning had to include water as well as land landing modes. (See December 1962.) Although the Apollo earth landing system was designed to withstand the shock of coming down on varying terrains, some experience was necessary to verify this capability. Because of the complexity of the Apollo mission and because the earth landing system did not provide a means of avoiding obstacles, landing accuracy was even more significant for Apollo than for Gemini. With so many variables involved, Williams recommended that specific landing locations for future missions not be immediately designated. (See March 5 and February 25, 1964.)
Memorandum, Walter C. Williams, MSC, to NASA Headquarters, Attn: OMSF, "Designation of Landing Sires for Projects Gemini and Apollo," February 1, 1963.
February 6Aerojet-General Corporation, Sacramento, Calif., began full-scale firings of a service propulsion engine with a redesigned injector baffle.
MSC, "Consolidated Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, January 27-February 23, 1963," p. 56.
February 7NASA announced a simplified terminology for the Saturn booster series: Saturn C-1 became "Saturn I," Saturn C-1B became "Saturn IB," and Saturn C-5 became "Saturn V."
MSC Fact Sheet No. 136, "NASA Simplifies Names of Saturn Launch Vehicles," February 7, 1963.
February 8MSC issued a definitive contract for $15,029,420 to the Raytheon Company, Space and Information Systems Division, to design and develop the CM onboard digital computer. The contract was in support of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which was developing the Apollo guidance and navigation systems. Announcement of the contract was made on February 11.
MSC, "Consolidated Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, January 27-February 23, 1963," p, 29; MSC News Release 63-18, February 11, 1963; Missiles and Rockets, 12 (February 18, 1963), p. 42.
February 11The first inertial reference integrating gyro produced by AC Spark Plug was accepted by NASA and delivered to the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory. (See November 1962.)
MSC, "Consolidated Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, January 27-February 23, 1963," p. 57.
February 12NASA selected the Marion Power Shovel Company to design and build the crawler-transport, a device to haul the Apollo space vehicle (Saturn V, complete with spacecraft and associated launch equipment) from the Vertical Assembly Building to the Merritt Island, Fla., launch pad, a distance of about 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles). The crawler would be 39.6 meters (130 feet) long, 35 meters (115 feet) wide, and 6 meters (20 feet) high, and would weight 2.5 million kilograms (5.5 million pounds). NASA planned to buy two crawlers at a cost of $4 to 5 million each. Formal negotiations began on February 20 and the contract was signed on March 29.
Saturn Illustrated Chronology (MHR-3, August 10, 1964), p. 73; NASA News Release 63-27, "Marion to Build NASA Crawler," February 12, 1963.
February 13In a reorganization of ASPO, MSC announced the appointment of two deputy managers. Robert O. Piland, deputy for the LEM, and James L. Decker, deputy for the CSM, would supervise cost, schedule, technical design, and production. J. Thomas Markley was named Special Assistant to the Apollo Manager, Charles W. Frick. Also appointed to newly created positions were Caldwell C. Johnson, Manager, Spacecraft Systems Office, CSM; Owen E. Maynard, Acting Manager, Spacecraft Systems Office, LEM; and David W. Gilbert, Manager, Spacecraft Systems Office, Guidance and Navigation.
MSC News Release 63-27, February 13, 1963.
February 13Grumman began discussions with Rocketdyne on the development of a throttleable LEM descent engine. Engine specifications (helium injected, 10:1 thrust variation) had been laid down by MSC. (See May 1.)
MSC, "Consolidated Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, January 27-February 23, 1963," p. 57; "Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 3," p. 25.
A boilerplate spacecraft is dropped in the impact test facility at NAA's Downey, Calif., plant. The tower was 43.6 meters (143 feet) high, the pendulum pivot was 38.1 meters (125 feet), and maximum impact velocity was 12.2 meters (40 feet) per second vertical and 15.2 meters (50 feet) per second horizontal. (NAA photo)
The North American Apollo impact test facility at Downey, Calif., was completed. This facility consisted mainly of a large pool with overhead framework and mechanisms for hydrodynamic drop tests of the CM. Testing at the facility began with the drop of boilerplate 3 on March 11.
Oakley, Historical Summary, S&ID Apollo Program, p. 8; "Apollo Monthly Progress Report," SID 62-300-11, pp. 10, 21.
February 18NASA issued a definitive contract for $6,322,643 to General Dynamics Convair for the Little Joe II test vehicle. (See May 11, 1962, Vol. I.) A number of changes defined by contract change proposals were incorporated into the final document:
February 18North American selected Bell Aerosystems Company to provide propellant tanks for the CSM reaction control system. These tanks were to be the "positive expulsion" type (i.e., fuel and oxidizer would be contained inside flexible bladder; pressure against one side of the device would force the propellant through the RCS lines).
"Apollo Monthly Progress Report," SID 62-300-10, p. 3; Aviation Daily, February 18, 1963, p. 312.
February 19North American shipped CM boilerplate 19 to Northrop Ventura for use as a parachute test vehicle.
MSC, "Consolidated Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, January 27-February 23, 1963," p. 55.
February 20At a meeting of the MSC-MSFC Flight Mechanics Panel, it was agreed that Marshall would investigate "engine-out" capability (i.e., the vehicle's performance should one of its engines fail) for use in abort studies or alternative missions. Not all Saturn I, IB, and V missions included this engine-out capability. Also, the panel decided that the launch escape system would be jettisoned ten seconds after S-IV ignition on Saturn I launch vehicles. (See March 28.)
MSC, "Consolidated Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, January 27-February 23, 1963," p. 58.
February 20In a reorganization of OMSF, Director D. Brainerd Holmes appointed Joseph F. Shea as Deputy Director for Systems and George M. Low as Deputy Director for Programs. All major OMSF directorates had previously reported directly to Holmes. In the new organizational structure, Director of Systems Studies William A. Lee, Director of Systems Engineering John A. Gautraud, and Director of Integration and Checkout James E. Sloan would report to Shea. Director of Launch Vehicles Milton W. Rosen, Director of Space Medicine Charles H. Roadman, and the Director of Spacecraft and Flight Missions (then vacant) would report to Low. William E. Lilly, Director of Administration, would provide administrative support in both major areas.
NASA News Release 63-32, "Holmes Names Two Deputies," February 20, 1963; The Washington Post, February 21, 1963.
February 21MSC issued a Request for Proposals (due by March 13) for a radiation altimeter system. Greater accuracy than that provided by available radar would be needed during the descent to the lunar surface, especially in the last moments before touchdown. Preliminary MSC studies had indicated the general feasibility of an altimeter system using a source-detector-electronics package. After final selection and visual observation of the landing site, radioactive material would be released at an altitude of about 30 meters 100 feet and allowed to fall to the surface. The detector would operate in conjunction with electronic circuitry to compute the spacecraft's altitude. Studies were also under way at MSC on the possibility of using laser beams for range determination.
Memorandum, George W. Brandon, MSC, to Asst. Dir. for Information and Control Systems, "Request for Proposal, Low Level Radiation Altimeter System," November 13, 1962; Aviation Daily, February 21, 1963, p. 335.
February 24-March 23The MSC Lunar Surface Experiments Panel held its first meeting. This group was formed to study and evaluate lunar surface experiments and the adaptability of Surveyor and other unmanned probes for use with manned missions.
MSC, "Consolidated Monthly Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, February 24-March 23, 1963," p. 44.
February 25Grumman began initial talks with the Bell Aerosystems Company on development of the LEM ascent engine. Complete specifications were expected by March 2.
MSC, "Consolidated Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, January 27-February 23, 1963," p. 28.
February 25MSC ordered North American to provide batteries, wholly independent of the main electrical system in the CM, to fire all pyrotechnics aboard the spacecraft.
Letter, H. P. Yschek, MSC, to NAA, Space and Information Systems Div., "Contract Change Authorization No. Twenty-Eight," February 25, 1963.
Aerial view of the Michoud Operations Plant, New Orleans, La
NASA announced the signing of a formal contract with The Boeing Company for the S-IC (first stage) of the Saturn V launch vehicle, the largest rocket unit under development in the United States. The $418,820,967 agreement called for the development and manufacture of one ground test and ten flight articles. Preliminary development of the S-IC, which was powered by five F-1 engines, had been in progress since December 1961 under a $50 million interim contract. Booster fabrication would take place primarily at the Michoud Operations Plant, New Orleans, La., but some advance testing would be done at MSFC and the Mississippi Test Operations facility.
NASA News Release 63-37, "NASA Contracts with Boeing for Saturn V Booster," February 25, 1963; Aviation Daily, February 27, 1963, p. 361.
February 26Two aerospace technologists at MSC, James A. Ferrando and Edgar C. Lineberry, Jr., analyzed orbital constraints on the CSM imposed by the abort capability of the LEM during the descent and hover phases of a lunar mission. Their study concerned the feasibility of rendezvous should an emergency demand an immediate return to the CSM.
Ferrando and Lineberry found that, once abort factors are considered, there exist "very few" orbits that are acceptable from which to begin the descent. They reported that the most advantageous orbit for the CSM would be a 147-kilometer (80-nautical-mile) circular one.
Memorandum, James A. Ferrando and Edgar C. Lineberry, Jr., to Chief, Flight Operations Div., "The Influence of LEM Abort Capability Upon the Selection of the Command Module Lunar Orbit," February 26, 1963.
February 26NASA selected Ford, Bacon, and Davis, Inc., to design MSC's flight acceleration facility, including a centrifuge capable of spinning a simulated CM and its crew at gravity forces equal to those experienced in space flight.
Space Business Daily, February 26, 1963, p. 243; Aviation Daily, February 26, 1963, p. 358.
February 27Aviation Daily reported an announcement by Frank Canning, Assistant LEM Project Manager at Grumman, that a Request for Proposals would be issued in about two weeks for the development of an alternate descent propulsion system. Because the descent stage presented what he called the LEM's "biggest development problem," Canning said that the parallel program was essential.
Aviation Daily, February 27, 1963, p. 362.
February 27The Apollo Mission Planning Panel held its organizational meeting at MSC. The panel's function was to develop the lunar landing mission design, coordinate trajectory analyses for all Saturn missions, and develop contingency plans for all manned Apollo missions.
Membership on the panel included representatives from MSC, MSFC, NASA Headquarters, North American, Grumman, and MIT, with other NASA Centers being called on when necessary. By outlining the most accurate mission plan possible, the panel would ensure that the spacecraft could satisfy Apollo's anticipated mission objectives. Most of the panel's influence on spacecraft design would relate to the LEM, which was at an earlier stage of development than the CSM. The panel was not given responsibility for preparing operational plans to be used on actual Apollo missions, however.
MSC, "Minutes of Meeting on Apollo Mission Planning Panel Organization Meeting, February 27, 1963," March 7, 1963.
February 27Elgin National Watch Company received a subcontract from North American for the design and development of central timing equipment for the Apollo spacecraft. [This equipment provided time-correlation of all spacecraft time-sensitive events. Originally, Greenwich Mean Time was to be used to record all events, but this was later changed. (See August 30-September 5, 1963.)]
Chicago Tribune, February 27, 1963; Wall Street Journal, February 28, 1963.
During the MonthGrumman began fabrication of a one-tenth scale model of the LEM for stage separation tests. In launching from the lunar surface, the LEM's ascent engine fires just after pyrotechnic severance of all connections between the two stages, a maneuver aptly called "fire in the hole."
Also, Grumman advised that, from the standpoint of landing stability, a five-legged LEM was unsatisfactory. Under investigation were a number of landing gear configurations, including retractable legs. (See April 17 and May 20-22.)
Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation [hereafter cited as GAEC], "Monthly Progress Report No. 1, LPR-10-1, March 10, 1963," pp. 5, 6, 8.
During the MonthNASA amended the GE contract, authorizing the company's Apollo Support Department to proceed with the PACE program. (See March 25, 1964.) [PACE (prelaunch automatic checkout equipment) would be used for spacecraft checkout. It would be computer-directed and operated by remote control.]
GE, "Support Program Monthly Progress Report, February 1963," NASw-410-MR-2. [NOTE: Use of the acronym "PACE" was subsequently dropped at the insistence of a company claiming prior rights to the name.]
MSC, "Consolidated Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, January 27-February 23, 1963," p. 57; "Consolidated Monthly Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, February 24-March 23, 1963," p. 8.
March 4As a parallel to the existing Northrop Ventura contract, and upon authorization by NASA, North American awarded a contract for a solid parachute program to the Pioneer Parachute Company. [A solid parachute is one with solid (unbroken) gores; the sole opening in the canopy is a vent at the top. Ringsail parachutes (used on the Northrop Ventura recovery system) have slotted gores. In effect, each panel formed on the gores becomes a "sail."] (See June 28.)
"Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 3," p. 18; letter, H. P. Yschek, MSC, to NAA, Space and Information Systems Div., "Contract Change Authorization No. Twenty-Seven," February 25, 1963.
March 4MSC "acquired" under a loan agreement an amphibious landing craft from the Army. Equipment to retrieve Apollo boilerplate spacecraft and other objects used in air drops and flotation tests was installed. The vessel, later named the Retriever, arrived at its Seabrook, Tex., docking facility late in June.
MSC News Release 63-38, "MSC Acquires Test Vehicle," March 4, 1963; MSC, Space News Roundup, June 26, 1963, p. 1.
March 5MSC awarded a $67,000 contract to The Perkin-Elmer Corporation to develop a carbon dioxide measurement system, a device to measure the partial carbon dioxide pressure within the spacecraft's cabin. Two prototype units were to be delivered to MSC for evaluation. About seven months later, a $249,000 definitive contract for fabrication and testing of the sensor was signed. (See May 6.)
MSC, "Consolidated Monthly Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, February 24-March 23, 1963," p. 30; "Consolidated Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, September 22-October 19, 1963," p. 47.
March 5NASA announced an American agreement with Australia, signed on February 26, that permitted the space agency to build and operate several new tracking stations "down under." A key link in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's network of Deep Space Instrumentation Facilities would be constructed in Tidbinbilla Valley, 18 kilometers (11 miles) southwest of Canberra. Equipment at this site included a 26-meter (85-foot) parabolic dish antenna and electronic equipment for transmitting, receiving, and processing radio signals from spacecraft. Tracking stations would be built also at Carnarvon and Darwin.
NASA News Release 63-47, "NASA to Establish Deep Space Tracking Facility in Australia," March 5, 1963; Aviation Daily, March 8, 1963, p. 52.
March 5The Mission Analysis Branch (MAB) of MSC's Flight Operations Division cited the principal disadvantages of the land recovery mode for Apollo missions. (See February 1.) Of primary concern was the possibility of landing in an unplanned area and the concomitant dangers involved. For water recovery, the main disadvantages were the establishment of suitable landing areas in the southern hemisphere and the apex-down flotation problem. MAB believed no insurmountable obstacles existed for either approach. (See February 25, 1964.)
Memorandum, John Bryant, MSC, to Chief, FOD, "Operational Considerations in the Selection of Primary Land or Sea Return Areas for Apollo," March 5, 1963.
March 6North American completed construction of Apollo boilerplate (BP) 9, consisting of launch escape tower and CSM. It was delivered to MSC on March 18, where dynamic testing on the vehicle began two days later. On April 8, BP-9 was sent to MSFC for compatibility tests with the Saturn I launch vehicle.
MSC, "Consolidated Monthly Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, February 24-March 23, 1963," p. 50; Oakley, Historical Summary, S&ID Apollo Program, p. 8; Birmingham Post-Herald, April 5, 1963; The Huntsville Times, April 9, 1963; The Birmingham News, April 9, 1963.
March 6The first Block I Apollo pulsed integrating pendulum accelerometer, produced by the Sperry Gyroscope Company, was delivered to the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory. [Three accelerometers were part of the guidance and navigation system. Their function was to sense changes in spacecraft velocity.]
MSC, "Consolidated Monthly Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, February 24-March 23, 1963," p. 53.
March 7Grumman representatives presented their technical study report on power sources for the LEM. (See January 28.) They recommended three fuel cells in the descent stage (one cell to meet emergency requirements), two sets of fluid tanks, and two batteries for peak power loads. For industrial competition to develop the power sources, Grumman suggested Pratt and Whitney Aircraft and GE for the fuel cells, and Eagle-Picher, Electrical Storage Battery, Yardney, Gulton, and Delco-Remy for the batteries.
"Activity Report, RASPO/GAEC, 3/3/63-3/9/63" (undated), pp. 1-2.
March 8North American moved CM boilerplate (BP) 6 from the manufacturing facilities to the Apollo Test Preparation Interim Area at Downey, Calif. During the next several weeks, BP-6 was fitted with a pad adapter, an inert launch escape system, and a nose cone, interstage structure, and motor skirt. (See July 1-2 and November 7.)
MSC, "Postlaunch Memorandum Report for Apollo Pad Abort I," November 13, 1963, pp. A1-1 through A1-5.
March 10Grumman presented its first monthly progress report on the LEM. In accordance with NASA's list of high-priority items, principal engineering work was concentrated on spacecraft and subsystem configuration studies, mission plans and test program investigations, common usage equipment surveys, and preparation for implementing subcontractor efforts.
"Monthly Progress Report No. 1," LPR-10-1, p. 4.
March 11Grumman completed its first "fire-in-the-hole" model test. (See February 1963.) Even though preliminary data agreed with predicted values, they nonetheless planned to have a support contractor, the Martin Company, verify the findings.
"Activity Report, RASPO/GAEC, 3/10/63-3/16/63" (undated), p. 2.
March 11NASA announced signing of the contract with Grumman for development of the LEM. (See November 19, 1962.) Company officials had signed the document on January 21 and, following legal reviews, NASA Headquarters had formally approved the agreement on March 7. Under the fixed-fee contract (NAS 9-1100) ($362.5 million for costs and $25.4 million in fees) Grumman was authorized to design, fabricate, and deliver nine ground test and 11 flight vehicles. The contractor would also provide mission support for Apollo flights. MSC outlined a developmental approach, incorporated into the contract as "Exhibit B, Technical Approach," that became the "framework within which the initial design and operational modes" of the LEM were developed.
NASA-MSC, "Lunar Excursion Module, Project Apollo, Exhibit B, Technical Approach, Contract NAS 9-1100," December 20, 1962, p. 1; MSF Management Council Meeting, January 29, 1963, Agenda Item 3, "MSC Status Report," pp. 23, 26; MSF Management Council Minutes, January 29, 1963, p. 3; MSC, "Consolidated Monthly Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, February 24-March 23, 1963,"p. 29; "Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 3," p. 1; NASA News Release 63-51, "Contract Signed to Develop Lunar Excursion Module," March 11, 1963.
March 11Grumman began early contract talks with the Marquardt Corporation for development of the LEM reaction control system.
MSC, "Consolidated Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, January 27-February 23, 1963," p. 57; "Consolidated Monthly Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, February 24-March 23, 1963," p. 7.
March 13The first stage of the Saturn SA-5 launch vehicle was static fired at MSFC for 144.44 seconds in the first long-duration test for a Block II S-1. The cluster of eight H-1 engines produced 680 thousand kilograms (1.5 million pounds) of thrust. An analysis disclosed anomalies in the propulsion system. In a final qualification test two weeks later, when the engines were fired for 143.47 seconds, the propulsion problems had been corrected.
MSFC Historical Office, History of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center from January 1 through June 30, 1963 (MHM-7), Vol. I, pp. 21-22; The Huntsville Times, March 14,1963.
March 14A bidders' conference was held at Grumman for a LEM mechanically throttled descent engine to be developed concurrently with Rocketdyne's helium injection descent engine. (See February 27.) Corporations represented were Space Technology Laboratories; United Technology Center, a division of United Aircraft Corporation; Reaction Motors Division, Thiokol Chemical Corporation; and Aerojet-General Corporation. Technical and cost proposals were due at Grumman on April 8.
"Activity Report, RASPO/GAEC, 3/10/63-3/16/63" (undated), p. 1.
March 14Homer E. Newell, Director of NASA's Office of Space Sciences, summarized results of studies by Langley Research Center and Space Technology Laboratories on an unmanned lunar orbiter spacecraft. These studies had been prompted by questions of the reliability and photographic capabilities of such spacecraft. Both studies indicated that, on a five-shot program, the probability was 0.93 for one and 0.81 for two successful missions; they also confirmed that the spacecraft would be capable of photographing a landed Surveyor to assist in Apollo site verification.
Memorandum, Newell, NASA, to Dir., OMSF, "Questions on the unmanned lunar orbiter," March 14, 1963, with four enclosures; Bruce K, Byers, "Lunar Orbiter: a Preliminary History" (HHN-71), August 1969, pp. 21-22.
March 20John A. Hornbeck, president of Bellcomm, testified before the House Committee on Science and Astronautics' Subcommittee on Manned Space Flight concerning the nature and scope of Bellcomm's support for NASA's Apollo program. In answer to the question as to how Bellcomm would decide "which area would be the most feasible" for a lunar landing, Hornbeck replied, ". . . the safety of the landing - that will be the paramount thing." He said that his company was studying a number of likely areas, but would "not recommend a specific site at the moment." Further, "Preliminary studies . . . suggest that the characteristics of a 'good' site for early exploration might be (1) on a lunar sea, (2) 10 miles [16 kilometers] from a continent, and (3) 10 miles [16 kilometers] from a postmarial crater." This type of site, Hornbeck said, would permit the most scientific activity practicable, and would enable NASA's planners to design future missions for even greater scientific returns.
U.S. Congress, House, Subcommittee on Manned Space Flight of the Committee on Science and Astronautics, 1964 NASA Authorization, Hearings on H.R. 5466 (Superseded by H.R. 7500), [No. 3] Part 2(a), 88th Cong., 1st Sess. (1963), p. 378.
March 21MSC awarded the Philco Corporation a definitive contract (worth almost $33.8 million) to provide flight information and flight control display equipment (with the exception of the realtime computer complex) for the Mission Control Center at MSC. NASA Headquarters approved the contract at the end of the month.
MSC, "Consolidated Monthly Activity Report for the Office of the Director, Manned Space Flight, February 24-March 23, 1963," p. 29; "Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 3," p. 49; Space Business Daily, April 4, 1963, p. 432.
March 25General Dynamics Convair completed structural assembly of the first launcher for the Little Joe II test program. During the next few weeks, electrical equipment installation, vehicle mating, and checkout were completed. The launcher was then disassembled and delivered to WSMR on April 25, 1963.
Little Joe II Test Launch Vehicle, NASA Project Apollo: Final Report, Vol. I, pp. 1-4 and 1-6.
March 25-31North American analyzed lighting conditions in the CM and found that glossy or light-colored garments and pressure suits produced unsatisfactory reflections on glass surfaces. A series of tests were planned to define the allowable limits of reflection on windows and display panel faces to preclude interference with crew performance.
"Project Apollo Spacecraft Test Program, Weekly Activity Report (Period 25 March 1963 through 31 March 1963)," p. 5.
March 26Hamilton Standard Division awarded a contract to ITT/Kellogg for the design and manufacture of a prototype extravehicular suit telemetry and communications system to be used with the portable life support system. (See November 27, 1962.)
Memorandum, Michael B. Luse, MSC, to Crew Systems Division, Attn: M. I. Radnofsky, "Extra-Vehicular Suit Telemetry and Communication System," March 11, 1964.
March 26MSC announced the beginning of CM environmental control system tests at the AiResearch Manufacturing Company simulating prelaunch, ascent, orbital, and reentry pressure effects. Earlier in the month, analysis had indicated that the CM interior temperature could be maintained between 294 K (70 degrees F) and 300 K (80 degrees F) during all flight operations, although prelaunch temperatures might rise to a maximum of 302 K (84 degrees F).
"Apollo Monthly Progress Report," SID 62-300-11, p. 12; MSC News Release 63-61, March 26, 1963.
March 26-28A meeting was held at North American to define CM-space suit interface problem areas. (See January 24.) Demonstrations of pressurized International Latex suits revealed poor crew mobility and task performance inside the CM, caused in part by the crew's unavoidably interfering with one another.
Other items received considerable attention: A six-foot umbilical hose would be adequate for the astronaut in the CM. The location of spacecraft water, oxygen, and electrical fittings was judged satisfactory, as were the new couch assist handholds. The astronaut's ability to operate the environmental control system (ECS) oxygen flow control valve while couched and pressurized was questionable. Therefore, it was decided that the ECS valve would remain open and that the astronaut would use the suit control valve to regulate the flow. It was also found that the hand controller must be moved about nine inches forward.
Memorandum, J. F. Saunders, Jr., RASPO/NAA, to L. McMillion, MSC, "Data Transmittal," April 5, 1963, with enclosures: Agenda and Minutes of Meeting, "Command Module-Space Suit Interface Meeting No. 4, NAA, Downey - 26, 27, 28 March 1963."
March 27The Apollo Mission Planning Panel (see February 27) set forth two firm requirements for the lunar landing mission. First, both LEM crewmen must be able to function on the lunar surface simultaneously. MSC contractors were directed to embody this requirement in the design and development of the Apollo spacecraft systems. Second, the panel established duration limits for lunar operations. These limits, based upon the 48-hour LEM operation requirement, were 24 hours on the lunar surface and 24 hours in flight on one extreme, and 45 surface hours and 3 flight hours on the other. Grumman was directed to design the LEM to perform throughout this range of mission profiles.
MSC, "Abstract of Meeting on Apollo Mission Planning Meeting No. 1, March 27, 1963," March 29, 1963; memorandum, Robert V. Battey, MSC, to Action Committee, "Errata to Abstract of Mission Planning Panel Meeting No. 1," April 1, 1963.
March 28NASA launched Saturn SA-4 from Cape Canaveral. The S-I Saturn stage reached an altitude of 129 kilometers (80 statute miles) and a peak velocity of 5,906 kilometers (3,660 miles) per hour. This was the last of four successful tests for the first stage of the Saturn I vehicle. After 100 seconds of flight, No. 5 of the booster's eight engines was cut off by a preset timer. That engine's propellants were rerouted to the remaining seven, which continued to burn. This experiment confirmed the "engine-out" capability that MSFC engineers had designed into the Saturn I. (See February 20.)
Saturn Illustrated Chronology, pp. 76-77; History of Marshall . . . January 1-June 30, 1963, Vol. I, pp. 16-18.
During a visit to NAA during March 1963, Astronauts M. Scott Carpenter, John H. Glenn, Jr., and Walter M. Schirra, Jr., took time out to "try the spacecraft of for size." The spacecraft mockup was one of the items inspected as they toured the NAA spacecraft facilities at Downey, Calif.
During the MonthNorth American selected two subcontractors to build tankage for the SM: Allison Division of General Motors Corporation to fabricate the fuel and oxidizer tanks; and Airite Products, Inc., those for helium storage.
"Apollo Monthly Progress Report," SID 62-300-11, p. 3.
During the MonthRCA completed a study on ablative versus regenerative cooling for the thrust chamber of the LEM ascent engine. Because of low cooling margins available with regenerative cooling, Grumman selected the ablative method, which permitted the use of either ablation or radiation cooling for the nozzle extension. (See September 19-October 16.)
"Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 3," p. 26; GAEC, "Monthly Progress Report No. 2," LPR-10-2, April 10, 1963, p. 12.
During the MonthGrumman met with representatives of North American, Collins Radio Company, and Motorola, Inc., to discuss common usage and preliminary design specifications for the LEM communications system. These discussions led to a simpler design for the S-band receiver and to modifications to the S-band transmitter (required because of North American's design approach).
"Monthly Progress Report No. 2," LPR-10-2, p. 15.
During the MonthMSC sent MIT and Grumman radar configuration requirements for the LEM. The descent equipment would be a three-beam doppler radar with a two-position antenna. Operating independently of the primary guidance and navigation system, it would determine altitude, rate of descent, and horizontal velocity from 7,000 meters (20,000 feet) above the lunar surface. The LEM rendezvous radar, a gimbaled antenna with a two-axis freedom of movement, and the rendezvous transponder mounted on the antenna would provide tracking data, thus aiding the LEM to intercept the orbiting CM. The SM would be equipped with an identical rendezvous radar and transponder.
"Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 3," p. 23.
During the QuarterMSC reported that preliminary plans for Apollo scientific instrumentation had been prepared with the cooperation of NASA Headquarters, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Goddard Space Flight Center. The first experiments would not be selected until about December 1963, allowing scientists time to prepare proposals. Prime consideration would be given to experiments that promised the maximum return for the least weight and complexity, and to those that were man-oriented and compatible with spacecraft restraints. Among those already suggested were seismic devices (active and passive), and instruments to measure the surface bearing strength, magnetic field, radiation spectrum, soil density, and gravitational field. MSC planned to procure most of this equipment through the scientific community and through other NASA and government organizations.
Ibid., p. 30.
During the QuarterTo provide a more physiologically acceptable load factor orientation during reentry and abort, MSC was considering revised angles for the crew couch in the CM. To reduce the couch's complexity, North American had proposed adjustments which included removable calf pads and a movable head pad. (See April 3.)
Ibid., p. 6.
During the QuarterMSC reported that stowage of crew equipment, some of which would be used in both the CM and the LEM, had been worked out. Two portable life support systems and three pressure suits and thermal garments were to be stowed in the CM. Smaller equipment and consumables would be distributed between modules according to mission phase requirements.
Ibid., p. 22.