The Apollo Spacecraft - A Chronology.

Advanced Design, Fabrication, and Testing

August 1965


August 2

NASA announced plans to install Apollo Unified S-Band System equipment at its Corpus Christi, Tex., tracking station. The Unified S-Band equipment included a 9-m (30-ft) diameter parabolic antenna and would enable handling of seven different types of communications with two different vehicles, the CM and the LEM. The communications would: track the spacecraft; command its operations and confirm that the command had been executed; provide two-way voice conversation with three astronauts; keep a continuous check on the astronauts' health; make continuous checks on the spacecraft and its functions; supply a continuous flow of information from the Apollo onboard experiments; and transmit television of the astronauts and the exploration of the moon.

NASA News Release 65-250, "NASA to Install Apollo Unified S-Band Tracking at Corpus Christi Station," August 2, 1965; Space Business Daily, August 3, 1965, p. 156.

August 2

NASA's office at Downey, Calif., approved the contract with the Marquardt Corporation for the procurement of Block II SM reaction control system engines. Estimated cost of the fixed price contract would be $6.5 million. Marquardt was supplying the Block I SM engines.

TWX, Henry S. Smith, NASA-Downey, to NASA Headquarters, Attn: Director of Procurement and Supply Division, August 2, 1965.

August 2

Hamilton Standard shipped the first prototype portable life support system to Houston, where it would undergo testing by the Crew Systems Division.

MSC News Release 65-68, August 2, 1965; Space Business Daily, August 5, 1965, p. 172.

August 2

MSC informed Grumman of package dimensions and weight restrictions for the scientific equipment and packages to be stored in the LEM.

TWXs, R. Wayne Young, MSC, to GAEC, Attn: R. S. Mullaney, August 2, 1965.

August 3

NASA named three firms, Bendix Systems Division, TRW Systems Group, and Space-General Corporation to design prototypes of the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP). Each company received a $500,000, six-month contract. After delivery of the prototypes, MSC would select one of the three to develop the ALSEP flight hardware.

NASA Headquarters Release No. 65-260, "Three Firms Selected to Design Apollo Lunar Surface Package," August 4, 1965; letter, Samuel C. Phillips, NASA, to Robert O. Piland, MSC, "Selection of Contractors for Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package," September 10, 1965.

August 3

Grumman reported the status of its effort to lighten the LEM. Despite some relief afforded by recent program changes (e.g., revised velocity budgets and the replacing of fuel cells with batteries), the contractor admitted that significant increases resulted as the design of the spacecraft matured. Grumman recommended, and MSC approved, a Super Weight Improvement Program (SWIP) similar to the one that the company had used in its F-111 aircraft program. By the end of the month, the company reported that SWIP had trimmed about 45 kg (100 lbs) from the ascent and about 25 kg (55 lbs) from the descent stages of the spacecraft. Grumman assured MSC that the SWIP team's attack on the complete vehicle, including its equipment, would be completed prior to the series of LEM design reviews scheduled for late in the year.

ASPO, "Minutes, NASA/GAEC Program Management Meeting, August 3, 1965"; GAEC, "Monthly Progress Report No. 31," LPR-10-47, September 10, 1965, p. 1.

August 4

During the next 10 months, 200 employees of MSFC would be transferred to MSC to augment the Houston staff for the operational phase of the Apollo program. Completion of the first phase of the Saturn program (with the successful launch of SA-10) made it possible for Marshall to release qualified personnel to satisfy MSC's needs.

Space Business Daily, August 9, 1965, p. 187; memorandum, Wernher von Braun, MSFC, to Distr., "Marshall's Changing Role in the Space Program," August 13, 1965.

August 5

During tests of the Apollo earth landing system (ELS) at El Centro, Calif., boilerplate (BP) 6A sustained considerable damage in a drop that was to have demonstrated ELS performance during a simulated apex-forward pad abort. Oscillating severely at the time the auxiliary brake parachute was opened, the spacecraft severed two of the electrical lines that were to have released that device. Although the ELS sequence took place as planned, the still-attached brake prevented proper operation of the drogues and full inflation of the mains. As a result, BP-6A landed at a speed of about 50 fps.

"ASPO Weekly Management Report, August 5-12, 1965."

August 5

S-IC stage firing

The S-IC stage during static firing at MSFC.

The Saturn V's booster, the S-IC stage, made a "perfect" full-duration static firing by burning for the programmed 2.5 minutes at its full 33,360-kilonewton (7.5-million-lbs) thrust in a test conducted at MSFC. The test model demonstrated its steering capability on command from the blockhouse after 100 sec had elapsed; the firing consumed 2.133-million liters (537,000 gallons) of kerosene and liquid oxygen.

Space Business Daily, August 9, 1965, p. 185.

August 5-12

North American developed a plan to process NASA- and contractor-initiated design changes through a Change Control Board (CCB). Indications were that the contractor's Apollo Program Manager would implement the plan on August 19. Elevating the level of management on the CCB, together with a standard approach to processing changes, was expected to improve the technical definition and documentation of design changes. In addition, program baselines were being established to permit a more informed control of technical requirements.

"ASPO Weekly Management Report, August 5-12, 1965."

August 6

North American and MSC attended a design review at Ling-Temco-Vought on the environmental control system radiator for the Block II CSM. After reviewing design and performance analyses, the review team approved changes in testing and fabrication of test hardware.

Memorandum, Richard J. Gillen, MSC, to Chief, Crew Systems Division, "Trip to Ling-Temco-Vought, Dallas, Texas, on August 6, 1965, Block II ECS radiator," August 20, 1965; MSC, "ASPO Weekly Management Report, August 26-September 2, 1965."

August 6

Crew Systems Division (CSD) reported that changing the method for storing oxygen in the LEM (from cryogenic to gaseous) had complicated the interface between the spacecraft's environmental control system (ECS) and the portable life support system (PLSS). Very early, the maximum temperature for oxygen at the PLSS recharge station had been placed at 80 degrees. Recent analyses by Grumman disclosed that, in fact, the gas temperature might be double that figure. Oxygen supplied at 160 degrees, CSD said, would limit to 2½ hours the PLSS operating period. Modifying the PLSS, however, would revive the issue of its storage aboard both spacecraft.

Seeking some answer to this problem, CSD engineers began in-house studies of temperature changes in the spacecraft's oxygen. There was some optimism that Grumman's estimates would be proved much too high, and MSC thus far had made no changes either to the ECS or to the PLSS.

Memorandum, Richard E. Mayo, MSC, to Chief, Systems Engineering Division, "ECS thermal control configuration for 'battery' LEM," August 9, 1965; "ASPO Weekly Management Report, August 5-12, 1965."

August 9

Two Saturn milestones occurred on the same day. At Santa Susana, Calif., North American conducted the first full-duration captive firing of an S-II, second stage of the Saturn V. And at Sacramento, Douglas static-tested the first flight-model S-IVB, second stage for the Saturn IB. This latter marked the first time that a complete static test (encompassing vehicle checkout, loading, and firing) had been controlled entirely by computers.

TWX, Wernher von Braun, MSFC, to NASA Headquarters, Attn: George Mueller, August 11, 1965; Space Business Daily, August 12, 1965, p. 207.

August 10

MSC notified North American that, should one of the CM's postlanding batteries fail, the crew could lower the power requirements of the spacecraft during recovery and thus stay within the capabilities of the two remaining batteries.

TWX, C. L. Taylor, MSC, to NAA, Space and Information Systems Division, Attn: J. C. Cozad, August 10, 1965.

August 10

ASPO forwarded to Grumman the following schedule dates which should be used for submission of detailed vehicle test plans:

AS MissionVehicle Test PlanSchedule Date
When determination of LEM test articles to be used on Missions 501 and 502 had been finalized, test plan dates would be forwarded. Current dates for 501 and 502 detailed vehicle test plans were 8-15-65 and 11-1-65, respectively.

TWX, R. Wayne Young, MSC, to GAEC, Attn: R. S. Mullaney, "Vehicle Test Plan Schedule Dates," August 10, 1965.

August 12

Resident ASPO quality assurance officers at North American began investigating recent failures of titanium tanks at Bell Aerosystems. Concern about this problem had been expressed by the Apollo Test Directorate at NASA Hq in July and MSC started an investigation at that time. The eventual solution (a change in the nitrogen tetroxide specification) was contributed to by North American, Bell Aero Systems, the Boeing Company, MSFC, MSC, Langley Research Center, and a committee chaired by John Scheller of NASA Hq. The penstripe method to find cracks on the interior of the vessels was used to solve the problem. The quality assurance people viewed the failures as quite serious since Bell had already fabricated about 180 such tanks.

MSC, "Minutes of Senior Staff Meeting, August 6, 1965," John B. Lee, Recorder, p. 3; memorandum, L. E. Day, NASA to Melvyn Savage, "Apollo N2O4 Tank Problems," August 18, 1965; "ASPO Weekly Management Report, August 5-12, 1965"; memorandum, Director, Apollo Soyuz Test Project Engineering, NASA Hq, to Acting Director, NASA Historical Office, "Volume III of The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology," sgd. Charles H. King, Jr., May 7, 1973.

August 12

Samuel C. Phillips, Apollo Program Director, listed the six key checkpoints in the development of Apollo hardware:

  1. Preliminary Design Review (PDR) - a review of the basic design conducted before or during the detailed design phase.
  2. Critical Design Review (CDR) - a review of specifications and engineering drawings preceding, if possible, their release for manufacture.
  3. Flight Article Configuration Inspection (FACI) - a comparison of hardware with specifications and drawings and the validation of acceptance testing. FACIs could be repeated to ensure that deficiencies had been corrected. Also, this inspection would be conducted on every configuration that departed significantly from the basic design. Items successfully passing the FACI were accepted, provided they met requirements in the Apollo Configuration Management Manual.
  4. Certification of Flight Worthiness (COFR) - to certify that each vehicle stage or spacecraft module was a complete and qualified piece of hardware.
  5. Design Certification Review (DCR) - to certify that the entire space vehicle was airworthy and safe for manned flight. DCRs would formally review the development and qualification of all stages, modules, and subsystems.
  6. Flight Readiness Review (FRR) - a two-part review, scheduled for each flight, to determine that both hardware and facilities were ready. Following a satisfactory ERR, and when decided upon by the mission director, the mission period would begin (which would commit deployment of support forces around the world).
NASA OMSF, Apollo Program Directive No. 6, "Sequence and Flow of Hardware Development and Key Inspection, Review, and Certification Checkpoints," August 12, 1965.

August 12

Grumman received approval from Houston for an all-gaseous oxygen supply system in the LEM. While not suggesting any design changes, MSC desired that portable life support systems (PLSS) be recharged with the cabin pressurized. And because the oxygen pressure in the descent stage tanks might be insufficient for the final recharge, the PLSSs could be "topped off" with oxygen from one of the tanks in the vehicle's ascent stage if necessary.

Letter, R. Wayne Young, MSC, to GAEC, Attn: R. S. Mullaney, "Contract NAS 9-1100, Gaseous Oxygen Supply Configuration," August 12, 1965.

August 12-13

MSC rejected North American's second design concept for a panel retention system in the LEM adapter. (The contractor's first proposal had drawn an unsatisfactory verdict early in June.) These successive rejections, largely on the basis of weight and vibration factors, illustrated the company's continuing difficulties with the system. MSC "suggested" to North American that it circumvent these problems by attaching the retention cable directly to the skin of the adapter.

"Critical Design Review for the Block II Spacecraft/LEM Adapter, 12-13 August 1965."

August 18

At a third status meeting on LEM-1, Grumman put into effect "Operation Scrape," an effort to lighten that spacecraft by about 57 kg (125 lbs). "Scrape" involved an exchange of parts between LEM-1 and LTA-3. The former vehicle thus would be heavier than the latter; LTA-3, on the other hand, would have the same structural weight as LEMs 2 and forthcoming.

MSC, "ASPO Weekly Management Report, August 12-19, 1965"; letter, R. Wayne Young, MSC, to GAEC, Attn: R. S. Mullaney, "Contract NAS 9-1100, LEM I Status Meeting Number Three," August 30, 1965; "Monthly Progress Report No. 31," LPR10-47, pp. 28-29.

August 18

Owen E. Maynard, Chief of the Systems Engineering Division, asked that part of the LEM Mission Programmer, the Program Reader Assembly, be deleted. The assembly was no longer needed, Maynard said, to meet Apollo mission requirements.

Memorandum, Owen E. Maynard, MSC, to Subsystem Manager, LEM SCS, "LEM Mission Programmer," August 18, 1965.

August 18-24

The preliminary Design Engineering Inspection (DEI) for CSM 011, Mission AS-202, was held. This was a major program milestone for the mission. The review board met on August 24 and the formal DEI was conducted August 30, 31, and September 1 (see entry for those dates).

Memorandum, Carl R. Huss, JSC, to JSC Historical Office, "Comments on Volume III of The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology," June 6, 1973.

August 19

The Apollo Resident Office at KSC was notified that it was ASPO Manager Joseph F. Shea's desire that a Configuration Control Panel be established and chaired at KSC to consider and process engineering changes to Apollo spacecraft and associated hardware undergoing checkout and test at KSC.

The ASPO Configuration Management Plan was being revised to reflect the action. The newly formed CCP's authority would be restricted to review of end item hardware (including ground support equipment configuration changes) to determine if the change was mandatory in the conduct of tests at KSC, and the approval of the contractor's plan for making the mandatory change to specific Apollo hardware end items at KSC.

Memorandum, William M. Bland, Jr., MSC, to Assistant Head of MSC Apollo Resident Office, KSC, "Apollo Spacecraft Configuration Control Panel at KSC," August 19, 1965.

August 19-26

MSC assigned two LEM test articles (numbers 10 and 2, respectively) to the SA-501 and SA-502 missions. Prior to flight, the spacecraft would be refurbished by Grumman, which would require four to five months' work on each vehicle.

MSC, "ASPO Weekly Management Report, August 19-26, 1965"; "Monthly Progress Report No. 31," LPR- 10-47, p. 38; memorandum, C. H. Perrine, MSC, to H. Davis, "Use of LTA-10 for Facilities Verification Vehicle," August 31, 1965.

August 20

Douglas Aircraft Company static-fired the S-IVB in a test at Sacramento, Calif., simulating the workload of a lunar mission. The stage was run for three minutes, shut down for half an hour, then reignited for almost six minutes.

Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1965, p. 386.

August 21

Gemini V, piloted by L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., and Charles Conrad, Jr., roared into space from Cape Kennedy. During their eight-day flight the astronauts performed a number of orbital and simulated rendezvous maneuvers to evaluate the spacecraft's rendezvous guidance and navigation equipment. A second principal objective of the mission was to evaluate the effects on the crew of prolonged exposure in space. Gemini V was significant as well for another reason: although the hardware experienced some troubles during the early part of the flight (which threatened to terminate the mission prematurely), Gemini V was the first spacecraft to use fuel cells as its primary source of electrical power. The operational feasibility of fuel cells would be essential for the success of long-distance (i.e., lunar) manned space flight.

Grimwood, et al., Project Gemini: A Chronology, pp. 209-211.

August 23

MSC and Apollo spacecraft contractors were in process of planning and implementing an extensive ground- based test program to certify the spacecraft for flight. All possible efforts were being made to benefit from the experience of related spacecraft programs in planning the Apollo test program. In view of the similarities of the Surveyor mission and the LEM mission, Jet Propulsion Laboratory was asked to cooperate by providing: (1) background information concerning the manner in which their qualification test program had been performed, (2) the major complete vehicle and partial vehicles used in the ground test programs, and (3) significant results obtained from such programs.

Letter, Joseph F. Shea, MSC, to NASA Resident Office, JPL, "Surveyor ground test programs," August 23, 1965.

August 23

Joseph F. Shea, ASPO Manager, summarized ground rules on the schedules for qualifying and delivering equipment for Block II spacecraft:

  • All components installed on the Block II test vehicle (2TV-1) and on Block II flight vehicles must be production hardware. (Prototype units were unacceptable.)
  • Any changes from the configuration of CSM 103 in 2TV-1, 101, or 102 must be essential to the specific mission requirements of those vehicles.
  • Delivery schedules must be compatible with North American's needs. (North American was allowed some leeway in installing components, provided that such reordering was feasible and did not affect overall checkout and delivery schedules for the vehicle.)
  • Qualification testing must be scheduled so that all equipment was qualified before February 15, 1967.
  • Launch-constraining ground tests must be scheduled for completion at least six weeks before that launch.
Shea alone had authority to waive these schedule rules.

Memorandum, Shea, MSC, to Distr., "Subsystem qualification and delivery schedules for Block II," August 23, 1965.

August 24

MSC requested that Grumman review the current LEM landing and docking dynamic environments to assure: (1) no loss of the abort guidance system attitude reference due to angular motion exceeding its design limit of 25 degrees per second during indicated mission phases; and (2) a mission angular acceleration environment, exceeding the gyro structural tolerances, would not be realized.

TWX, R. Wayne Young, MSC, to GAEC, Attn: R. S. Mullaney, August 24, 1965.

August 26-September 2

Grumman advised that prelaunch heat loads on LEM-1 exceeded the capability of the spacecraft's prelaunch Freon boiler. That boiler had originally been designed for loads anticipated from fuel-celled LEMs. When batteries replaced fuel cells, MSC had recommended deleting the boiler; Grumman had urged that the item be retained on LEM-1, however, because that spacecraft would have optional equipment onboard at launch. "It appears," Crew Systems Division (CSD) reported, "that the number of items of equipment required to be on [LEM-1] at earth launch has snowballed": the boiler's maximum capability was about 900 Btus per hour; the spacecraft's heat load was estimated at something like 6,000. "GAEC is presently investigating what can be done to reduce these loads," CSD said.

"ASPO Weekly Management Report, August 26-September 2, 1965."

August 26-September 2

Qualification testing was completed on the LEM's helium storage tank.

Ibid.; memorandum, Joseph G. Thibodaux, Jr., "Quantity gaging for the Descent Propulsion Supercritical Helium Pressurization System," August 19, 1965, with enclosure.

August 27

Owen E. Maynard, Chief of the Systems Engineering Division (SED), drafted a set of guidelines for Apollo developmental missions. While these guidelines pertained mostly to Block II development, and were so labeled, to some extent they dealt with Block I flights as well. These Development Mission Guidelines covered the overall mission, as well as specific phases, with one section devoted solely to the LEM. (Maynard was careful to distinguish these guidelines from "ground rules" in that, rather than being mandatory requirements, their intent was "to afford test planning a guide and somewhat of an envelope . . . and not hard and fast rules.")

SED was considering including these guidelines in the Apollo Spacecraft Master Test Plan when that document was next revised.

Memorandum, Maynard, MSC, to Distr., "Block II Development Mission Guidelines," August 27, 1965.

August 27

North American reported that ground testing of the service propulsion engine had been concluded. Also, changing the propellant ratio of the service propulsion system had improved the engine's performance and gimbal angles and had reduced the weight of the Block II SM. (See July 23.)

Memorandum, Owen E. Maynard, MSC, to Asst. Manager, ASPO, "SPS engine gimballing in stack," August 25, 1965; TWX, M. L. Raines, WSTF, to MSC, Attn: R. R. Gilruth and others, August 30, 1965; NAA, "Apollo Monthly Progress Report," SID 62-300-41, October 1, 1965, pp. 8, 10.

August 29-September 4

Several important activities were noted during the reporting period: (1) Qualification of the new reefing line cutters was progressing satisfactorily and scheduled for completion in October 1965. (The cutter had been used successfully on the last two earth landing system tests conducted at El Centro); (2) the helium storage tank for the LEM reaction control subsystem successfully passed qualification tests; and (3) the Aero Spacelines' new aircraft, "Super Guppy," made its maiden flight from Van Nuys, Calif., to Mojave Airfield, Calif. The new aircraft had the capability of airlifting the spacecraft-LEM-adapter as well as providing vital backup for the "Pregnant Guppy" aircraft.

"Weekly Activity Report, August 29-September 4, 1965," Joseph F. Shea.

August 30

NASA's Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, George E. Mueller, informed MSC's Director Robert R. Gilruth that an official emblem had been adopted for the Apollo Program, a composite based on the best proposals submitted by NASA and contractor personnel.

Letter, Mueller to Gilruth, August 30, 1965.

August 30-September 1

Spacecraft 011's design engineering inspection was held at North American. The review combined structures, mission (SA-202), and ground support. The Review Board approved 55 changes (53 of which were assigned to North American).

"Apollo Monthly Progress Report," SID 62-300-41, p. 4; memorandum, C. H. Bolender, NASA, to E. E. Christensen and S. C. Phillips, "Trip Report on Visit to NAA Downey," September 7, 1965.

August 31-September 1

At an implementation meeting at MSC on the LEM's guidance and control system, Grumman again made a pitch for its concept for the landing point designator (i.e., scale markings on the vehicle's window). On September 13, the company received MSC's go-ahead. Grumman was told to coordinate closely with both MSC and MIT on the designator's design to ensure that the scale markings would be compatible with the spacecraft's computer.

TWX, R. Wayne Young, MSC, to GAEC, Attn: R. S. Mullaney, subject: "Action Item L52, Requirements for Landing Point Designator (LPD)," September 13, 1965.

During the Month

An explosion damaged a LEM reaction control system thruster being fired in an up attitude in altitude tests at MSC.

"Monthly Progress Report No. 31," LPR-10-47, p. 1.

During the Month

Grumman completed an analysis of radiation levels that would be encountered by the LEM-3 crew during their earth orbital mission. Grumman advised that doses would not be harmful. To lessen these levels even further, the contractor recommended that during some parts of the mission the two astronauts climb back into the CM; also, the planned orbit for the LEM (556 by 2,500 km [300 by 1,350 nm]) could be changed to avoid the worst part of the Van Allen Belt.

Ibid., p. 40.