The Apollo Spacecraft - A Chronology.

Part 2 (A)

Recovery, Spacecraft Redefinition, and First Manned Apollo Flight

April 1967


April 6

A program of biology training for lunar mission crews was formulated as part of a comprehensive Block II Training Plan being reviewed by the Flight Crew Operations Directorate at MSC. The program was to provide flight crews with rudimentary facts about microbial life forms, an understanding of the bioscientific importance of lunar exploration, and training in collection of lunar samples (biological requirements) and the various aspects of the quarantine program. The biology training was to be divided into five lecture and demonstration sessions, with one field trip to observe desert ecology.

Memo, Director of Flight Crew Operations to Special Assistant to the Director, "Bioscience training of lunar mission crews," April 6, 1967.

April 7

Joseph F. Shea, MSC Apollo Spacecraft Program Office Manager, was appointed NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, with responsibility for technical aspects of the program.

George M. Low, MSC Deputy Director, would succeed Shea as ASPO Manager. Changes were to be effective April 10.

MSC Announcement 67-51, "Key Personnel Change," April 7, 1967.

April 8

A flash report sent to the NASA Apollo Program Director by ASPO Manager George M. Low at MSC informed him that all the fuel-cell gaseous- nitrogen titanium-alloy tanks were suspected of having contaminated welds. The problem was detected during an acceptance test. Preliminary investigation revealed the weld had become contaminated during girth weld repair, because of incomplete purging of the tank's interior. All rewelded tanks were therefore liable to be contaminated and records were inadequate to identify which tanks had been rewelded. The following actions had been directed by Low for use on spacecraft 017 and 020:

  1. cyclic and proof pressure test at pressures well above normal operating followed by x-ray and dye penetrant inspection on replacement tanks for spacecraft 017 fuel cells; and
  2. removal of the spacecraft 017 tanks and replacement with tanks subjected to (1) above was planned.
It was expected that this could be accomplished without removal of the fuel cells, and the replacement of the three tanks was not expected to affect the 017 schedule.

TWX, Low to NASA Hq., April 8, 1967.

April 8

MSC Structures and Mechanics Division Chief Joseph N. Kotanchik had strongly recommended that all B-nuts already installed in spacecraft be loosened to relieve any residual strain on nearby solder joints, ASPO Manager George M. Low informed CSM Manager Kenneth S. Kleinknecht. Kotanchik thought the leaks found in spacecraft 012 at KSC and in spacecraft 101 during test were most likely caused by creep. Loosening all joints, replacing them with voishan washers, and then retorquing them with procedures known not to cause strain, should be given serious consideration. Low pointed out this would also accomplish Kleinknecht's desires of being sure that all joints were torqued to proper limits.

Memo, Low to Kleinknecht, "Creep of solder joints," April 8, 1967.

April 10

MSC informed NASA Hq. that the spacecraft 017 inertial measurement unit (IMU) was being removed to replace capacitors that were suspect after a number of failures with qualified mylar capacitors. Replacement was expected to delay mechanical mating of the spacecraft and launch vehicle an estimated two days. The guidance and navigation subsystem would be retested during the integrated spacecraft system tests with the launch vehicle simulator. Headquarters was also advised that all other IMUs in the program had been retrofitted to eliminate the suspect capacitor. Five days later, CSM Manager Kenneth Kleinknecht told KSC that MSC understood that the original impact had been increased to five days, but asserted the change was still mandatory.

TWXs, George M. Low, MSC, to S. C. Phillips, NASA OMSF, April 10, 1967; Kleinknecht, MSC, to KSC, April 15, 1967.

April 10

MSC ASPO Manager George M. Low told Sydney C. Jones, Jr., MSC Communications and Power Branch, that he wanted to establish two task teams on CSM electrical systems. The first team would study the wiring harnesses on spacecraft 2TV-1 and 101 and all subsequent spacecraft to determine actions needed to save the harnesses as installed. Low asked: "Can a sufficient number of nylon wire bundle ties be replaced to meet the requirements of our new materials specification? Can silicone rubber padding and chafing guards be replaced? What fixes must be incorporated to meet requirements of the recent inspection activities? Has the harness been mistreated in recent months, as was mentioned to me by some of the astronauts? How about water glycol spillage in 101?" The task team was to include members from the Engineering and Development and Flight Crew Operations Directorates, the Flight Safety Office, and the Reliability, Quality, and Test Division. Low asked firm recommendations concerning the harnesses in spacecraft 2TV-1 and 101 by April 15 if possible.

The second task team would study flammable materials used with all other electrical systems. Low referred "specifically to the RTV [room temperature vulcanizing] used on the backs of circuit-breaker panels and elsewhere; the circuit breakers themselves; the electroluminescent panels; and any other materials generally associated with the electrical system." Low said Structures and Mechanics Division (SMD) had done some very promising work with coatings for the circuit-breaker panels but these coatings might not be applied to some of the panels because of the open mechanical elements of many of the switches. He recommended that Jones ask representatives from SMD, the Instrumentation and Electronics Systems Division, and the Flight Safety Office to work with him. Low asked Jones to let him know by April 12 when it would be possible to make specific recommendations as to what needed to be done.

Memo, Low to Jones, "Task Team assignments," April 10, 1967.

April 10

George Low requested William M. Bland, MSC, to take action on two recommendations made by MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth:

  1. Take stereo color photos of all spacecraft areas before they were closed out. This procedure had been invaluable during the Apollo Review Board's activities at KSC, and the same technique, applied during the manufacturing process of current spacecraft, might help answer questions raised subsequent to the closeout of an area and thereby save time.
  2. Make additional requirements for the use of cover plates over spacecraft wire bundles. Greater use of cover plates during manufacturing, test, and perhaps even flight would prevent damage during subsequent activities.
Memo, Low to Bland, "Stereo photographs of spacecraft activities," April 10, 1967.

April 10

An investigation at Grumman compared flammability characteristics of blankets representative of the external LM vehicle insulation with those of unshielded mylar blankets. When subjected to identical ignition sources, the mylar specimens burned during all phases of testing. Localized charring and perforation were the only visible signs of degradation in specimens simulating the LM shielding. The conclusion was that the protection of mylar blankets by H-Film in the LM configuration effectively decreased the likelihood of ignition from open flame or electrical arcing.

LM Engineering Memo, LMO-562-11, to addressees from B. Bell, "Flammability Characteristics of LM Thermal Shielding," April 10, 1967; ltr., E. Stern to MSC, Attn: R. Wayne Young, "Contract NAS 9-1100, Flammability Characteristics of LM Thermal Shielding," April 17, 1967.

April 14

NASA Hq. informed the Directors of the manned space flight Centers that responsibility for approval of pressure vessel tests was being returned to normal Center management channels. Because of the failure of the 503 launch vehicle S-IVB stage and other pressure vessel problems, testing had been restricted by the office of the Apollo Program Director. The Program Director now returned to the Center Directors "responsibility for approving pressurization tests of pressure vessels in spacecraft modules, launch vehicle stages, and ground support equipment within their Apollo program responsibilities."

TWX, Apollo Program Director to Center Directors, "Responsibility for Approval of Tests and Pressure Vessels," April 14, 1967.

April 14

CM mockup tests by the Structures and Mechanics Division at the MSC Thermochemical Test Area had shown that significant burning occurred in oxygen environments at a pressure of 11.4 newtons per square centimeter (16.5 psia). The tests, in which most of the major crew bay materials had been replaced by Teflon or Beta cloth, consisted of deliberately igniting crew bay materials sequentially in two places. The Division recommended that operation with oxygen at 11.4 newtons in the crew compartment be eliminated and that either air or oxygen at 3.5 newtons per sq cm (5 psia) be used. In reply, the ASPO Manager pointed out that "Dr. Gilruth has indicated a strong desire to avoid the use of air on the pad which requires subsequent spacecraft purges. Accordingly, we should maintain the option of launching with a pure oxygen cabin environment until such time as additional tests indicate it would not be feasible."

Memos, Chief, MSC Structures and Mechanics Div., to Manager, ASPO, "Use of 16.5 psia oxygen as a cabin environment," April 14, 1967; Manager, ASPO, to Joseph N. Kotanchik, "Command and Service Module environment at launch," April 18, 1967.

April 17

A meeting at MSC considered requirements of the Apollo flight program before the first lunar landing mission. Present were C. H. Perrine, MSC Mission Operations Division, and Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., Sigurd A. Sjoberg, John D. Hodge, Eugene F. Kranz, Morris V. Jenkins, and Robert E. Ernull, all of Flight Operations Directorate. Most significant opinions resulting from the meeting were:

  • Demonstrations of extravehicular transfer and CSM rescue of LM were not considered prerequisite to manned LM earth-orbital operations separated from the CSM.
  • A rendezvous exercise on Apollo 7 (CSM 101) with a "pod" would be worth attempting some time after the first day of the mission.
  • Unmanned burns of the LM ascent and descent propulsions systems, including fire-in-the-hole burns, were considered prerequisites to manning those functions. This prerequisite included manning of descent propulsion system burns.
  • Three manned earth-orbital flights of the CSM and LM in joint operations, plus a single CSM-alone flight, were considered the minimum number of missions in the primary program before the first potential lunar mission.
  • Although a lunar orbit mission should not be a step in the primary program, it should be part of the contingency plan in the event the CSM achieved lunar-mission capability before the LM did. The gains in operational experience were considered sufficient to justify the risk of such a mission.
  • Saturn V launch vehicles should be manned (i.e., should launch manned spacecraft) as soon as possible.
  • There was some question about the "manability" of LM-2.
Memo for File, Perrine, "Meeting with FOD on Apollo Flight Program," April 17, 1967.

April 18

ASPO Manager George M. Low pointed out to MSC Director of Engineering and Development Maxime A. Faget that apparently no single person at MSC was responsible for spacecraft wiring. Low said he would like to discuss naming a subsystem manager to follow this general area, including not only the wiring schematics, circuitry, circuit-breaker protection, etc., but also the detailed design, engineering, fabrication, and installation of wiring harnesses.

Memo, Low to Faget, "Subsystem manager for spacecraft wiring," April 18, 1967.

April 18

NASA Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips signed a directive defining the requirements, responsibilities, and inter-Center coordination necessary for development, control, and execution of test and checkout plans and procedures for preparing and launching Apollo-Saturn space vehicles at KSC.

Memo, Chief, Apollo Program Planning, NASA OMSF, to distr., "Apollo Weekly Status Report," April 21, 1967.

April 20-26

A fire broke out in the Bell Aerosystems Test Facility, Wheatfield, N.Y., at 2:30 a.m. April 20. Early analysis indicated the fire was started by overpressurization of the ascent engine's propellant- conditioning system, which caused the system relief valve to dump propellant into an overflow bucket. The bucket in turn overflowed and propellant spilled onto the floor, coming into contact with a highly oxidized steel grating. Contact was believed to have initiated combustion and subsequently an intense, short-duration fire. The fire began in the test facility building near the altitude chamber and fuel tanks and spread to the inside of the altitude chamber. Among the effects of the fire on the program were

  1. about four weeks' requirement to repair the LM ascent engine test facility,
  2. tests delayed accordingly, and
  3. delay of the acceptance test of the LM-2 ascent engine.
On April 26, a small localized fire occurred in Test Cell No. 3G at the Bell Aerosystems Test Center in Porter, N.Y. Preliminary reports indicated that a LM ascent engine bipropellant valve had been tested as a valve injector assembly but was not connected to an injector at the time of the fire. This valve was being purged with nitrogen on the fuel side and water on the oxidizer side in preparation for flushing. A very small quantity of fuel had spilled from the valve during hookup to the flush stand. When the water started to flush through the oxidizer side, a loose connector allowed oxidizer to come in contact with the spilled fuel and the fire resulted. No one was injured; damage was estimated at $250.

ASPO Manager George Low received a message from NASA Hq. May 3 expressing concern that the two fires within one week might be symptomatic of inadequate test procedures and personnel training, which could lead to a more serious accident. Headquarters requested results of the investigations and notice of corrective action taken to prevent future incidents.

TWXs, Low to NASA Hq., Attn: Apollo Program Director, April 26, 1967; NASA Hq. to Low, May 3, 1967.

April 21

NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller instructed NASA Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips, MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth, and KSC Director Kurt H. Debus to review all findings and recommendations of the Apollo 204 Review Board and assign responsibility to an appropriate person for

  1. program office evaluation of the findings and recommendations,
  2. the action to be taken on each finding or recommendation,
  3. the date on which this action was to be completed, and
  4. the preparation of a report closing out the accident.
Upon completion of items (1) and (2) above, the responsible subsystem or system manager was to review his evaluation and planned actions with the Chairman of the Board panel responsible for determining the findings and recommendations, to be sure that they had been properly interpreted. Appropriate certification of facts would be signed by the panel Chairman.

Mueller specified that "Review Boards at the two Centers, either assisting or set up for this review, should review the above actions with respect to the findings and recommendations of the 204 Review Board; and to each other to be sure that we have a consistent and adequate approach to the problems and that the statement of actions and the actions themselves are feasible, and are clearly enough expressed so as to be unambiguous in content."

The above actions were to be completed by April 28 and reported to NASA Hq. in a form that could be presented to Congress. (See May 9-10 entry.)

Memo, Mueller to Phillips, Gilruth, and Debus, April 21, 1967.

April 25

Samuel C. Phillips, NASA Apollo Program Director, formed a task group under the direction of Harold Russell of NASA Hq. to begin preparation of a detailed inspection standards publication.

The task force would use pictures and discrepancy reports, the Apollo 204 Review Board report, and special inspections of spacecraft 012, 014, 017, 020, and 101 and LM-1.

During preparation of the uniform set of manned space flight standards, the quality control and inspection standards Centers had previously imposed upon their contractors would not be changed without approval of the Apollo Program Office. Phillips estimated that the project might be completed in about a month.

TWX, Phillips to Robert R. Gilruth, MSC, Kurt H. Debus, KSC, and Wernher von Braun, MSFC, April 25, 1967.

April 26

Because of the amount of flammable material in spacecraft 017 and 020, MSC decided to purge these two spacecraft on the pad with gaseous nitrogen. The total amount of oxygen in the spacecraft at time of reentry would not exceed 14 percent. No tests would be conducted on these spacecraft with hatches closed when men were in the spacecraft.

TWX, ASPO Manager to NASA Hq., Attn: Apollo Program Director, April 26, 1967.

April 27

NASA Task Team - Block II Redefinition, CSM, was established by ASPO. The team - to be in residence at North American Aviation during the redefinition period - was to provide timely response to questions and inputs on detail design, overall quality and reliability, test and checkout, baseline conditions, configuration control, and schedules.

Astronaut Frank Borman was named Task Team Manager and group leaders were: Design, Aaron Cohen; Quality and Reliability and Test and Checkout Procedures, Scott H. Simpkinson; Materials, Jerry W. Craig; Specifications and Configuration Control, Richard E. Lindeman; and Scheduling, Douglas R. Broome.

Memo, Manager, CSM, Apollo Spacecraft Program, to addressees, "Block II redefinition, command and service modules," April 27, 1967.

April 27

Astronaut Donn F. Eisele. a member of the Block II Wiring Investigating Team, wrote the ASPO Manager his reservations as to whether the wiring in spacecraft 101 could be salvaged and made safe for flight. "To render positive assurance of wiring integrity, strong consideration should be given to replacing the entire 101 harness with a new, like item-made to the same drawings as the present harness, but constructed and installed under more rigorous quality control measures; and using non-flammable materials. The replacement harness should be installed at the outset in protective trays and covers now being implemented at NAA [North American Aviation]. A wiring overlay could be installed later, to accommodate recent spacecraft design changes, if adequate space is provided in the protective trays, connector support provisions, etc. This should provide a harness of good quality and known condition to start with; and the protection and quality control measures should keep its integrity intact." (Eisele was the pilot on the Apollo 7 mission - the first manned Apollo mission and the one on which spacecraft 101 was used.)

Ltr., Eisele to ASPO Manager, "Spacecraft 101 wiring," April 27, 1967.

April 28 - May 16

Spacecraft delivery date and ground rule discussions were summarized by MSC ASPO Manager George M. Low in a letter to North American Aviation's Apollo Program Manager Dale D. Myers. Low referred to an April 23 letter from Myers and April 25 talks at Downey, Calif.

Basic was "an MSC ground rule that the first manned flight should be an open-ended mission; and that 2TV-1 (a test spacecraft) would be a constraint on that mission. I also stated that I would like to achieve a delivery date for Spacecraft 101 that is no later than November, 1967, and that all constraining tests on 2TV-1 should be completed one month before the flight of 101. I further stated that the proposed delivery dates for Spacecraft 103 and subsequent spacecraft were not good enough and that we should strive to achieve earlier dates.

"In summary, we did not agree with the basic ground rules stated in your April 23, 1967, letter. These ground rules essentially implied that 101 was to be limited to a six-orbit mission, and to be delivered as early as possible at the expense of all other spacecraft. Instead, we stated that it is NASA's position to achieve a balanced program involving the earliest possible deliveries when all spacecraft are considered and not just the first one."

A further exchange of letters May 8 and 16 reached agreement on target delivery dates and ground rules. Testing of thermal vacuum test vehicle 2TV-1 would be as originally planned except that extravehicular activities would not be included in tests constraining CSM 101. Delivery date was to be October 14. CSM 101 was to be delivered December 8 and would be launched on a Saturn IB to verify system performance. The mission was to be open-ended, up to 10 days, with no LM and no docking or EVA provisions included. New delivery date for CSM 103 was March 23, 1968. Ltrs., Low to Myers, April 28 and May 8, 1967; Myers to Low, May 16, 1967.