The Apollo Spacecraft - A Chronology.

Part 2 (E)

Recovery, Spacecraft Redefinition, and First Manned Apollo Flight

October 1967


October 2

Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips, NASA Hq., reaffirmed that the following was the best course of action to follow with LM-2 and LM-3 : "Decide now to configure LM-2 for its unmanned contingency mission and reassign LM-3 to join with CSM 103 for a manned CSM-LM mission. In the event the LM-2 unmanned contingency mission is not required, LM-2 could be reworked to manned configuration and cycled back into the GAEC [Grumman] line for later delivery. On this basis, LM-2 could be delivered in unmanned configuration in late January 1968, or immediately after the Apollo 5 flight, and could be flown on AS-206 about 3½ months after delivery; i.e., in May 1968. The outlook for LM-3 indicates an April 1968 delivery which appears to be compatible with the expected delivery date of CSM 103."

Memos, Phillips to R. C. Seamans, Oct. 2, 1967; G. E. Mueller to Seamans, "LM-2 Configuration," Oct. 2, 1967.

October 5

An exchange of correspondence between MSC and North American Rockwell emphasized the seriousness of the spacecraft weight problem. Accurate and timely weight visibility was of paramount importance for weight control and resulted from proper implementation and control of weight prediction, weight control from design initiation, and weight status reporting. To ensure visibility, North American Rockwell was instituting a program that would use system design personnel in weight prediction and reporting. Preliminary design personnel in the Design Requirements Group were designated to integrate the effort.

Ltrs., George M. Low, MSC, to Dale D. Myers, North American Rockwell Corp., Aug. 1, 1967; Low to Myers, Aug. 17, 1967; Myers to Low, Oct. 5, 1967.

October 5-15

MSC established an Apollo Spacecraft Incident Investigation and Reporting Panel, with Scott H. Simpkinson as chairman. Panel members would be selected from ASPO, the Flight Safety Office, and the Engineering and Development Directorate. In addition, members would be assigned from the RASPO offices at Downey, Bethpage, and KSC when incidents occurred at their locations. All incidents suspected of directly affecting the safety of the spacecraft or its ground support equipment and all incidents that represented a hazard to personnel working in the area were to be investigated and reported. Incidents having a cost impact of over $5,000 or a schedule impact of 24 hours would also be reported to the panel chairman and considered for investigation. Panel membership was announced October 16. The following day, a letter from Simpkinson to panel members established procedures for investigating and reporting incidents.

MSC Announcement No. 67-136, "Apollo Spacecraft Incident Investigation and Reporting Panel," Oct. 5, 1967; list of members and alternates of Apollo Spacecraft Incident Investigating and Reporting Panel, Oct. 16, 1967; ltr., Scott H. Simpkinson to Apollo Spacecraft Incident Investigation and Reporting Panel, "Implementation of an Apollo Spacecraft Incident Investigation and Reporting Panel," Oct. 16, 1967

October 8

Because of wind conditions, an abort of the Apollo spacecraft from a Saturn V in the near-pad region would result in land impact. To ensure the maximum potential safe recovery of the crew during a near-pad abort, certain forms of preparation within the abort area were being considered. Tests were being prepared at MSC and KSC to determine the most favorable soil condition for spacecraft landing. The capability of the spacecraft to sustain a land impact was also being investigated by MSC.

Memo, G. M. Low, MSC, to R. O. Middleton, KSC, "Improvement of landing areas for Apollo near pad aborts," Oct. 8, 1967.

October 10

A series of meetings discussed the oxygen purge system (OPS) program status and design configuration. The following conclusions were reached:

  • The OPS theoretical reliability for completion of a 30-minute operation time was extremely high and would not be appreciably improved by the addition of redundant systems or components.
  • Capability for preoperational checkout in the LM was desirable and was incorporated into the OPS design.
  • Manual actuation was preferable to automatic actuation and was reflected in the design.
Memo, Maxime A. Faget, MSC, to ASPO Manager, "Oxygen purge system (OPS) review," Oct. 10, 1967.

October 12

Key MSC and NASA Headquarters management changes were announced at a press conference at MSC. George S. Trimble, Jr., was transferred from NASA OMSF to serve as Deputy Director of MSC. Eberhard F. M. Rees of MSFC would be temporarily assigned as a Special Assistant on Manufacturing Problems to George M. Low, ASPO Manager. Edgar M. Cortright was named as Deputy to George E. Mueller at OMSF. Participating in the press conference were NASA Administrator James E. Webb, Mueller, MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth, Trimble, and MSC Public Affairs Officer Paul P. Haney.

Press Conference Transcript, Tape A, Oct. 12, 1967, pp. 1, 2.

October 12

ASPO Manager George Low submitted a memorandum for the record on the September 29 decision not to check out the spacecraft 101 entry monitor system (EMS). He said: ". . . it has come to my attention that this decision had been based on incomplete information. Because the EMS incorporates both the Delta V counter and the .05 g indication on Block II spacecraft, this system is required for all missions, including 101. . . . "I verbally directed North American on October 10, 1967, that this system will be checked out on Spacecraft 101."

Memo for Record, Low, "Checkout of entry monitor system," Oct. 12, 1967.

October 13

In an effort to keep a tight rein on changes made in spacecraft, the Apollo Spacecraft Configuration Control Board (CCB) established the following ground rules:

  • All changes on CSMs 101 and 103 and LM-3, no matter how small, would now be considered by the Senior Board only and not by any of the panels.
  • Only mandatory changes would be considered for CSMs 101 and 103 and LM-3.
  • Final implementation of all changes must be concluded within 30 days after a contract change authorization was written, and no change in implementation would be allowed without a new review by the MSC CCB.
  • No changes would be made on LM-6 and subsequent LMs and CSM 107 and subsequent CSMs unless they were also on LM-5 and CSM 106 or unless the Senior CCB made a special exception to this rule. The purpose was to make certain that the configurations of the mission simulators and the Mission Control Center could be stabilized.
  • Board members would generally be chairmen of subsidiary Configuration Control Panels and would not delegate this chairmanship. Thus Donald K. Slayton would chair the Simulator Panel, Maxime A. Faget would chair the panel that passed on government furnished equipment items (see October 18), and probably Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., would chair the Software Control Panel (the last position had not yet been decided).
An additional step to gain a better understanding of the configuration baseline was taken by appointing Jesse F. Goree responsible for configuration management.

Ltr., George M. Low, MSC, to Samuel C. Phillips, NASA Hq., Oct. 14, 1967.

October 13

A proposal to use a Ballute system rather than drogue parachutes to deploy the main chutes on the Apollo spacecraft was rejected. It was conceded that the Ballute system would slightly reduce dynamic pressure and command module oscillations at main parachute deployment. However, these advantages would be offset by the development risks of incorporating a new and untried system into the Apollo spacecraft at such a late date.

Ltr., George M. Low, MSC, to Robert T. Madden, Goodyear Aerospace Corp., Oct. 13, 1967.

October 17

NASA Hq. informed MSC that NASA Deputy Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., had approved the project approval document authorizing four additional CSMs beyond No. 115A. MSC was requested to proceed with all necessary procurement actions required to maintain production capability in support of projected schedules for these items.

TWX, George E. Mueller, NASA Hq., to Director Robert R. Gilruth, MSC, Oct. 17, 1967.

October 18

A conference at NASA Hq. discussed Headquarters and MSC operational problems in the lunar sample program, including the Lunar Receiving Laboratory (LRL). Associate Administrator for Space Science and Applications John E. Naugle chaired the meeting. Lunar Receiving Operations Director John E. Pickering of NASA OMSF discussed plans - approved by the Department of Agriculture; Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; and Department of Interior - for quarantine of the returned astronauts and lunar materials, and noted that the NASA Administrator or his designee would approve release of astronauts and lunar samples from quarantine on the advice and recommendations of the Interagency Committee on Back Contamination. Pickering also noted that "many of the problems concerning quarantine operations at the LRL were due to

  1. lack of clearly defined responsibilities for the Medical Research and Operations and Science and Applications Directorates,
  2. the lack of proven competence and maturity of the LRL staff, and
  3. an integrated operational plan.
"MSC Director of Science and Applications Wilmot N. Hess indicated that item (1) was resolved by a memorandum of understanding between MSC Director of Medical Research and Operations Charles A. Berry and himself but that MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth had not approved it. Hess also pointed out that an operational plan was being developed, but that LRL was primarily a scientific laboratory, not just a quarantine facility. This statement was disputed in view of the fact that the LRL was justified to Congress on the basis of a need for a quarantine facility.

Memo, V. R. Wilmarth, NASA Hq., to distr., "Conference on Lunar Sample Program," Oct. 26, 1967.

October 18

MSC's Director of Engineering and Development Maxime A. Faget, at the request of the ASPO Manager, established a Configuration Control Panel (CCP) for government furnished equipment (GFE). The panel would integrate control of changes in the GFE items supplied for the Apollo spacecraft. "Authority to bring change recommendations to the GFE Panel will be invested in Division Chiefs. Changes rejected by the Division Chiefs need not be reviewed by the GFE CCP," the memorandum establishing the panel said. Membership on the panel was as follows: Chairman, Maxime A. Faget; Alternate Chairman, James A. Chamberlin; Members, Richard S. Johnston, Robert A. Gardiner, R. W. Sawyer (sic), and William C. Bradford. Secretary would be John B. See. (See also October 13.)

Memo, Faget to distr., "E&D/Apollo GFE Configuration Control Panel," Oct. 18, 1967.

October 20

In an effort to meet a mid-April 1968 delivery date for LM-3, Grumman made a number of organizational changes. Top level direction was strengthened by adding experienced managers in strategic positions and by reinforcing the Grumman LM organization with more management talent and additional test personnel. A spacecraft director for each vehicle was brought into the program for LM-2, -3, -4, and -5, with responsibility for overall Grumman support of individual vehicles from cradle to grave.

Ltr., L. J. Evans, Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp., to G. M. Low, MSC, Oct. 20, 1967.

October 20

The SM reaction control system (RCS) for spacecraft 101 was criticized by C&SM RCS Subsystem Manager Ralph J. Taeuber. The results of the 101 RCS checkout, he said, "illustrate what we believe to be a lack of adequate workmanship and quality control during the manufacture and checkout of the RCS system. A total of 352 squawks have been written against the S/C 101 SM RCS and quad A has only been partially tested. This high number of discrepancies, most of which cannot be directly related to design deficiencies, is mute testimony to our contention. Test units of the RCS have been built at MSC from scratch with no significant problems either during manufacturing, checkout, or test firing. Thus we have demonstrated that the system can be built successfully even without the specialized equipment and facilities at NAA. Furthermore, NAA has fabricated a number of units with a minimum of discrepancies. . . ."

CSM Manager Kenneth S. Kleinknecht enclosed Taeuber's memorandum and a summary engine failure report written by McDonnell Douglas Corp. after completion of the Gemini program in an October 26 letter to North American Rockwell's Apollo CSM Program Manager Dale D. Myers. Kleinknecht pointed out: "Their conclusion that system contamination was the most likely source of failure in flight, coupled with the fact that the Mercury Program was also plagued with a similar problem, and added to the facts presented in the report by Mr. Ralph Taeuber leads me to believe that positive action must be taken to tighten up the quality control, both at North American Rockwell Corporation and at all subcontractors and vendors that supply the parts for the Apollo RCS. . . . Something must be done to consistently bring the contamination of this system down to an acceptable level. The numerous problems with corrosion and foreign matter are occurring so frequently that it is possible we have other quality or procedural failure modes that are hidden by the constant and over-riding failure modes associated with contamination."

Kleinknecht added that he expected to receive within two weeks a written notice from North American that it was implementing a plan for corrective action and that the plan must include corrective action at the subcontractor and vendor levels.

Myers advised Kleinknecht December 4 that, to determine the cause of the recent valve failures from internal contamination, North American Quality & Reliability Assurance had begun an accelerated investigation October 22. All RCS valve suppliers were investigated, and one supplier was found to have introduced an improper cleaning sequence on an assembled helium-isolation valve, resulting in trapped deionized water in the valve. Valves suspected of moisture contamination were removed from the RCS and, after the supplier corrected the irregularities in his cleaning operation, the valves were returned for rework under North American source inspection surveillance. At the plant of the sub-tier supplier responsible for cleaning the valves that failed on spacecraft 101, a North American source inspector was now required to review the supplier's shop planning and indicate product acceptance by witnessing and verifying newly inserted inspection points on the supplier's in-process paper work.

Myers said that, as pointed out in Kleinknecht's letter, "systems and component contamination were a serious quality and technical problem faced by all major space programs. To rationalize these problems as workmanship and inspection errors introduced the risk of creating misdirected effort that attacks the result instead of the cause.

"The investigation and remedial action taken on the helium valves was a logical and aggressive response to apparent quality problems and is directed toward correcting both the unsatisfactory condition and eliminating the factors that cause the condition to develop. Suspected hardware was immediately removed from the production cycle, inspection surveillance was increased at critical points in the process to insure against continuation of the problem, and a longer range program was implemented to provide extra assurance that similar problems do not exist or develop at other suppliers.

"The process control investigation that revealed the cause of trouble with the helium valve was being expanded to include a re-evaluation of all suppliers involved with cleaning valves, regulators, etc., used in the Apollo CSM. In addition to a fresh look at the suppliers fabrication and cleaning activities, the process evaluation is a comprehensive review of North American and supplier specifications for compatibility between the requirements for one assembly and the next, and a re-survey of the suppliers facilities to assure he has the technical capability and equipment to meet the stringent Apollo CSM quality requirements. The plan of action for this process study is being developed, and action to the plan will commence within a week."

Memo, Taeuber to S. H. Simpkinson, MSC, "S/C 101 SM RCS Checkout," Oct. 20, 1967; ltrs., Kleinknecht to Myers, Oct. 26, 1967; Myers to Kleinknecht, Dec. 4, 1967.

October 28

The following ground rules were established for extravehicular activity planning. The EVA transfer would be demonstrated and thermal-degradation samples retrieved during the AS-503/103/LM-3 (Apollo 8) mission. No other pre-lunar-landing mission would include planned EVA exercises. The first lunar landing mission would be planned with two EVA excursions.

Memo, George M. Low to distr., "Mainline Apollo EVA Policy," Oct. 28, 1967.

October 28

Plans were to use 100-percent oxygen in the CSM cabin during prelaunch operations for manned flights but, since flammability tests of the CSM were not finished, the possibility existed that air might be used instead of pure oxygen. Therefore, contingency plans would be developed to use air in the cabin during the prelaunch operations so that a change would not delay the program.

Memo, G. M. Low, MSC, to R. O. Middleton, KSC, "Possible use of air in the CSM cabin during prelaunch operations," Oct. 28, 1967.

October 30

Confirming an October 27 telephone conversation, ASPO Manager George M. Low recommended to Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips that the following LM delivery schedule be incorporated into official documentation: LM-2, February 5, 1968; LM-3, April 6, 1968; LM-4, June 6, 1968. Subsequent vehicles would be delivered on two-month centers. The dates had been provided by Grumman during the last Program Management Review. Ltr., Low to Phillips, Oct. 30, 1967.

October 30

Actions on television cameras were reported by ASPO Manager George M. Low to Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips:

  • During the Apollo spacecraft redefinition effort; a decision was made to fly the Block I TV camera in the CSM and the Block II TV camera in the LM. It was also decided that the CSM onboard TV camera could not be used for monitoring hazardous tests.
  • In recent weight-saving exercises, those decisions were reexamined and a conclusion was reached that no TV camera would be carried in the CSM. This would not only save four kilograms directly but would also reduce the required stowage space and reduce the overall weight by minimizing the number of required containers.
  • A decision was made to stow the Block II TV camera in the descent stage during the lunar mission. There would still be a requirement for checking out the lunar TV camera in earth orbit to ensure that it would work on the lunar surface. For that reason, it was planned to carry the camera in the ascent stage on the LM-3 mission, and in the descent stage on subsequent vehicles.
Low said, "Our present plans for TV in Apollo spacecraft call for the use of facility cameras to monitor hazardous testing on the ground. There will not be any television equipment in the Command Module on any flight."

Ltr., Low to Phillips, Oct. 30, 1967.


A parachute test (Apollo Drop Test 84-1) failed at EI Centro, Calif. The parachute test vehicle (PTV) was dropped from a C-133A aircraft at an altitude of 9,144 meters to test a new 5-meter drogue chute and to investigate late deployment of one of the three main chutes. Launch and drogue chute deployment occurred as planned, but about 1.5 seconds later both drogue chutes prematurely disconnected from the PTV. A backup emergency drogue chute installed in the test vehicle and designed to be deployed by ground command in the event of drogue chute failure also failed to operate. The PTV fell for about 43 seconds before the main chutes were deployed. Dynamic pressure at the time of chute deployment was estimated at about 1.2 newtons per square centimeter (1.7 pounds per square inch). All parachutes failed at or shortly after main parachute line stretch. The PTV struck the ground in the drop zone and was buried about 1.5 meters. An accident investigation board was formed at El Centro to survey mechanical components and structures, fabric components, and electrical and sequential systems. R. B. West, Earth Landing System Subsystem Manager, represented NASA in the investigation. It was determined that two primary failures had occurred:

  1. failure of both drogue parachute-reefing systems immediately after deployment; and
  2. failure of the ground-radio-commanded emergency-programmer parachute system to function.

On November 3, a preliminary analysis of the drop test failure was made at Downey Calif., with representatives of NASA, North American Rockwell, and Northrop participating. The failure of the drogue, being tested for the first time, was determined to be a result of the failure of the reefing ring attachment to the canopy skirt. The reason the ring attachment failed seemed to be lack of a good preflight load analysis and an error in the assumption used to determine the load capacity of the attachment. The failure of the deployment of the emergency system was still being investigated.

TWX, George M. Low to Director, Apollo Program Office, NASA Hq., Oct. 31, 1967; memos, Milton A Silveira to Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, "Failure which occurred on Apollo Drop Test 84-1," Oct. 31, 1967; "Further information on Apollo Drop Test 84-1 failure," Nov. 1, 1967; and "Results of Preliminary Analysis of Apollo Drop Test 84-1 Failure," Nov. 6, 1967.