Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations

A Reorganization

During the latter launches of the Saturn I program, contractors began to assume responsibility for mission operations - responsibility that civil servants had previously exercised. The transition, completed during the Saturn IB launches, proved a difficult one for many government employees. Many did not want to manage other men, preferring instead to apply their engineering skills directly to the hardware. Veterans of the Debus team recall the change in their status as one of the significant events in the Apollo launch program. Aside from the personal impact, the molding together of the various contractor teams under government management ranks as one of the great accomplishments at KSC.

The problems brought on by the changing role of contractor and civil servant gave impetus to a center reorganization in early 1966. On 17 January Debus told his senior staff that the Office of Manned Space Flight, while voicing the highest praise for KSC's launch operations to date, was concerned about its readiness to handle the upcoming Apollo-Saturn launch preparations. The ensuing study of the management structure was conducted by a KSC task force headed by Deputy Director Albert Siepert, assisted by John Young from NASA Headquarters. General Medaris, former commander of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency, contributed an independent study for the launch center. The study groups concentrated on two problem areas that affected Apollo: the need to clarify and separate the duties of Apollo program management from other center-wide activities, and the liaison of the center with its contractors.35

Following the review and evaluation, Debus sent to Headquarters formal proposals to realign KSC's administrative organization. A major change involved the creation of two-deputy director posts. The Deputy Director, Operations, would be responsible for engineering matters and technical operations. The Deputy Director, Management, would handle relations with contractors, other government agencies, and the community, and direct the development of management concepts and policies. Two new departments were added. Most of KSC's design functions were centralized under a Director of Design Engineering. He would be responsible for monitoring and issuing technical directions to design support contractors, and the Corps of Engineers. The other new department, Installation Support, would take over housekeeping services: plant maintenance, supply transportation, documentation security, safety, and quality surveillance. In both cases, the new departments concentrated functions that had previously been scattered among several elements of the launch center.36

Debus proposed an important change in the launch operations organization to provide strong and clear direction during the performance of preflight and launch operations. Test management, as a discrete function, was set up at the top Launch Operations level, with counterparts at the Launch Vehicle and Spacecraft Operations directorates. These offices would plan and direct launch operations, with a specific individual in charge of each mission. The test manager would be just that - a manager, not merely a coordinator as had generally been the case in the past. In this capacity, he would be responsible for the mission hardware from the time of its arrival at the center to the launch. Engineers in various operational areas would be assigned to assist the test manager when required. These specialists, however, would not have authority to give formal instructions to the contractors performing the work; they were to provide only informal technical guidance. Formal instructions could come only from the test manager.

The reorganization altered the civil servant-contractor relationship in several important ways. The Director of Design Engineering assumed responsibility for all KSC hardware development contracts, construction and modification contracts, as well as the design engineering support contracts. Lines for reporting were streamlined so that other major contractors reported to a single KSC element. The changes established a specific chain of command for each launch and helped the government provide the contractors with formal direction, informal instruction, and a better evaluation of performance. Administrator Webb signed the new KSC organizational chart on 27 April and the changes were phased in through the remainder of the year.37