Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations

The Boeing-TIE Contract

To strengthen program management further, NASA entered into a contract with the Boeing Company to assist and support the NASA Apollo organization in the performance of specific technical integration and evaluation functions. NASA retained responsibility for final technical decisions.83 This Boeing-TIE contract, as it came to be called at KSC, proved the most controversial of all post-fire precautions. Many in middle or lower echelons at KSC criticized it. They looked upon it as a public relations scheme to convince Congress of NASA's sincere effort to promote safety.

Even NASA Headquarters found it difficult to explain to a congressional subcommittee either the expenditure of $73 million in one year on the contract, or that it had hired a firm to inspect work which that firm itself performed. As a matter of fact one segment of the Boeing firm - that working under the TIE contract - had to check on another, the one that worked on the first stage of Saturn V. Mueller explained to the committee that "the Boeing selection for the TIE contract. . . . was based upon the fact that this was an extension of the work [Boeing personnel] were already doing in terms of integrating the Saturn V launch vehicle."84

When a member of the committee staff called Mueller's attention to the fact that Boeing had problems with its own specific share of the total effort, Mueller's defense of the contract rested on the old adage that "nothing succeeds like success." He felt that if the total program succeeded, the nation would no longer question specific aspects and expenditures.85

Boeing sent 771 people to KSC, one-sixth of the total it brought onto NASA installations under the TIE contract. In such a speedy expansion, the quality of performance was spotty. The "TIE-ers" were to find it difficult to get data from other contractors, as well as from NASA personnel. The men at KSC felt they had the personnel to do themselves what the TIE-ers were attempting to do.

The TIE statement of work at KSC carried a technical description of twelve distinct task areas: program integration, engineering evaluation, program control, interface and configuration management, safety, test, design certification reviews, flight readiness reviews, logistics, mission analysis, Apollo Space System Engineering Team, and program assurance.86

Many KSC personnel felt that the TIE contract was too much like the General Electric contract they had fought a few years before. In this they forgot that the earlier contract had been a permanent one, which would have given GE access to its competitors' files, and thus involved a conflict of interest. The Boeing-TIE contract had a specific purpose and a time limit. NASA made the arrangement on an annual basis. Further, those who criticized the number of Boeing personnel forgot that one could not assess the size of the problem until he investigated it.

The TIE personnel located and defined delays in the progress of equipment to the Kennedy Space Center. They spotted deficiencies in equipment. They discovered erroneous color coding of lines, for instance, that might have caused a disaster. The insulation of pipes had obscured the color and men had improperly tagged the sources of propellants and gases. When tests at KSC proved changes of equipment necessary, the TIE personnel expedited these changes. They set down time schedules for necessary adjustments. They eliminated extraneous material from the interface control documents. But it remains difficult to assess the exact contribution of the TIE contract.87

Far more important than the efforts of the 771 Boeing-TIE personnel, or any specific recommendation of the review board (except perhaps that calling for a new hatch design), the most significant difference at Kennedy Space Center was a larger awareness of how easily things could go wrong. For a long time no test or launch would be thought of as a foregone success.

Most important of all, in spite of the disaster, the President, the Congress, the nation, and NASA itself determined that the moon landing program would go on with the hope of coming as close to President Kennedy's target date as possible.