Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations

Fiscal 1963

The history of the FY 1963 budget estimates for the construction of launch facilities, begun in late 1960 and continuing well past the beginning of the fiscal year itself, reflects the evolving organization, mission, and operational concepts of the Launch Operations Directorate. The initial estimates predated President Kennedy's announcement of the manned lunar landing program and had their basis in the Saturn C-1 vehicle program. Although these estimates did not include provision for a third Saturn launch complex, LOD suggested that it would need approximately $65 million should the number of launches increase enough to require a third complex. In such case the complex would be a duplicate of LC-37.6

In February 1961, NASA Headquarters called for preliminary FY 1963 estimates based on the ten-year plan approved by the Administrator. The LOD portion was to cover only the support services furnished all NASA activities and projects at the Atlantic and Pacific Missile Ranges.7 The President's 25 May 1961 announcement, however, altered the tempo and direction of planning, as did NASA's subsequent selection of Merritt Island as the site for the manned lunar landing program and the change in plans from the C-2 vehicle to the C-3.8

While the Debus-Davis Report of July 1961 [Chapter 4-8, 5-3] had concerned itself chiefly with the selection of a launch site for Apollo, it proved to be a key document also in fiscal planning. In a series of meetings during the hectic month of July 1961, LOD personnel submitted detailed budgetary figures on their areas of responsibility to Petrone's office. This they were able to do, based on their experience with previous programs. Bertram Greenglass consolidated and qualified the final report; in doing so, he foreshadowed the role he would later play as Petrone's alter ego on program control matters. A 1955 graduate of New York University, Greenglass had begun his association with rocketry at Redstone Arsenal in 1956. His rise from Army Private First Class to a high NASA position by the age of thirty was meteoric.9 When Petrone moved up to Apollo program management for launch facilities, Greenglass would serve as his comptroller, handling contract management, manpower, and funding.

The decision, announced in August 1961, to acquire new land for the lunar program mandated a revision of the FY 1963 program for construction of facilities. Intensive planning marked the remaining months of 1961. NASA Headquarters applied pressure on LOD, particularly in the form of frequent telephone calls, to produce FY 1963 project documents for budgetary purposes. The Facilities Office, responsible for engineering and construction, prepared the CoF project documents.

While its own planning continued apace during September and October, LOD held frequent meetings with Air Force representatives of the Atlantic Missile Range. Using the Debus-Davis Report as a guide, this joint group developed a range development plan for the lunar program. The plan contained rough cost estimates for support facilities, but did not include requirements for a new Saturn launch complex.

Following these meetings, LOD staff sections held a series of lengthy meetings of their own during November and December. Using the range development plan as a basis, LOD refined the estimates for support facilities and also developed requirements for the advanced Saturn launch complex. Based on the technical data that emerged from both series of meetings, J. F. Burke and C. J. Hall of the Facilities Office developed and evaluated a series of project documents for the FY 1963 CoF program. Bidgood, Parker, and Petrone approved these documents before passing them on to Debus and Huntsville for approval en route to Washington.10

On 13 December, LOD gave NASA Headquarters some of the details of its FY 1963 requirements for the advanced Saturn launch complex, based on "the presently known C-3 vehicle," but capable of handling larger vehicles at increased cost. The estimate for the launch complex reached $167 million, exclusive of land acquisition. The proposed complex consisted of three major operating areas: a vertical assembly and checkout area, an intermediate area, and a launch area. Major requirements included a vertical assembly building, a launch control center to be located within the VAB, a transport system, a stationary ordnance arming tower, and two launch pads.11

Reorienting itself to the Saturn C-5 program, and considering that NASA had not yet chosen between the three mission modes, LOD in early 1962 redefined its CoF program for the next fiscal year and prepared 14 detailed project documents, with cost estimates and justification for each. All of the facilities and ground support equipment described in the project documents were still in the study or design phase; and much of the technical data furnished in the budget, though based on the best information available at the time, later proved unsatisfactory.

These 14 documents, constituting LOD's total construction of facilities budget for FY 1963, asked for $359,963,000. Eight of these 14 requests, representing 98% of the total, pertained directly to the manned lunar landing program.12 The largest single item sought $176,550,000 for launch complex 39. LOD stated that it would "provide the necessary capability for launching the Advanced Saturn vehicle."13 Yet the huge outlay for LC-39 represented only about 40% of the total complex cost, and covered only long-lead-time items that had to be started promptly to meet operation dates.