PART 3 (B)

Lunar Orbit Rendezvous: Mode and Module

January 1962 through March 1962

1962 January

1962 February

1962 March


January 5

NASA made public the drawings of the three-man Apollo spacecraft to be used in the lunar landing development program, On January 9, NASA announced its decision that the Saturn C-5 would be the lunar launch vehicle.

Washington Evening Star, January 5, 1962; Washington Post, January 10, 1962.

January 11

In his State of the Union message to the Congress, President John F . Kennedy said: "With the approval of this Congress, we have undertaken in the past year a great new effort in outer space. Our aim is not simply to be first on the moon, any more than Charles Lindbergh's real aim was to be first to Paris. His aim was to develop the techniques and the authority of this country and other countries in the field of the air and the atmosphere, and our objective in making this effort, which we hope will place one of our citizens on the moon, is to develop in a new frontier of science, commerce and cooperation, the position of the United States and the free world. This nation belongs among the first to explore it. And among the first - if not the first - we shall be."

Senate Staff Report, Documents on International Aspects of the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, 1954- 1962, p. 228.

January 15

The Apollo Spacecraft Project Office (ASPO) was established at MSC. Charles W. Frick was selected as Manager of the new Office, to assume his duties in February. Frick had been Chief of Technical Staff for General Dynamics Convair. Robert O. Piland was appointed Deputy Manager of ASPO and would serve as Acting Manager until Frick's arrival. ASPO would be responsible for the technical direction of NAA and other industrial contractors assigned to work on the Apollo spacecraft. All technical coordination with NAA or with other contractors on the Apollo project would be coordinated through this Office. The Manager of ASPO would be responsible for keeping the Director and Associate Director of MSC fully advised on the status of the program.

MSC Announcement No. 10, Establishment of the Apollo Spacecraft Project Office, January 15, 1962.

January 22

The first Apollo engineering order was issued to fabricate mockups of the Apollo command and service modules.

Oakley, Historical Summary, S&ID Apollo Program, p. 5.

January 26

Ranger III was launched toward the moon from the Atlantic Missile Range by an Atlas-Agena B booster. Because of a malfunction in the Agena guidance system, the spacecraft missed its target by 22,862 miles and eventually went into solar orbit. Of four scientific experiments only one was partially completed: gamma-ray readings of the lunar surface. Attempts to relay television pictures of the moon and to bounce radar signals off the moon at close range were unsuccessful.

New York Times, January 29, 1962.

During the Month

NAA engineers began preliminary layouts to define the elements of the command module (CM) configuration. Additional requirements and limitations imposed on the CM included reduction in diameter, paraglider compatibility, 250 pounds of radiation protection water, redundant propellant tankage for the attitude control system, and an increase in system weight and volume.

Layouts were also being prepared to identify equipment requirements in the CM aft compartment, while layouts depicting the position and orientation of the three crewmen during various phases of the lunar flight were complete.

Basic load paths for the CM inner structure, an access door through the outer structure, and the three side wall hatches for crew entrance and exit had been tentatively defined. The CM inner structure was currently of bonded aluminum honeycomb, the outer structure of high-temperature, brazed steel honeycomb.

NAA, Apollo Monthly Progress Report, SID 62-300-1, January 31, 1962, pp. l5-16.

During the Month

Command module heatshield requirements, including heating versus time curves, were established by NAA for several design trajectories. A computer program method of analyzing the charring ablation process had been developed. By this means, it was possible to calculate the mass loss, surface char layer temperature, amount of heat conducted through the uncharred ablation material and insulation into the cabin, and temperature profile through the ablator and insulation layers. In February, NAA determined that a new and more refined computer program would be needed.

Apollo Monthly Progress Report, SID 62-300-1, p. 1.

During the Month

The solid propellant called for in the original NAA proposal on the service module propulsion system was replaced by a storable, hypergolic propellant. Multitank configurations under study appeared to present offloading capabilities for alternative missions.

Apollo Monthly Progress Report, SID 62-300-1, p. 18.


The Requests for Quotation on production contracts for major components of the Apollo spacecraft guidance and navigation system, comprising seven separate items, were released to industry by the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory. (The Source Evaluation Board, appointed on January 31, began its work during the week of March 5 and contractors were selected on May 8.)

Interview with Ralph Ragan, Instrumentation Laboratory, MIT, April 27, 1966; Apollo Spacecraft Project Office, MSC, Weekly Activity Report, March 5-10, 1962; memorandum, Robert C. Seamans, Jr., to MSC, Attn: Robert R. Gilruth, "Appointment of Source Evaluation Board," January 31, 1962.


The Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation developed a detailed, company-funded study on the lunar orbit rendezvous technique: characteristics of the system (relative cost of direct ascent, earth orbit rendezvous, and lunar orbit rendezvous); developmental problems (communications, propulsion); and elements of the system (tracking facilities, etc.). Joseph M. Gavin was appointed in the spring to head the effort, and Robert E. Mullaney was designated program manager.

Interview with Saul Ferdman, Director of Space Vehicle Development, Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, May 2, 1966.

February 6

John C. Houbolt of Langley Research Center and Charles W. Mathews of MSC made a presentation of lunar orbit rendezvous versus earth orbit rendezvous to the Manned Space Flight Management Council.

MSF Management Council Minutes, February 6, 1962, p. 1.

February 7

At his regular press conference, President John F. Kennedy was asked for his "evaluation of our progress in space at this time" and whether the United States had changed its "timetable for landing a man on the moon." He replied: "As I said from the beginning, we have been behind . . . and we are running into the difficulties which came from starting late, We, however, are going to proceed by making a maximum effort. As you know, the expenditures in our space program are enormous . . . the time schedule, at least our hope, has not been changed by the recent setbacks [Ranger failures]."

Washington Post, February 8, 1962.

February 7

On the basis of a study by NAA, a single-engine configuration was chosen as the optimum approach for the service module propulsion subsystem. The results of the study were presented to MSC representatives and NAA was authorized to issue a work statement to begin procurement of an engine for this configuration. Agreement was also reached at this meeting on a vacuum thrust level of 20,000 pounds for the engine. This would maintain a thrust-to-weight ratio of 0.4 and allow a considerable increase in the lunar liftoff weight of the spacecraft.

NAA, Apollo Monthly Progress Report, SID 62-300-2, February 28, 1962, p. 46.

February 9

Robert R. Gilruth, MSC Director, in a letter to NASA Headquarters, described the Ad Hoc Lunar Landing Module Working Group which was to be under the direction of the Apollo Spacecraft Project Office. The Group would determine what constraints on the design of the lunar landing module were applicable to the effort of the Lewis Research Center. Gilruth asked that Eldon W. Hall represent NASA Headquarters in this Working Group. [At this time, the lunar landing module was conceived as being that part of the spacecraft which would actually land on the moon and which would contain the propulsion system necessary for launch from the lunar surface and injection into transearth trajectory. Pending a decision on the lunar mission mode, the actual configuration of the module was not yet clearly defined.]

Letter, Gilruth, MSC, to NASA Headquarters, Attn: Mr. Rosen, "Formation of Lunar Landing Module Ad Hoc Working Group," February 9, 1962.

February 9

NASA announced that the General Electric Company had been selected for a major supporting role in the Apollo project, to provide integration analysis of the total space vehicle (including booster-spacecraft interface), ensure reliability of the entire space vehicle, and develop and operate a checkout system.

U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Science and Astronautics, Astronautical and Aeronautical Events of 1962, Report of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 88th Congress, 1st Session (1963), p. 15.

February 13

A contract for the escape rocket of the Apollo spacecraft launch escape system was awarded to the Lockheed Propulsion Company by NAA. The initial requirements were for a 200,000-pound-thrust solid- propellant rocket motor with an active thrust-vector-control subsystem. After extensive study, Lockheed was directed to remove the control subsystem. A letter contract change was subsequently made with Lockheed to develop and manufacture a pitch-control motor to replace the thrust-vector-control subsystem. In conjunction with the use of the pitch-control motor, the escape-motor thrust was reduced to 155,000 pounds.

Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 1, p. 10; Oakley, Historical Summary, S&ID Apollo Program, p. 6; TWX, NAA to MSC, February 12, 1962.

February 13-15

A meeting on the technical aspects of earth orbit rendezvous was held at NASA Headquarters. Representatives from various NASA offices attended: Arthur L. Rudolph, Paul J. DeFries, Fred L. Digesu, Ludie G. Richard, John W. Hardin, Jr., Ernst D. Geissler, and Wilson B. Schramm of Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC); James T. Rose of MSC; Friedrich O. Vonbun, Joseph W. Siry, and James J. Donegan of Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC); Douglas R. Lord, James E. O'Neill, Richard J. Hayes, Warren J. North, and Daniel D. McKee of the NASA Office of Manned Space Flight (OMSF). Joseph F. Shea, Deputy Director for Systems, OMSF, who had called the meeting, defined in general terms the goal of the meeting: to achieve agreement on the approach to be used in developing the earth orbit rendezvous technique. After two days of discussions and presentations, the Group approved conclusions and recommendations:

[This meeting was part of a continuing effort to select the lunar mission mode.]

Minutes, Earth Orbital Rendezvous Meeting, February 13-15, 1962, pp. 2-4.

February 14

NASA signed a contract with The Boeing Company for indoctrination, familiarization, and planning, expected to lead to a follow-on contract for design, development, manufacture, test, and launch operations of the first stage S-IC of the Saturn C-5 launch vehicle.

Senate Staff Report, Manned Space Flight Program, p. 205.

February 18

NASA announced Project Fire, a high-speed reentry heat research program to obtain data on materials, heating rates, and radio signal attenuation on spacecraft reentering the atmosphere at speeds of about 24,500 miles per hour. Information from the program would support technology for manned and unmanned reentry from lunar missions. Under the management of the Langley Research Center, Project Fire would use Atlas D boosters and the reentry package would be powered by an Antares solid-fuel motor (third stage of the Scout).

Astronautical and Aeronautical Events of 1962, p. 17.

February 20

The Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7, with Astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr., as pilot, was launched into orbit from the Atlantic Missile Range by an Atlas booster. After a three-orbit flight of 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds, Friendship 7 splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean about 800 miles southeast of Bermuda. The spacecraft was recovered within minutes, and Astronaut Glenn was reported to be in excellent condition. With this flight, the basic objectives of Project Mercury had been achieved.

Grimwood, Project Mercury: A Chronology, pp. 159-160.

February 27

The preparation of schedules based on the NASA Fiscal Year 1962 budget (including the proposed supplemental appropriation), the Fiscal Year 1963 budget as submitted to Congress, and Fiscal Year 1964 and subsequent funding was discussed at the Manned Space Flight Management Council meeting. Program assumptions as presented by Wernher von Braun, Director, Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), were approved for use in preparation of the schedules :

Charles W. Frick of MSC and Hans H. Maus of MSFC would coordinate schedule assumptions between the Centers.

MSF Management Council Minutes, February 27, 1962, Erratum Sheet, Agenda Item 3.

During the Month

A NASA Apollo Office was established at NAA's Space and Information Systems Division, under the direction of J. Thomas Markley of MSC. The Office would serve primarily as liaison between the prime contractor and the Apollo Spacecraft Project Office at MSC.

MSC Space News Roundup, February 21, 1962, p. 8.

During the Month

The command module crew couch was repositioned and redesigned because of numerous problems. In the new design, an adjustable hand controller, similar to that used on the X-15, would be attached to an adjustable arm rest. The head rest could be regulated for an approximate four-inch movement, while the side head support was limited in movement for couch-module clearance. The adjustable leg support included a foot controller which could be folded up.

The center couch, including the crewman parachute and survival kit, could be folded out to a sleep position and stowed under either remaining couch. Allowance was made for the crewman to turn over.

Principal problems remaining were the difficulty of removing the center couch and providing the clearances needed for the couch positions specified for various phases of the lunar mission.

Apollo Monthly Progress Report, SID 62-300-2, p. 43.

During the Month

NASA wind tunnel data on the adaptation of the Project Mercury Little Joe booster to the Apollo launch escape system were analyzed. The booster fins were ineffective in maintaining the stability of the configuration and the project was canceled. The later Little Joe II depended on the inherent stability of the total vehicle to attain a successful ballistic trajectory to test altitude.

Apollo Monthly Progress Report, SID 62-300-2, p. 1; Convair Division of General Dynamics, Little Joe II Test Launch Vehicle, NASA Project Apollo: Final Report (May 1966), Vol. 1, p. 117.

March 1

NASA Headquarters selected the Chance Vought Corporation of Ling-Temco-Vought, Inc., as a contractor to study spacecraft rendezvous. A primary part of the contract would be a flight simulation study exploring the capability of an astronaut to control an Apollo-type spacecraft.

Astronautical and Aeronautical Events of 1962, p. 27.

March 2

The Marquardt Corporation was selected by NAA's Space and Information Systems Division to design and build the reaction control rocket engines for the Apollo spacecraft. The contract was signed during April.

Oakley, Historical Summary, S&ID Apollo Program, p. 6; Apollo Quarterly Status Report No. 1, p. 17; Apollo Spacecraft Project Office, MSC, Weekly Activity Report, February 25-March 3, 1962.

March 3

The Aerojet-General Corporation was named by NAA as a subcontractor for the Apollo service module propulsion system.

Oakley, Historical Summary, S&ID Apollo Program, p. 6.

March 6

The organizational elements and staffing for the MSC Apollo Spacecraft Project Office was announced:

Office of Project Manager
Charles W. Frick, Project Manager

Robert O. Piland, Deputy Project Manager

Command and Service Module
Caldwell C. Johnson, Chief

William F. Rector, Special Assistant

Calvin H. Perrine, Flight Technology

Lee N. McMillion, Crew Systems

David L. Winterhalter, Sr., Power Systems

Wallace D. Graves, Mechanical Systems

Milton C. Kingsley, Electrical Systems

(Vacant), Ground Support Equipment

Lunar Landing Module
Robert O. Piland, Acting Chief
Guidance and Control Development
David W. Gilbert, Chief

Jack Barnard, Apollo Office at MIT

Systems Integration
Paul F. Weyers, Chief

(Vacant), Reliability and Quality Control

Emory F. Harris, Operations Requirements

Robert P. Smith, Launch Vehicle Integration

Owen G. Morris, Mission Engineering

Marion R. Franklin, Ground Operational Support Systems

Apollo Office at NAA
Herbert R. Ash, Acting Manager

Alan B. Kehlet, Engineering

Alan B. Kehlet, Acting Manager, Quality Control and Engineering

Herbert R. Ash, Acting Manager, Business Administration

Planning and Resources
Thomas F. Baker, Chief
MSC Announcement No. 30, Personnel Assignments for Apollo Spacecraft Project Office. March 6. 1962.

March 8

NAA awarded a development contract for the Apollo spacecraft fuel cell to Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Division of United Aircraft Corporation.

Oakley, Historical Summary, S&ID Apollo Program, p. 5.

March 12

Primary MSC activities for the Apollo program were relocated from Langley Field, Va., to the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Tex.

MSC Announcement No. 21, Relocation of MSC Headquarters, February 26, 1962.

March 12-13

A NASA Headquarters-MSC management meeting was held to discuss the general status of the Apollo project, Apollo Spacecraft Project Office organization, mission and engineering studies, and budgets and schedules. Participants at the meeting agreed that a staged lunar landing propulsion module would be studied.

Apollo Spacecraft Project Office, MSC, Weekly Activity Report, March 11-17, 1962.

March 13

James E. Webb, NASA Administrator, recommended to President John F. Kennedy that the Apollo program be given DX priority [highest priority in the procurement of critical materials]. He also sent a memorandum to Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Council, requesting that the Council consider advising the President to add the Apollo program to the DX priority list.

Letter, Webb to The President, March 13, 1962; memorandum, Webb to Chairman, National Aeronautics and Space Council, "Request for Highest National Priority for the Apollo Program," March 13, 1962.

March 14

NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced the selection of the Military Electronics Division of Motorola, Inc., as the contractor to manufacture and test radio equipment in the first two phases of a program to augment the Deep Space Instrumentation Facility (DSIF) by providing "S" band capability for stations at Goldstone, Calif., Woomera, Australia, and near Johannesburg, South Africa. With these stations located some 120 degrees apart around the earth, DSIF would have a high-gain, narrow-beam-width, high-frequency system, with very little interference from cosmic noise and would provide much improved telemetering and tracking of satellites as far out as the moon and nearby planets.

Astronautical and Aeronautical Events of 1962, p. 35.

March 15-16

Charles W. Frick, Manager of the MSC Apollo Spacecraft Project Office, together with Maxime A. Faget, Charles W. Mathews, Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., John B. Lee, Owen E. Maynard, and Alan B. Kehlet of MSC and George M. Low of the NASA Office of Manned Space Flight, visited NAA at Downey, Calif. This was the first monthly meeting of the Apollo design and review team to survey NAA's progress in various areas, including the Apollo spacecraft heatshield, fuel cells, and service module.

MSF Management Council Minutes, March 27, 1962, Agenda Item 4.

March 18

Marshall Space Flight Center's latest schedule on the Saturn C-5 called for the first launch in the last quarter of 1965 and the first manned launch in the last quarter of 1967. If the C-5 could be man-rated on the eighth research and development flight in the second quarter of 1967, the spacecraft lead time would be substantially reduced.

MSFC Consolidated Program Schedules and Funding, M-CP-R2, March 18, 1962.

March 23

The Avco Corporation was selected by NAA to design and install the ablative material on the Apollo spacecraft outer surface.

Oakley, Historical Summary, S&ID Apollo Program, p. 6; Apollo Spacecraft Project Office, MSC, Weekly Activity Report, March 18-24, 1962.

March 23

Wind tunnel tests were completed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and at Langley Research Center on two early configurations of Apollo spacecraft models.

Oakley, Historical Summary, S&ID Apollo Program, p. 6.

Lunar landing techniques

These illustrations were used by D. Brainerd Holmes, Director, Manned Space Flight, NASA, in testimony before the House of Representatives Committee on Science and Astronautics, Subcommittee on Manned Space Flight, March 26, 1962.

March 25-31

NASA Headquarters approved plans for the development of the Little Joe II test launch vehicle. Prospective bidders were notified of a briefing to be held at MSC on April 6, at which time Requests for Proposals would be distributed.

Apollo Spacecraft Project Office, MSC, Weekly Activity Report, March 25-31, 1962.

March 29

Members of Langley Research Center briefed representatives of the Chance Vought Corporation of Ling- Temco-Vought, Inc., on the lunar orbit rendezvous method of accomplishing the lunar landing mission. The briefing was made in connection with the study contract on spacecraft rendezvous awarded by NASA Headquarters to Chance Vought on March 1.

John D. Bird, "Short History of the Development of the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous Plan at the Langley Research Center," p. 4.

March 29

NASA announced that a $5 million contract would be awarded to Republic Aviation Corporation for the construction of two experimental reentry spacecraft. Republic was selected from eight companies that submitted bids on March 12. The contract was part of Project Fire, to develop a spacecraft capable of withstanding reentry into the earth's atmosphere from a lunar mission. Plans called for the spacecraft to be tested during the second half of 1963.

New York Times, March 30, 1962.

During the Month

A small group within the MSC Apollo Spacecraft Project Office developed a preliminary program schedule for three approaches to the lunar landing mission: earth orbit rendezvous, direct ascent, and lunar orbit rendezvous. The exercise established a number of ground rules :

The exercise also provided a basis for proceeding with the development of definitive schedules and a program plan.

Memorandum, Thomas F. Baker, Chief, Planning and Resources, to Manager, Apollo Spacecraft Project Office, March 23, 1962.


The Apollo guidance and navigation system was defined in more detail as more information from NASA MIT studies was received on new requirements for the system. As a result, the scope of the component development tasks given to all the guidance and navigation subcontractors was substantially increased.

Interview with Ralph Ragan, MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, April 27, 1966.

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