Part 2 (J)
Recovery, Spacecraft Redefinition, and First Manned Apollo Flight
MSC had decided not to static-fire the service modules of Block II
spacecraft before flight (specifically, spacecraft 101), ASPO advised
NASA Hq. The decision was based on successful completion of the
spacecraft 102 static firing, evaluation of the test history on the
service propulsion system, and a review by a joint MSC-MSFC team that
came out flatly against any such static firings at KSC and acceded to
such tests at White Sands only under Houston's strict authority. During
subsequent discussions in Houston (notably a February 19 meeting with
the MSFC contingent), program planners rejected such firings at White
Sands because the additional transportation and handling might degrade
reliability of the hardware - exactly the opposite of what was being
Ltr., ASPO Manager George M. Low to Apollo Program Director Samuel C.
Phillips, March 1, 1968.
John D. Stevenson, Director of Mission Operations, NASA OMSF, requested
that MSC Flight Operations Director Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., prepare
an analysis of the potential terrestrial threat posed by an uncontrolled
reentry of the Apollo 6 spacecraft. (Surviving debris presented a
possible danger should a service propulsion system failure or other
malfunction preclude a controlled reentry.) Stevenson asked Kraft to
include the debris hazard in MSC's Abort and Alternate Mission Study for
Apollo 6 then under preparation.
Ltr., Stevenson to MSC, Attn: Kraft, "Terrestrial Threat from
Apollo 6 CSM Control Failure," March 1, 1968.
The MSC Flammability Review Board met to assess results of the CSM
flammability tests conducted on boilerplate 1224. The Board unanimously
recommended using a 60-percent-oxygen and 40-percent-nitrogen atmosphere
in the spacecraft cabin during launch, but continued use of a pure
oxygen atmosphere at pressure of 4.1 newtons per square centimeter (6
pounds per square inch) during flight. Members concluded that this
mixed-gas environment offered the best protection for the crew on the
pad and during launch operations, while still meeting physiological and
operational requirements. During the final stages of the flammability
test program, tests had indicated that combustion characteristics for
the 11-newtons-per-sq-cm (16-psi), 60-40 atmosphere and for the
4.1-newton pure oxygen atmosphere were remarkably similar. Also,
full-scale trials had demonstrated that in an emergency the crew could
get out of the spacecraft quickly and safely.
Memo, George E. Mueller to Administrator, "Manned Space Flight
Weekly Report - March 11, 1968."
Design Certification Reviews of CSM 101 and LM-3 were held at MSC.
Significant program-level agreements reached included validation of a
60-percent-oxygen and 40-percent-nitrogen cabin atmosphere during launch
(see March 4); reaffirmation of the February 6 Management Council
decision that a second unmanned LM flight was not required; and the
conclusion that, in light of successful static firing of the 102 service
propulsion system and subsequent analysis, a static-firing of the 101
system was not required.
Apollo Special Task Team Director Eberhard F. M. Rees wrote Dale D.
Myers, Apollo CSM Program Manager at North American Rockwell, to convey
the concern of ASPO Manager George M. Low and others over the status of
the S-band high-gain-antenna system. (Of all the subsystems in the
spacecraft, that antenna seemed to face perhaps the toughest technical
and schedule problems.) On December 14, 1967, Rees had visited the
subcontractor's plant (Dalmo Victor) at Belmont, Calif., and had heard
optimistic status reports on the entire system, including quality
control and delivery schedules. Shortly thereafter, when Dalmo Victor
began quality testing, the company encountered serious technical
difficulties and the delivery schedule, as Rees put it, "collapsed
completely." He then recounted several efforts by analytical teams to
pinpoint the technical problems and to put the program back into shape
(including reviews in mid-February and again on March 1, when very
little progress could be seen). This record of inability to remedy
technical problems, said Rees, indicated a serious weakness among Apollo
contractors regarding visibility of their programs as well as their
analytical engineering capability.
Ltr., Rees to Myers, March 8, 1968.
NASA technicians at KSC completed the flight readiness test for Apollo
6. The two-day event was delayed several days because of difficulties in
modifying the service propulsion system tank skirt. With that
significant launch-preparation event completed, program officials were
reassessing the launch date in light of work remaining on the vehicle.
Memo, George E. Mueller to Administrator, "Manned Space Flight
Weekly Report - March 1 1. 1968."
North American Rockwell technicians at Downey completed integrated
system testing on 2TV-1, the CSM thermal vacuum test vehicle. Shipment
of the test article to MSC was scheduled for the end of March.
Memo, George E. Mueller to Administrator, "Manned Space Flight
Weekly Report- March 15, 1968," March 18, 1968.
Edgar M. Cortright, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Manned
Space Flight, reported on the results of a thorough review of Apollo
subcontractors made during January and February at the request of
George E. Mueller. Cortright's review, coordinated with Apollo Program
Directors in Washington and Houston, included detailed analysis of
subsystem programs and on-site assessment of technical problems,
schedule patterns, and testing programs. While favorably impressed with
what he had found in general, he cited a number of what he termed
"disturbing" conditions: most subsystems were facing hardware
delivery schedule problems; many open failures existed; most
qualification tests obviously would run beyond flight hardware delivery
dates, requiring change-outs at KSC; several of the major
subcontractors' difficulties had been compounded by lack of visibility
of the overall spacecraft program (those "subs," he said,
could have benefited from more attention by the "primes" and
from allowing them a role in decision-making affecting their
subsystems). Also, Cortright concluded that NASA itself could make more
efficient use of subsystem managers and get them more deeply involved
in the life of their respective programs. As a remedy to improve the
total subsystem picture, Cortright recommended additional subsystem
testing (and closer scrutiny by NASA of those tests); a reexamination
of the entire Apollo system to determine any procedural errors in
operating the subsystems that could result in failure of a subsystem;
more contractor involvement in decision-making by both NASA and the
primes; and greater emphasis on the manned space flight awareness
Memo for record, Cortright, "Apollo subcontractor review,"
March 12, 1968.
NASA announced to the public that program officials had decided to use a
60-percent-oxygen and 40-percent-nitrogen atmosphere in the Apollo
spacecraft cabin while on the launch pad (and to retain the pure-oxygen
environment in space). This technical decision - because of the earlier
tragedy with Apollo 204 over a year earlier - was subjected to closer
public scrutiny than perhaps any comparable decision in the history of
the U.S. space program. The change affected only ground operations and
support equipment and did not necessitate any major changes in the
spacecraft itself. Exhaustive testing of the redesigned interior of the
vehicle since October 1967 had demonstrated that the risk of fire inside
the spacecraft had been drastically reduced. Hardware changes inside the
cabin, spokesmen said, had minimized possible sources of ignition and
materials changes had vastly reduced the danger of fire propagation.
NASA News Release 68-47, "Apollo Spacecraft Cabin
Atmosphere," March 14, 1968.
The MSC Structures and Mechanics Division reported to ASPO Manager
George M. Low that additional verification of the spacecraft 020
reaction control system (RCS) pressure vessels would not be required.
Using pressure vessel histories received March 14 and the previous
propellant temperature restriction of 297 kelvins (75 degrees F)
maximum, fracture mechanics analyses showed:
Memo, Joseph N. Kotanchik to ASPO Manager, "Fracture Mechanics
Review of Spacecraft 020 Reaction Control System (RCS) Pressure
Vessels," March 18, 1968.
- all RCS helium tanks were satisfactory to maximum design operating
- all CM RCS propellant tanks were satisfactory to MDOP;
- all SM RCS tanks were satisfactory to MDOP; and
- the differences between measured MDOPs on RCS SM oxidizer tanks and
the pressures assured safe by fracture mechanics were considered to be
Samuel C. Phillips, NASA Apollo Program Director, expressed concern to
ASPO Manager George Low that relaxed review procedures on LM-4 and LM-5
might tend to delay identification and resolution of problems. Phillips
had understood that the LM-4 Phase II Customer Acceptance Readiness
Review (CARR) had been rescheduled and that the LM-5 Phase I and Phase
II CARRs might be combined. He requested that every possible effort be
made to get a good Phase II review on LM-4 and separate Phase I and
Phase II reviews on LM-5.
Ltr., Phillips to Low, March 18, 1968.
ASPO Manager George Low emphatically rejected North American Rockwell's
suggestion of added spacecraft delivery delays. Responding to a
February letter from North American CSM Program Manager Dale D. Myers -
suggesting further slips in delivery of 2TV-1 and spacecraft 101, 103,
and 104 - Low reminded Myers that at the close of the Configuration
Control Board meeting on February 23 he had cited a mid-April target
for delivery of CSM 101. Since that time, Low said, KSC had been
actively preparing for an early summer launch based on that mid-April
delivery, and circumstances therefore made that date most important.
Moreover, North American must deliver CSM 103 by the end of June 1968
in order to ensure meeting Apollo's end-of-the-decade goal. He reminded
Myers that he had pursued this point on several occasions with him and
with William Bergen. They both had told Low that they had found ways to
deliver 103 within that time frame, and Low now suggested that this
target date be made a firm commitment in the official Apollo schedules.
At the earliest possible date, Low concluded, MSC and North American
must establish firm contractual baselines for delivery schedules. Until
then present delivery dates remained valid. He admitted that some
schedule slips had resulted from NASA-dictated changes and that the
schedules should be adjusted accordingly. The remaining delays,
however, Low attributed directly to the company's inability to meet
projected commitments. The contract was changed to call for an April
1968 delivery for CSM 101 and a June 1968 delivery for CSM 103.
Ltr., Low to Myers, March 19, 1968; Part IV Contract NAS9-150.
The lunar landing research vehicle was operating and training was being
conducted, MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth wrote Langley Research
Center's Acting Director Charles J. Donlan. MSC intended to conduct a
second class for LLRV pilots and one of the first requirements for
checkout was a familiarization program on Langley's Lunar Landing
Research Facility. He requested that a program be conducted for not less
than four nor more than six MSC pilots between April 15 and May 15.
Ltr., Gilruth to Donlan, March 21, 1968.
MSC asked Grumman to make a thorough review of the amount of nominal,
off-nominal, and extended-life subsystem testing of LM production
hardware and recommend any additional testing that should be done. The
review of performance data was needed, Neal said, to ensure that program
officials had sufficient test data to support flight planners and flight
controllers during the manned missions.
Ltr., James L. Neal, LM Contracting Officer, MSC, to Joseph G. Gavin,
LM Program Manager. Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp., "Contract
NAS 9-1100, Proposal for additional subsystem testing," March 21,
In an effort to resolve the continuing technical and schedule problems
with the high-gain antenna system at Dalmo Victor, Apollo CSM Program
Manager Dale D. Myers named a Resident Subsystem Project Manager at the
vendor's plant. This change provided a single management interface with
Dalmo Victor. The representative had been given authority to call on
whatever North American Rockwell resources he might need to accomplish
Ltr., Myers to Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, MSC, March 21, 1968.
Eberhard F. M. Rees, Director of the Apollo Special Task Team at North
American Rockwell, wrote to the company's CSM Program Manager Dale D.
Myers to express his concern over persistent problems with leaks in the
ball valves for the service propulsion system. Rees doubted that any
real progress was being made, stating that the problem persisted despite
relaxations in leakage criteria and that qualification failures
continued to occur. Rees described a review of the program on March 18
at Aerojet-General Corp. as lacking in factual depth. Also, the company
did not appear to be pursuing developmental testing of configurational
changes with any degree of vigor. Rees suggested to Myers that his
people were on the right track and with management attention the
vendor's efforts could be channeled to get some genuine results.
Ltr., Rees to Myers, March 22, 1968, with encl., "Minutes of AGC
Ball Valve Presentation," March 18, 1968.
Apollo drogue chute test 99-5 failed at the El Centro, Calif., parachute
facility. The drop was conducted to demonstrate the slight change made
in the reefed area and the 10-second reefing cutter at ultimate load
conditions. The 5,897-kilogram vehicle was launched from a B-52 aircraft
at 10,668 meters and programmer chute operation and timing appeared
normal. At drogue deployment following mortar activation, one drogue
appeared to separate from the vehicle. This chute was not recovered but
ground observers indicated the failure seemed to occur in the riser or
vehicle attachment. The second drogue remained on the vehicle but seemed
to slip in the reefed state. This chute was recovered and inspection
confirmed the canopy failure. The Air Force parachute system which was
to recover the vehicle also failed in the reefed state.
TWX, George M. Low, MSC, to NASA Hq., Att: Director, Apollo Program
Office, March 23, 1968.
ASPO documented its reasons for using nitrogen rather than helium (as
the Air Force had done) as the diluent in the Apollo spacecraft's cabin
atmosphere, in response to a suggestion from Julian M. West of NASA Hq.
Aaron Cohen, Assistant Chief of the MSC Systems Engineering Division,
recounted that the Atmosphere Selection Task Team had addressed the
question of nitrogen versus helium (regardless of percentage) and had
rejected helium because of uncertainty of the compatibility of
spacecraft equipment with helium. Further, helium presented the same
physiological problems as did nitrogen, and whatever flammabilities
advantages helium possessed were extremely small. For all these reasons,
Cohen explained, the team had early elected to concentrate on nitrogen-
Memo, George M. Low, MSC, to West, "Selection of nitrogen as a
diluent for the Apollo launch atmosphere," March 27, 1968, with
encl., memo, Cohen to Low, "Nitrogen selection as a diluent,"
March 25, 1968.
A LM prelaunch atmosphere selection and repressurization meeting was
held at MSC, attended by representatives of MSC, MSFC, KSC, North
American Rockwell, and Grumman. The rationale for MSC selection of 100
percent oxygen as the LM cabin launch atmosphere was based on three
factors: use of other than 100 percent oxygen in the LM cabin would
entail additional crew procedural workloads at transposition and
docking; excessive risk to crew due to depletion of the CM emergency
oxygen consumables would be added; and it would require use of 2.7
kilograms of onboard CM oxygen. Two problems were identified with use
of 100 percent oxygen in the LM cabin at launch: LM cabin flammability
on the pad and LM venting oxygen into the SLA during boost. If air were
used in the LM cabin at launch and the LM vent valve opened during
boost, the full CM stored-oxygen capacity would be required to
pressurize the LM and LM tunnel for umbilical mating. For a lunar
mission, this situation would be similar to that before lunar orbital
insertion, but would subject the crew to a condition of no stored
oxygen for an emergency. For an earth-orbital mission this situation
would be objectionable because CM stored oxygen would be lacking for an
emergency entry into the atmosphere. (See also April 22 entry.)
Ltr., Low to addressees, April 17, 1968, with encl., memo, Assistant
Chief, Systems Engineering Div. to addressees, "Minutes of LM
Repressurization Meeting," April 8, 1968.
Scott H. Simpkinson, Acting Chief of ASPO Test Division, authorized
assignment of Boeing-TIE personnel to Downey, Calif., and Bethpage.
N.Y., to support test evaluation areas - because of fixed limitations on
the number of resident NASA personnel at the prime contractors'
Memos, Simpkinson to Chief, Program Control, "Boeing-TIE
support," March 29. 1968.
Samuel C. Phillips, NASA Apollo Program Director, wrote ASPO Manager
George M. Low to express concern about two particular technical problems
in the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package:
Because ALSEP was the key to success of the Apollo science program.
Phillips asked that Low take the lead in reviewing these and any other
pertinent technical problems to effect early resolution and ensure
success of the program.
- a system for on-the-pad cooling of the SNAP-27 radioactive fuel cask
- the overall weight status of the ALSEP (especially the recent
decision to charge the weight penalty of the remote deployment mechanism
to the ALSEP weight budget itself).
Ltr., Phillips to Low, March 29, 1968.
NASA Hq. asked that MSC consider a variety of lunar photographic
operations from orbit during manned landing missions. Cancellation from
Apollo of the lunar mapping and survey system had eliminated any
specially designed lunar photographic capability; but photography was
still desired for scientific, operational, and contingency purposes.
Presence of the CSM in orbit during manned landing missions,
Headquarters OMSF said, would be a valuable opportunity, however
limited, for photographic operations. MSC was asked to evaluate these
operations to define whatever hardware and operational changes in
Apollo might be required to capitalize upon this opportunity.
Ltr., Samuel C. Phillips, Apollo Program Director, NASA Hq., to
Director Robert R. Gilruth. MSC, "Lunar Photography from the
CSM," March 29,