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One of these complexities had been pointed up in the course of planning operational procedures for launching. Back in November 1958 the Air Force Missile Test Center had accepted Melvin N. Gough as director of NASA tests, but it was May 1959 before the Center made any allowance for the functioning of NASA's skeleton staff for the manned satellite program. When Herbert F. York, the Pentagon's Director of Defense Research and Engineering, testified before Congress early in June, he alluded to the coordination problem between the Department of Defense and NASA and admitted, "We haven't worked out exactly how to do that yet." B. Porter Brown, the first STG man to take up residence at the Cape, told his superior, Charles Mathews, that the administration of the launch complexes at the Atlantic Missile Range was as intricate as the technical equipment there.59

On May 1, 1959, when NASA set up its own liaison office at Canaveral, Brown and the STG were still trying to understand all the interrelationships [155] existing between the Air Force (whose proprietorship stemmed from the establishment in 1950 of the Long Range Proving Ground), the Navy, and the Army. The Air Force Missile Test Center (AFMTC) was the steward operating the Atlantic Missile Range (AMR) for the Department of Defense. The Army had established its subsidiary Missile Firing Laboratory on the Cape as an integral part of its Ballistic Missile Agency. By the end of January 1959, Kurt H. Debus, director of the firing lab, had appointed a project engineer and coordinator for the Mercury-Redstone program, but the conversion of launch pads Nos. 5 and 6 into "Launch Complex No. 56" to meet the requirements for Mercury-Redstone launchings was less imperative than the need to prepare for the Fourth of July launch of Mercury's Big Joe by an Air Force Atlas.60

The palmetto-covered dunes at Canaveral had several dozen different kinds of launch pads, but they were still in short supply and under heavy demands. There were almost as many different military service and civilian contract organizations vying for them as there were pads. Proprietary interests were strongly vested, security restrictions were rigorous, and the newly constituted space agency was not yet accepted in the elite flight operations society there. Hangar S, in the industrial area of the Cape, had been tentatively assigned as "NASA space," but the former Naval Research Laboratory team that had built Hangar S and was still active with the Vanguard project was there first. Although now incorporated with NASA, the Vanguard team hoped to carry on with a new booster development program named Vega. Another group of half-NASA developers, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, working with von Braun's people, were likewise seeking more room to convert Juno I (Jupiter-C) into Juno II (Jupiter IRBM) launch facilities for more Explorer satellite missions.61

With space for space (as opposed to defense) activities at such a premium, Porter Brown and his two advance-guard colleagues for STG at the Cape, Philip R. Maloney and Elmer H. Buller, pressed for a higher priority in Hangar S. But room was still scarce in early June when Scott H. Simpkinson with about 35 of his test operations engineers from Lewis Research Center arrived to set up a preflight checkout laboratory for Big Joe. They found a corner fourth of Hangar S roped off for their use, and instructions not to overstep these bounds.62

Another problem arose over the scheduled allocation of launch pad No. 14, which was one of only five available for Atlas launchings. Pad 14 was scheduled to be used for the Air Force MIDAS (Missile Defense Alarm Satellite) launchings throughout the same time period that the Mercury qualification flights were expected to be ready. Although admitting that firing schedules for both the Mercury-Redstone and the Mercury-Atlas programs were tentative, STG argued that the same pad assigned for the Big Joe shot should be continuously available for preparing all subsequent Mercury-Atlas launches.

The commander of the Air Force Missile Test Center disagreed. In the cause of maximum utilization of Cape facilities, Major General Donald N. Yates ordered switching of Mercury launches to various available launch stands. These initial [156] conflicts of interests reached an impasse on June 24, when representatives of NASA and the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense met to decide whose shots to postpone. NASA was unable to obtain a concession: the urgency of ICBM and MIDAS development took precedence.63

The complexity of organizational problems at the Cape might have led space agency leaders to despair but for an auspicious space flight on May 28. On that date in 1959 an Army Jupiter intermediate range ballistic missile launched a nose cone carrying two primate passengers - Able, an American-born rhesus monkey, and Baker, a South American squirrel monkey - to a 300-mile altitude. At the end of 15 minutes and a 1500-mile trajectory, along which the cone reached a speed of about 10,000 miles an hour, the Navy recovered Able and Baker alive and healthy. The medical experiments were conducted by the Army Medical Service and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency with the cooperation of the Navy and Air Force Schools of Aviation Medicine. Not only was the flight a triumph for space medicine; it also demonstrated an organizational symbiosis of significant proportions for all of the services and branches involved.64

But the "interface" problems within NASA, and between NASA and other agencies, continued to exist, particularly at lower echelons in the planning of operational procedures for flight control. Mathews and his staff in the Flight Operations Division of STG were required to plan and replan mission profiles, schedules, countdown procedures, and mission directives while accommodating the procedures of other divisions and organizations contributing to the operation. By mid-spring these working relationships had become so involved that flight schedules had to undergo radical revision. It gradually became clear that the original schedules aimed at achieving a manned orbital flight early in April 1960 could not possibly be met.

On top of that, the production of spacecraft hardware and flight equipment began falling behind schedule. Only one month after the Mockup Review, it became evident that capsule and systems production slippages were going to become endemic. On April 17, 1959, Gilruth, speaking before the World Congress of Flight meeting at Las Vegas, announced casually, "The first manned orbital flight will not take place within the next two years." The first successful pad abort using the tower-rocket escape system had just been completed on April 12 - two years to the day before Gagarin's orbital flight - but Gilruth cautiously refrained from pronouncing even the escape sequence firm. And he alluded to other areas of uncertainty:

Although the Mercury concept is the simplest possible approach to manned flight in space, involving a minimum of new developments, as you can see, a great deal of research and development remains to be done. For flight within the atmosphere, the capsule must be stable over the widest speed range yet encountered by any vehicle-from satellite velocity to a very low impact speed. And in orbital flight, all of the systems must function properly in a weightless state. It must be compatible with the launch rocket and must be at home on the sea while awaiting recovery.65
[157] In May 1959 the Mercury managers drew up a new functional organization chart dividing the supervisory activities of STG into five categories: capsules, boosters and launch, "R and D" support, range, and recovery operations. The design period for each of these areas having now evolved into developmental work, each area could more plainly be seen in terms of the contracts to be monitored by STG personnel. Capsules were divided into three categories, the first of which was the boilerplate models being built by Langley for the Little Joe program. For Big Joe, alias the Atlas ablation test, another boilerplate capsule was under construction jointly, with the STG at Langley responsible for the upper section and the STG at Lewis for the lower pressure-vessel section of the capsule. This meant that Langley in conjunction with Radioplane would perfect the recovery gear and parachute canister, while Lewis people would handle the automatic control system, the heatshield, sensors, and telemetry.66

For the production model capsule under McDonnell's aegis, a number of major subcontractors had long since been selected. Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Company was developing the automatic stabilization and control system; the reaction control system was being built by Bell Aerospace Corporation; some electronics and most radio gear were to be provided by Collins Radio Company; and the environmental control system, the periscope, and the horizon scanner were to be supplied by AiResearch, Perkin-Elmer Company, and Barnes Instrument Company, respectively. The alternative heatshields, as previously noted, were being provided by several different subcontractors; and the solid rockets for escape by Grand Central Rocket Company and for the retrothrust package by Thiokol Chemical Corporation.

With regard to boosters and launching, STG could rely on the extensive experience of the Ballistic Missile Division/Space Technology Laboratory/Convair complex for the Atlas, and on the Army Ballistic Missile Agency and the von Braun/Debus team for the Redstones. Only the Little Joe shots from Wallops Island would require extensive attention to launch problems because only Little Joe was exclusively a NASA booster. North American, the prime contractor, would provide whatever Langley could not for Little Joe.

Under the miscellaneous category "R and D support," however, Project Mercury would not only require the help of all the other NASA research centers - Langley, Ames, Lewis, and now Goddard - but also of the NASA stations for high-speed flight research at Edwards, California, and for pilotless aircraft research at Wallops Island, Virginia. At least 10 separate commands under the Air Force would be closely involved, and various facilities of the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics, especially the human centrifuge at Johnsville, Pennsylvania, would likewise be extensively used.

The range and tracking network requirements being supervised by the alter ego to STG, namely the Tracking Unit (TAGIU) or the Mercury network group at Langley, gradually became clear as contractors began to report on their feasibility and programming studies. The Lincoln Laboratory of the Massachusetts [159] Institute of Technology, the Aeronutronics Division of the Ford Motor Company, Space Electronics Corporation, and the RCA Service Company held four study contracts to help Soulé decide on ground equipment, radar coverage, control center arrangements, and the exact specifications for various contracts. Although a preliminary bidders' briefing on the tracking, telemetry, and telecommunications plans for Project Mercury took place at Langley on April 1, the basic design document, "Specifications for Tracking and Ground Instrumentation System for Project Mercury," did not appear until May 21. Consequently NASA did not select the prime contractor for the tracking network until midsummer.67

Finally, regarding recovery operations, a NASA and Department of Defense working group decided on May 11 to make use of the investment already made by Grumman Aircraft Corporation in operations research for its spacecraft bid proposal on recovery requirements. Concurrently arrangements were being made with the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency, the Strategic Air Command, the Atlantic Missile Range, the Marines, and the Coast Guard for the specific help each could render when the time should come for search and retrieval.

Although these relations appeared to have grown exceedingly complex, they had only just begun to multiply. Gilruth, however, was confident that by careful coordination and through the largely personal and informal working methods of STG, he and his men could handle the problems arising in the Mercury development program. As an encouraging example, the booster and launch coordination panels, established separately for the Atlas and the Redstone, had by mid-May already achieved impressive understandings on what had to be done. In the case of the Atlas, the coordination panel worked out the division of labor between NASA, McDonnell, the Ballistic Missile Division, Convair, and STG. Panel members simply discussed until they had resolved such key problems on their agenda as general launch operations procedures, trajectories and flight plans for the first two scheduled launches, general approach to an abort sensing system and procedures, range and pad safety procedures,general mechanical and electrical mating, blockhouse space requirements, general countdown and checkout procedures, and velocity cutoff in the event of overshooting the orbit insertion point. Six Redstone booster and launch panels, established at an important coordination meeting on February 11 with STG and McDonnell at Redstone Arsenal, likewise resolved in monthly meetings many such items.68 For both boosters, many details remained outstanding, of course, but the fact that pending problems were being identified early and systematically in May 1959 gave the STG confidence that no further schedule slippages could be charged to the lack of intelligent planning.69

59 House Committee on Science and Astronautics, 86 Cong., 1 sess. (1959), Basic Scientific and Astronautic Research in the Department of Defense, testimony of Dr. Herbert F. York, June 4, 1959, 16; B. Porter Brown, interview, Cape Kennedy, April 30, 1964.

60 Francis E. Jarrett, Jr., and Robert A. Lindemann, "Historical Origins of NASA's Launch Operations Center to July 1, 1962," Kennedy Space Center, Historical Monograph No. 1 (KHM-1), Oct. 1964. There is a dispute over proper nomenclature regarding the combination of launch complexes 5 and 6 into "No. 56." If the latter is a misnomer, it was so commonly used as to justify its use throughout this work.

61 Memo for files, Emil P. Bertram, "NASA Space Requirements at MFL," April 7, 1959. For an account of the ill-fated Vega vehicle, see Evert Clark, "Vega Study Shows Early NASA Problems," Aviation Week, LXXII (June 27, 1960), 62-68.

62 Scott H. Simpkinson, interview, Houston, June 2, 1964. Hangar S had been built by NRL for Project Vanguard in the face of earlier housing shortages for checkout facilities.

63 Purser, logs for Gilruth, June 15 and 29, 1959.

64 Ashton Graybiel, et al., "An Account of Experiments in Which Two Monkeys Were Recovered Unharmed After Ballistic Space Flight," Aerospace Medicine, XXX (Dec. 1959), 871-931. Cf. Siegfried J. Gerathewohl, Principles of Bioastronautics (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1963), 100-108. NASA press releases on primate flights always carried notice of the birthplaces of the subjects to avoid offending Hindus, who believe in transmigration of souls. Presumably 100 percent American monkeys were always 100 percent American. See also p. 53.

65 Gilruth, speech, Space Age Conference, World Congress of Flight, Las Vegas, April 17, 1959.

66 "Project Mercury Discussion," 50-page collection of graphic charts and outlines, STG, May 18, 1959, 1.

67 Memo, Warren J. North to Administrator, "Background of Project Mercury Schedules," with enclosure, Aug. 14, 1960.

68 It seems fitting to note here the Air Force viewpoint on this period. Max Rosenberg, Chief, USAF Historical Division Liaison Office, has commented as follows on this section (Oct. 8, 1965): "Within these pages is the story of the major crux of program slippages, which seems not to be recognized. There is detailed listing of each agency's role but no recognition that no one was in charge of total system analysis, total system design, total system engineering, total system technical direction. This was one of the features of the Air Force ballistic missile program wherein Ramo-Wooldridge functioned as the systems engineering and technical director. The lack of such an agency within the Mercury program was understandable, for NASA was without experience in undertakings of such scope and magnitude, but it should be recognized and recorded historically as an expensive 'lesson learned' that cost NASA (and the United States) perhaps a year or more in meeting the Mercury goals." P. 13.

69 "Project Mercury Discussions," 22-25. Cf. "Main Results of NASA-McDonnell-ABMA Conference of 11 February 1959," ORDAB-DSRW, CAA 59358, Ballistic Missile Agency; and memo, Purser to Gilruth, "Project Mercury Meeting on February 11, 1959, at ABMA," Feb. 17, 1959.

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