Chapter 5

BATTLE OVER

VEHICLE SPECIFICATIONS

THE DESIGN specification for the Vanguard launching vehicle completed on 29 February l956-thirty-one pages of text and three appendixes-discloses little of the effort that went into drafting the document. As sharp differences of opinion arose, virtually every sentence underwent minute scrutiny by both parties to the agreement, and several amendments elaborating policy had to be added later. The task of fixing the principal features of the vehicle was exceptionally difficult, inasmuch as success would have to depend in considerable measure upon innovative advances in the art of rocket design. But it was "policy considerations" rather than the design of the vehicle itself that underlay most of the conflict between top management at the Martin Company and its counterpart at the Naval Research Laboratory. While arguments between government representatives and industrial executives were-and are-routine in the course of negotiating an important contract, in this case they were peculiarly hard to settle because of the novel character of the undertaking: a combination of research and development with production of an operational vehicle to be built at minimal cost in time and money. And the question of prestige-who was to get most of the credit for success-was ever present, if rarely admitted. The final contract between NRL and the Martin Company consequently bore the date 30 April 1956.

On top of the troubles revealed by the Thiokol Company's study of third-stage specifications, during the winter of 1955-6 the problems of weight, reliability, and engine power in the first and second stages harried Vanguard designers. While both NRL and the prime contractor examined the qualifications of companies competing for subcontracts, both teams explored the possibilities of using new materials, of simplifying test procedures, and of making minor modifications in design to obviate the necessity of major changes. In early December, for example, Kurt Stehling vigorously investigated alternatives. A Bell Aircraft rocket engineer whom Rosen engaged to head the Vanguard propulsion section, he pursued with GE men the feasibility of using ceramic liners for nozzles, plastics such as fiberglass for propellant tanks, teflon for tank liners, and aluminum components for the X-405 engine, provided structural instability could be overcome. These materials not only would be light but would not corrode. Since Hagen and Rosen thought a mixture of seventy percent liquid oxygen and thirty percent fluorine (as a high performance oxidizer) in the first-stage motor might heighten combustion efficiency and increase engine thrust to about 30,000 pounds, they requested the Stewart Committee to sanction an independent study of the proposal, but the committee, which had to approve any significant change in the original plan of the vehicle, turned the request down. Teflon and metal-to-metal glandless seals in valves and lines might have to be used with fluorine oxidizers, and the Martin Company was leery of "fluorine hazards." For the second-stage oxidizer white fuming nitric acid might give better performance than red because of the higher boiling point of white and hence its better cooling properties, but might it not have counterbalancing disadvantages? Should an inhibiting agent be added to reduce tank corrosion, or should the tanks be made of a noncorroding metal at the risk of excessive flexibility in the structure?

Studies of alternatives were time-consuming. And how much time did the Vanguard teams dare invest in a search for the best in design and materials rather than settling for what was at hand? Rosen and Bridger at the Laboratory and Markarian and Sears Williams at the Martin plant, the men upon whom fell the major responsibility for vehicle design, were necessarily wary of the experimental. Days were slipping into weeks and weeks into months and vehicle specifications were still tentative.1

As the size and configuration of the 2 1/2-pound payload and separation mechanism would necessarily affect the design of the launcher, Martin had begun in September to lay out plans to accommodate a cone-shaped satellite twenty inches in diameter at the base, a configuration that corresponded to the general description included in the original NRL proposal to the Stewart Committee. But, although a cone would involve lesser weight and heat penalties and be much easier to attach to the nose of the third-stage rocket, by mid-October Laboratory Scientists had reluctantly yielded to the wishes of men at the National Academy who argued that a spherical shape would better serve scientific purposes. It was a painful decision to make, since Hagen and his staff realized that use of a sphere would necessitate an increase in the size of the second stage, lengthen the time needed for its design and fabrication, and raise costs.

illustration of the Vanguard rocket blasting off

Artist's conception of Vanguard, 1956.


cutaway drawing of the Vanguard rocket and it's components

Cutaway view of Vanguard launch vehicle.


When the Laboratory notified the company on l November that the government-furnished satellite was to be a thirty-inch sphere, Leo Winkler explained the reasons to protesting Martin engineers: the effects of air drag on a sphere in flight would be easier to measure than those on a cone-shaped body and, as a cone was more likely to tumble and be lost to sight, the Academy's optical tracking program depended on having a spherical body, preferably as large as thirty inches and in no case smaller than twenty inches in diameter. Unless Martin studies proved that a thirty-inch ball was technically impractical, that requirement must stand. After describing NRL's ideas on design of the satellite mounting and separation device, Winkler added that the Laboratory planned to make the sphere of 0.020 aluminum with a 0.001 coating of aluminum oxide. The antennas were to be four wires retracted during ascent of the launcher and released to spring outward after separation of the bird from the burned-out third-stage rocket. Excessive heating of the satellite during the last third of the booster's flight and the first half of second-stage flight could probably be prevented by providing a heat-resisting, disposable, conical shield. Yet even were the cone jettisoned soon after first-stage burnout, it would add weight during the critical minutes after launching. With these strictures in mind, Martin engineers set themselves to computing the effects of twenty-inch and thirty-inch spherical satellites on vehicle performance and analyzing the desired characteristics of a disposable protective nosecone. Winkler remarked that GLM was reluctant "to incorporate many of NRL's ideas" but agreed to consider them.
2

A sharper conflict occurred meanwhile over the type of telemetry to be used at ground stations, in the test vehicles, and in the satellites during flights. Daniel Mazur had discovered in early September that AFMTC had no pulse-width-modulation/frequency-modulation receiving equipment. If Vanguard were to use minimum size and weight PWM/FM airborne units, new ground antennas and receivers would have to be installed at that base. That would be an expensive undertaking. And, as soon became evident, Air Force officers in charge at the Cape disliked the idea of having special new radar and telemetry brought in for the sole use of any project, and particularly for what a few of them considered a relatively unimportant nonmilitary program. The Martin Company, in turn, believed an elaborate new telemetry system for Vanguard a needless refinement. AFMTC furthermore announced that it would not assume responsibility for the reduction of telemetered data.3 The Vanguard organization would have to handle and pay for that and set up its own communications center as well.

By November the Vanguard staff at NRL had perceived that, if it was to use the Florida site, it was going to have to convert part of the Cape from a ballistic missile test range to a space vehicle launching range. Even if the Air Force raised no objections, it would be a big job. Vanguard would need new telemetry equipment, a high-precision tracking radar, and "Dovap" antenna. Dovap-an acronym for Doppler, velocity, and position-was a continuous-wave trajectory measuring system using the Doppler effect caused by a target moving relative to a ground transmitter and receiving station. Hope of borrowing Dovap antenna free of charge evaporated when the Army Ballistic Research Laboratory refused to lend its array. Of the FPS-l6 tracking radars, the kind NRL experts wanted for Vanguard, only three were in existence, one at the plant of the maker, the Radio Corporation of America; one in Navy hands at Point Mugu, California; and a third in the Army's possession. A new XN-1 model would not be available before July 1956 and a more complex XN-2 not until December and then at a cost of $800,000.4

In the vehicle, NRL had planned from the beginning to use for the first stage a pulse-position-modulation/amplitude-modulated telemetry system (PPM/AM) because of its high accuracy; for the second stage, where weight was critical, the lightweight pulse-width-modulation/frequency-modulated system (PWM/FM) would do. The Martin Company wanted to install FM/FM throughout, for it was the standard system with which Martin was familiar and the one in use by the Air Force at Cape Canaveral. Implicitly denying NRL's generally acknowledged preeminence in the field of telemetry, company officials labeled Daniel Mazur's concepts "obsolete" and challenged his contention that FM/FM was heavier; he had not taken into account the weight of the antennas. Mazur, never prone to mince words, declared that Martin's proposals "ignored pressurization problems, flame attenuation problems, and flame pluming problems," difficulties which might seriously interfere with performance of the engine control systems. "GLM," Mazur continued,

insists on treating a combination of three undersigned and untested rockets as a fully engineered production guided missile which is far from the case. Their assumption that all equipment as prepared in the plant will fly without field preparation is not only fallacious but is not conducive so obtaining data which indicates [sic] how to get the best performance out of the Vanguard vehicles rather than merely verifying that something works.

In his judgment, the company should neither have system responsibility for a complete radio frequency link, nor control procurement of equipment, nor take charge of checkout and the installation of flight units. Martin contended that these were properly its responsibilities; certainly it must have a voice in decisions about what was to go into the vehicles. Indignant at Mazur's disparaging comments, company engineers pointed out that they had had far more experience in managing rocket and missile tests in the field then had anyone at NRL.5

As the argument progressed, questions of policy entered into it more largely than did technical considerations, for the crux of the matter, as Rosen saw it, was Martin's determination to "run the whole satellite show." If the Laboratory furnished the telemetering equipment and took charge of its operation, Martin responsibilities would be greatly reduced. A letter written at the end of November by the company's Vanguard contract manager. R. B. Miller, Jr., lent color to that interpretation. He informed NRL that as the "original concept of an over-all Martin responsibility for the design, construction, testing, ground support and launching procedures … dictates that the specifications be limited in coverage to general requirements," he could not as yet submit an all-inclusive recommendation on "launching systems specifications." Parts of Martin's specifications "stipulate design objectives rather than absolute requirements" because of designers' doubts about the validity of some performance limitations. Further progress depended on decisions in four areas: configuration of the government-furnished satellite, the third-stage propulsion system, AFMTC facilities requirements, and the type of telemetry to be used.6

When Hagen on 12 December submitted to Assistant Secretary Quarles' Policy Council a first Vanguard progress report, the description of the main features of the telemetry system contained no concessions to Martin's ideas. The test vehicles were each to have a PPM/AM AN DKT-7 transmitter in the first stage and a small PWM/FM transmitter in the second along with a radar beacon adapted to use with the best radar available at AFMTC at the time of tests. In the satellite itself telemetry instrumentation would be kept to the minimum necessary to indicate satellite performance and transmit tracking signals to Minitrack ground stations. The Minitrack system called for a radio transmitter within the satellite operating at a frequency of 108 megacycles and having a power output of 50 to 80 milliwatts. The radio signals from this transmitter would illuminate the antennas of the ground station which were so designed as to measure the differences in the path lengths from the source to the individual antennas in the array and thereby obtain the angular position of the radio source in the satellite. To save weight in the satellite, the tracking experts planned to combine use of the Minitrack transmitter and antenna system with the satellite telemetering system. A telemetering command transmitter on the ground would signal to a receiver in the satellite to turn on a telemetering modulator unit and a power amplifier just before the satellite entered the Minitrack antenna beams. A miniaturized transmitter fed with about 0.5 watt power from batteries would then telemeter data to the ground stations over the Minitrack link. One Vanguard contract had already gone to the Elsin Electronics Corporation of Brooklyn for ground station telemetry and another for development of telemetry antennas to the Physical Science Laboratory of the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts.7

As the interim contract with Martin stated that the government would take charge of tracking, as well as communications control and data computing, it seemed logical to the Laboratory to exclude the contractor for the vehicle from negotiations relating to those tasks. Martin's job would be finished when one or more of the six satellite launching vehicles which the company was to furnish had placed a satellite in orbit. But Miller's memorandum indicated that the company felt hamstrung by lack of information about NRL plans and commitments. His comment on the dubious validity of some limitations imposed on Martin designers, moreover, struck an ominous note. When the Stewart Committee met at the Martin plant in late November, members expressed their dissatisfaction with the situation but had no constructive advice to offer on how to improve it.8

At a heated session in early December, a company vice president asserted that Martin would never have accepted the Vanguard job had the company known it was not to be the systems manager with full responsibility for the entire project-the vehicle, all supporting facilities, and tracking of the satellite in its orbit. He excepted only the package of scientific instruments and, by implication, the computing center which would translate the data relayed from the satellite to the ground stations. "He views the government," Milton Rosen observed, "as a subcontractor to the Martin Company to provide whatever services the Martin Company needs to do the whole job." In spite of a pointed reminder that in the telegram sent to Admiral Sides in mid-August the company had offered to act either as "systems agency" or as vehicle contractor, the company vice president now labeled the lesser role wholly unacceptable. When asked if Martin had full system responsibility for the Air Force Titan program, he had to say no, only a promise for the future.

In an exchange that followed with Elliott Felt, Rosen not only rebuked the company for failing to submit the weight optimization study but charged the management with obstructing direct communication between NRL and subcontractors. Rosen wanted the design specifications in Martin's purchase order to GE, Aerojet, and other subcontractors made part of the NRL-Martin contract. Felt contended that such a procedure would cause needless complications. He reiterated that, given "design freedom," Martin would quickly produce a satisfactory vehicle. The exchange subtly revealed the different philosophies of the two men toward the undertaking that bound them into a reluctant partnership. The industrialist believed that production of a vehicle capable of putting a satellite into orbit was all that was necessary and all that time would allow, a point of view fortified by the Stewart Committee's recommendation to depend as far as possible on proven design and "off-the-shelf" components. Rosen, impelled by longer range interests, countered: "Performance is not only a design target but a minimum requirement." Both men, however, realized that work on definitive specifications must move faster.9 By mid-December they were facing the uncomfortable fact that the size and weight of the vehicle might have to be increased if it was to accomplish its purpose.

Everyone associated with the design problem had long recognized the desirability of using a more powerful first-stage rocket, but the GE X-405 engine was the best available for a nonmilitary program and perforce would have to do. Under those circumstances reappraisal showed few changes in the rocket's configuration necessary. Although a larger diameter would have advantages, the finless booster's forty-four-foot length and the forty-five-inch diameter of the cylindrical casing were big enough. Those dimensions would allow for a transition section at the rocket's front end containing a "well" in which the nozzle and part of the thrust chamber of the second stage would sit.

Nor was a weight increase necessary. On the contrary, the specifications signed on 29 February fixed dry weight at approximately 1,789 pounds and propellant weight at 15,499, which, combined with an engine furnishing a specific impulse of 254 seconds, would ensure a vertical velocity of 3,903 feet per second and a horizontal velocity of 4,023.10 Four factors accounted for keeping the total weight to 17,331 pounds, nearly 1,000 pounds less than NRL had figured earlier: first, the use of aluminum for the tank casings and a thin sheet of magnesium for the cylindrical monocoque spacer between the kerosene and the lox tanks; second, skillful design, notably in the placing of the tankage; third, the miniaturization of parts for the electrical system; and fourth, the reduction of telemetry equipment to a minimum.

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), decomposed in a catalyst chamber to a gaseous mixture of oxygen and superheated steam, was to provide the energy for turbine-driven pumps to feed the lox and kerosene into the engine. The design put the H2O2 tank directly above and off-center from the engine motor but close to the peroxide decomposition chamber. The steam from the decomposition chamber would pass through the turbine and be vented through exhaust nozzles on opposite sides of the airframe. Pivoting of these nozzles would counteract roll motion of the vehicle. Helium gas was to pressurize the fuel tank. Venting the exhaust from the two helium spheres also into the turbine exhaust system would add sufficient thrust to maintain roll control during the period of separation of the first stage from the second. Helium was hard to handle, but its light weight was an asset. Pipes, valves, batteries, and electrical connections were all so located as to be readily accessible through structural doors in the frame. In the process of converting these specifications into reliably performing hardware, a succession of difficulties would crop up and a number of changes would be necessary, such as additional vent valves and a new layout of the plumbing, but few knowledgeable engineers ever found fault with the basic design.11

Interestingly enough, although the specifications of February 1956 stated that the government would provide a destruct receiver for the first stage in keeping with AFMTC range safety rules, the table showing the maximum weights allowed for each subsystem did not include an entry for a fail-safe device which, complete with batteries and wiring, would add twenty to thirty pounds to the first stage. The omission was deliberate, based on hopes that the Test Center would relax that requirement for the satellite vehicle, The faith was justified, for in April Milton Rosen sought out Major General Donald N. Yates, commander at Cape Canaveral, and explained why Vanguard designers felt sure that a second-stage destruct receiver would suffice. The general was convinced. Unwilling to imperil the project, he decreed that for Vanguard alone he would authorize the exception.12

Troubles over design of the second stage, however, worsened during the winter. And the second stage was critical, if only because it had to carry equipment that controlled the performance of the other two stages. It had to accommodate the guidance system for both the first and the second stages, including a programmer and a three-axis gyro reference system capable of functioning with sufficient accuracy to ensure injection of the third stage into a trajectory leading to an orbit. In addition, the second stage had to carry the mechanism to jettison the protective nosecone which would shield the satellite from the intense aerodynamic heating that would build up during the vehicle's journey through the atmosphere. It had to carry a radar beacon and a command receiver to initiate fuel cutoff and vehicle destruct as required by AFMTC range safety rules. It also had to carry the mechanism for spinning the third-stage rocket and a separation device to detach the third stage from the second after burnout. Although described as "intrinsically a simple unit of pressurized tanks with a rocket combustion chamber at one end," the second stage contained most of the brain directing the functioning of the vehicle.13

Since it had early become clear that uprating of the small Aerobee-Hi engine could produce at best only four fifths of the 7,500 pounds of thrust required for Vanguard, a bigger power plant with larger tanks to take more propellant and a redesign of the thrust chamber were essential. Yet "mass ratio," that is, the ratio of the total weight including that of the propellant to the dry weight of the structure and its instrumentation, must be as high as possible; for every pound added to the dry weight would cause a loss of velocity of eight feet or more a second. To provide greater fuel capacity, Martin considered increasing the diameter of the oxidizer and fuel tanks from thirty-two to forty-five inches but discarded the idea in favor of lengthening the stage to more than sixteen feet, Although the elongated tanks could hold some 2.464 pounds of nitric acid and about 897 pounds of UDMH as fuel, even then the resulting thrust would barely suffice to inject the third stage into an orbital path at 300 miles altitude.14

Aerojet engineers repeatedly urged adoption of a turbopump system for forcing fuel into the thrust chamber; the scheme had the advantage of saving dry weight by using lighter gauge metals for the tanks than would be feasible in a pressure-fed system. But Martin believed the latter, utilizing heated helium gas as the pressurizing agent, more reliable. And reliability of operation, particularly in starting the engine at thirty-four miles of altitude, was vitally important. Still, the difficulty of devising an economical and workable method of heating the helium and of developing aluminum or magnesium tankage strong enough to withstand the pressures to which it would be subjected apparently inspired Aerojet to announce that the company, if held to Martin's current specifications, could not make a first delivery before mid-April 1957 at the earliest. The flight test schedule, as it stood at the time, called for launching a complete three-stage vehicle, TV-3, on 29 March 1957. Manifestly Martin was facing much the same kind of conflict with its subcontractor as NRL had with GLM. In mid-January Kurt Stehling, appalled by "the nebulous and confusing state" of second- and third-stage design, attempted to discuss the problem with Martin engineers, but they regarded his offer as a reflection upon their competence. They nicknamed him "the hit-and-run engineer." Complaints from company officials about NRL "interference" sounded loud enough to lead Commander Berg, Hagen's special emissary at the contractor's plant and by now the chief dispenser of oil on turbulent waters, solemnly to suggest, tongue in cheek, that Martin withdraw in favor of the General Electric Company as primary contractor: Martin could then become a subcontractor under GE's aegis. A half hour later two Martin executives called John Hagen to assure him that they preferred the existing arrangement.15 Berg's light touch rapidly reduced tensions.

Time, moreover, was forcing the pace of contract negotiations. When the interim contract between the government and the Martin Company was about to expire in late January, the Office of Naval Research in arranging an extension refused to remit more than a part of the additional $3.5 million requested by the company until the final specifications were completed.16 Both Vanguard teams, furthermore, knew that decisions on some features of the design would have to evolve as work progressed. The upshot was Martin's acceptance of the NRL version of specifications with a provision for amendments when necessary. As Rosen had promised earlier, the government allowed the contractor design freedom on a number of matters, but carefully spelled out performance requirements and major characteristics. Gross weight of the 16.16-foot second stage was to be approximately 4,770 pounds, of which dry weight was to be 937, propellant weight 3,240, and payload 484, thus achieving a mass ratio of 0.679. Thrust was to be 7,500 pounds, fuel burning time 120 seconds, and specific impulse 278 seconds-which would provide a vertical velocity increment of 2,022 feet per second and a horizontal velocity of 8,339. The oxidizer was to be white fuming nitric acid instead of red as originally called for.17

Without describing the type of mechanism to be used, the specifications stipulated that the separation system must jettison the protective nosecone before the second stage separated from the third stage, and the system must function without interfering with the structure of either stage. Since the second-stage shell which surrounded the third-stage motor had to retract about five feet longitudinally without contact in order to avoid collision with the third stage, weeks of work would have to go into devising means of accomplishing that delicate feat some three hundred miles above the earth's surface. In February 1956 neither Martin nor the Laboratory dared say just how to do it. Similarly the question of whether the tankage should be aluminum or stainless steel was left unsettled. Aerojet, having had considerable experience in forming and welding stainless steel, later succeeded in persuading Martin that steel had a better strength-to-weight ratio than aluminum and would be the most satisfactory material to use. Although several Martin and NRL engineers deplored that choice, in December 1956 a backup contract with the A. O. Smith Company of Milwaukee to produce welded steel tanks would allay some anxieties.18

Intensive discussion of the specifications for the third stage went on concurrently with plans for the second stage. While acknowledging the necessity of lengthening the third stage and slightly increasing its diameter, Martin engineers flatly declared that the rocket could not support a thirty-inch spherical satellite unless the entire vehicle were to be bigger. Challenged by Hagen to produce mathematical proof of that assertion, they presented data on 3 February that convinced the project director. At the same time Hagen received an alternative proposal from an unexpected source, namely from James Van Allen, who was a member of the National Academy's IGY Technical Panel on the Earth Satellite Program (TPESP) and head of a newly appointed Working Group on Internal Instrumentation.

Critical of NRL's "schematic design" which, he contended, allotted only 2 pounds of the 21.5-pound body to experimenters' instruments, Van Allen urged that "half the initial group of satellites" carry a payload of cylindrical configuration, 18 inches long, 6 inches in diameter, which would reduce the weight of the inert structure from 11.5 to 5.5 pounds and thus leave 8 pounds for scientific instrumentation. This plan carried the discussion full circle. Hagen was irked. He observed that he had agreed to abandon the original, efficient conical-shaped satellite (see p. 80) to accede to the desires stressed by Whipple and endorsed without a dissenting voice by the Academy's panel. Adoption of the 20-inch sphere had been a concession that had already caused delays and otherwise avoidable expense. Furthermore, if Van Allen had counted in the telemetry equipment, he would have had to chalk up the weight allowance for instrumentation in the sphere at 10 pounds, not 2. The White House and the Defense Department had refused to act upon the Academy's plea for twelve satellite vehicles, and the Vanguard staff considered the chances slim of getting more than one successful launching out of the six authorized. An alternate design for three of the six would add to problems at this juncture. And if the Minitrack system were to fail at any point, tracking would have to depend on the visibility of the tiny object orbiting in space. The 20-inch sphere appeared to be the most practical choice.19

That agreed upon, the Laboratory and the Martin Company had comparatively little trouble in fixing the configuration, weight, and power requirements of the third stage. The engine was to be bottle-shaped, 55.45 to 57.5 inches long and 18 inches in diameter; the rocket's dry weight was to be about 67.5 pounds, propellant weight 395, and payload 21.5 pounds, thrust nominally 2,350 pounds in vacuum, fuel-burning time 41.5 seconds, minimum specific impulse 245 seconds, and the velocity increment 13,405 feet per second. As the government was to supply the satellite package and the structure for attaching it in and separating it from the rocket casing, the contractor had to adapt his design to fit.20 Martin and NRL had already concluded that a dual approach to design and fabrication of the third-stage engine was desirable. So, in early March Martin placed a purchase order with the Grand Central Rocket Company of Redlands, California, while the government negotiated a direct contract with the Allegany Ballistics Laboratory of Cumberland, Maryland, to produce an alternative model.21

The struggle over vehicle specifications ended with the Martin Company's yielding to the Laboratory's every demand except for the thirty-inch satellite, and, in view of the strong convictions of Martin engineers that their methods and plans were generally sounder than the customer's, they yielded with good grace. NRL engineers were satisfied with the final design and indeed Milton Rosen called it "magnificent" ten years later. Many of its features were well ahead of its time. Yet the contract contained several passage-those dealing with the controversial "policy considerations"-that are likely to look deceptively innocuous to anyone unaware of their implications. Today a standard type of National Aeronautics and Space Administration contract with industry, the agreement of 1956 had to be painfully worked out to meet novel managerial problems.22 It fixed a relationship between government and industry whereby a federal agency responsible for procuring precision hardware to use under unknown conditions of scientific exploration became manager of the project, wielding authority to direct the work of an industrial prime contractor and subcontractors, The arguments that delayed negotiations in 1955 and 1956 revolved around four issues: the parts of the system which the government declared it must procure and operate, government supervision over Martin's subcontractors, deviations from specifications, and the "margin of safety."

The final agreement listed in detail what the government was to supply, even the number of desks and chairs to be put in the blockhouse at the Cape. Appendixes I and III entitled respectively "Government Furnished Equipment" and "Government Support Facilities and Services" contained the particulars that amplified statements given in the first paragraphs of the specification document. Under the heading "General Procedures" two sentences defined the extent of NRL's authority: "The Government will exercise such direction and controls as are necessary to assure itself that launching and test vehicles meet their objectives in both performance and reliability. The Government will determine the performance and degree of reliability that can be reasonably expected within the time-scale framework." The contractor, in short, could not decide for himself what was good enough. Under the heading "Field Operations," the wording ran: "The Government will arrange and control field operations. In addition the Government will determine the requirements for and will provide equipment and services for telemetry, tracking, range safety, and data reduction. The Contractor shall supply the Government with the Contractor's requirements for data." When asked ten years later why Martin abandoned its advocacy of using telemetry equipment already available and, in company opinion, as good or better than the more complex that NRL demanded, Elliott Felt shrugged and said smilingly: "Oh, they were so insistent that it wasn't worth fighting over any longer. Besides we were tired of going to meetings at the Laboratory. It was such a dreary place." The Laboratory would have to bear the responsibility for any waste of time or money. In actuality by mid-1957 the accuracy of the NRL telemetry system would be an eye-opener to Air Force officers and contractors at the Cape.23

NRL also had its way in requiring the specifications for subcontractors' jobs to be incorporated in the government contract with Martin. The provision automatically put the Laboratory's staff in a position to monitor all Vanguard work in process. The technical director of the program believed it the only possible way to ensure that the quality of subsystems and parts was up to the Laboratory's exacting standards and, if not, to institute corrective measures promptly. In spite of its initial objections, the Martin Company in time to come would find government intervention helpful, for example, in flying out new heat-treating equipment to the Aerojet plant when the subcontractor was encountering troubles with the second-stage tankage.24

Deviation from specifications was settled by a decree that every change must be recorded in writing whether approved in conferences between the government and the primary contractor or more formally by letter. The Bureau of Aeronautics Representative, BAR/Baltimore, might sanction minor revisions; NRL must endorse all major deviations. Although Martin complained about the one-sided nature of clauses empowering the government to direct changes which the contractor thought needless or undesirable, the company knew that the customer, right or wrong, was paying the piper and could call the tune.

In the section dealing with the safety of the rocket's structure, one sentence alone took a week of angry discussion to draft in its final form: "The minimum margin of safety shall be greater than zero." Martin, relying on its experience in extrapolation, believed its calculations of stresses as reliable a guide to structural design as the state of the art could furnish. NRL, doubting the capacity of anyone to compute with sufficient exactitude the structural strengths required to meet unknown conditions, insisted on safeguards. Company officials argued that the customer must trust to company competence. And company pride was involved. What Martin considered redundancies, the Laboratory labeled necessary precautions. So one paragraph covering structural design set the minimum yield factor of safety at 1.10 and the minimum ultimate factor at 1.25. "Where structural failure would endanger personnel during ground handling, erection and checkout,…the minimum ultimate factor of safety shall be 1.50…For pressure vessels other than fuel and oxidizer tanks, where failure would endanger personnel,…the minimum ultimate factor of safety shall be 2.00." These additions to the strength of the Vanguard structure, as Martin pointed out, increased the rocket's weight, but, in the view of most NRL experts, that was a lesser penalty than the loss of public endorsement of the satellite program which might well have resulted had the men working on the launcher suffered serious injuries.25 And even if men were not hurt, the loss of material and time from structural failures would have been disastrous, for estimates made later at the firing complex showed that every hour of delay in a countdown cost at least $25,000.26

The wording of several passages of the specification was vague or at least subject to more than one interpretation. No one could quarrel with the goal stated under the heading "Simplicity": "Simplicity of satellite vehicle construction shall be emphasized in the interest of providing reliability and decreased weight. Every effort shall be made to keep the number and complexity of components…to a minimum. Applications of this principle must not jeopardize attaining the mission." The last sentence, however sensible, opened the door to new debates when testing began. Were two sets of batteries and valves, for example, a redundancy or necessary insurance? By the end of 1956 NRL acknowledged that some of its original demands were unrealistically cautious. Reliability, a universally acknowledged "must," was obviously too elusive a term to define precisely. The requirement merely read: "The vehicle shall be designed and components selected on the basis of available reliability data to insure reliability consistent with the state of the art. Reliability studies and statistical testing to establish such data shall not be required." In other words, build as reliable a vehicle as you know how to.27

The inspection and testing requirements, on the contrary, were explicit. The primary contractor was to conduct at his plant tests and inspections of parts, subsystems, and the assembled vehicle; inspection of materials, components, and subsystems was also to take place during manufacture in Martin's and subcontractors' shops and, after assembly of each stage of the vehicle at the Middle River plant, again under the supervision of a government inspector. Thus there was to be a triple check before firing tests began and before government acceptance of each vehicle, Procedures in Baltimore were to include, first, systems tests of stability, pressurization efficiency, and structural noise that might interfere with the functioning of the flight control system; and, second, environmental testing with simulation of vibration, shock, temperature, humidity, and pressure. But data required for design evaluation of the entire vehicle were to be obtained from flight-testing at Cape Canaveral. As the contractor was to have responsibility for directing and conducting the test programs, whereas, as noted above, the government was to "control all field operations," the seeds of future controversy were embedded in the document.

The purpose of each static firing and flight test in the field was, however, clearly set forth. The program was to progress from static and then flight testing of TV-0, the name given to the modified Viking 13 single-stage rocket, to Test Vehicle l, the revamped Viking l4, carrying a dummy second stage and a live third stage. TV-3 would be the first live three-stage Vanguard to be fired, and TV-4 the first to carry the satellite package. The last test vehicle, TV-5, equipped with somewhat different instrumentation from that in TV-4, would also carry a satellite.28 Only after analyzing the performance of the test vehicles were launchings of the six SLVs, satellite launch vehicles, to begin. Events in 1957 were destined to change this schedule.

One policy matter not expressly covered in the final contract was the question of releasing information to the public. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robertson's directive of 9 September 1955 had, it is true, decreed that all releases dealing with the Pentagon's share of the program must be cleared through the Office of Security Review, and the Navy had assigned a Confidential classification to the project. But those restrictions still left areas of doubt. The Martin Company naturally wanted freedom to answer newspapermen's inquiries about company plans and progress that did not impinge on security rules; it seemed a reasonable form of free advertising. But ONR was adamant that every statement for public consumption must be cleared through government channels. The Vanguard teams at the Laboratory and at the contractor's plant strove to abide by Edward Hulburt's informal dictate that, whatever the omissions, the information must be strictly truthful. Yet well before all the design specifications were agreed upon, so many problems were arising about public relations that Hagen eventually asked Commander Berg to prepare a list of classified and non-classified items in the vehicle. A time-consuming task, it proved a valuable guide for briefings. Both Hagen and Berg believed that all Americans had a legitimate interest in the great venture. So, as Berg put it, "instead of brushing a few crumbs through the cracks to them, we invited them to the banquet table and merely omitted a few courses."29

The signing of the design specification in itself constituted a milestone for the program. Reached six weeks after the date originally set, the agreement cleared the road ahead; manufacturing drawings and shop work could now proceed, even though addenda and revisions to the basic document were already under discussion. The Martin Company on 8 March submitted a list of minor changes clarifying the company's responsibilities. appending a breakdown of costs now estimated at $26,212,938, and making some shifts in the test schedule. An addendum prepared by the Laboratory set forth the procedures for incorporating in the specification the decisions left unsettled in the agreement of 29 February. It also made more explicit the duties of the contractor's field crew and the relationship to obtain between Martin's field project engineer and NRL's test coordinator and project coordinator at AFMTC, and the amendment described the character of the supervision the Laboratory would exercise over subcontractors. Furthermore, it expressly assigned to the Martin Company responsibility for technical coordination of the work to be done on the third-stage rocket motor by the Allegany Ballistics Laboratory with that to be undertaken by the Grand Central Rocket Company. With these elaborations completed, both parties signed the final contract on 30 April.30

In the retrospect of a dozen years, the major participants viewed the battle over Vanguard specifications as inevitable, partly because similar fights, albeit on a smaller scale, still occur when a much-publicized contract is at stake, and more largely because the 1955-6 struggle, involving as it did a controversial principle of management, had to go on under time pressures so severe as to make tempers peculiarly edgy. Just as the differences of opinion over the design, as such, rarely if ever created animus, so by 1967 the former antagonists could see that neither side had been wholly and consistently right. Under the circumstances obtaining in the mid-1950s, it was little short of a miracle that a workable modus operandi had come into being by spring 1956.


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