GLV-2 and the Elements

While spacecraft testing floundered past snag after snag, GLV-2 had been moving briskly through its test program despite some rough spots. At the outset, the second-stage oxidizer tank was found defective, and a new tank had to be built. Since the first-stage tanks were not yet ready, the delay was inconsequential. Martin-Baltimore received all four tanks from Denver on 12 July 1963. Engines were late in arriving from Aerojet-General, but testing went ahead with nonflight first-stage engines. By the end of January 1964, GLV-2 had completed its horizontal test program. Early the next month it was standing in the Vertical Test Facility; and, after two weeks of modification work, functional verification tests of subsystems began on 21 February.24

GLV-2 finished these tests by 13 April, in roughly two thirds the [203] time taken by the first booster. Another week saw it through electrical-electronic interference tests and three preliminary combined systems acceptance tests (CSAT), an effort that had cost GLV-1 over a month. The formal CSAT was run on 22 April with no trouble, and the results were approved by the Vehicle Acceptance Team the following week. The dummy engines still had to be replaced, which took a month. By mid-June, GLV-2 had been inspected and formally accepted for the Gemini program. Since spacecraft work was lagging, the booster's transfer to the Cape was postponed so Martin crews in Baltimore could complete some of the modifications that would otherwise have been made by the Martin-Canaveral team.25

Workmen loaded the booster aboard an Air Force C-133B aircraft on 10 July 1964. By noon the next day, both stages had been unloaded and secured. Working a two-shift, five-day week, Martin's Cape crew expected to have GLV-2 ready for Spacecraft by mid-August. Everything proceeded routinely through July and into August, with only minor problems causing small delays. This was of no moment, since the spacecraft was still in St. Louis. Its shipment, scheduled for 1 August, had been postponed for three weeks; it could not now reach complex 19 before the first week in September. The Martin crew nevertheless prepared for the final test of the booster before its mating with the spacecraft and were almost through by 17 August.26

But that Monday a severe thunderstorm pounded Cape Kennedy. About half an hour before midnight, lightning struck complex 19. There was no visible damage to the blockhouse, erector, or rocket, but that proved nothing about the status of the electrical and electronic gear. Whether GLV-2 was fit to fly was a real question. NASA labeled the event an "electromagnetic incident" and demanded a thorough investigation. Inspectors from Martin, Aerospace, and the 6555th Aerospace Test Wing found no signs of any physical damage, but they did locate a number of failed parts, mostly in the ground support equipment. This suggested that the complex had not taken a direct hit but rather had suffered the electromagnetic effects, or induced static charges, of a nearby lightning strike. A test order issued on 20 August set the task: To "re-establish confidence in all [launch vehicle], AGE, . . . and Facility Systems, and to determine that all degraded equipment is replaced and appropriate reverification tests are successfully completed." The next day, Gemini manager Mathews flew in from Houston for an "Incident Status Meeting." A three-man steering committee was appointed to oversee the efforts of Air Force, Aerospace, and Martin work crews.* 27

[204] Two weeks seemed ample to put things back in order. Most subsystems would have to be retested, and all booster systems, test equipment, and facilities would have to be checked out. Any equipment that might have been affected had to be repaired or replaced. After some consultation, NASA agreed that no airborne units with semiconductors ought to be retained. Once new units were installed, testing could begin again as though the vehicle had just arrived at the Cape.28

Before the work was finished, however, Hurricane Cleo belied the forecasts and brushed the Cape on Thursday, 27 August. The Martin crew had time to get the second stage down and under cover, but the first stage remained upright, lashed in place with the erector lowered. Cleo's winds were well below the upper limit that the booster was designed to withstand. With the weather still bad on Friday, the second stage stayed in storage over the weekend. On Monday, the Air Force was getting ready to launch its first Titan IIIA from the next complex, which hampered work on pad 19 for most of the day. By 3 o'clock the next morning, however, the Martin crew had stage II back in place atop the first stage. Further work was delayed by the countdown on the nearby pad, which ended at 10 a.m., Tuesday, when the Titan IIIA blasted off. GLV-2's repeat of subsystems functional verification tests began on Thursday, 3 September.29

By then, MSC was just about ready to give up on GLV-2. The Center proposed dropping it from the program and moving each of the other launch vehicles up a notch. GLV-3 would launch Spacecraft 2, and the flight program would lose one mission. The Air Force, strongly seconded by the launch vehicle contractors, urged NASA to stick with GLV-2. A thorough review of the effects of both lightning and hurricane, the measures taken to counter them, and the test results had convinced the Air Force and its contractors that GLV-2 was still as sound as ever. Their case was solid enough to convert the skeptics. An Air Force spokesman concluded: "Based on technical considerations, Martin-Marietta Corporation, Aerojet-General Corporation, [and] Aerospace Corporation recommend fly GLV-2. In addition, SSD has reviewed cost and schedule considerations and concludes fly GLV-2." NASA agreed, and the work went on.30

Testing had scarcely begun, however, before Nature intervened a third time. Cleo had struck only a glancing blow, but Hurricane Dora was aiming straight for the Cape. As Dora approached on 8 September, Martin workers raced to get both stages of GLV-2 down and safely under cover in a hangar. Wednesday was a day of waiting as Dora passed by. On Thursday, Dora was no longer a threat, but Hurricane Ethel was heading for the Cape and due to arrive by the weekend. GLV-2 stayed under wraps. By Monday, 14 September, the danger was past, and GLV-2 was back in place before the end of the day. The rest of the week was largely given over to replacing semiconductor [205] units and to a thorough inspection of booster and launch complex. Testing resumed after the weekend, on 21 September.31

That was the day Spacecraft 2 finally arrived at the Cape. The second phase of systems testing at St. Louis had lasted through August and into September, with frequent interruptions for the receipt and installation of a number of pieces of flight equipment.A simulated flight on 15 September completed testing. A Spacecraft Acceptance Review Board headed by Charles Mathews had already gone over the spacecraft to make sure it was ready for the final simulation.** The board met again on 17 September and decided that Spacecraft 2 was now ready for delivery. It was shipped to Florida the following Monday, 21 September.32

GLV-2's misfortunes during August and September 1964 forced NASA to forego its goal of a manned Gemini flight before the end of the year, as a rueful Mathews informed the Gemini Management Panel on 29 September. The second flight was now set for mid-November 1964, the third for the end of January 1965. There seemed no need to alter planned dates for the later Gemini missions, although the schedules would have to be tightened. Once again, Gemini's slowness was highlighted by a Russian first. On 12 October, the Soviet Union orbited Voskhod I. The three-man crew flew in a "shirtsleeve" environment (flight coveralls rather than space suits) and all remained in the spacecraft to a land landing (previously only Yuri Gagarin was believed to have stayed with his vehicle until it landed, the others leaving the spacecraft and coming down by parachute).33

GLV-2 began an expected two weeks of subsystems tests on 21 September, with the combined systems test that preceded spacecraft mating scheduled for 6 October. Spacecraft 2 should have taken only 11 working days in the hangar area before it joined the booster at the launch complex on 25 October. Once again, however, work on the booster went smoothly, but the spacecraft lagged. GLV-2 completed subsystems tests and the premate test on schedule. In another week the launch vehicle finished electrical-electronic interference tests, the last step before it was ready to receive the spacecraft. While the launch vehicle was being tested, so was the worldwide tracking network. From 9 to 16 October, Goddard and MSC put the tracking stations through their paces.*** 34

[206] The spacecraft, however, had yet to arrive at the pad. Work had gone well enough the first week, but trouble cropped up in getting the thrusters ready for a static firing test. After firing, the system had to be flushed and purged, another delay. By 10 October, Spacecraft 2 was already eight days behind schedule; it lost another two days while pyrotechnics were installed. Spacecraft 2 was ten days late when it reached complex 19 on Sunday, 18 October, and settled in the tripod in the white room an hour before noon.35

Attempts to run the spacecraft premate systems test brought new problems. As one was solved, another appeared; and it was 27 October before the test was complete. The final step before the spacecraft was joined to the launch vehicle was a premate simulated flight, run in two parts. Despite more than one discrepancy revealed by the test, the spacecraft was mechanically mated to its booster by noon Thursday, 5 November.

After the mating Martin conducted tanking exercises on the launch vehicle to check calibration, to see whether or not the launch crew could load the tanks accurately with the equipment on hand, and to train for launch loading. The Martin crew found some differences between the data gathered from calibration and what they thought they had loaded. This led to a series of tanking exercises throughout the program and set up "a new family of people, called the Wednesday Evening Tanking Society and the Thursday Evening Tanking Society - the WETS and the TETS."36

The troubled course of testing and checkout now smoothed. Over the next month, any problems that showed up were handled quickly, as Gemini 2 ticked off the milestones on its way to a 9 December launch: electrical interface integrated validation, 9 November; joint guidance and control test, 12 November; joint combined systems test after electrical mating, 17 November; wet mock simulated launch, 24 November; spacecraft final systems test, 28 November; simulated flight test, 3 December; and launch precount, 7 December.37


* The 20 August test order was approved by Martin's Chief Test Conductor and Gemini Project Engineer, Francis X. Carey and William R. Williams. Lieutenant Colonel Stewart V. Spragins, 6555th Aerospace Test Wing, concurred. These three men made up the steering committee.

** Members of the board were Scott Simpkinson (Gemini Test Operations), Duncan Collins (Gemini Spacecraft Manger), Arnold D. Aldrich (Flight Operations Directorate), Philip M. Deans (Engineering and Development Directorate), Robert Everline and Galloway B. Foster, Jr. (Gemini Office of Program Control), Bailey, Slayton, and John Williams.

*** For the network test, Kraft, Hodge, Eugene F. Kranz, and Glynn S. Lunney took turns as flight director. The network was not quite the same as for the first Gemini mission; the sites this time were Cape Kennedy Mission Control; Goddard; Carnarvon, Australia; Hawaii; Canary Islands; Bermuda; Guaymas, Mexico; Corpus Christi, Texas; and two tracking ships - the Rose Knot Victor and the Coastal Sentry Quebec. Although it was not completely operational, the new Mission Control Center at MSC monitored the exercise.


24 Letter, Col. Alfred J. Gardner to dist., "Gemini Launch Vehicle Number Two Rollout Inspection," 23 July 1964, with enclosed summary, Kenneth W. Graham and David H. Baxter, "Activities Pertinent to the Technical Review of the Second Gemini Launch Vehicle Propellant Tanks during the Period 20 May - 10 July 63"; "GT-2 Mission Report," pp. 12-9, -11, -12; Mathews, activity report, 7-13 July 1963, p. 2; Launch Vehicle Press Handbook, 2nd ed., p. D-3; [Joseph] F. Wambolt and S[ally] F. Anderson, coordinators, "Gemini Program Launch Systems Final Report: Gemini/Titan Launch Vehicle; Gemini/Agena Target Vehicle; Atlas SLV-3," Aerospace TOR100(2126-80)-3, January 1967, p. II.G-3; Quarterly Status Report No. 8, p. 3; "The First Gemini Executives Meeting," Tab D, "GLV-2 Problem Summary."

25 "GLV-2 Problem Summary"; Quarterly Status Report No. 9, p. 3; "GT-2 Mission Report," pp. 12-12 through -15; Howard T. Harris, "Gemini Launch Vehicle Chronology, 1961-1966," AFSC Historical Publications Series 66-22-1, December 1966, p. 37; Mathews, activity report, 17 May - 20 June 1964, p. 1.

26 Memo, DuGoff to Mgr., Test Ops., "Gemini Launch Vehicle Activity Report No. 1," 13 July 1963; "History of Project Gemini (GT-2) at Kennedy Space Center," KSC External Affairs Office, n.d., pp. 1-16; TWX, Mathews to NASA Hq., Attn: Schneider, "Gemini Launch Vehicle (GLV) No. 2 Activity Report No. 1," GT-55168, 15 July 1964; Mathews, activity report, 21 June - 18 July 1964, p. 3; memo,, DuGoff to Mgr., Test Ops., "Gemini Launch Vehicle Activity Report No. 9, period August 14 p.m. - August 16 p.m.," 17 Aug. 1964.

27 "History of GT-2 at KSC," p. 17; "GT-2 Mission Report," pp. 12-15, -16; memo, DuGoff to Asst. Mgr. for Gemini, "Thunderstorm/Lightning Incident - GLV-2," 21 Aug. 1964; Hohmann and Ernst R. Letsch, interview, El Segundo, Calif., 19 April 1966; Joseph M. Verlander, Kapryan, Dineen, and Col. Lamar D. Bowles, telephone interviews, 28 Feb. 1973.

28 DuGoff memo, 21 Aug. 1964; Wambolt and Anderson, "Launch Systems Final Report," pp. II.E-13, -14; "GT-2 Mission Report," p. 12-16.

29 "History of GT-2 at KSC," pp. 26-28; memos, DuGoff to Mgr., Test Ops., "Gemini Launch Vehicle Activity Report[s] No. 11," 26 Aug., and "No.12," 4 Sept.1964; "GT-2 Mission Report," p. 12- 16; "First Titan 3A Vehicle Fails to Achieve Orbit," Aviation Week and Space Technology, 7 Sept. 1964, p. 32.

30 Notes, Schneider to Mueller, 19 and 24 Aug. 1964; Harris, "Launch Vehicle Chronology," p. 42; SSD Briefing to Gemini Executive Management Meeting, 4 Sept. 1964; letter, Mathews to Maj. Gen. Ben I. Funk, GA-01281, 10 Sept. 1964.

31 "GT-2 Mission Report," p. 12-16; memos, DuGoff to Asst. Mgr. for Gemini, Florida Ops., "Launch Vehicle Activity - Report #13," 10 Sept., and "Report #14," 23 Sept. 1964.

32 "GT-2 Mission Report," pp. 12-3, -4; memo, Mathews to dist., "Personnel assignments for Spacecraft 2 acceptance review," 19 Aug. 1964, with enclosure; TWX, Mathews to McDonnell, Attn: Burke, "Spacecraft 2 Acceptance Review," GT-55212-A, 25 Aug. 1964; TWX, Mathews to McDonnell, Attn: Burke, "Spacecraft 2 Acceptance Review Team and Board," GP-54939, 27 Aug. 1964; letter, Mathews to Burke, "Contract NAS 9-170; results of Spacecraft Acceptance Review, Spacecraft 2 Phase I Review," GP-03881, 12 Sept. 1964; TWX, Mathews to McDonnell, Attn: Burke, GP-54961, 11 Sept. 1964; letter, Mathews to Wilbur H. Gray, 18 Sept.1964; letter, Mathews to Burke, "Contract NAS 9-170; results of Spacecraft Acceptance Review, Phase II for Spacecraft 2," GP-03934, 5 Oct. 1964; memo, Mathews to dist., "Results of Spacecraft Acceptance Review, Phase II for Spacecraft 2," GP-03938, 5 Oct. 1964; Mathews, activity report, 20-26 Sept. 1964, p. 2; TWX, Kapryan to Mathews, AMR 09-22-223, 22 Sept. 1964.

33 Memo, Mueller to Seamans, "Gemini Launch Schedule Approval," 15 Sept. 1964, with Seamans concurrence the same day; Willis B. Mitchell, Jr., recorder, "Minutes of Project Gemini Management Panel Meeting . . . , September 29, 1964," p. 3, Figs. A-1-1 through -4, A-2-3; Henry Tanner, "Soviet Spaceship Is Landed Safely after 16 Circuits," The New York Times, 14 Oct. 1964.

34 DuGoff memo, 23 Sept. 1964; memos, DuGoff to Asst. Mgr. for Gemini, Florida Ops., "Launch Vehicle Activity - Report #19," 8 Oct., and "Report #21," 14 Oct. 1964; "History of GT-2 at KSC," pp. 36, 40, 41, 44, 47, 49; "GT-2 Mission Report," p. 12-16; material compiled by Alfred Rosenthal, Office of Public Affairs, Goddard; "Worldwide Tracking Network Being Tested for Manned Flights," MSC Space News Roundup, 14 Oct. 1964.

35 "GT-2 Mission Report," pp. 12-4, -5; "History of GT-2 at KSC," pp. 39-54; TWXs, Kapryan to Mathews, daily status reports: No. 9, 5 Oct., No. 10, 6 Oct., No. 11, 6 Oct., No. 13, 8 Oct., No. 14, 9 Oct., No. 15, 12 Oct., and No. 20, 19 Oct. 1964; memo, Schneider to Assoc. Adm., Manned Space Flight, "Schedule Delays at Cape Kennedy - GT-2," 4 Nov. 1964.

36 "GT-2 Mission Report," pp. 12-5, -6; "History of GT-2 at KSC," pp. 54-57, 59-60, 63-65; TWXs, Kapryan to dist., daily status reports: No. 27, 28 Oct., No. 29, 30 Oct., and No. 34, 6 Nov. 1964; TWXs, Kapryan to MSC, Attn: Mathews, daily status reports: No. 30, 2 Nov., No. 31, 3 Nov., No. 32, 4 Nov., and No.33, 5 Nov. 1964; Verlander, interview, Cocoa Beach, Fla., 29 Aug. 1967.

37 "GT-2 Mission Report," pp. 12-6, -7, -8, -17, -46; "History of GT-2 at KSC," pp. 66-84.


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