Relations with the Manned Spacecraft Center

While KSC's relations with Huntsville were relatively good, its early coordination with Houston was another matter. During 1962-1964, KSC officials frequently complained that the Houston center was tardy with its spacecraft-related requirements for the launch facilities. Some KSC officials believed their counterparts were less than frank in their dealings. This feeling gave way slowly as KSC gained an appreciation for Houston problems.

Information from Houston came slowly for two reasons. First, spacecraft design was dragging, and the July 1962 decision to rendezvous in lunar orbit imposed new assignments, including development of the lunar excursion module. The lunar module contract, won by Grumman Aircraft in November 1962, initiated one of Apollo's most difficult projects, which by 1967 threatened to delay the entire program. The addition of a rendezvous and docking capability to the command-service module required two years of extensive study. Configuration work on the two vehicles culminated with the mockup review of North American's block II spacecraft on 30 September 1964. Secondly, the Manned Spacecraft Center did not have enough experienced spokesmen on the intercenter panels. Many of the center's engineers were occupied with the Mercury and Gemini programs. Houston's Apollo team, understaffed for the large tasks it faced, allotted priority to its North American and Grumman relations. A reluctance to share information that might lessen a center's authority also contributed to Apollo's coordination difficulties. All three centers, however, shared in this sin of omission.23

In August 1962, LOC had a detailed concept for Saturn V operations but only a general understanding of Apollo spacecraft needs. Early that month Debus, Petrone, and Poppel journeyed to Houston for a discussion of requirements. The two centers agreed that a spacecraft checkout center would be constructed in the Merritt Island industrial area, checkout of the spacecraft at the assembly building and later on the pad would be controlled from the launch control center, and Houston would not need a computer or display console on board the launch umbilical tower.24

The disagreement about servicing the spacecraft (first expressed at the Management Council meeting in May 1962 [see chapter 6-6]) continued for several more months. At a Launch Operations sub-panel meeting in October 1962, MSC insisted that pad facilities provide access to the Apollo spacecraft from all sides. Design of the command and service modules was too far along to modify this requirement. The Houston engineers did not care whether LOC built the 360 degree service capability into the launch umbilical tower's swing arms or made the arming tower mobile. Neither alternative appealed to LOC, but Petrone informed Houston in early November that a mobile arming tower would provide the necessary pad access.25

While conceding that matter, LOC won a dispute over the responsibilities for establishing criteria in the industrial area. LOC's concept paper on launch operations stated, "LOC will provide design, contracting, and construction monitoring services for facility construction . . . based on MSC functional and technical requirements." The Florida Operations launch team of the Houston center interpreted this to mean that LOC would provide the services based on "design and specification requirements or criteria developed by MSC." Debus objected to Houston's providing fully developed criteria for the spacecraft facilities and won Holmes's support at a meeting in October 1962. Subsequently, the LOC director and G. Merritt Preston, chief of Florida Operations, agreed that Houston would provide rough criteria while LOC selected the architect-engineering firm and approved the final design.26

A bigger problem - one that dragged on for several years - concerned submission of spacecraft data. In October 1962, Petrone wrote Houston's Apollo Project Office that spacecraft requirements were "urgently needed" so that LOC could proceed with the criteria studies for the assembly building, launch pad, and mobile launcher. He restated LOC's needs the following month and frequently thereafter.27 Unfortunately, the Houston engineers could not ascertain all their spacecraft requirements. In October 1962, they projected a need for one 6-meter console in the firing room of the launch control center. By early 1963, this had grown to thirty-five 48-centimeter racks and two 6-meter consoles. A year later Houston was still uncertain about the checkout equipment for the mission operations room; in February 1964 a Houston representative asked if the Manned Spacecraft Center could simply indicate what spacecraft functions had to be performed and the approximate locations for the test consoles.28

Problems in achieving a final design for the command and service modules delayed LOC's design of the mobile service structure well into 1964. By September 1963, the design of the tower was nearly a year behind schedule, and the growing number of spacecraft requirements increased the likelihood of a top-heavy, overweight tower. The contractor, Rust Engineering, undertook a weight reduction program, redesigning the service platforms and modifying the lower structure. Petrone reported in December that Rust had the tower's weight and wind-load factors back within the limits of the initial criteria. Seven months later, the design work completed and construction bids on hand, there were two more changes: a KSC decision to relocate ground servicing equipment at the base of the arming tower, and a late list of cabling requirements from Houston. KSC made the necessary modifications within a month.29

Since the lunar module had started late, a delay in its requirements was expected. After the data became available in January 1965, launch engineers modified their facilities to accommodate the third spacecraft module. The changes affected the electrical and fluid systems of the mobile launcher, office space in the assembly building as well as the second level of platform B in the high bays, and platform 3 of the mobile service structure. KSC altered the pad area to provide space for the lunar module's ground support equipment and additional power receptacles.30

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