Help from the Department of Defense

Top-flight officials both in NASA and the Kennedy administration, when they recommended a moon landing program as the focus of America's space effort, saw Apollo as a central element of a broad national space program. The United States needed not only to develop more powerful boosters, to match Russia's, but to plan that development with a minimum of unnecessary duplication among agencies.40

Early in July 1961, Seamans and John H. Rubel, Assistant Secretary of Defense and Deputy Director of Defense Research and Engineering, agreed on the need for joint NASA-Defense planning. Seamans informed Webb that the two agencies would try to determine what boosters would best meet the requirements of both the Department of Defense (DoD) and NASA. The civilian agency's central concern, of course, was a launch vehicle for Apollo.41

With the approval of both Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara and Administrator Webb,42 Rubel and Seamans set up a DoD-NASA Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group on 20 July. Although Nicholas Golovin, an applied mathematician and Seamans' Technical Assistant, shared the chair with Lawrence Kavanau, a missile expert from the Defense Department, the group soon became known as the Golovin Committee.*

This committee, like all the others, found that, for Apollo, vehicle selection and mode were inseparable. At first the planners considered only direct ascent and earth-orbital rendezvous, but they soon broadened their study to include other kinds of rendezvous.43 When it became apparent that the committee intended to delve deeply into the mode issue, Harvey Hall (of NASA's Office of Launch Vehicle Programs) asked that Marshall, Langley, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory each study one particular kind of rendezvous - earth-orbit, lunar-orbit, or lunar-surface - and prepare a report for the Golovin group. Hall's own office would study direct ascent.44

Worried that this latest in the series of Headquarters committees established to select a launch vehicle for Apollo would also get bogged down in the mode issue, Gilruth wrote Golovin about the degree to which rendezvous had pervaded recent thinking. "I feel that it is highly desirable," he said, "to develop a launch vehicle with sufficient performance and reliability to carry out the lunar landing mission using the direct approach. . . . I am concerned that rendezvous schemes may be used as a crutch to achieve early planned dates for launch vehicle availability, and to avoid the difficulty of developing a reliable NOVA class launch vehicle."45

Just as Gilruth had feared, Golovin's group did get mired in the mode issue, leaving the choice of an Apollo launch vehicle still unsettled. On 18 September, one committee member said the group preferred rendezvous rather than direct flight, because smaller vehicles would be available earlier than the large boosters. Preliminary conclusions indicated that the manned lunar landing might be made with the C-4 more safely than with the Nova. Moreover, the C-4 would be more useful to other NASA and Defense Department long-range needs.46

Golovin himself disagreed with the majority of his group, insisting that direct flight was the safest and best way to go. He and those of his team who shared his belief talked to Seamans and Rubel about solid-fueled versus liquid-fueled rocket engines for Nova, the concept of modules (or building blocks to achieve a variety of launch vehicles, and an S-IVB stage, which could be powered by a single J-2 engine.

Seamans, observing that some kind of advanced Saturn seemed to be inevitable, asked Golovin how many F-1 engines should be in the vehicle's first stage. Golovin replied, "Four - anything [less] is a waste of time." Golovin also recommended that the advanced Saturn be engineered so it could become most of the Nova as well.47

At the committee's general sessions on 23 and 24 October, debates grew hotter over solid- versus liquid fueled engines for the Nova, the size of the huge booster, and the merits of five rather than four F-1 engines in the advanced Saturn's first stage. Heinrich Weigand and Matthew Collins objected strongly to any assumption that rendezvous in space would be easy. Weigand contended that his fellow committeemen were underestimating the difficulty of rendezvous and docking. He wanted a Nova with large solidfueled rocket engines in its first stage. Collins also urged that direct ascent be given first priority.

Cochairman Kavanau warned that "lunar orbit rendezvous or direct is the only way to beat the Russians," adding that he believed the C-4 could do the job either way. Golovin countered that "competition with the Russians is a permanent thing." He insisted that both orbital operations and the development of large boosters would have to be studied for at least two years before any mode choice was possible.

After listening to the cochairmen express opposing views, Collins asked bluntly: "Are we going to recommend rendezvous or direct?" Reminded that this was not in their charter - they were supposed to be selecting a launch vehicle to support either rendezvous or direct flight - the group returned to the arguments over four versus five engines for the advanced Saturn's first stage and the Nova's configuration.48

And there the issues lay. Once again nothing was settled, although the October sessions wound up the Golovin Committee meetings. The group's greatest value had been as a forum for discussions on vehicle models and possible configurations for Apollo. The committee's conclusions - or lack of them - reflected compromises and conflicting opinions. After three months' intensive study of numerous vehicle combinations and mission approaches, the question of a launch vehicle for Apollo was still unreso1ved.49

On 16 November, Webb and McNamara reviewed the areas explored by Golovin's group and made several policy decisions. They agreed to halt the development of large solid rocket motors (6.1 meters or larger) as a backup for the F-1 liquid engine, although the Defense Department would "continue to carry out advanced state-of-the-art technical development in the solid field." And they decided that the Saturn C-4 should be developed for the rendezvous approach to Apollo.50

* The Golovin Committee originally comprised 14 member and alternate positions, equally divided between DoD and NASA. By the end of the study, these had expanded to 18 and included personnel from Aerospace Corp. (acting as advisers to DoD). The final roster listed Golovin (chairman), Eldon Hall, Harvey Hall, Milton W. Rosen, Kurt R. Stehling, and William W. Wolman (NASA Headquarters); Laurence Kavanau (cochairman and Director of Office of Defense); Warren Amster and Edward J. Barlow (Aerospace); Aleck C. Bond (Space Task Group); Seymour C. Himmel (Lewis); Wilson B. Schramm and Francis L. Williams (Marshall); Colonel Mathew R. Collins (Army); Rear Admiral Levering Smith and Captain Lewis J. Stecher, Jr. (Navy); and Colonel Otto J. Glasser, Lieutenant Colonel David L. Garter, and Heinrich J. Weigand (Air Force). James F. Chalmers, Aerospace, was secretary.

40. Logsdon, "NASA's Implementation," p. 27.

41. Seamans to Admin., NASA, "Planning of a DOD-NASA Program for Development of Large Launch Vehicles," 7 July 1961; Seamans to John H. Rubel, 3 Aug. 1961.

42. Webb to Robert S. McNamara and McNamara to Webb, 7 July 1961.

43. [Nicholas E. Golovin], draft report of DoD-NASA Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group (LLVPG), 3 vols., [November 1961]; James F. Chalmers, minutes of special LLVPG meeting with Silverstein, 18 Aug. 1961; Golovin and Lawrence L. Kavanau to Launch Vehicle Panel, Aeronautics and Astronautics Coordinating Board, "Report of the DOD-NASA Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group (LLVPG) as of August 31, 1961," 31 Aug. 1961.

44. Harvey Hall TWX to Dirs., MSFC, LRC, and JPL, 24 Aug. 1961; Hall to Asst. Dir., Vehicles, "Comparative Evaluation of Various Rendezvous Operations," 24 Aug. 1961; Hall TWX to John W. Small, Jr., et al., 14 Sept. 1961; Hall to LLVPG staff, "Comparison of Mission Alternatives (Rendezvous versus direct flight)," 14 Sept. 1961.

45. Gilruth to Golovin, 12 Sept. 1961.

46. Warren Amster to LLVPG staff, "A 'Federated' Launch Vehicle Program," 18 Sept. 1961. For more on the role of Amster's parent company, see [Walter T. Bonney], The Aerospace Corporation, 1960-1970: Serving America (El Segundo: Aerospace Corp., 1971).

47. Chalmers, minutes of LLVPG special meeting with Seamans: progress report, 29 Sept. 1961; idem, minutes of special LLVPG meeting with Seamans, 6 Oct. 1961.

48. Chalmers, minutes of LLVPG general meetings, 23 and 24 Oct. 1961.

49. "Final Report, NASA-DOD Large Launch vehicle Planning Group," NASA-DOD LLVPG 105 [Golovin Committee], 3 vols., 1 Feb. 1962.

50. McNamara to Webb, 17 Nov. 1961; Webb to McNamara, 28 Nov. 1961.

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