The LEM Test Program: A Pacing Item

Houston reviewed Grumman's testing program during 1965 to make sure it covered everything from small components to the big test articles. On 15 April Grumman began test-firing the ascent engine at White Sands. Propulsion testing was also being conducted at Bell and STL. Although engine firing programs were behind schedule, Houston expected better performance shortly.22

Six lunar test articles LTAs formed the backbone of the ground test program. Bethpage shipped LTA-2 to Huntsville for vibration testing to see if it could withstand launch pressures, and LTA-10 to Tulsa, to check its fit in the adapter. LTA-1 was a "house" spacecraft, used to iron out problems during fabrication, assembly, and checkout. Three more LTAs were under construction: LTA-8 for thermal-vacuum testing in Houston and LTAs 3 and 5 for combined structural shakings, vibrations, and engine firings.23

Flight test plans for the early production landers were flexible to accommodate schedule differences with the command module. LEM-1 naturally received the lion's share of attention, since Grumman had to get it ready for an unmanned "LEM-alone" mission (Apollo-Saturn 206A). LEM-1 would have to be ready at least three months before the Block II command module, however, or its first mission would be part of a test of the combined spacecraft.24

But Grumman was moving slowly. In the spring of 1965, John H. Disher of NASA's Washington Apollo office told Shea he believed LEM-1 would be a year late, making the lander a pacing item. Many factors contributed to LEM-1's inertia, but ground testing topped the list. And the trouble in ground testing was getting equipment ready to make the tests. Grumman's old bugaboo - ground support equipment (GSE) - had reared its ugly head. The significance of GSE shortages was not lost on Washington. At a program review on 20 April, Mueller told Houston managers to identify all lander GSE, along with the date it would be needed, as "sort of a thermometer" to bring the weaknesses in the system to Grumman management's attention.25

In mid-May, Grumman officials looked at possible launch dates for the first vehicle but could decide nothing definite because of a pinch in fiscal year 1966 funding. Hardware production had to be cut back in an attempt to absorb some of the loss. In July, Houston directed Bethpage to delete LTA-4, a vibration test article, and two flight test articles (FTAs). To replace the FTAs, two LTAs would be refurbished when they finished ground tests. After trials with scale and full-sized models had been run at Langley and elsewhere, Houston also canceled a landing gear test model as an unnecessary expense.26

Grumman, at a program review on 6 July, then asked NASA to relax the rules on qualification testing and to permit delivery to the Cape of vehicles not fully equipped. Shea rejected this suggestion, ordering his subsystem managers to make sure that only all-up landers left the Grumman plant. Problems with some of the subsystems were a factor in this request. Bell in particular was having trouble with the redesigned injectors and tank bladders for the ascent engine, and manufacturing problems were harassing Hamilton Standard's environmental control system. Subsystem manager Richard E. Mayo asked Donald Sullivan (head of a manufacturing unit in the Apollo office) to find out what was wrong. When he visited the Windsor Locks plant, Sullivan noted that, although Hamilton Standard was turning out high-quality parts, good solid management in assembling and integrating the system was lacking.27

Electrical and electronics gear, where design changes persisted throughout 1965, was also lagging. The abort sensor assembly (part of the abort guidance system), for example, was redesigned to incorporate continuous thermal control, a programmable memory for the computer, and a data-entry-display assembly. In mid-August R. Wayne Young, who had succeeded William Rector as the lander's project officer, ordered Grumman project manager Robert Mullaney to stop making changes if the present system could do the job.28

Program spending began to equal schedules in importance. Just as the lander got rolling toward flight hardware production, it was caught in the budgetary squeeze imposed by Congress. Grumman had to shoulder most of the burden in holding expenses down. Expenditures had risen dramatically - from $135 million in fiscal 1964 to an estimated $350 million for 1966 - as Apollo funding reached its crisis during spring and summer 1965. Grumman's fiscal discipline lagged in technical problem-solving, subcontracting, and cost and schedule performance. To push the contractor toward a solution, Houston decided it was time to convert Grumman's cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to an incentive agreement. With incentives to meet and penalties to face if they were not met, Grumman could be expected to overcome these deficiencies.29

The drive for incentive contracting had started in Washington in 1962, when NASA Associate Administrator Robert Seamans and John H. Rubel of the Department of Defense discussed the possibility of converting NASA contracts; defense procurement had called for incentive contracting, whenever possible, for some time. The use of incentives rather than a fixed fee, a turnabout in government dealings with industry, was controversial. Critics pointed to lengthy delays in negotiations that tied up engineers who otherwise could be working on program hardware and a "worsening of government-industry relations by causing contractual bickering." Seamans and Mueller disagreed, insisting that incentives placed more responsibility on the contractor. It did take time and talent to work out the provisions, but it promised better performance.30

NASA had made only modest headway in this conversion during 1963 and 1964, but the agency intended to revamp the spacecraft contracts in 1965. Mueller wrote MSC Director Gilruth in April, stressing that incentives must reflect schedules, cost, and performance, in that order. To pave the way for incentive negotiations, Houston had to clear up a number of unresolved contract change authorizations, which would be reviewed by a board made up of Houston and Bethpage officials. The review began in mid-March and ended in April with participants deadlocked.31

Houston and Bethpage kept trying to work out the individual contract changes, but there was still no agreement in early June, after three weeks of negotiations. Gilruth and Shea then discussed the impasse with E. Clinton Towl, president of Grumman, and decided that it was pointless to convert the contract at that time. Houston did impose a LEM Management Plan on Grumman, hoping to control cost, schedules, and performance. Until the last quarter of the year, Grumman would be allowed to spend only $78 million, which was less than the contract costs estimated during the unsuccessful review. If Grumman could stay within this limit for a quarter, however, negotiations for the incentive contract could resume.32

In the interval Grumman concentrated on bringing its subcontractors into line and converting its agreements with them into incentive contracts, trying to demonstrate satisfactory control of the program. In September, Grumman submitted a proposal for contract conversion to NASA. Negotiations lasted until December and culminated in a contract with enough incentives to spur the contractor to maintain costs and schedules and to meet performance milestones. This arrangement, announced in February 1966, carried the lander program through 1969 at a cost of $1.42 billion. North American's incentive contract was also negotiated (at an estimated $2.2 billion) during the latter half of 1965.33

22. Rector to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, "Test Program Review," 7 April 1965; Maynard memos, "LEM Test Program Requirements Review," 27 April 1965, with enc., and "Plan for the LEM Test Requirements Review," 15 July 1965, with enc.; Young memo, "LEM Subsystem Development Test Logic Reorientation/Certification Test Program Requirements Review," 15 July 1965; Shea, Weekly Activity Report, 25-31 July 1965; MSC, "Presentation to the Subcommittee on Manned Space Flight, Committee on Science and Astronautics, House of Representatives," February 1966, p. 15; Grumman Report no. 27, LPR-10-43, 10 May 1965, p. 1.

23. Calvin H. Perrine to Asst. Mgr., ASPO, "LEM Structural dynamic analysis and test program," 21 Sept. 1965, with encs.; MSC, "Presentation to the Subcommittee," p. 15.

24. Lee memo, "Apollo Mission 206A (LEM Only Mission)," 8 Jan. 1965; SED, MSC, "Mission Requirements for Apollo Spacecraft Development Mission 206A (LEM 1)," MSC Internal Note 65-PL-1, Rev. A, 11 May 1965; Young TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, "Mission Requirements for Apollo Spacecraft Development Mission 206A . . . ," 2 June 1965.

25. Lee memo, "ASPO Action Items from the MSF Program Review, April 20," 21 April 1965; William M. Speier to Edward B. Hamblett, Jr., "[Systems Engineering] efforts regarding integration of GSE with CSM and LEM vehicles," 22 March 1965; LEM CEB, "Accomplishments," 2-1 April I965.

26. Perrine memo, "Trip to GAEC, May 13 and 14, 1965." 17 May 1965; Shea, Weekly Activity Report, 6-12 June 1965; Young to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, "Requirements for GAEC substitute hardware on Saturn Apollo Missions 501 and 502," 9 July 1965; Grumman Report no. 31, LPR-10-47, 10 Sept. 1965, p. 1; Perrine memo, 21 Sept. 1965; James L. Neal to Grumman, Attn.: John C. Snedeker, "Substitute hardware on Saturn Apollo Mission 501 and 502 (Action Item L-17)," 18 Oct. 1965; Shea to NASA Hq., Attn.: Phillips, "Deletion of TM-5 from LEM Ground Test Program," 23 Dec. 1965.

27. Shea to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, "LEM Development Program Requirements," 15 July 1965; Shea to LEM Subsystem Mgrs., "Subsystem Qualification and Delivery Schedules," 31 July 1965; Duncan to Mgr., ASPO, "Subsystem Qualification and Delivery Schedules," 23 Aug. 1965; Shea memo, "Subsystem qualification and delivery schedules for Block II," 23 Aug. 1965; LEM CEB, "Accomplishments," 1 Sept. 1965; Sullivan to Stoops and Young, "Manufacturing Problems with the LEM ECS," 11 Aug. 1965; Young TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, 16 Aug. 1965; Sullivan to Richard E. Mayo, "Comments on Hamilton Standard's Manufacturing Effort on the LEM ECS," 1 Sept. 1965.

28. Rector to LEM Apollo Procurement, "Review of GAEC Subcontract No. 2-24485-c with STL, Abort Guidance Section," 24 Feb. 1965; Markley memo, "Assignment of Chief, LEM Contract Engineering Branch and Chief, G&N/ACE Contract Engineering Branch, Apollo Spacecraft Program Office," 4 May 1965; Young TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Mullaney, 13 Aug. 1965.

29. Senate Committee on Aeronautics and Space Sciences, NASA Authorization for Fiscal Year 1966: Hearings on S. 927, 89th Cong., 1st sess., 1965, p. 840; Church to Chief, PCD, "Major NAA/GAEC Subcontractors - Cost Comparisons," 8 Jan. 1965.

30. William D. Putnam, NASA Historical Staff, notes on interview of Robert C. Seamans, Jr., 20 July 1967; S. Peter Kaprielyan, "NASA Management at the Crossroads," Aerospace Management 1 (Summer 1966): 8-9; House Committee on Science and Astronautics, 1965 NASA Authorization: Hearings on H.R. 9641 (Superseded by H.R. 10456), 88th Cong., 2nd sess., 1964, pp. 59-60.

31. Church to Chief, PCD, "Potential Apollo Incentive Contracting," 30 Oct. 1964; Mueller to MSFC and MSC, Attn.: von Braun and Robert R. Gilruth, "Prenegotiation Arrangements for Incentive Conversions of Major Systems Contracts," 8 April 1965; Mueller, "Statement . . . before the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Monday, June 12, 1967," pp. 1-2; Quarterly Activity Report, 31 July 1965, p. 25; "LEM 1965 Program Review Implementation Plan, January 30, 1965," MSC, pp. 1-3; Markley to LEM Program Review team leaders, "GAEC Program Review," 15 March 1965.

32. "Statement," pp. 1-2; Quarterly Activity Report, 31 July 1965, p.25; LEM CEB, "Accomplishments," 15 and 19 May 1965; E. Clinton Towl to MSC, Attn.: Neal, "Negotiation of Contract Change Proposals," 17 June 1965; Young memo, "Telecon from Mr. John Snedeker to Messrs. Wayne Young and Tom Markley on June 17, 1965, regarding GAEC position on CCA Negotiations," 13 July 1965; Young to LEM Subsystem Mgrs., "LEM Contract Status," 26 July 1965.

33. Markley memo, "Technical Support for LEM Incentive Contract Negotiations," 5 Nov. 1965; Neal TWX to Grumman, Attn.: Snedeker, 15 Dec. 1965; MSC news release 66-14, 15 Feb. 1966; NASA, "Apollo Spacecraft Major Contract Is Converted," news release 66-15, 21 Jan. 1966.

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