LIQUID HYDROGEN AS A PROPULSION FUEL,1945-1959

 

PART III : 1958-1959

11. Large Engines and Vehicles, 1958

 

 

NACA Working Group on Launch Vehicles

 

[212] In the first part of 1958, when von Braun and his team were proposing an integrated national missile and space vehicle program to the Department of Defense, von Braun was also participating in a study of space technology for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and making similar proposals to it. He was a member of the NACA special committee on space technology chaired by Dr. H. Guyford Stever (p.181). Von Braun was also chairman of a working group on launch vehicles for the Stever committee. Abe Silverstein and Col. Norman C. Appold were members of the Stever committee and of von Braun's working group.*

 

During the course of its study, the Stever committee met periodically and heard progress reports from the chairmen of its several working groups, including von Braun. One such meeting was called for Monday, 17 March 1958, at NACA's Ames aeronautical laboratory in California. "I have put a substantial amount of work into the preparation of such a [vehicle] program," von Braun cabled S.K. Hoffman, Abraham Hyatt, Silverstein, and Appold, "but do not wish to present it to the committee without your prior approval." He suggested a meeting at a motel near Ames for Sunday the 16th.8

 

Assisting von Braun on his NACA assignment, but remaining behind the scenes, was Francis L. Williams. He had left Wright Field to join von Braun at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in February 1958 and was familiar with the December and March proposals that the agency had made to the Department of Defense for an integrated vehicle program. Young and handsome, ambitious and smart, Frank Williams was not content to remain faceless behind the scenes like von Braun's German colleagues. He wanted part of the action, specifically to accompany von Braun to the NASA meetings. Aware of von Braun's work habits, he devised a strategy for the 17 March meeting that worked. He prepared a vehicle program, wrote himself travel orders, stowed his bag nearby, and made an appointment with von Braun before time to depart for California. As expected, time ran out before von Braun had reviewed the program. Williams, of course, was ready to accompany him on the flight to continue the discussion. In California, Williams persuaded von Braun to let him present the program so that von Braun would be free to comment on it like the other members. Von Braun agreed.9

 

The bold plans of the Ballistic Missile Agency delegation evoked plenty of comments at NACA meetings, but this did not deter the proposers. On 1 April 1958, von Braun's group issued a document that astounded the quiet, conservative people in NACA headquarters. Soon all hell broke loose. On the report cover was printed "Interim Report to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, Special Committee on Space Technology: A National Integrated Missile and Space Vehicle Development Program: by the Working Group on Vehicular Program." Inside was the same proposal the Ballistic Missile Agency had made to the Department of Defense. A 23-year spaceflight program was laid out with rows of launch vehicles ranging from small [213] to huge. The flight missions included satellites ranging from small unmanned scientific ones to a 50-man permanent satellite with a mass of about 450 metric tons. There were also flights to the moon, interplanetary probes, and expeditions to Mars and Venus. Total cost was estimated at $30 billion.10

 

The bold and imaginative plan was too much for the NACA to swallow, and NACA's director, Hugh Dryden, moved to dissociate his organization from it. The headquarters copy bore a red tag with the notice: "IMPORTANT-that this Interim Report ... not be allowed outside the NACA headquarters building under any circumstances-unless by specific approval of Dr. Dryden." A staffer attached a comment to the report that the Ballistic Missile Agency was "apparently advertising it rather broadly to get implication of NACA approval for von Braun's pitch."11

 

At Huntsville, Williams received calls for copies of the report and asked NACA headquarters for permission to distribute it. Dryden replied that he had no objection, provided that "A statement should be attached to each copy indicating that the report has not been approved by the NACA Working Group on a Vehicular Program and, therefore, cannot be considered to be an official recommendation of the Working Group or of the NACA Space Technology Committee."12

 

The report contained a number of sound, timely recommendations; among them was "that a development program be initiated immediately for a large engine, in excess of one million pounds thrust [4.5 MN], and the required test facilities with emphasis on early availability of the engine for flight test and operational use." The report was prophetic when it recommended a spaceflight program "with particular emphasis on a manned lunar landing within the next 10 years." Another recommendation was "that long-range vehicle responsibility be assigned to individual development teams without delay under the direction and coordination of a central group." There was little doubt that von Braun had his own team in mind. He was recommending the same vehicle program to the military and civilian sides of the government and courting both to get the vehicle responsibility.

 

On 18 July 1958, a revised and toned-down version of the earlier interim report was issued by the NACA working group on vehicles. Gone was the recommendation to initiate development of a large engine and in its place was "A development program be initiated immediately for a booster in the 1.5 million pound thrust [6.7 MN] class, with emphasis on early availability."13 In the months that followed, development of both the large engine and the large booster was initiated-steps which the Stever committee merely endorsed in its final report, without including details that had been submitted by the von Braun working group.14

 

In the time between the April interim and 18 July 1958 final report of the vehicle working group, von Braun had correctly sensed the direction political winds were blowing. The recommendation on vehicle responsibility now read "under the direction and coordination of the NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE AGENCY in conjunction with the ADVANCED RESEARCH PROJECTS AGENCY."15 He was still taking no chances.

 

The report of the NACA working group recommended 15 vehicles in five generations of development; with some additions and revisions, these were along lines similar to previous recommendations of ABMA as can be seen by comparing tables 6 and 7. The first three generations that NACA recommended comprised 11 vehicles and....

 


 

[214] TABLE 6. -ABMA's Proposed National Integrated Missile and Space Development Program, March 1958

No.

Vehicle

Operational

Date

Payload

kg

I

Vanguard

1958

2-10

Ia

Juno I

1958

8-16

II

Juno II

58-59

27-45

IIa

Thor + 117L stage

58-59

90-140

III

Juno III

59-62

140-320

IV

Atlas + 117L

61-63

700-900

V

Atlas + H2-O2 pressurized stage

61-64

1100-4000

VI

Juno IV

62-64

230-450

VII

Titan

60-80

450-1400

VIII

Titan + Polaris

62-80

1400-2300

IX

Mod Titan (1st stage recoverable; 2nd & 3rd stages N2H4-F2 or H2-O2)

65-80

2300-4500

X

Mod Jupiter (1st: 4 x 1.7 MN RP-O2 recov.; 2d: 1 x 1.7 MN, RP-O2 or H.E. prop.; 3d: 356-445 Kn, N2H4-F2)

63-70

11000-16000

XI

Large orbital carrier of 2 recoverable stages (1st: 2 x 6 MN* N2H4-O2, delta wing; 2d: nuclear with NH3 or H2)

69-80

23000

 

Source:"A National Integrated Missle and Space Vehicle Development Program, " 2d ed., report D-R-16, Dev. Oper. Div., ABMA. Redstone Arsenal, AL. 14 Mar. 1958.

* Correction by author of obvious misprint.


 

....were based on current missile developments with high-energy stages added. In the fourth generation, an alternate vehicle was added that used 9 ICBM engines in its first stage, a configuration-favored by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-which was a forerunner of Saturn I. In the fifth generation, vehicles requiring thrusts as high as 27 meganewtons (6 million lb) were recommended for a recoverable first stage. The hand of Silverstein and the 1956 recommendations of the Air Force's Scientific Advisory Board appear to have been at work for this large thrust vehicle, a forerunner of the 5-engine first stage of the expendable Saturn V developed during the 1960s.

 

The NACA working group also recommended 17 propulsion systems which were essentially a revised and expanded version of the ABMA recommendations, as can be seen by comparing tables 8 and 9. Among the NACA additions was an engine with a thrust of 2.2 meganewtons (500 000 lb) using hydrazine-fluorine or a "similar highenergy propellant." This would be a follow to a 53-kilonewton (12 000-lb-thrust) engine using hydrazine-fluorine, being developed for the Air Force by Bell Aircraft, and the recommended 356-44 kilonewton (80 000-100 000 lb-thrust) engine using the same propellants. Both ABMA and the NACA working group appeared initially to favor hydrazine-fluorine over hydrogen-oxygen, but this was to be reversed within 18 months.

 

The day following the issuance of this report, Silverstein, in his spaceflight role at NACA headquarters, completed his FY 1960 budget request, which included funds for a large engine, the clustering of ICBM engines, and high-energy propulsion systems (p.185). Ten days later, on 29 July 1958, President Eisenhower signed the bill....

 


[215] TABLE 7.-NACA Working Group's Recommended Space Vehicles, July 1958

 
Group
Type
Vehicle
Operational Date
Payload kg

I

IA

Vanguard

1958

2-10

IB

Juno I

1958

8-16

II

IIA

Juno II

58-59

45-90

IIB

Thor + 117L stage

58-59

90-180

IIC

Juno IV

59-80

230-1130

III

IIIA

Atlas + 117L and/or

59-63

900-1400

IIIB

Titan

60-62

450-1400

IIIC

Mod Atlas + 89 kN H2-O2 and/or

1400-4100

IIID

Mod Titan + 53 kN N2H4-F2

62-64

1400-2700

IIIE

Uprated Atlas - 3 x 668 kN eng. + high-energy upper stage and/or

IIIF

Uprated Titan + high-energy upper stage - 1st stage recoverable.

63-80

2300-4500

IV

IVA

Basic large carrier - (1st: 6.7 MN, recov.; 2d: 2.2 MN; 3d: 356 kN high energy) and/or

63-70

11000-16000

IVB

1st: 9 x 668 kN Atlas eng.; 2d: 3 x 668 kN; 3d: 178 kN high energy.

63-70

11000-

V

VA

Recov. booster (1st: 2 to 4 x 6.7 MN; 2d: 1 x 6.7 MN)

68-80

23000-68000

VB

Recov. booster (1st: 2 to 4 x 6.7 MN; 2d: nuclear)

68-80

45000-113000

 

Source: Working Group on Vehicular Program, "Report to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Special Committee on Space Technology," 18 July 1958.

 

....creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and on the next day, he asked Congress for $125 million for NASA operations. Silverstein's spaceflight budget reflected confidence that NASA would develop large engines and launch vehicles for manned flight and high-energy upper stages for unmanned vehicles.

 


* Other members of the vehicle working group: Abraham Hyatt, Navy Bureau of Aeronautics; Louis Ridenour, Lockheed Aircraft; M.W. Hunter, Douglas Aircraft; C.C. Ross, Aerojet-General; Homer J. Stewart, JPL; George S. Trimble, Jr., Martin; Drafft Ehricke, Convair-Astronautics; S.K. Hoffman, Rocketdyne; and W.H. Woodward, NACA, secretary.

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