LIQUID HYDROGEN AS A PROPULSION FUEL,1945-1959

 

PART III : 1958-1959

12. Saturn, 1959

 

 

First National Space Vehicle Plan

 

[223] With both military and civilian space managers planning launch vehicles during 1958, it became obvious that a single national plan was needed to avoid costly and needless duplication. The task of preparing a unified plan fell to NASA, and by 15 December 1958 Milton Rosen had prepared a draft plan. Although ABMA had briefed NASA on its plans, the review of Rosen's draft revealed that more information was needed. This led to the formation of a "Joint ARPA-NASA Committee on Large Clustered Booster Capabilities" with Rosen and Richard Canright as cochairmen.* The committee listened to seven presentations during the first week of January 1959**, and on the 8th submitted a two-page report, concise and to the point.

 

Acknowledging that ABMA had "done the most work, [had] explored the problems of clustering more fully, and, in this case, [was] best qualified from an engineering [224] standpoint," the report was somewhat critical of the Army organization. Admitting that ABMA's Juno V was feasible, the committee indicated that the time and funds required to solve certain critical problems had been underestimated. Of several possibilities, the committee believed the most practical large vehicle was "a cluster of three Atlases as the first stage and a cluster of three 10-foot diameter stages (liquid oxygen-kerosene at first, liquid oxygen-liquid hydrogen later) as the second stage," The 3-meter oxygen-hydrogen stage referred to was the Centaur. Such a cluster, the committee argued, would be quicker and cheaper to develop than Juno V; but since the latter had a 9-month lead, it should be continued, with limited effort on the cluster initiated as a backup. ARPA and NASA expressed different reasons for having a backup: ARPA wanted limited development started with a second team to broaden national capability; NASA wanted the design of the cluster to proceed to the point of manufacture and be stopped only "if the ABMA configuration is well advanced and shows reasonable promise of success." Both positions reflected a concern over ABMA's ability to perform as promised.

 

Rosen transmitted the report to Glennan through channels. His boss, Hyatt, added his endorsement, commented favorably on Juno V, and recommended that NASA reopen negotiations to acquire Juno V "as a NASA-sponsored program with ABMA as the developing agency." Silverstein passed the report along without comment, and Glennan took no direct action on it.1

 

Following their work on the committee, Rosen and Eldon Hall prepared the first "National Space Vehicle Program" on 27 January 1959, and it was presented to the National Aeronautics and Space Council the following day. The report was critical of the current launch vehicles-Vanguard, Jupiter C, Juno II, and Thor-Able-calling them hurriedly assembled, not very reliable, and lacking growth potential to meet future needs. A series of general purpose vehicles capable of multiple missions and useful for four or five years was proposed as a means for achieving greater reliability and an orderly progression of payload capability (table 10). Of seven in this series, Atlas-Centaur and Atlas-Hustler (predecessor of Atlas-Agena) were in early stages of development; Scout and Vega were started later in the year, but Vega was cancelled within a few months as being duplicative of Centaur.

 

Atlas-Centaur had been started by ARPA in August 1958 and was being managed by the Air Force. At the time of the report, NASA was seeking its transfer, and the Air Force was resisting (pp.200-01). The Centaur stage used two hydrogen-fueled Pratt & Whitney engines for a total thrust of 134 kilonewtons (30 000 lb). With an estimated payload of 1800 kilograms, Atlas-Centaur was seen as useful from 1962 through 1966. (In the event, it has proved more useful than anticipated and is expected to continue serving space needs until replaced by the shuttle at the end of the 1970s, or later.)

 

Juno V was shown in two configurations in the report, differing only in the third stage. The first version would use kerosene-oxygen and the second, hydrogen-oxygen. The 356 kilonewton (80 000 lb thrust) engines for the latter were never built.

 

The largest vehicle described in the report was NASA's Nova, which went through a number of different configurations in various proposals. As envisioned in January 1959, Nova would use four Rocketdyne F-1 engines in the first stage for a total thrust of 27 meganewtons (6 million lb) and one F-1 engine in the second stage. The third and fourth stages would use liquid hydrogen-oxygen and the same proposed 356...

 


[225] TABLE 10. - Characteristics of Proposed New Launch Vehicles, 1959
Source: "National Space Vehicle Program," 1959.

Stage

1

2

3

4

5

Vehicle

Propellants

Propellants

Propellants

Propellants

Propellants

Thrust kN/MN

Thrust kN/MN

Thrust kN/MN

Thrust kN/MN

Thrust kN/MN

(Thrust lb)

(Thrust lb)

(Thrust lb)

(Thrust lb)

(Thrust lb)

Scout

Solid

Solid

Solid

Solid

-

534 kN

258 kN

58 kN

13.3 kN

-

(120 000 lb)

(58 000 lb)

(13 000 lb)

(3 000 lb)

-

Atlas-Hustler

RP-O2

N2H4-HNO3

Storable

Solid

-

1600 kN

53 kN

27 kN

2.3 kN

-

(360 000 lb)

(12 000 lb)

(6 000 lb)

(500 lb)

-

Atlas-Vega

ditto

RP-O2

ditto

ditto

-

147 kN

-

(33 000 lb)

-

Atlas-Centaur

ditto

H2-O2

ditto

ditto

-

134 kN

-

(30 000 lb)

-

Juno V-A

RP-O2

RP-O2

RP-O2

Storable

Solid

6.7 MN

890 kN

356 kN

89 kN

4.5 kN

(1 500 000 lb)

(200 000 lb)

(80 000 lb)

(20 000 lb)

(1 000 lb)

Juno V-B

ditto

ditto

H2-O2

Storable

ditto

356 kN

89 or 27 Kn

(80 000 lb)

(20 000 or 6 000 lb)

Nova

RP-O2 or storable

RP-O2 or storable

H2-O2

H2-O2

Storable

27 MN

7.6 MN

1424 kN

356 kN

89 kN

(6 000 000 lb)

(1 700 000 lb)

(320 000 lb)

(80 000 lb)

(20 000 lb)

 

Source: "National Space Vehicle Program," 1959.


 

[226] ....kilonewton engine as the second version of Juno V. Nova would be about 79 meters high, and NASA saw its application as "transporting a man to the surface of the moon and returning him safely to earth." Four additional stages beyond the five shown would be needed for such a mission with a crew of two or three men. Nova's capability, expressed in terms of earth-orbit payload for comparisons, was 68 metric tons.2

 

Although the first national space vehicle plan was little more than a compilation of Department of Defense and NASA plans, it was the first step towards an integrated program. Juno V evolved into Saturn I, and the very large vehicle NASA called Nova evolved into Saturn V, the vehicle used in the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s.

 


* Other members: Richard Cesaro and David Young from ARPA; Eldon Hall and Abraham Hyatt from NASA.

** Aerojet-General, Rocketdyne, Convair-Astronautics, Douglas Aircraft, Martin, ABMA, and the Air Force.


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