DESTINATION MOON: A History of the Lunar Orbiter Program
 
 
CHAPTER II: TOWARD A LIGHTWEIGHT LUNAR ORBITER
 
Langley Develops the Request for Proposal Document
 
 
 
[36] The approval of the Project Development Plan set the stage for drafting the Request for Proposal document (RFP) with which NASA would go to the aerospace industry in search of a contractor for Lunar Orbiter.

Of the assignments made in the PDP, the Langley Research Center (LRC) was to handle the project management and spacecraft system management responsibilities for Lunar Orbiter. In addition it had charge of overall project-wide systems integration between the spacecraft and the launch vehicle and the spacecraft ground support facilities, including communications, tracking, and data-acquisition systems.45

The Project Development Plan assigned to the Director of LRC overall technical, operational, and financial management for the Lunar Orbiter Project. In turn the Director was to implement project management through the [37] Project Manager (Clifford H. Nelson). The Project Manager, working with a team of men, each expert in a specific area of the project, exercised control over plans, schedules, costs, technical changes, and data in order to obtain the most advanced lunar photographic and selenodetic information as early as possible.46

During the spring of 1963 Bellcomm continued to define lunar orbiter objectives for the Office of Manned Space Flight. Early in May it informed Scherer in OSS that "there are at the moment no fully developed lunar orbiter systems."47 Subsequently it submitted a document entitled "Orbiter Recommendations" to Scherer. He reviewed it and forwarded it to Clinton E. Brown at Langley with the statement that, "although specific recommendations are subject to change on review by the Office of Space Sciences, it is considered an excellent document for guidance of Langley Research Center in preparation of the Request for Proposal for the Lunar Orbiter."48

The Bellcomm and Scherer groups assisted Langley in the work on the RFP while, at the same timeOran W. Nicks briefed Dr. Robert C. Seamans, Jr., on the initiation of [38] the new lunar orbiter and its impact on the Block V Ranger series of spacecraft.49

In a further move to assist Langley in drafting the RFP, the Office of Manned Space Flight submitted a revised summary of the Apollo requirements to OSS. It stated these critical needs: 1) data on radiation flux over a typical two-week period, 2) a summary and analysis of all efforts for short-term prediction of severe solar proton events, 3) measurements of particles capable of penetrating 0.01-centimeter and 0.1-centimeter aluminum during an average and a peak two-week period of micrometeoroid activity, and 4) photographic data on lunar surface conditions capable of showing cones 3.5 meters high and slopes of 15 inclination in an area of 60-meter radius, before the fall of 1965, and thereafter equivalent data showing cones 50 centimeters in height and slopes inclined 8 in an area of 1,600-meter radius.50

Other major needs were: 1) the measurement of the distribution of slopes greater than 15° in areas 7 meters in diameter; 2) photographs of at least 25-meter resolution over the largest possible area within +/-10° latitude and [39] 0° to 60° west longitude on the Moon.51

While the Office of Manned Space Flight and the Office of Space Sciences coordinated their activities through the Joint Working Group, officials at the Langley Research Center prepared the Request for Proposal document and the requirements of a lunar orbiter contract. NASA Headquarters representatives met with Dr. Thompson and his staff at Langley on June 25 to reach an agreement on the type of contract to be utilized in the procurement of the Agena-class lunar orbiter spacecraft.

Headquarters took the position that the contract should employ a cost-plus-incentive-fee mechanism similar to that used in the Pioneer Program. Langley officials, on the other hand, desired the cost-plus-fixed-fee contract because they expected unknown development problems to arise. They felt that such a contract would be easier to administer in that case. Headquarters officials remained vague about the nature of incentives which should be incorporated into the contract.52

Langley officials concerned with the determination of the kind of contract to be used remained firm on the point [40] of retaining sufficient flexibility in seeking a contractor and negotiating a contract that would best suit Langley's needs. Thompson insisted from the beginning that all bidding be competitive. He was not convinced that Space Technology Laboratories had a decided advantage over other firms in the field, despite STL's research on lunar orbiter systems. He also made it clear that Langley would not commence work with a contractor under a Letter of Intent. Instead the contract would have to be negotiated and signed, and it would have to reflect, as closely as possible, the actual work it entailed. This would eliminate any basis for defining the nature of assignments following the initiation of work.

NASA Headquarters officials favored a spin-stabilized spacecraft and desired that the RFP reflect a preference for this kind of system. However, Langley officials insisted that they not be frozen to one concept for-a spacecraft system. They wanted to see what exactly the aerospace industry could produce before selecting the spin-stabilized system. Although NASA's research into a lightweight orbiter had shown that the spin-stabilized system was feasible, Langley wanted room left for an attitude-stabilized (three-axis-stabilized) spacecraft system.53

[41] The June 25 meeting at Langley resulted in a compromise solution which would use the cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for procurement. Preliminary incentives were also established, but room was left for further suggestions from potential bidders.

Following this Homer E. Newell, Director of the Office of Space Sciences, sent a statement to Floyd L. Thompson at Langley on July 1 in which he further clarified the Headquarters position on Lunar Orbiter and its objectives. Thompson had expressed concern that the proposed orbiter project might be greater and more sophisticated than Langley had first estimated. Newell explained that his office maintained a policy of giving the needs of the Office of Manned Space Flight maximum support as far as such support did not impinge on OSS goals. At that time, Newell explained, the OSS specifications for a lunar orbiter could be approached but not entirely reached by an Agena-class orbiter. The Bellcomm studies had developed objectives for a lunar orbiter which would not fully satisfy Apollo requirements. Bellcomm's review and the STL proposal showed that these objectives represented the limits of feasibility up to that time.54

[42] Newell assured Thompson that although the proposed high-resolution photography, capable of pinpointing a landed Surveyor, seemed to be beyond feasibility, Langley did not have to rely upon the Bellcomm work to reach a decision. It could use the Bellcomm studies merely as a reference for determining the kind of Agena-class orbiter which could best accomplish the objectives of providing OMSF-Apollo with the data it required. If this were too impractical for Thompson, then Newell was open for any alternative suggestions.55

During July Langley and NASA Headquarters worked closely on the Request for Proposals. Headquarters desired that the RFP indicate to bidders that NASA was going to insist upon a very close working relationship with the contractor in selecting and approving subcontractors for the photographic data-acquisition components. NASA would reserve the right to determine the selection of the manufacturer of the sensor in the spacecraft system in order to obtain the best sensor regardless of any relationship between the prime contractor and the subcontractors.56

OSS officials desired that the Statement of Work, accompanying the RFP, indicate that NASA favored a [43] spin-stabilized spacecraft. Despite the recognition that such a spacecraft was feasible, simpler and less expensive than an attitude-stabilized system, Langley argued that the Request for Proposals should also allow bidders to offer an attitude-stabilized spacecraft. It was a sound argument. Langley would have the responsibility for the spacecraft system, and it wanted to explore all possible concepts. A compromise agreement was reached, providing that if bidders could offer approaches which differed from the established specifications but which would result in substantial gains in the probability of mission success, reliability, schedule, and economy, then NASA certainly invited them to submit such alternatives.57


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