VANGUARD launching operations were the responsibility of the Glenn L. Martin Company, and long after the project had become history, square-jawed, cigar-chewing Robert Schlechter, GLM's man in charge at the Florida missile range, was still grousing over the failure of the press to give his hands "a fair shake." It was "pretty irritating," in Schlechter's view, "to read in the newspapers such headlines as 'Devoted Navy Men Work Around the Clock at Cape Canaveral to Put Up Vanguard Vehicles,' As a matter of fact, most of those 'devoted navy men' were Martin employees."1
Known as the Vanguard Operations Group, or VOG, the field crew consisted of four major elements. Of these the Martin contingent was by far the largest. The others were a small group of NRL engineers, a unit charged with coordinating all phases of the field operation, and a Project Office made up of the liaison officers that the military services cooperating in the Vanguard program had assigned to the field. In addition, representatives of Martin's subcontractors and NRL's contractors joined VOG from time to time to help cope with problems connected with the services or hardware their companies or laboratories were supplying.
Headed throughout most of the program by Dan Mazur, the NRL Canaveral unit was essentially managerial. As the Laboratory's chief representative in Florida, Mazur served as VOG manager, responsible for overall technical direction of the field effort. His second in charge, with the title of test conductor, was Robert H. Gray, a slight and scholarly looking engineer who had been persuaded by Milton Rosen to leave a rocket-engine development program in private industry to participate in the satellite venture. Mazur reported directly to project director Hagen or to Paul Walsh, one of whose functions as Hagan's deputy was to keep the VOG manager abreast of Vanguard policy decisions.
As Martin's chief representative,
Schlechter served as base manager, responsible for the performance
of his company's field obligations. His contingent consisted of
a group of supervisory engineers with offices in the Vanguard
hangar and two crews composed of test technicians, one at the
hangar, the other at the launch complex. Before February 1958
the base manager reported directly to project engineer Markarian
at the Martin plant near Baltimore; after that, to G. T. Willy,
vice president and general manager of Martin's then newly created
division at Cocoa, on the Florida mainland near Cape Canaveral.
Schlechter's top assistant, with the title of operations manager,
was Stan Welch. A West Point graduate, Welch took the edge off
some of the more trying moments in the field with his running
commentary on Vanguard's quaint methods. "Boy oh boy,"
he was fond of reiterating, "this is not the way we did things
at West Point." Other top Martin men were Robert Neff as
launch-complex manager, Robert Adcock and James Stoms as test
conductors, Leonard Arnowitz as controls supervisor, Robert Beale
as propulsion supervisor, Dave Mackey as instrumentation supervisor,
and K. (Nobby) Matsuoka as mechanical engineer.
(GRAPHICS MISSING: Project Vanguard's
major line, policy, and working channels.)
As Vanguard senior project officer in the field, Commander Harold W. (Cal) Calhoun, USN, constituted the principal link between the VOG and the missile test center command. Responsible for test control, he saw to it that the VOG carried out its field operations in a manner consistent with the capabilities and rules of AFMTC.2
For a brief period beginning in late spring 1956 Matsuoka of GLM was the lone occupant of the Vanguard hangar. His duties during this interval were to procure and store materiel. He also arranged for the installation of the facilities the range command had agreed to provide. In his spare time he erected a sign in the vicinity of the hangar. Reading "The Martin Vanguard Operations Group," it remained in position until it came to the attention of Commander Calhoun. Calhoun promptly replaced it with another, reading "The Navy-Martin Vanguard Operations Group."
The battle of the signs left no scars. Although along the Washington-Baltimore axis disagreements over policy and procedure continued to exercise the vocal cords of project big-shots, the Martin and NRL men sweating it out at Cape Canaveral got along reasonably well in spite of what Schlechter once described as "a rather excessive togetherness."3
Life at the Cape in the 1950s did not offer much in the way of distractions or comforts. Even today's Apollo lunar launch complex at John F. Kennedy Space Center, and the vastly enlarged and more developed Eastern Test Range, successor to AFMTC, have wastelands where only the changing cloud patterns of the bright Florida sky afford some relief from the monotony of the terrain. Much of the smaller range of Vanguard days was a desolation of sand and palmetto-topped boondocks, interspersed with mosquito breeding swamps and an occasional orange or grapefruit grove.
The Air Force had provided access roads for the other projects at AFMTC, mixing gypsum powder with the sand to give them a hard surface. It did the same for Vanguard, but hurried crew members frequently preferred to make their own shortcuts, using halftracks and weapons carriers for this purpose. The practice had its risks. Before the area became government property, it had supported a few isolated farms. Forcing a path through the tangled marsh reed one day, a young NRL engineer found his pickup truck suddenly sinking beneath him, into the decaying remains of an abandoned septic tank.4
The hot salt breezes and mildew of the Cape created financial problems, accelerating car obsoletion and playing hob with dry-cleaning budgets. Now one of the fastest growing areas in the United States, the Cape was sparsely populated in the l950s. Commuting distances were great and costly. Living facilities were scarce-and costly. A young bachelor attached to the VOG found himself paying $170.00 a month for a hotel room barely large enough to hold a single bed and a washstand. In the beginning Laboratory personnel assigned to the field received a $12.00 per diem. There were groans when in April 1957 this fell to $8.00, more groans when it disappeared altogether.5
Danger is always present at a rocket launch complex because of the highly volatile liquid fuels, oxidizers, and acids crew members must handle. It is a tribute to the endlessly nagging safety officers of AFMTC that Vanguard accidents were minimal, with only two or three casualties so far as the record shows.6 One of these occurred on the second-stage platform of the gantry when a workman failed to remove his arm fast enough from the interior of a vehicle afflicted with a leaking valve. Crazed by the pain from the escaping acid, he would have run off the platform and crashed on the concrete pad below had it not been for the quick thinking of John R. Zeman, the NRL engineer in charge. Grabbing the worker in time, Zeman plunged his arm into a pail of cold water. His action helped save the man's arm, but the burns were severe enough to leave permanent scars. Men working on the service tower wore terry-cloth underwear and acidproof suits. In winter, Zeman would later recall "you couldn't find one of the heavy suits, they were that popular." In summer those obliged to don them were always "looking for an excuse" to visit the "clean room" atop the gantry, the only air-conditioned spot on the pad. "Clean room" was the name given to the chambers where specialists could assemble, examine, and repair the sensitive Vanguard satellites in an atmosphere relatively free from dirt. At AFMTC the Vanguard Operations Group maintained two such rooms, one in the hangar, the other on the third-stage platform of the service tower.
When a rocket explodes in the launch-complex vicinity, there is always the possibility that the fumes released will find their way through the air-intake vents of the blockhouse, jeopardizing the lives of the men stationed in the control and instrumentation room-about eighty during each of the Vanguard launches. Stored in the hall of the blockhouse were piles of Scott Air Packs (gas masks). When on one occasion the vehicle did blow up on the pad, the men rushed for the packs, only to discover that nobody knew how to use them. One gathers from Kurt Stehling's lively account of the launchings that the highly trained engineers and technicians assigned to the Vanguard blockhouse never did master the Scott Air Pack. Not that the packs went to waste. Their copious folds provided useful storage space for extra cigarettes, lunch boxes, and girly magazines.7
As the field program gathered momentum and the stresses multiplied, VOG members invented ways of letting off steam. As soon as the road around their launch complex was completed, they began staging drag races. The range police objected, citing the danger to life and limb. The Vanguard crew retorted that they had a right to do what they pleased with their own lives and limbs, and went on racing. Dan Mazur contributed to the merriment with his by no means infrequent wails that someday the range safety officers might find it necessary to command-destruct one of his precious Vanguard vehicles in the air before it could complete its appointed course. So feelingly expressed were Mazur's fears on this score that one day some members of his crew packaged up a piece of battered Vanguard hardware and sent it to friends in Germany. With it went appropriate instructions. These the Americans abroad conscientiously fulfilled, with the result that in time the damaged steel returned to AFMTC, addressed to base-commander Yates. Lettered on the steel, as the general discovered on opening the package, was a message reading, "Attention, Mazur: What's the big idea, impacting your damned hardware on German soil!"8
Each of the fourteen Vanguard launchings raised particular problems. In every case, however, the procedures leading up to and during the launch of the complete vehicle were roughly identical. The major subcontracted element-notably the engine for the first stage, the second-stage power plant, and the third-stage solid-propellant rocket-received acceptance tests at their points of origin before moving on to the big Martin plant at Middle River, Maryland. There men working in the Vanguard shop area "married" the components of each stage, insofar as was necessary, and installed instrumentation. Then followed a series of systems tests, after which the plant crew assembled and tested the entire vehicle in a "silo" or tower built for this purpose on the plant grounds. None of these tests at the Martin plant was a "hot" or "static" test; none, in other words, necessitated the firing of the rocket engines, a much too hazardous operation for a plant located in a heavily populated area. Working out of an office at the Martin plant, James M. Bridger, director of the Vanguard vehicles branch, functioned as project engineer for the Naval Research Laboratory. He, Walsh, Berg, and other NRL experts monitored the proceedings at the factory and took delivery of the vehicle, subject to the approval of Hagen and his technical director, Milton Rosen. Following NRL acceptance, plant workers disassembled the vehicle and shipped it south, each stage traveling on a specially built trailer.9
At AFMTC the field crew put the vehicle through further inspections and tests, first in the hangar and then at the Vanguard launch complex, pad 18A. At the pad all first-stage rockets underwent static tests. A static test can be defined as a flight firing of a liquid-propellant rocket without flight. With heavy bolts holding the rocket to the launch stand, the crew ignited the first-stage engine and permitted it to fire for a specified period.
No Vanguard rocket ever got away during these hot runs, but such things have happened. Jim Bridger still enjoys recalling a static at White Sands in the early l950s when a portion of one of the Viking rockets broke loose. To Bridger, the sight of the escaped hardware soaring to an altitude of 17,000 feet was "startling." The spectacle put Bridger in mind of Maurice Maeterlinck's hilarious description, in one of his nature essays, of the flight of the bumblebee.10
The primary purpose in static firing the Vanguard first stages was to make certain that the engine, previously tested at Martin, was properly mated to the rest of the rocket, and that propulsion systems, instrumentation, stabilization systems, and controls were in working order. As for the second-stage rocket, the question of the extent to which that too should undergo statics evoked considerable debate. Everlastingly concerned with reliability, NRL's vehicle experts favored a fairly extensive use of such tests as a means of verifying the satisfactory behavior of the second-stage propulsion system. Martin experts conceded the need for such data but wanted the tests held to a minimum to save time. Over the long pull the company's position prevailed. Only three stages underwent static firings in the field. Statics performed in connection with TV-5 and its backup vehicle, TV-3BU, yielded useful information, but a static firing in the fall of 1958 of the second stage of one of the mission vehicles, SLV-3, damaged the rocket. As a result, the Vanguard management abandoned the practice for the remainder of the program.11
The first-stage statics brought the prelaunch operations at the pad more or less to the half-way mark. Next came alignment checks, instrumentation calibrations, and system functional tests, culminating in the vertical functional test. Conducted with full range support, this test was in effect a dry run of the forthcoming countdown and flight. A limited version of it, the flight readiness test, completed prelaunch operations.
Preparations for the flight itself usually began two days or more before T-O (takeoff). At the AFMTC solid-propellant storage area, members of the VOG assembled and resistance-checked the third-stage motor and other ordnance items. They then transported these to the pad and installed them in the erected vehicle. Other preparations on the day before flight included checks on the satellite, the vehicle propulsion system pressures, the pipelines supplying water to the launch stand, and the fire-fighting facilities.
On flight day, operations began approximately eighteen hours in advance of launch with checks to ensure that all vehicle systems were in order and the first two stages were ready to receive propellants. About eight hours before launch, technicians installed the satellite on the third stage of the vehicle.
Those responsible for preparing the
last phase of the preparatory sequence-the countdown-normally
wrote into it a one-hour planned hold. Scientific considerations
prompted the practice. From TV-3 on, the main objective of every
Vanguard launch was to plate an experiment-bearing satellite in
orbit. To render it possible for the experiments to acquire the
data desired, it was often important that the satellite enter
orbit under certain circumstances having to do with the position
of the earth relative to the lunar system and other variables.
The built-in hold increased the likelihood of the satellite achieving
orbit under these previously calculated optimum conditions by
providing the launching crew with extra time in which to cope
with unforseeable delays. If the countdown proceeded perfectly,
the crew did nothing during the planned hold. If forced holds
carried the procedure beyond a previously computed time point,
the crew had no choice but to scrub the launch and start all over
(GRAPHICS MISSING: Martin Co. and
Aerojet General Corp. personnel wear protective clothing while
fueling the Vanguard second stage with white inhibited fuming
nitric acid; Martin Co. personnel at Baltimore assemble the guidance
mechanism in second stage of Vanguard; The nosecone of Vanguard
is fitted into position.)
Ordinarily the countdown began five hours before launch.12 At T-255 minutes technicians turned on the satellite and checked it. At T-95 minutes liquid oxygen (lox) began pouring into the oxidizer tanks of the vehicle. At T-65 minutes the gantry crane retired from the flight firing structure. At T-3 minutes the time-unit used for the countdown changed to seconds, and instrumentation men shifted the telemetry, radar beacons, and command receivers to internal power. At T-30 seconds the cooling-air umbilical dropped and the lox-vents on the vehicle closed. At T-0 the fire switch closed, the electrical umbilical dropped from the vehicle, and about six seconds later (T+6), if all was well, the vehicle lifted off.13
During peak periods the VOG ranged from one hundred to one hundred fifty men. In October 1956, about fifty were working in the project's temporary assembly building, Hanger C, or at its still unfinished launch complex when Viking 13, refurbished and renamed Vanguard Test Vehicle Zero, or TV-0, arrived at the hangar. A month later crewmen had transported it to pad 18A and were erecting it on the old Viking launch stand recently shipped from White Sands for use at the Cape pending arrival of the more advanced flight firing structure Martin had designed and Loewy Hydropress was fabricating for the Vanguard program.
TV-0 consisted of only one stage. Flight testing of a full-fledged three-stage Vanguard vehicle lay in the future. The project managers had reasons for initiating their launching program on this modest level. It was important that before attempting to fly the entire vehicle they familiarize themselves with the operations and the range safety and tracking systems at AFMTC.14
Rain was falling when an hour after midnight, 8 December 1956, the countdown reached its final seconds. A variety of difficulties had plagued the final launching procedures. Snarls at the range telemetry building and at Central Control had necessitated two holds, the appearance of a ship in the waters of the impact area, another. Nerves were jumping in the crowded control room of the blockhouse, with Colonel Gibbs, the Air Force's conscientious project officer, shouting dire predictions at Bob Schlechter, the man in charge. "It's gonna blow up, Bob," Gibbs kept insisting. "Cancel! It'll never fly!"
But it did fly. Lifting off at l:05 a.m., TV-0 achieved an altitude of 126.5 miles and a range of 97.6 miles. One of the objectives of the launch was to test Vanguard's newly developed Minitrack transmitter. With this in mind Mengel's tracking team had devised and Martin had installed in the vehicle a special Minitrack package. At T+120 seconds, two minutes after launch, the triggering device of the package-a timer-powered two bellows-contained squibs, causing them to ignite and expand, thereby withdrawing a releasing key and allowing a compressed spring to extend and eject a small sphere equipped with "roll-up" antennas and enclosing a Minitrack transmitter. Without difficulty the ground receiving units at AFMTC, the Laboratory's Mark II tracking station among them, picked up the little oscillator's plaintive beep as the ejected package descended into the sea.13
In mid-December a conference room at AFMTC headquarters was the scene of a post-mortem on the first Vanguard flight test. Of the thirty-two men in attendance, twenty-five were members of the base command or Pan Am and RCA technicians involved in the intricate range-support activities connected with the satellite program. On hand for the Naval Laboratory, in addition to VOG chieftains Mazur and Gray, were Joseph Siry, head of the Vanguard theory and analysis branch, and his handsome, blue-eyed assistant, Richard L. Snodgrass. Martin's representatives were Schlechter and dark, stocky, thoughtful Joseph E. Burghardt, the company's assistant project engineer for aerodynamics and propulsion, who, although stationed at the Middle River plant, was a frequent visitor to the field.
Facts brought out in a lengthy briefing-all verified by subsequent analysis-showed that on the whole the TV-0 launching had achieved its prescribed objectives. During powered flight of the vehicle, the performance of all components had been "either satisfactory or superior." Rocketborne instrumentation and telemetry systems had functioned "excellently," ground instrumentation coverage had been "adequate."
Back in Washington, however, expressions of pleasure in these results were muted. Concern over the general status of the program dominated the discussion. Several of Martin's subcontractors were finding it impossible to meet their delivery schedules. Because of this and slippages in other aspects of the undertaking, all of the firing dates previously established for 1957 had already been substantially advanced. Now little hope remained that even these frequently rescheduled dates could be realized.16
The plodding progress of the next few months added to a mounting sense of frustration. At the range, the outstanding events of January and February 1957 were the arrival at the hangar of the second Vanguard test vehicle, TV-1, and the completion of all of the project's permanent field facilities with the exception of hangar S.
TV-1 was a two-stage vehicle. Its
booster was the last of the Viking research rockets, No. 14, slightly
modified for Vanguard purposes. A product of the Grand Central
Rocket Company, the second stage was a prototype of the solid-propellant
rocket destined to become the third stage of the finished Vanguard
(GRAPHICS MISSING: Successful launch of TV-1, 1 May 1957; )
(GRAPHICS MISSING: Attending a Project
Vanguard staff meeting in the director's office at NRL: left to
right, Daniel G. Mazur, Manager, Vanguard Operations Group, Patrick
AFB; James M. Bridger, Head, Vehicle Branch; and Commander Winfred
E. Berg, Navy Program Officer.)
Although the difficulties encountered during the prelaunch procedures at the hangar and on the pad were comparatively minor, their correction ate up precious time. Hopes for a February flight vanished rapidly. It was late March before the crew was able to erect TV-1 on the old Viking stand at the launch-complex. In early April static tests began, and in the dark hours of l May 1957-at 1:29 a.m.-the second Vanguard test vehicle lifted off.
As set forth in the test plan, the primary purpose of the launch was to flight-test the third-stage prototype for spin-up, separation, ignition, and propulsion and trajectory performance. A secondary objective was to further evaluate ground handling procedures, techniques and equipment, and the in-flight vehicle instrumentation and equipment. Studies of the telemetered data acquired during flight would show that all objectives were met. The first-stage rocket performed "about as expected." The second stage (actually the Vanguard third stage) separated and fired "nearly as expected" with a total burning time of about thirty-two seconds. It was this satisfactory first firing of the third stage that prompted NRL, during the following July, to inform the Martin Company that from TV-1 on all Vanguard vehicles were to possess satellite-bearing capacities.17
In the world of the mid-l950s two successful rocket launchings in a row added up to a singular accomplishment. As TV-1 roared to an altitude of 121 miles, Dave Mackey of GLM, unofficial comic of the blockhouse gang, voiced a common sentiment. "l wonder," he mused, "if success will spoil Project Vanguard?"18
Less than a month later, the members of the VOG in general, and their ebullient boss, Dan Mazur, in particular, were telling themselves that Project Vanguard had become Project Impossible. Getting the project's third test vehicle, TV-2, out of the Martin plant, down to the field, onto the launch stand, and up in the air was an ordeal of more than five months' duration. So many troubles beset the process that at one point Mazur would have resigned in disgust had it not been for the gentle-spoken persuasiveness of project director Hagen.19
TV-2 had the external configuration of a complete Vanguard vehicle, although strictly speaking it was not complete. All three Vanguard stages were there, but only the first stage, consisting of the Martin tankage and the General Electric X-405 liquid-propellant engine, was live. The second and third stages were inert dummies.20
Today former Vanguard men can say
calmly that the nightmare of TV-2 was "just one of those
things." Back in the Vanguard days, Jim Bridger has commented,
we were aware that the ultimate source
of our funds, the Department of Defense, had reservations about
the value of a purely scientific missile development. Consequently
we made political fodder out of saying the Vanguard vehicle was
just an outgrowth of the Viking research rocket. Frankly, that
was an exaggeration. We did indeed bring Viking experience to
the Vanguard program and the first-stage engine was a take-off,
albeit a complex one, from General Electric's Hermes A-3B engine;
but for all practical purposes the Vanguard vehicle was new, new
from stem to stem. More to the point, it was an awfully high-state-of-the-art
vehicle, especially the second-stage rocket. In the nature of
things the business of developing the vehicle and getting the
bugs out so it would work was fraught with difficulties.21
This fact, obvious as it would become in retrospect, was of no consolation to the harried men who in the summer of 1957 began the long struggle to get the bugs out of TV-2.
The extensiveness of these bugs came to light early in the summer during the vertical interference and acceptance tests of the vehicle at the Martin plant. Some of the structural discrepancies uncovered at that time gave only minimal trouble, the company coming up quickly with remedies satisfactory to NRL. More serious was the failure of the roll jet and pressurization systems to perform in accordance with specifications. To some extent these had to be redesigned. Since this was a time-consuming job and time was of the essence, Martin asked the Laboratory for permission to ship TV-2 to Cape Canaveral where the field crew could begin receiving inspections in the hangar while GLM redeveloped the faulty systems.
Reluctantly the Laboratory acceded to this suggestion. In a stern letter to the contractor, Hagen pointed out that although Martin's proposal for sending to the field "an unaccepted, incompletely developed vehicle" violated "sound principles of operation, the Laboratory agrees that this is the only way to have at least some chance of maintaining the firing schedule." The Laboratory, therefore, "will provisionally accept TV-2" with the understanding that in the near future "Martin shall qualify and deliver all outstanding components of the roll jet and pressurization systems."22
Hagen's letter got TV-2 out of the Martin plant. It also placed additional burdens on the field crew. When the redeveloped systems were ready, members of the VOG had to install them, a procedure normally carried out at the factory. By this time-late July-NRL and Martin had concluded that all along the line many modifications of the vehicle were going to have to be made in the field instead of at the factory as originally planned. Given the time pressures on the program, no other arrangement was possible, but it did not make the field workers happy. Frequently the required modifications were so basic as to amount to design changes. Taking care of these at AFMTC was difficult since more often than not the necessary tools and spare parts were unavailable there and had to be improvised on the spot or procured from distant points.23
With the arrival of TV-2 at the Cape in early June, new troubles presented themselves. Profound groans and profane gripes filled the Vanguard hangar as inspection revealed that both the first-stage tankage and engine contained "fine filings, metal chips and dirt." The VOG crewmen could clean the tankage, but getting the dirt out of the engine was beyond their capacities. Back went the motor to the General Electric plant at Malta, New York, with orders for its makers to send another to the field. In July Rear Admiral Rawson Bennett, Chief of Naval Research, covered the situation in one of his always admirably dispassionate reports to the Chief of Naval Operations. The presence of "extraneous material" in the motor, the admiral wrote, along with the delay "occasioned by repairs to damaged items, the clean-up procedure, and now the installation of a new motor makes it appear that the earliest possible flight firing will be the last week in August"-a statement that piled optimism on euphemism.24
August passed with a "possible
flight firing" seemingly as remote as ever. At pad 18A the
only encouraging sign was the disappearance of the old Viking
launch stand and its replacement by the Vanguard static and flight
firing structure. Even this was not for keeps. Some of the Martin
Company specialists were fearful that under some circumstances
the gimbaled engine of the first stage might not clear the fixed
opening in its stand during liftoff. Already they were working
on designs for a stand with movable components, capable of springing
away automatically as the vehicle rose. There was disagreement
at the company as to the necessity for this change, but those
in favor won the argument. Eventually the Martin-designed retractable
or breakaway firing stand would find its way to Cape Canaveral,
to become one of Project Vanguard's several contributions to the
advancement of missilery.25
(GRAPHICS MISSING: Second stage
of Vanguard being hoisted into position.)
The replacement engine ordered from General Electric arrived at the hangar in good time. Not until 22 August, however, did the prelaunch preparations reach the point where the crew at the pad could attempt a static firing.
A static test, like a flight test, involves a lengthy countdown. The 22 August one began on schedule, but at T-290 minutes accumulated difficulties forced Mazur and Schlechter to call a hold that lasted for more than five hours. Soon after resumption of the countdown, new difficulties arose. During the first attempt to pressurize the fuel tanks, a lox vent failed to relieve excessive pressure. When the vent refused to close fully during several succeeding attempts, the VOG bosses did the only thing they could. They scrubbed the test and instituted an investigation. The presence of water in the lox vent indicated that freezing had prevented it from closing. During all future launching operations, as a result of this discovery, the crew subjected the lox system to a constant nitrogen purge from the start of the countdown until the point at which lox servicing began.26
For Mazur the first attempt to static
fire TV-2 was a domestic as well as a professional disaster. During
the test, his wife, who had not yet joined him at the Cape as
she would later, sent a telegram, informing him that she and two
of their three children had contracted the mumps and needed daddy
at home. Mazur stayed with his job. Mrs. Mazur, he would reveal
later, "never forgave me. To this day, whenever we have an
argument, she reminds me how back in the summer of 1957, I let
her down in her hour of need." At some point during that
trying summer, Admiral Bennett paid the field crew a visit. Closeting
himself with Mazur and Schlechter, he demanded, "what's going
wrong down here anyhow?" Mazur's reply was, "Just one
thing: Instead of rockets, Martin is sending us garbage"-only,
according to Schlechter, Mazur's final word was shorter and more
colorful. Later, in a more relaxed mood, the VOG boss snapped
off to his friend Schlethter a teletype reading:
Rockets are large, rockets are small,
If U get a good one, give us a call.27
The project bosses at the Naval Laboratory in Washington shared Mazur's chagrin at the situation. As Vanguard technical head, Rosen found only occasional fault with Martin's design work on the vehicle. On the whole he regarded it as excellent, but where the company's shopwork on the vehicle was concerned he deplored what seemed to him at times to be a carelessness bordering on indifference. Repeatedly he urged project director Hagen to "crack down" on the company. The frequent disputes between his staff and the contractor had convinced him that he was dealing with "two tigers." In the interests of keeping the program moving, he hesitated to take a step likely to exacerbate existing differences.28
The difficulties with TV-2, however, were too much even for the judicious and even-tempered project chief. As complaints continued pouring in from the field, he got off a sharply worded remonstrance to GLM. "The performance of the Martin Company in regard to TV-2," he wrote, "has been unsatisfactory and increases the laboratory's concern about the ability of the contractor to meet launch schedules in the future. Specific items have been discussed in detail during conferences and will be further stated in writing if the contractor so desires. The contractor is urged to bend every effort toward maintaining or bettering the present launch schedule."29
Hagen's reprimand failed to alter the course of events with respect to TV-2. Its long-range effect on the Vanguard program, however, was a salutary one. Hardware difficulties would continue to arise, but in the future the source of few of them would be in the Martin plant. It is of interest to add in connection with this aspect of the program that some members of the Martin company's Vanguard group have criticized their top management's handling of the satellite project. In the beginning, to quote one of them, "the Martin managers didn't ride herd on the Vanguard job as vigorously as they should have. In a job of this sort the managers of the company should walk the floor. The Martin managers failed to do that at first; when later on, they did so at least to some extent, things improved immensely. The three most successful Vanguard launches were all preceded by a tightening up of procedures and a greater watchfulness on the part of the management." According to this same critic, "another mistake" of the GLM officials was their failure "to get into bed with the customer. The Martin people did a swell job, but somehow the Martin managers were never able to convince the Naval Research Laboratory that they had. All along the line there was an unfortunate breakdown in communications between company management and customer." Evidence that in the beginning at least the Martin managers regarded the scientific satellite program as though it were a "poor relation" is provided by what has come to be known as "the era of the bird-droppings." For several months the company installed the designers of the Vanguard vehicle in the upper reaches of an old plant where broken windows provided convenient passageway for the sparrows living in the girders. Drawings left open on a draftsman's table at night were seldom quite the same by the following morning.30
The second TV-2 static test, attempted four days after the first, encountered even worse luck. Among other things, the blast deflector tube of the firing structure suffered serious damage. During the helium pressure tests, excessive leakage showed up in the turbine and deflector-plate seals of the engine. Again the crew thought it best to remove this component and ship it back to General Electric. By this time, fortunately, TV-2's backup vehicle TV-2BU, had arrived, so a spare motor was available. The crew installed it, and grimly prepared for a third attempt on 3 September. That, too, had to be scrubbed when at T-245 minutes the main pressurization system regulator exhibited behavior characteristic of a dangerously dirty valve.31
September saw three static-test attempts in all-and three heartbreaking scrubs. October was well underway before static-test number seven satisfied the VOG bosses that TV-2 was ready for launching. Two flight firing attempts during the second half of the month had to be called off long before the completion of countdown. The third was a resounding success: with a long succession of difficulties now overcome the first flight to be attempted with the Vanguard external configuration carried a 4,000-pound payload to an altitude of 109 miles and to a downrange distance of 335 miles as planned. All test objectives were realized. Performance of all components was "superior." The flight showed that the Vanguard first stage operated "properly at altitude," that "conditions were favorable for successful separation of the first and second stages," that launch-stand clearance in low surface winds was "no problem," and that "there was structural integrity throughout flight." The test also demonstrated the existence of "dynamic compatibility" between the control system of the vehicle and the structure.32
At the time of the flight, however, there was little rejoicing in the Vanguard blockhouse. Relief was the prevailing sentiment there when the word came that the vehicle had completed its appointed course and fallen into the ocean. According to Kurt Stehling,33 the unspoken thought of the men who had carried TV-2 through its many trials and tribulations was, "Let the fish have it."
They got it on 23 October 1957. By
that date, drastic changes had overtaken Project Vanguard. Some
reflected policy decisions within the project itself. Others were
the outgrowth of that turning point of the Space Age, the launching
into orbit by the Soviet Union of the first manmade earth satellite,
(GRAPHICS MISSING: Launch of the
difficult TV-2, 23 October 1957. This was the first three-stage
configuration of Vanguard, although the upper two stages were