The Fleming Committee

In Washington, President Kennedy's announcement on 25 May spurred NASA's examination of the requirements for a lunar landing. An ad hoc committee chaired by William Fleming (Office of Space Flight Programs, NASA Headquarters) was conducting a six weeks' study of the requirements for a lunar landing. The Fleming Committee, judging the direct ascent approach most feasible, concentrated their attention accordingly. They devised a launch schedule employing Saturn C-1s for manned orbital flights in late 1964, a Saturn C-3 for circumlunar flights in late 1965, and a Nova, powered by 8 F-1 engines, for lunar landing flights in 1967, Seamans was unwilling to adopt the Fleming recommendations without a quick look at the rendezvous thesis. In early June, Bruce Lundin, deputy director of the Lewis Research Center, led a week-long study of six different rendezvous possibilities. The alternatives included earth-orbital rendezvous, lunar-orbital rendezvous, earth and lunar rendezvous, and rendezvous on the lunar surface, employing Saturn C-1s, C-3s, and Novas. His committee concluded that rendezvous enjoyed distinct advantages over direct ascent and recommended an earth-orbital rendezvous using two or three Saturn C-3s. NASA officials were sufficiently impressed to postpone a decision pending further studies.39

The Fleming Report's flight schedule caused some anxiety at the Cape. During his 5 June visit, General Ostrander suggested that the committee's recommendations might force a reevaluation of the new mobile launch proposals. In fact, the report indicated that the Saturn C-3 launch rate would not exceed 13 per year. This was a far cry from the Future Projects Office's revised projection of 30 to 40 annual Saturn C-3 launches. Debus called von Braun to point out the significance of the Fleming schedule. LOD's estimates of the economic crossover point between fixed and mobile launch facilities placed the figure around 15 launches per year. If NASA Headquarters adopted the Fleming recommendations, conventional launch facilities would probably be more appropriate. After checking into the matter, Marshall officials informed Debus that the 13 annual launches represented only a part of the future Saturn C-3 launch rate. Earth-orbital flights and interplanetary missions would keep the rate well above the economic break-even point for a mobile launch facility.40

Another troublesome matter stemming from the report had to do with NASA's possible use of solid-fueled rockets. The Fleming Committee's proposed launch vehicles included solid-liquid versions. In the C-3 configuration three solid-propellant motors would take the place of the two F-1 engines in the first stage. NASA Headquarters officials wanted the C-3 and Nova launch study contractors to design a facility that could service solid as well as liquid rockets. Debus objected, insisting that a "dual use" facility would penalize the liquid program. Solid motors, because of their greater weight and blast, would require expensive modifications to either conventional facilities or the new mobile concept. Furthermore, Debus was anxious to get the C-3 launch facilities study started and detailed criteria for solid rockets were not yet available. The difference of opinion took several weeks to resolve, but LOD's position prevailed. When LOD received data for the solid motors, additional studies might be done. In late June, Martin started work on the C-3 (liquid version) launch facilities study.41

39. Logsdon, "NASA's Implementation," pp. 8-18.

40. DDJ, 6, 26 June 1961. The Fleming Master Flight Plan called for 167 flights prior to the first lunar landing, but this included launchings of Atlas, Agena, Centaur, Saturn C-1, Saturn C-3, and Nova rockets. Fourteen C-1s and 24 C-3s were to be launched in 1965-1966.

41. DDJ, 6, 20 June 1961.

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