Part I : 1945 - 1950

3. Hydrogen-Oxygen for a Navy Satellite



The Air Force's Interest in Satellites


[39] With Arnold an outspoken proponent for long-range missiles and satellites, the Air Force was not about to take a back seat to the Bureau of Aeronautics on the subject. An organization well staffed to study the potentialities of military satellites had just been formed-a "think tank" known as Project RAND.*


Soon after the meeting with Hall, LeMay instructed the Douglas Aircraft Company, RAND's parent organization, to give priority to a design study of a satellite vehicle. He wanted the basic study in three weeks "to meet a pressing requirement".19 Douglas assigned the top manpower of its Santa Monica engineering department to this task and stopped all other RAND studies and several important Douglas design projects.


At the peak, over fifty of the best scientists and engineers of the firm were on the study-including Louis Ridenour and Francis H. Clauser, both of whom had been in the team that interrogated Wernher von Braun in 1945. The result of the study, "Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Space Ship," was hand-carried to Wright Field on 12 May 1946. Project RAND stopped further work while the Air Force evaluated the report and decided what further studies were wanted.


* Project RAND was the brainchild of Frank Collbohm, an engineer working for the Douglas Aircraft Company. In late 1945, he talked to government officials about forming a postwar scientific organization to work on problems of national security. He got plenty of expressions of interest but no action until he met General Arnold in October 1945. Arnold liked the idea and implementation began the same day. On 2 March 1946, the Douglas Aircraft Company was given a letter contract for $10 million to set up an autonomous group of engineers and scientists, Project RAND. On 12 May 1947, RAND became an independent corporation. William Leavitt, "RAND The Air Force's Original Think Tank," Air Force/Space Digest, May 1967, p. 100.