Advanced Design, Fabrication, and Testing

December 1965


December 2

NASA had essentially completed negotiations with North American on the incentive contract. Based on agreements reached with the contractor during negotiations, Master Development Schedule 9 was published, which included Block I and Block II spacecraft schedules, SLA schedules, SM Block II primary structure schedules, and a tabulated list of milestones containing former and new schedule dates.

Memorandum, C. L. Taylor, MSC, to each ASPO Branch Chief and each Subsystem Manager, "New NAA Schedule MDS-9," December 2, 1965.

December 2

Maj. Gen. Samuel C. Phillips, NASA Apollo Program Director, approved the deletion of the LEM TM-5 from the ground test program. He requested that MSC consider the following recommendations:

On December 23, ASPO Manager Joseph F. Shea replied regarding the recommendations:

TWX, Maj. Gen. Samuel C. Phillips, NASA Headquarters, to MSC, Attn: J. F. Shea, December 2, 1965; letter, Joseph F. Shea, MSC, to NASA Headquarters, Attn: Maj. Gen. Samuel C. Phillips, "Deletion of TM-5 from LEM Ground Test Program," December 23, 1965,

December 3

MSC was considering the use of both water and air bacteria filters in the LEM to reduce contamination of the lunar surface. Crew Systems Division (CSD) would attempt to determine by tests what percentage concentration of micro-organisms would be trapped by the filters. CSD hoped to begin limited testing in January 1966.

At an MSC meeting attended by ASPO, CSD, and Lunar Sample Receiving Laboratory representatives, it was decided that the following directions would be sent to Grumman:

  1. In order to prolong the prevention of lunar surface contamination, provisions should be made to store urine and lithium hydroxide canisters in the descent stage; and
  2. the portable life support systems and associated extravehicular mobility items should be dumped onto the lunar surface after all lunar surface exploration had been completed.
Memorandum, Robert V. Battey, Chief, Systems Operations Branch, ASPO, to Chief, Systems Engineering Division, ASPO, "Status of Lunar Surface Contamination," December 3, 1965.

December 3

The Flight Readiness Review for Mission A-004 was conducted at White Sands Test Facility. The board concurred in proceeding with launch preparations. Subsequent to the review, the failure analysis of the autopilot subsystem revealed loose solder connections, and the launch was rescheduled for December 15, from the original December 8 planned launch. The launch was later scheduled for December 18; then, because of continued problems with the autopilot, was scrubbed until January. (See January 20, 1966, entry.)

"Project Apollo, Abstract of Proceedings, Mission A-004 (CSM 002/LJ II 12-51-3) Flight Readiness Review, December 3, 1965, at the White Sands Test Facility," Chairman, F. J. Bailey, Jr.; MSC, "ASPO Weekly Management Report, December 2-9, 1965"; TWX, Manager, ASPO, MSC, to NASA Headquarters, Attn: Director, Apollo Program Office, December 22, 1965.

December 3-7

The U.S.S.R. launched Luna VIII, an unmanned spacecraft, toward the moon December 3. The objectives were to test a soft lunar landing system and scientific research. Weighing 1,552 kg (3,422 lbs), the spacecraft was following a trajectory close to the calculated one and the equipment was functioning normally. Luna VIII impacted on the moon December 7. Indications were that it was destroyed instead of making a soft landing. Tass reported that "the systems were functioning normally at all stages of the landing except the final touchdown."

Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1965, pp. 536, 542.

December 4-18

Gemini VII, the fourth manned mission of that program, was launched from Cape Kennedy December 4 with command pilot Frank Borman and pilot James A. Lovell, Jr., as the crew. Their primary objective was to evaluate the physiological effects of long-duration (14 days) flight on man. Secondary objectives included: providing a rendezvous target for the Gemini VI-A spacecraft (see December 15-16 entry), conducting 20 experiments, and evaluating the spacecraft's reentry guidance capability. The rendezvous was successfully accomplished during the 11th day of the mission. The crew established another first for American spacemen as first one, then the other, and finally both flew with their flight suits removed. The landing, on December 18, was little more than six miles from the planned landing point.

Grimwood, Hacker, with Vorzimmer, "Project Gemini, A Chronology" (NASA SP-4002), 1969, pp. 224- 226.

December 5

Hamilton Standard successfully tested a life-support back pack designed to meet requirements of the lunar surface suit. The system functioned as planned for more than three hours inside a vacuum chamber, while the test subject walked on a treadmill to simulate the metabolic load of an astronaut on the lunar terrain. The 29.48-kg (65-lb) portable life support system supplied oxygen, pressurized to a minimum 25,510 newtons per sq m (3.7 lbs psi), controlled its temperature and relative humidity, and circulated it through the suit and helmet. The pack pumped cooled water through the tubing of the undergarment for cooling inside the pressure suit. A canister of lithium hydroxide trapped carbon dioxide and other air contaminants to purify the oxygen for reuse.

Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1965, p. 540.

December 6

George E. Mueller, NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, notified MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth that NASA Administrator James E. Webb and Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., had selected Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, The Martin Company, McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, and Northrop Corporation for Phase I of the Apollo Experiments Pallet Procurement. The contracts would be for four months and each would be valued at about $375,000.

Letter, Mueller to Gilruth, December 6, 1965.

December 6-17

The Block II CSM Critical Design Review (CDR) was held at North American, Downey, Calif. The specifications and drawings were reviewed and the CSM mockup inspected. Review Item Dispositions were written against the design where it failed to meet the requirements.

As a result of the CDR North American would update the configuration of mockup 27A for use in zero-g flights at Wright-Patterson AFB. The flights could not be rescheduled until MSC approved the refurbished mockup as being representative of the spacecraft configuration.

MSC, "ASPO Weekly Management Report, December 16-23, 1965."

December 7

ASPO Manager Joseph F. Shea informed North American, Grumman, and Bell Aerosystems Company that NASA's Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, George E. Mueller, had requested a presentation on the incompatibility of titanium alloys and nitrogen tetroxide and its impact on the Apollo Program, this to be done at the NASA Senior Management Council meeting on December 21.

In light of recent failures of almost all titanium tanks planned for use in the Apollo Program when exposed to nitrogen tetroxide under conditions which might be encountered in flight, the matter was deemed to be of utmost urgency.

A preliminary meeting was scheduled at NASA Headquarters on December 16 and one responsible representative from each of the prime contractors and subcontractors was requested to be present. Prior to the December 16 meeting, it would be necessary for each organization to complete the following tasks:

TWX, Joseph F. Shea, MSC, to D. Myers, NAA; J. Gavin, Grumman; and J. Piselli, Bell Aerosystems Company, December 7, 1965.

December 8

MSC's Deputy Director George M. Low told Willis B. Foster of NASA Headquarters that the standing committee appointed by him had performed an invaluable service to the Center in identifying the requirements to be incorporated in the Lunar Sample Receiving Laboratory. Low said, "Additionally, we are indebted to individual members of that committee for providing detailed specialized inputs during the preliminary engineering phase just ended."

Low noted that the committee had prepared a report, "Review of the Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) of the Lunar Sample Receiving Laboratory (LSRL) by the Standing Committee of LSRL." He said that an examination of this report revealed that the committee had addressed itself to a detailed review task which far exceeded the scope envisioned when Foster conceived the idea for such a committee.

Low suggested that the committee be "discharged of any further responsibility relating to the facility design and construction." He added that MSC would look forward to providing Foster and his staff, as well as interested outside scientists, periodic briefings and reports of status and progress on the facility.

Letter, Low to Foster, "Manned Space Science Standing Committee for the Lunar Sample Receiving Laboratory," December 8, 1965.

December 8

An 889-kilonewton (200,000-lb) thrust J-2 engine was captive-fired for 388 sec on a new test stand at MSFC. The J-2 engine would be used to power the Saturn S-IVB stage for the Saturn V. Ten tests of the liquid hydrogen-liquid oxygen powered rocket engine had been conducted at MSFC since the J-2 engine test facility was put into use in August 1965.

Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1965, p. 543.

December 8

The service propulsion system burn time for AS-502 was confirmed to be 385 sec flight time. Previously the plan had called for a total of 515 sec - 310 sec for SPS-1 and 205 sec for SPS-2. This action required that all mission plans be restudied and revised.

Memorandum, Carl R. Huss, JSC, to JSC Historical Office, "Comments on Volume III of The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology, "June 6, 1973.

December 9-16

Investigations were continuing of the best alternative for resolving the AS-502 mission incompatibilities. The incompatibilities resulted from the restriction of the usable life of the Block I service propulsion system (SPS) engine to 385 to 400 sec total burn time. The alternatives were:

The necessary information for reaching a decision among those alternatives was being collected.

MSC, "ASPO Weekly Management Report, December 9-16, 1965."

December 9-16

The Block II Apollo food stowage problems were explored at North American. Methods of restraint were resolved to allow accessibility of the man-meal assemblies. The contractor, Melpar, Inc., would rework and reposition mockup man-meal assemblies to conform with suggestions by the Crew Provisions Office of the MSC Apollo Support Office and North American representatives.


December 9-16

Nine review item dispositions were submitted at the Block II critical design review concerning the earth landing system and shock attenuation system (struts). Six were on specifications, one on installation drawings, and two on capability. The two most significant were:

  1. the contract for Block II parachutes had not been awarded and consequently top installation drawings were not yet available for review; and
  2. specifications defining crew couch strut loading tolerances had not been released but the strut drawings had.

December 9-16

Preliminary results of the "fire-till-touchdown" study by Grumman indicated that this maneuver was not feasible. The engine might be exploded by driving the shock wave into the nozzles. The base heatshield temperature would exceed 1,789K (5,000 degrees F), which was high enough to melt portions of the structure, possibly causing destruction of the foot pads. The allowable pressure on the nonstructural elements of the base heatshield would be exceeded; and the descent engine flow field would tend to cause a "POGO" effect which would cause landing instability and could prevent engine cutoff.

As an outgrowth of the study, the landing probes would have to be made longer (137.1 to 187.9 cm [54 to 74 in] with automatic cutoff, 228.6 to 304.8 cm [90 to 120 in] with manual cutoff). The probe switches would be moved from the tip of the probe to the base, which was objectionable from the standpoint of a possible false reading due to probe dynamics.

MSC, "ASPO Weekly Management Report, December 16-23, 1965."

December 10

At-sea operational qualification tests, using boilerplate 29 to simulate spacecraft 009, were completed. All mechanical system components performed satisfactorily, except for the recovery flashing light. Test results were:

  1. uprighting system - during the first mission cycle, the vehicle was uprighted in three minutes, during the second, in two minutes;
  2. VHF antenna deployment - the antennas were in the erect position when the test started. Communication was achieved with a fly-by plane;
  3. the sea dye marker canister deployed as expected when the HF was erected; and
  4. the recovery flashing light was deployed before the test started; when switched on the light did not flash. Post-test analysis indicated a water-short in the wiring installed by MSC.
MSC, "ASPO Weekly Management Report, December 9-16, 1965."

December 15

Grumman was invited to provide NASA with a cost-plus-incentive-fee proposal to provide four LEMs subsequent to LEM-11, with the proposal due at MSC by the close of business on the following day. The proposal should be based on a vehicular configuration similar to LEM-11 in all respects, including supporting activities, contractual provisions, and specifications applicable to LEM-11. The required shipment dates for the four vehicles would be December 13, 1968, February 11, 1969, April 11, 1969, and June 10, 1969, respectively.

TWX, James L. Neal, MSC, to GAEC, Attn: J. C. Snedeker, December 15, 1965.

December 15

NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science and Applications Homer E. Newell informed MSC that an experiment proposed by Ames Research Center had been selected as a space science investigation for, if possible, the first manned lunar landing as a part of the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package. Principal investigator of the proposed experiment, the magnetometer, was C. P. Sonett of Ames with Jerry Modisette of MSC as associate.

The Apollo Program Director was being requested by Newell to authorize the funding of flight hardware for this experiment.

Letter, Homer E. Newell, NASA Headquarters, to Director, MSC, Attn: Experiments Program Manager, "Selection of Apollo Lunar Science Magnetic Field Investigations," December 15, 1965.

December 15

CSM ultimate static testing began. A failure occurred at 140 percent of the limit load test which simulated the end of the first-stage Saturn V boost. The loads were applied at room temperature. Preliminary inspection revealed a core compression failure and upper face sheet separation of the aft bulkhead directly beneath both SM oxidizer tank supports.

A second failure was also observed where the radial beams between the oxidizer and fuel tanks joined the bulkhead and shell. The bulkhead closeouts were peeled for a distance of approximately two inches. No decisions were made regarding repairs, test schedule, etc. These tests were constraints on spacecraft 012. MSC, "ASPO Weekly Management Report, December 9-16, 1965."

December 15-16

Gemini VI-A, the fifth manned flight and first rendezvous mission in the Gemini Program, was launched from Cape Kennedy on December 15, with Astronaut Walter M. Schirra, Jr., serving as command pilot and Astronaut Thomas P. Stafford, pilot. Their primary objective was to rendezvous with the Gemini VII spacecraft, and secondary objectives included station-keeping with the other spacecraft, evaluating spacecraft reentry guidance capability, and performing three experiments.

A coelliptic maneuver was performed 3 hours and 47 minutes after launch; the terminal initiation was performed an hour-and-a-half later; braking maneuvers were started at 5 hours and 50 minutes into the flight and rendezvous was technically accomplished six minutes later. The two spacecraft began station-keeping maneuvers which continued for three and a half orbits while they were separated by as much as 100 m and as little as 0.3 m.

Grimwood et al., Project Gemini, A Chronology, 1969, p, 227; Gemini VII/Gemini VI, Long Duration/Rendezvous Missions, MSC Fact Sheet 291-D, January 1966 [Ivan D. Ertel].

December 16

The NASA Director of Mission Operations notified the Directors of MSC, MSFC, and KSC that the communication satellite operational capability for Apollo mission support was scheduled for September 30, 1966.

Letter, E. E. Christensen, NASA, to KSC, MSFC, and MSC, Attn: Directors, "Communications Satellite Planning Status," December 16, 1965, with enclosure: "Communications Service by Communications Satellites for Support of Project Apollo," November 30, 1965.

December 16

Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips said the Apollo Weight and Performance management system, jointly developed by the Apollo Program Office and the Centers had proved itself as a useful management tool. He considered that the system had matured to the point that changes in organizational responsibility were needed. He set a target date of December 31, 1965, to complete the following actions:

Phillips acknowledged that an important element of the Apollo Weight and Performance management system had been the prediction analysis (weight growth) assessment effort performed by GE Apollo Support Division, under contract to the Apollo Program Control Office. Phillips felt, however, that weight growth analyses were a Center responsibility, and there was no continuing need for GE to perform in this area since the prediction analysis methodology had been established.

Phillips told ASPO Manager Joseph F. Shea that if he wished to continue to use GE's service in this area, he would support his request with the stipulation that GE's prediction analysis operation be supervised by MSC personnel.

Letter, Phillips to Shea, December 16, 1965.

December 16-23

A working group was formed at MSC to determine the effects of lunar soil properties on LEM landing performance. Various potential sources of lunar surface information, including Surveyor spacecraft, would be investigated in an effort to evaluate LEM landing performance in a lunar soil. The effect of footpad size and shape on landing performance in soil would also be studied.

MSC, "ASPO Weekly Management Report, December 16-23, 1965."

December 16-23

The requirement to use the LEM rendezvous radar for surface or skin track and for tracking in the cooperative mode during powered LEM mission phases was deleted from the Grumman Technical Specification and the Master End Item Specification.


December 16-23

The following responsibilities were transferred from MIT to AC Electronics:

  1. design responsibility for the Block I and Block II eyepiece compartment;
  2. responsibility for all Block II and LEM system coatings which were exposed to the spacecraft or space environment; and
  3. design responsibility for the LEM navigation base.

December 17

The MSC Systems Development Branch rejected a proposal that the Development Flight Instrumentation (DFI) on LEM-3 be deleted for the following reasons:

  1. LEM-3 would be the first full-weight LEM launched on a Saturn V vehicle. This would be the only chance of obtaining necessary information about the responses of LEM during launch.
  2. The AS-503 mission would offer the only opportunity of obtaining information on the characteristics of a fully loaded, mated LEM and CSM prior to attempting a lunar landing.
  3. Three LEMs with DFI were considered the minimum number acceptable in the program to provide flexibility in flight planning and ability to accommodate the loss of LEMs 1 or 2 without a major impact on the program.
Memorandum, Chief, Systems Development Branch, MSC, to Bob Williams, MSC, "DFI on LEM-3," December 17, 1965.

December 19

Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips informed J. L. Atwood, President of North American Aviation, Inc., that he and the team working with him in examining the Apollo Spacecraft and S-II stage programs had completed their task "in sufficient detail . . . to formulate reasonably accurate assessment of the current situation concerning these two programs." Phillips and a task force had started this study at North American November 22, 1965.

Phillips added: "I am definitely not satisfied with the progress and outlook of either program and am convinced that the right actions now can result in substantial improvement of position in both programs in the relatively near future.

"Inclosed are ten copies of the notes which we compiled on the basis of our visits. They include details not discussed in our briefing and are provided for your consideration and use.

"The conclusions expressed in our briefing and notes are critical. Even with due consideration of hopeful signs, I could not find a substantive basis for confidence in future performance. I believe that a task group drawn from NAA at large could rather quickly verify the substance of our conclusions, and might be useful to you in setting the course for improvements.

"The gravity of the situation compels me to ask that you let me know, by the end of January if possible, the actions you propose to take. . . ."

Letter, Phillips to Atwood, December 15, 1965; Hearings before the Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, United States Senate, Ninetieth Congress, First Session, "To Hear Officials of North American Aviation, Inc., Prime Contractor to NASA in the Apollo Program," Apollo Accident, Part 5, pp. 414-415, May 4, 1967.

December 20

Robert C. Duncan, Chief of MSC's Guidance and Control Division, revealed that recent discussions between himself, NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller, and ASPO Manager Joseph F. Shea had resulted in a decision to continue both radar and optical tracking systems into the hardware development phase. It was also agreed that some specific analytical and hardware homework must be done. The hardware action items were being assigned to Robert A. Gardiner and the analytical action items to Donald C. Cheatham.

The primary objective was to design, develop, and produce rendezvous sensor hardware that was on time and would work, Duncan said; second, that "we must have a rendezvous strategy which takes best advantage of the capability of the rendezvous sensor (whichever type it might be)."

The greatest difficulty in reducing operating laboratory equipment into operating spacecraft hardware occurred in the process of packaging and testing for flight. This milestone had not been reached in either the radar or the optical tracker programs.

Duncan said, "We want to set up a 'rendezvous sensor olympics' at some appropriate stage . . . when we have flight-weight equipment available from both the radar contractor and the optical tracker contractor. This olympics should consist of exposing the hardware to critical environmental tests, particularly vibration and thermal-cycling, and to operate the equipment after such exposure." If one or the other equipment failed to survive the test, it would be clear which program would be continued and which would be canceled. "If both successfully pass the olympics, the system which will be chosen will be based largely upon the results of the analytical effort. . . . If both systems fail the olympics, it is clear we have lots of work to do," Duncan said.

Memorandum, Robert C. Duncan, MSC, to Engineering and Development Directorate, Attn: Assistant Chief for Engineering and Development and Assistant Chief for Project Management, "Competition of radar and optical tracker system for the LEM," December 20, 1965.

December 21

Robert C. Seamans, Jr., was sworn in as Deputy Administrator of NASA, succeeding Hugh L. Dryden who died December 2. Seamans would also retain his present position as Associate Administrator for an indefinite period of time.

NASA Administrator James E. Webb administered the oath of office. He had announced in Austin, Tex., on December 10, that President Lyndon B. Johnson had accepted his recommendation that Seamans be named to the number two NASA post.

Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1965, p. 546; TWX, NASA Headquarters, Public Information Office, to all NASA Centers and Offices, December 21, 1965.

December 30

Because earth landing system qualification drop tests on boilerplate 6A and boilerplate 19 had failed to demonstrate that Block I recovery aids would not be damaged during landing, MSC notified North American that certain existing interim configuration recovery aid mockups must be replaced by actual hardware capable of fulfilling test requirements. The hardware included: two VHF antennas; one flashing light; one RF antenna, nondeployable; sea marker, swimmer umbilical, nondeployable. In addition, existing launch escape system tower leg bolts should be replaced by redesigned Block I tower bolts, including protective covers, to demonstrate that the redesigned bolts and covers did not degrade the performance of the earth landing system. North American was to reply with a total change plan by January 5, 1966.

TWX, J. B. Alldredge, MSC, to NAA, Attn: J. C. Cozad, December 30, 1965.

December 30-January 6

As a result of joint efforts by the Resident ASPO and MSFC Resident Manufacturing Representative, a simulated forward bulkhead for the CM inner-crew compartment was fabricated by North American and sent to MSFC for use in developing a head for the magnetic hammer which would be compatible to the extremely thin skins used on the compartment. The need for the magnetic hammer arose from the "canning" and "wrinkles" found after welding on the forward bulkhead. A tryout for the magnetic hammer on the simulated bulkhead was scheduled the first week in January.

MSC, "ASPO Weekly Management Report, December 30, 1965-January 6, 1966."

December 30-January 6

A potential problem still existed with the boost environment for the LEM and the associated spacecraft-LEM-adapter (SLA) thermal coating. Systems Engineering Division authorized North American to proceed with implementation of an SLA thermal coating to meet the currently understood SLA requirements. Grumman would review the North American study in detail for possible adverse impact on the LEM and would negotiate with MSC.


December 30-January 6

Grumman and MSC reached agreement to continue with Freon for prelaunch cooling of LEM-1. By changing to a different Freon the additional heat sink capability was obtained with minor changes to flight hardware. The ground support equipment for supplying Freon had to be modified to increase the flow capability, but this was not expected to be difficult. Plans were to use the same prelaunch cooling capability for LEM-2 and LEM-3.


December 30-January 6

NASA Headquarters had directed that crew water intake be recorded on all Apollo flights. To meet this requirement the Government-furnished water gun would have to be modified to include a metering capability. A gun with this capability was successfully flown on the Gemini VI and Gemini VII flights and could be used without change in the CM and LEM if it could withstand the higher water pressure. Incorporation of the gun could require bracket changes in the CM and the LEM.


December 31

The SM reaction control system engine qualification was completed with no apparent failures.


During the Month

During the month 16 flights were made in the LLRV. Of these, 11 were devoted to concluding the handling qualities evaluation of the rate- command vehicle attitude control system. The other five flights were required to check out a new pilot, Lt. Col. E. E. Kluever of the Army, who would participate in the remaining research flight testing performed on the LLRV at Flight Research Center. On December 15 the craft was grounded for cockpit modifications which would make the pilot display and controllers more like those of the LEM.

Letter, Office of Director, Flight Research Center, to NASA Headquarters, "Lunar Landing Research Vehicle progress report No. 30 for the period ending December 31, 1965," sgd. Joseph Weil, January 19, 1966.

During the Month

MSC and Grumman completed negotiations to convert the LEM contract from cost-plus-fixed-fee to cost- plus-incentive fee. In addition to schedule and performance incentives, bonus points would be awarded for cost control during FY 66 and FY 67. Four LEMs were also added to the program. LEM mockup-3 would be used as the KSC verification vehicle; LEM test article-2 and LEM test article-10 (refurbished vehicles) would be used in the first two flights of the Saturn V launch vehicle.

A total of 167 contract change authorizations (CCAs) to the Grumman contract had been issued by December 31. Negotiation of the proposal for the conversion to a cost-plus-incentive-fee included all CCAs through No. 162, and CCA amendments dated before December 9. Proposals for CCAs 163167 were in process and would be submitted according to contract change procedures.

Ibid., pp. 1, 22.

During the Quarter

ASPO Manager Joseph F. Shea reported to Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips on changes in spacecraft weights:

Memorandum, Joseph F. Shea, MSC, to NASA Headquarters, Attn: Maj. Gen. Samuel C. Phillips, "Weight and Performance Data Submittal (January 1966)," January 22, 1966.

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