Part 2 (F)

Recovery, Spacecraft Redefinition, and First Manned Apollo Flight

November 1967


November 2

Maxime A. Faget, MSC Director of Engineering and Development, told the ASPO Manager that he had reviewed the LM insulation status and concluded that "the present design is susceptible to degradation from cabin leakage during pressurized conditions. The present insulation design is unacceptable for the lunar landing mission." He agreed with the contractor that design changes were required and specified that the insulation design change should be effective on LM-4 and the changes should be installed for the LTA-8 tests in support of LM-5.

Memo, Faget to Manager, ASPO, "LM Insulation," Nov. 2, 1967.

November 3

A cooling design to keep heating effects of the radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) below 450 kelvins (350 degrees F) was being sought for the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package. Studies had shown that the RTG could be a fire hazard when the ALSEP was carried in the lunar module, heating temperatures up to 590 kelvins (600 degrees F) unless cooling was provided. Temperatures from 460 to 465 kelvins (370 degrees F to 380 degrees F) were hazardous with the fuels in the LM. (See also July 21, 1967, entry.)

Memo, George C. White, Jr., NASA Hq., to William M. Bland, Jr., MSC, "Failure Effects Analysis-LM/ALSEP Interface," Nov. 3, 1967.

November 3

A series of lunar surface operations planning meetings was scheduled to establish and coordinate operational requirements and constraints, review analysis and simulation data for lunar surface operations, review hardware status and requirements, review test and simulation planning, identify and resolve operational problems, obtain agreement on mission guidelines and recommended flight activities, and collect comments on the surface operations plans.

Memo, Donald K. Slayton, MSC, to distr., "Lunar Surface Operations Planning Meetings," Nov. 3, 1967.

November 3-December 19

In an exchange of correspondence, KSC Director Kurt H. Debus and MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth agreed that close coordination was required between the two Centers regarding launch site recovery and rescue in the event of malfunction leading to an unsuccessful abort before or just after ignition during a launch phase. Coordinated recovery and rescue plans were being formulated for such an emergency. Plans would also include the Department of Defense Eastern Test Range and required coordination with DOD. On December 19 Debus was informed by NASA Hq. that his proposal for a slide wire emergency system had been reviewed and approved.

Ltrs., Debus to Gilruth, Nov. 3, 1967; Gilruth to Debus, Nov. 20, 1967; Gilruth to Samuel C. Phillips, NASA Hq., Nov. 16, 1967; Phillips to Debus, Dec. 19, 1967.

November 4

NASA announced an Apollo mission schedule calling for six flights in 1968 and five in 1969. NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller said the schedule and alternative plans provided a schedule under which a limited number of Apollo command and service modules and lunar landing modules, configured for lunar landing might be launched on test flights toward the moon by the end of the decade. Apollo/uprated Saturn I flights were identified with a 200 series number; Saturn V flights were identified with a 500 series number. The 1968 schedule was:

These flights would be flown in the above order and as rapidly as all necessary preparations could be completed.

The 1969 flight schedule called for five manned Apollo/Saturn V flights, AS-505 through AS-509. Four of these-505, 506, 507, and 508-were programmed as lunar mission development flights or lunar mission simulations. It was considered possible that the lunar landing could be made on Apollo/Saturn 509, but it was also possible this might be delayed until one of the remaining six Saturn V flights.

TWX, Ralph E. Gibson, Deputy News Chief, NASA Hq., to all NASA Centers and Stations, NASA News Release 67-282, "Apollo/Saturn Schedule," Nov. 4, 1967.

November 7

MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth, wrote Warren B. Hayes, President of Fansteel Metallurgical Corp., that planned schedules for the lunar landing training vehicle (LLTV) could not be maintained because of the need for refabrication of the hydrogen peroxide tanks. The tanks had been manufactured by Airtek Division of Fansteel under contract to Bell Aerosystems Co. Airtek's estimates were that the first of the new tanks would not be available until January 1 968, two months later than required to meet the LLTV program schedule. Gilruth said: "The LLTV is a major and very necessary part of the crew training program for the lunar landing maneuver. It is my hope that Airtek will take every action to assure that the manufacturing cycle time for these tanks is held to an absolute minimum." In preparing background information for Gilruth, Flight Crew Operations Director Donald K. Slayton had pointed out that the first set of tanks (total of eight) had been scrapped because of below-minimum wall thickness. Qualification testing of a tank from the second set revealed out-of-tolerance mismatch of welded tank fittings, and this set was also scrapped.

Ltr, Gilruth to Hayes, Nov. 7, 1967; memo, Slayton to MSC Director, "Proposed letter to President, Fansteel Metallurgical Corporation," Nov. 3, 1967.

November 8

The MSC Director of Engineering and Development pointed out that a fullscale CSM would soon be tested to evaluate the hazard of fire propagation both in orbit (cabin atmosphere of oxygen at pressure of 3.8 newtons per square centimeter - 5.5 pounds per square inch absolute) and on the pad (oxygen at 11.4 newtons per sq cm-16.5 psia). There was a reasonable probability that the CSM might qualify in the first but not the second case. In such event, it was proposed that the prelaunch cabin atmosphere be changed from 100-percent oxygen to a mixture of 60-percent oxygen and 40percent helium or to a mixture of 60-percent oxygen and 40-percent nitrogen. This proposal was made on the assumption that those mixtures at 11.4 newtons per sq cm would not offer more of a fire hazard than 100percent oxygen at 3.8 newtons. It was also assumed that these mixtures would be physiologically suitable after being bled down to orbital pressure without subsequent purging or being enriched with additional oxygen. Structures and Mechanics Division (SMD) was requested to make flammability tests to determine the relative merit of the two mixtures and to outline a minimum test program to provide confidence that the mixed gas atmosphere might be considered equivalent to oxygen at 3.8 newtons.

Memo, Maxime A. Faget to Chief, Structures and Mechanics Div., MSC, "Prelaunch atmosphere for Command Module," Nov. 8, 1967.

November 9

Apollo 4 (AS-501) was launched in the first all-up test of the Saturn V launch vehicle and also in a test of the CM heatshield. The Saturn V, used for the first time, carried a lunar module test article (LTA-10R) and a Block I command and service module (CSM 017) into orbit from KSC Launch Complex 39, Pad A, lifting off at 7:00:01 a.m. EST - one second later than planned. The launch was also the first use of Complex 39. The spacecraft landed 8 hours 37 minutes later in the primary recovery area in the Pacific Ocean, near Hawaii, about 14 kilometers from the planned point. CM, apex heatshield, and one main parachute were recovered by the carrier U.S.S. Bennington.

Main objectives of the mission were to demonstrate the structural and thermal integrity of the space vehicle and to verify adequacy of the Block II heatshield design for entry at lunar return conditions. These objectives were accomplished.

The S-IC stage cutoff occurred 2 minutes 30 seconds into the flight at an altitude of about 63 kilometers. The S-II stage ignition occurred at 2 minutes 32 seconds and the burn lasted 6 minutes 7 seconds, followed by the S-IVB stage ignition and burn of 2 minutes 25 seconds. This series of launch vehicle operations placed the S-IVB and spacecraft combination in an earth parking orbit with an apogee of about 187 kilometers and a perigee of 182 kilometers. After two orbits, which required about three hours, the S-IVB stage was reignited to place the spacecraft in a simulated lunar trajectory. This burn lasted five minutes. Some 10 minutes after completion of the S-IVB burn, the spacecraft and S-IVB stage were separated, and less than 2 minutes later the service propulsion subsystem was fired to raise the apogee. The spacecraft was placed in an attitude with the thickest side of the CM heatshield away from the solar vector. During this four-and-one-half-hour cold-soak period, the spacecraft coasted to its highest apogee - 18,256.3 kilometers. A 70 mm still camera photographed the earth's surface every 10.6 seconds, taking 715 good-quality, high-resolution pictures.

About 8 hours 11 minutes after liftoff the service propulsion system was again ignited to increase the spacecraft inertial velocity and to simulate entry from a translunar mission. This burn lasted four and one half minutes. The planned entry velocity was 10.61 kilometers per second, while the actual velocity achieved was 10.70.

Recovery time of 2 hours 28 minutes was longer than anticipated, with the cause listed as sea conditions - 2.4-meter swells.

MSC, "Apollo 4 Mission Report," Jan. 7, 1968; TWXs, W. C. Schneider, NASA Hq., to addressees, "Apollo 4 24-Hour Report," Nov. 10, 1967; R. O. Middleton, KSC, to addressees, "Apollo 4 Quick-Look Assessment Report," Nov. 13, 1967; Arthur Rudolph, MSFC, to addressees, "AS-501 Flight Results (10 day report)," Nov. 21, 1967; Saturn AS-501 Evaluation Bulletins No. 1 and No. 2, Nov. 14 and Nov. 22, 1967; NASA, "Apollo Program Weekly Status Report," Nov. 10, 1967.

November 11

Tests of sample constant-wear garments (underwear) fabricated from Beta fabric were reported as showing the garments were a source of excessive lint and irritated the skin. Efforts were being made to fabricate a knitted garment that would overcome these problems. Other flame resistant materials and flame retardant treatments were also being investigated. However, since delivery schedules of training and initial flight items required an immediate decision concerning material selection, it was decided to use the original cotton undergarment configuration.

Memo, George M. Low, MSC, to Samuel C. Phillips, NASA Hq., "Constant wear garment," Nov. 11, 1967.

November 13

ASPO Manager George Low, in a memorandum to CSM Manager Kenneth Kleinknecht, remarked that he had "just read Dale Myers' letter to you . . . on the subject of Northrop Ventura performance. In addition I have . . . read a letter from Dick Horner to me in response to my letter . . . of September 29, 1967. Both of these letters have the same general tone: they indicate that problems did exist in the past, but that all problems have now been resolved. . . . I am still . . . uneasy about the Northrop Ventura situation. I would, therefore, recommend that you might personally want to visit the Northrop Ventura facilities so that you can, at first hand, inspect their plant, review their program and talk to their people. You might want to ask Eberhard Rees, Scott Simpkinson and Sam Beddingfield to join you on such a visit. I would hope . . . you would see fit to make this visit in the very near future so that any corrective actions that you might identify can be taken before the Spacecraft 101 parachutes are packed."

Memo, Low to Kleinknecht, "Parachutes," Nov. 13, 1967.

November 14

A full-time lunar landing training vehicle (LLTV) operating capability was essential to lunar landing training. Optimum proficiency for the critical lunar landing maneuver would be required at launch. Crew participation in the three months or more of concentrated checkout and training at KSC before each lunar mission, coupled with routine launch delays, would make KSC the preferred location for LLTV operating capability.

Ltrs., George E. Mueller, NASA Hq., to Robert R. Gilruth, MSC, Nov. 14, 1967 and Dec. 16, 1967; TWX, Maynard E. White, NASA Hq., to MSC and KSC, "Lunar Landing Training Vehicle," Nov. 20, 1967.

November 14

In a letter to North American Rockwell and Grumman management, ASPO Manager George Low pointed out that he had taken a number of steps to strengthen the Configuration Control Board (CCB) activities and said he felt it was "very desirable to have senior management from NAR and GAEC present for our Board meetings." The meetings were held each Friday North American Apollo CSM Manager Dale D. Myers replied on November 17 that he, Charles Feltz, or George Jeffs would attend the meetings on an alternate schedule. Myers informed Low that North American was implementing new requirements designed to strengthen its own CCB. MSC's Kenneth S. Kleinknecht had been invited to attend North American's weekly Tuesday meetings when possible and RASPO Manager Wilbur Gray was invited to attend routinely.

Ltrs, Low to Myers, Nov. 14, 1967; Myers to Low, Nov. 17, 1967.

November 15

MSC informed MSFC that it would provide the following payload flight hardware for the AS-503/BP-30 flight test: boilerplate 30 (BP-30, already at MSFC); spacecraft-LM adapter 101 and launch escape system (SLA-101/LES) jettisonable mass simulation; and lunar module test article B (LTA-B, already at MSFC). MSC had no mission requirements but recommended that any restart test requirements for the Saturn S-IVB stage be carried out on this mission to simplify requirements for the first manned Saturn V mission.

Ltr., George M. Low to Arthur Rudolph, MSFC, "AS-503/BP-30 flight test," Nov. 15, 1967.

November 15

Spacecraft 017 (recovered after flight on the Apollo 4 mission) arrived in Downey, Calif., and was inspected by Robert R. Gilruth, George M. Low and others from MSC. Its condition was much better than anticipated, considering the severe heating it had been subjected to. Maximum erosion was between 2.5 and 7.6 millimeters.

"MSC Weekly Activity Report for Mr. Webb," week ending Nov. 17, 1967.

November 16

MSC Flight Operations Directorate issued mission rules concerning beach impact for the Apollo 7 mission. The Directorate referred to minutes of the Near-Pad Abort Meeting, dated September 26, which said the possibility of injury to the crew should it impact on land near Complex 34 necessitated mission rules prohibiting spacecraft launch in wind conditions that would cause a land impact after an abort. A satisfactory means of escape "must be provided to the crew while in the spacecraft during pad tests when wind conditions prohibit pad aborts due to possible beach impact." Mission rules developed were:

  1. An integrated launch abort trajectory would be conducted at MSC before the launch, using the actual measured launch-day wind profile for computing impact points.
  2. Spacecraft launch would not be attempted if beach impacts were predicted before 15 seconds ground elapsed time (GET).
  3. Launch would be permitted for predicted beach impacts occurring after 15 seconds GET provided the total time that the impact point was on land was no greater than 5 seconds.
  4. If the wind conditions became marginal during countdown before the flight crew entered the spacecraft and if weather predictions indicated that the beach impact constraints would be violated at planned liftoff time, crew entry would be delayed until wind measurements indicated a trend that would allow a safe launch. And
  5. if at any time after flight crew entry the measured wind conditions indicated a beach impact for a pad abort, the access arm would not be retracted until after the winds were determined to be safe as confirmed by a balloon release.
Memo, Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., to Manager, ASPO, "Mission Rules concerning predicted beach impact for the Spacecraft 101 launch," Nov. 16, 1967; telecon with Charles Harlan, MSC Flight Control Div., by Ivan Ertel, Aug. 31, 1970.

November 16

Robert R. Gilruth, George M. Low, and Maxime A. Faget, with other MSC personnel and North American Rockwell management officials visited AiResearch to review the status of the Apollo environmental control unit electronic components. There had been serious concern about AiResearch capabilities in this area. The review indicated that AiResearch circuit designs were satisfactory; that the electronic parts used were not satisfactory , but that substitutions of high-reliability parts could be made; and that AiResearch's capability in the manufacture of electronic components was substandard insofar as the aerospace industry was concerned. AiResearch was directed to obtain a subcontractor to build the most critical electronic controller in accordance with AiResearch designs and parts lists. All other electronic components were still under review and additional ones might be added to the backup contractor at a later date.

"MSC Weekly Activity Report for Mr. Webb," week ending Nov. 17, 1967.

November 17

An MSC meeting discussed environmental acceptance testing of Apollo spacecraft at the vehicle level. The meeting was attended by representatives of OMSF, MSC, and General Electric. Lad Warzecha presented results of a GE analysis of ground- and flight-test failures in a number of spacecraft programs. GE had concluded that a significant number of failures could be eliminated through complete vehicle environmental (vibration and thermal vacuum) acceptance testing and recommended such testing be included in the CSM and LM programs. James A. Chamberlin, MSC, presented a critique of the GE recommendations and found fault with the statistical approach to the GE analysis, indicating that each flight failure would have to be considered individually to reach valid conclusions. After considerable discussion ASPO Manager George M. Low said that he had reached the following conclusions:

  1. Adequate environmental screening at the piece part and component level was essential. Significant steps in this direction had been taken by requiring a wider use of high-reliability parts and by imposing higher vibration levels in black box acceptance testing.
  2. Vehicle-level environmental acceptance testing was not applicable to the CSM or LM spacecraft. This conclusion was reached because it was not possible to vibrate, or otherwise excite, any of the Apollo spacecraft in a way to give meaningful vibration levels at most internal spacecraft locations.
Memo for the Record, Low, Manager, ASPO, "Apollo complete vehicle environmental acceptance testing," Nov. 18, 1967.

November 17

Eberhard F. M. Rees of MSFC sent MSC ASPO Manager George M. Low the results of a brief survey he had made at North American Rockwell. This was a preliminary step to plans agreed on by NASA Administrator James E. Webb, Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller, MSFC Director Wernher von Braun, MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth, and Low. Rees was to head a special task group, to be stationed at Downey and concerned largely with planning control and feedback; engineering, development, and design; manufacturing and assembly, manufacturing methods, and process control; quality assurance and reliability; and procedures, configuration control, etc.

Rees recalled that his assignment, as spelled out by Webb, was mainly to support MSC on manufacturing problems. Accompanying Rees on the survey trip from October 24 to November 3 were Jerald R. Kubat of the Apollo Program Office, NASA Hq., and two MSFC associates of Rees, Jack Trott and E. D. Mohlere. Rees met with RASPO Manager Wilbur H. Gray and ASPO CSM Manager Kenneth S. Kleinknecht and with top North American officials. Discussions were held with RASPO personnel on configuration control, quality assurance, manufacturing problems, and the environmental control system in preparation for a trip to AiResearch. "Finally we reviewed the so-called Problem Assessment Room of NAR."

Before offering some recommendations for consideration, Rees pointed up a need for a considerably intensified program of subcontractor penetration and quality review, to include in-process inspections in critical processes or in assembly of critical components. He recommended that

  1. he lead the task team, reporting to Kleinknecht since he felt the team should support and not only advise and consult;
  2. all actions be executed with the contractor by RASPO;
  3. the size of the group be 20 to 25 persons and the task length about six months; and
  4. the team not involve itself in any design activities or new "inventions," but see to it that all problems be made visible and resolved according to the time schedule with follow-up actions and feedback.
Rees also listed a number of areas of possible improvement, among which were:

"Intensified exploration looking toward modularization in order to reduce impact of restricted work conditions in the capsule, although, according to my opinion, NAR has already taken steps in the proper direction and made improvement."

"Development of highly responsive communications system that will permit immediate revelation to management of manufacturing anomalies discovered on the shop floor."

"NAR quality control was, in my opinion, somewhat erratic. In some cases, jobs were over-covered, in others, coverage was missing."

"Returning to the matter of the communication link between shop and responsive levels of management, two examples will serve to illustrate the point. The S/C 101-RCS [reaction control system] quarter panel fastener hole mismatch was initially reported on January 9 within a shop loop. It did not get management attention until late October. Impact on other S/C requires attention. Again, the S/C 020 heat shield required grinding to remove interference with the umbilical. This, too apparently applied to other spacecraft. . . ."

Speaking of the field of controls and prompt display of problems, Rees said: "I feel that the so-called 'Problem Assessment Room' is a good beginning but that it requires much refinement. For example, it currently does not inform management of repetitive non-conformances or developing trends. Also, I learned that the previously mentioned improperly fitting RCS panel did not show on the board. The reason given was that it was not displayed because no solution to the problem had yet been developed. It would appear to me that such a condition would eminently qualify a problem for display."

Memo, Rees to Low, "Brief Survey of CSM at NAR, Downey," Nov. 17, 1967.

November 20

Bell Aerosystems Co. informed MSC and NASA Hq. that the company had reached a point in the LM ascent engine program where it was confident that it would meet all commitments and requirements for the Apollo missions.

Ltrs., William G. Gisel, Bell Aerosystems Co., to Robert R. Gilruth and George M. Low, MSC. and Samuel C. Phillips, NASA Hq., Nov. 20, 1967.

November 20

MSC asked MSFC assistance in identifying and understanding any propellant sloshing effects that might create problems in the flight test program. The greatest uncertainty was associated with the techniques for passive thermal control in nonpowered flight.

Ltr., Robert R. Gilruth, MSC, to Wernher von Braun, MSFC, Nov. 20, 1967.

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