SP-4311 Way Station to Space

 

- Chapter 5: Changes amid Constancy -

 

[107] The flight facility that "sold" the Mobile Sea Launch Expedition to NASA in 1964 differed noticeably from the test station of the NACA era. The most visible difference was the growth of the physical plant. The Pilotless Aircraft Research Station consisted of a couple of simple launch pads, a few buildings, and World War II surplus radar equipment located on one half of a small island, and a minor number of diminutive tracking sites downrange. In the span of seven years Wallops Station's resources grew to include five launch areas, an airfield, sophisticated rocket handling and check-out facilities, and expensive tracking and data acquisition equipment, while encompassing three separate locations at the Virginia site.1 Wallops personnel no longer conducted operations solely from the island and for select customers; they ran or oversaw facilities in Alaska, Bermuda, Manitoba, and North Carolina, as well as aboard various ships, and provided services to a wide range of customers foreign and domestic.

The acceleration of the American space program brought a steady increase in the number of NASA employees assigned to the base, and the introduction of a significant number of contract personnel for both research and support, essentially quadrupled the overall size of the workforce within the same period. The shift of the Station's administrative functions from Langley, and the incorporation of the NACA in NASA, resulted in new missions and more challenges for the staff. The higher level of public interest and visibility forced the staff to establish policies and procedures to deal with both the observers and the new range users attracted to the base. Despite the occasional miscue, the public, Congress, and Headquarters generally supported the Station, and its position within NASA and the space program solidified.

The main source of the changes at the base stemmed from the difference in the nature of the old aeronautical research as opposed to the new space endeavors. NASA was not just the NACA renamed. The elder institution focused on a narrow facet of engineering research, with some (largely unwanted and politically inspired) developmental work mixed in. NASA, to be sure, conducted such engineering research, but the new organization gave as much weight to developmental work and science research and spread its resources out over a broader range of ventures.2 Also, the inclusion in NASA of groups and institutions that had cultures and operational philosophies different from the NACA served to fundamentally alter the style of the space agency. The perceived importance of the space program to [108] the national interest, by most of the public and political leadership, led to an infusion of funds and a sense of purpose rare in peacetime.

All this having been said, an old adage comes to mind: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Even with all of the transformations to the mission and make-up of the base, many features of the original facility survived the transition era. As the focus of the research conducted at the base moved from transonic through hypersonic to space research, the variety and complexity of the equipment, and the sheer number of experiments, increased apace. In the face of this variety and complexity Wallops' raison d'etre remained the launch, tracking, and acquisition of data from small rockets and balloons using radar and radio-telemetry techniques. These projects could have been, and often were, conducted from other facilities, but Wallops remained a part of most of them so that the larger, more complex launch facilities at the Cape and Vandenberg could concentrate on the high-priority, expensive missions, and not suffer interference from the low-budget. unspectacular portion of NASA's program.

The value of Wallops as a civilian owned range increased as NASA's mission became more publicized, and open to international participation And even while it carved out an independent administrative niche for itself amid NASA's changing goals and internal organization, the Station continued to be insulated, able to operate with an "informal procedure that was formalized."3 Personal contacts and informal discussions continued to be the common procedure for budget and research planning throughout the period.

Regardless of the expansion of the base and its increased visibility, Wallops remained a relatively isolated NASA outpost. The surrounding area grew only slowly during this period, and certainly differed from Cleveland Houston, Washington, or the other metropolitan areas that hosted the majority of NASA facilities, in terms of accessibility, population, and economic resources. The distinctly rural flavor of the area was not for everyone. "I know sometimes we had trouble recruiting engineers and scientists because you either have to like a rural area or, you know, you're just not happy. And we did have some that came, and their families didn't like it and they left; but most of them came and liked it and stayed."4 Though the Station was integrated into the NASA communications network, could be easily reached by air, and played host to visiting researchers from all over the world, the nature of its environs played a major role in shaping the composition of the permanent staff.

During this formative era NASA reorganized several times. The first reorganization occurred in 1959 in response to the absorption of the Arm Ballistic Missile Agency group. As discussed earlier in chapter two, this reorganization caused a brief debate between the Office of Space Flight Programs and the Office of Launch Vehicle Programs over the position of Wallops within NASA. In 1961 the structure of the space agency was altered [109] in response to both the installation of James E. Webb as Administrator (he replaced T. Keith Glennan in February), and the announcement of the lunar landing goal in May. The effects of this reorganization included the abolition and restructuring of the old program offices (including both OSFP and OLVP), the creation of a separate Office of Tracking and Data Acquisition (under Edmund Buckley), and the situation of the field centers directly under the control of Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans. Wallops and the other field centers thus had coequal status within NASA and, theoretically, could bring their problems, proposals, and requirements directly to the attention of upper management.5 The idea was to remove the layers of insulation that existed between the top levels of Headquarters and center managements, make it easier for the centers to perform multifaceted tasks, and ease coordination between related projects such as spacecraft and launch vehicle development. The centers still received "program direction" from the new Headquarters program offices, but received funding and support through Seamans.6 Also, Webb wanted a "flexible organizational and administrative framework," for the acceleration of the space program.7

Unfortunately, this plan did not work out as expected. The centers were too many and their work too diverse to allow Seamans to adequately oversee all of them. Center directors could not get sufficient access to the Associate Administrator, and they and the program directors could not efficiently coordinate their efforts.8 It also seems that the scale and speed of the Apollo program exceeded expectations. In June 1962 "a meeting involving the field administrative officials and selected headquarters representatives," was organized and scheduled to take place at Wallops. Director of Administration Albert F. Siepert selected the site because it was one "which most of you have not visited."9 This meeting and other "adjustments" could not sufficiently remedy the situation and in November 1963 NASA's structure again shifted. This time the field centers returned to the control of various Headquarters program offices, and Wallops again found itself grouped with Goddard and JPL under the space science section of NASA, Homer Newell's Office of Space Science and Applications.10

These administrative shuffles had little effect on the day-to-day operations at Wallops. Being a "service center," the base operated differently from most of the other field centers. Wallops engineers did not manufacture payloads; they launched, tracked, and sometimes recovered equipment brought to them. They trained launch and tracking crews and participated in many projects, but until the Croatan operations in 1964-65, they played a support rather than a leading role in these projects. Therefore, these reorganizations, "didn't make a who[le lot of difference.] I knew the people, ..., you had to sort of learn how they operate. You know, when you make a new organization like [OSSA], if you can get in there first and let them know you want to work with them, and all, they feel happy about this so it sort of greases the way for later on."11 Even under the 1961 structure, budget and operational [110] planning at Wallops involved contact with different parts of the Headquarters organization.12

The multiple reorganizations of NASA's Headquarters structure stemmed in part from the youth of the agency. The internal structure at Wallops, an older, more well established facility, remained relatively stable during this period. The two changes of note which did occur involved adjustments to meet the changing priorities at the base, rather than the need for any wholesale administrative renovation. The Range Engineering Branch, originally a part of John Palmer's Flight Test Division, became a separate Division in response to the increased variety of the tracking and data acquisition programs underway at the base, and as a reflection of the separate status of Buckley's OTDA in Headquarters. Secondly, a Program Management and Liaison Branch, placed within the Flight Test Division and headed by Cary F. Milliner, served to coordinate the many projects coming to the rang: from its diverse customers. An examination of Wallops' organizational charts reveals, however, a continuity in the personnel occupying the top positions at the base. The Division Chiefs and most of the Branch Heads listed in . March 1961 chart are still listed in June 1967. This continuity provided stability at the base throughout a hectic period and contributed to the development and propagation of a Wallops culture at the Station.13

The continuity and stability at Wallops proved fortunate as Krieger and his staff soon had to deal with an unforeseen administrative headache. The rapid pace of the space program's expansion brought forth the issue of how efficiently the expansion of the various NASA facilities was proceeding. "Tier objective of orderly introduction of uniform NASA standards in the construction of facilities was expressed by the House Committee on Science and Astronautics in the NASA Authorization Act for the fiscal year 1963."14 In October 1964 the Committee notified Administrator Webb that, "For it information and guidance, the committee is undertaking a review of Federal Government policy regarding the planning of base facilities required for the space program. The NASA field installations, of course, are of particular interest."15

The Committee desired to learn how well "master planning" at the field centers adhered to accepted government procedures. This included examination of the status and maintenance of planning documentation, timing and requirements for such planning at various bases, and the relative efficiency of the agency-wide expansion at those bases.16 The Committee first examined the planning practices of the Army, Air Force, General Services Administration, and the Atomic Energy Commission, as "representative of the standards and criteria applied in the Federal Government.''17 Then the began to visit NASA field centers.

Goddard Space Flight Center, "influenced" by its relationship with the National Capital Planning Commission, possessed master planning documentation and activities the Committee found acceptable. Marshall [111] Space Flight Center had the planning inherited from its Army origins. The Kennedy Space Center shared its planning tasks with the neighboring Air Force base and several companies under contract. Five other facilities also passed muster with varying grades. Two, however, did not. Lewis Research Center and Wallops Station drew fire from the Committee, which noted that these two, "avoid [master planning] with disdain."18

The Committee recognized that Wallops consisted of an amalgamation of NACA, Navy, and NASA construction, but were unsympathetic. "The absence of a master plan is deliberate. Two reasons are given: (1) Wallops, it is explained, doesn't really have a program of its own; it implements the programs of other NASA Centers and, therefore, must wait upon their decisions before being able to identify facility needs.... (2) Rapid changes in technology require flexibility of development which, in the view of a staff officer, would be circumscribed by a long-range master plan. The station policy on facility planning and construction is summed up in this official's concluding observation: 'We build no monuments here."19

The Committee report argued that given the fact, "many buildings on the island and at the main base appear to be approaching structural obsolescence, ..., the view advanced at Wallops that facility planning must await authorized development is open to question." Continuing expansion at the base, and a need to "convert, demolish, or replace," many facilities presented a need for master planning."20 It concluded that the process of master planning was economical, "as illustrated by the confused and congested layouts at Lewis and Wallops."21 While conceding that NASA Headquarters had not, until prodded by the Committee, paid much attention to this issue, they stated that master planning needed to be an integral part of the operation, "at all NASA installations."22 Needless to say, Krieger got the hint.

On 3 August 1965, Wallops contracted for $33,400 to American Engineers, of Richmond, for "services and materials for a master site plan."23 It was beneficial for the Wallops staff to move quickly because the representatives of the House Committee revisited the base later that month in the course of preparing a follow-up report.24 This time the Committee found, "There has been a substantial change since December 1964 in the Wallops Station policy and practice of master planning." They reported that the staff had reviewed several older studies done by Langley, the Navy, and private companies, and followed with the preparation of a three phase plan.25 The report noted that, "Obviously the Wallops Station management in the last 8 months has taken a long step forward in the direction of master planning of the base facilities.... The new Wallops planning program, in its three phases, appears to be well conceived."26 It also praised Headquarters, Lewis, and Wallops, "for modifying contrary policies of a year ago."27

Krieger and company had no desire to antagonize Congress. The death of Representative Albert Thomas in February 1966 and the general success of the Wallops program did not lessen Congressional scrutiny. Thomas' [112] successor as chair of the independent Offices Appropriations Subcommitte, Joseph Evins, questioned the need for Wallops and the sounding rocket program in 1966 hearings but did not press the issue in the face of strong support given by Webb and Newell.28 In spite of questions of this nature, Wallops did not receive a serious challenge to its existence during this time. The margin of safety provided by being clearly ensconced in the space; program was demonstrated by the House attempt, in 1963, to close the NASA Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. Similar in size, budget and complement to Wallops, the California facility had for years hosted research aircraft from the X-1 to the X-15. The House, operating under the perception that a facility dealing most visibly with aeronautical research, constituted an anachronism in the space age, proposed closing the base to save money. Quick work by NASA saved the base, but Wallops apparently took little notice of the plight of the future Shuttle landing facility.29

The important factor was the general decline in the status of aeronautical research in NASA. While it continued to be a part of the agency's program, there is no question that it received a decidedly lower priority than the space programs, especially when Project Apollo appeared.30 Indeed, some aerodynamicists, like Langley veteran John Stack, left NASA to pursue research elsewhere.31 While Wallops' program continued to include some aeronautical projects, principally through the use of the runways, its primary task had become support of space science. This identification with "new" space research, as opposed to "old" aeronautical research, staved off threats to the installation's existence until the novelty (and perceived importance) of space research waned in the 1970's.32

The three year span of 1964-66 turned out to be a high-water mark for NASA. Though the lunar landings still lay in the future, funding and employment levels began to drop. The completion of major construction of Apollo infrastructure and the award of contracts for flight hardware marked the end of the massive space expenditures of NASA's early era. The Johnson Administration's guns and butter approach to the dual commitments of Vietnam and the Great Society began to absorb more of the federal budget. Also, Apollo became the focus for the whole of NASA, and other programs received less attention.33 As it fulfilled ['resident Kennedy's challenge, the agency found itself in a period of ''retrenchment.''34

Unaware, of course, of the lean years to come, Krieger wrote a letter in July 1965 to Olin E. Teague, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on NASA Oversight, in response to a Congressional staff investigation into, "Future National Space Objectives." The letter set out Krieger's view of Wallops' role in the U.S. space effort and his hopes for the future, as well as providing a good insight into not only the changed nature of the research at Wallops but also into the appearance Station management wished to assume before Congress. From this perspective, what Krieger does not mention is as interesting as what is cited.35

[113] He began by providing Teague with a synopsis of Wallops' background which explains that, "Never having been involved in missile development, or in very large projects where operational aspects overshadowed scientific Objectives, the station s 20-year experience has been in experimental, exploratory flight testing. We have, therefore, developed a viewpoint and Operating philosophy which is, perhaps, more closely akin to a laboratory than a missile range." 36

Wallops, as has been shown, was partly established for the purpose of testing early missile designs, and the station played a major role in Langley's Scout development program and conducted many tests relating to ICBM development. Additionally, by 1965 the various meteorological programs conducted from the base had reached a point where the "operational aspects" at least equaled "scientific objectives."37 Krieger's view of the facility remained one of a service center; and in an era when the lines between research, development, and operations, were sometimes fuzzy within NASA, he wanted Congress to have no doubts about Wallops. The Station's role consisted of assisting research "customers" in obtaining data in many areas, not just simply firing rockets or tinkering with hardware.38

Krieger next spelled out seven "unique capabilities" that advertised Wallops' ability to work with, coordinate, and service a wide range of users and contribute to various research agendas in a timely and economical fashion. He then explained the "needs of the scientific community," both foreign and domestic, for continued and improved sounding rocket programs. He concluded that, "Certainly there will be no decrease in the workload involved with scientific sounding rockets, and almost surely there will be a significant increase in this activitvy."39 "He predicted an "increase [in] the emphasis on the university Explorer class satellites," a coming need to assist "international groups in their second and third generation experiments," and "increased sophistication and technological complexity," in the payloads sent to Wallops for launch. "Wallops Station will, of course, make every effort to absorb the increased workload.... It would be unrealistic, however, to believe that the total increase ... can be absorbed without a gradual and orderly growth in the station."40

Brevity was a watchword in communications of this type; certainly Krieger could not provide a detailed manifest of all Wallops' projects. What he chose to cite in his limited space were the programs he felt most apt to bring funding to the base, while keeping within established policy. Aeronautical engineering projects would not, by definition, be included in a letter dealing with "space objectives," even if Congress and NASA held them to be high priority. Krieger does not, however, talk about aerodynamic research as it might apply to space vehicle development, the kind of research performed at the base in support of Project Mercury. He writes little about engineering development work of any kind, save a brief mention of "the development," and "flight qualification," of devices for "large orbiting laboratories," via [114] sounding rockets. He says nothing about military space research, noting only that Wallops could call upon the DOD for support, and that they had conducted research "for the more scientific arms of the Department of Defense." He quite deliberately focused on space science research as practiced by universities, international partners, and (by implication) NASA.41

By concentrating on the needs of organizations outside of direct federal control, he emphasized the broad base of applicability and usefulness of Wallops' facilities, while making cuts in Station funding seem more a policy and less an economic decision. This also prominently displayed the civilian nature of Wallops, one of NASA's prime reasons for maintaining the base Interestingly, Krieger did not feel it necessary to justify the basic concept of space science research by invoking specific applications or in the general terms of advancing human knowledge. He apparently took for granted that such efforts had Congressional backing as being in the national interest and enjoyed public support as well. He proceeded from a premise that space science research was both important and necessary and put forth arguments for increased funding, not a plea for institutional survival. It would appear that Wallops was perceived to be in no immediate danger of closure, only hampered by an insufficient rate of growth.

While it might be interesting to compare this 1965 view with one from an earlier era, recall that before mid-1959 Wallops existed as an extension of Langley; therefore, funding and planning depended upon the aeronautical laboratory's programs and budget. During the early 1960's when, "only a blundering fool could go up to the Hill and come back with a result detrimental to the agency," the entire space effort proceeded in such a state of fluidity that coherent long-range planning was next to impossible.42 "Future space objectives" meant Mercury, Apollo, and the first generation applications satellites, not to mention boosters that wouldn't blow-up with such disconcerting frequency. Added to these generalities, the specifics at Wallops of the expansion of the base, its newly independent status, and the influx of new range users made it necessary for the situation to settle somewhat before planning for future programs could rationally proceed.

The letter to Teague, and the master planning episode provided the Wallops staff with their first real opportunity to look beyond the immediate program needs of an approaching fiscal year. Until this time political and technological developments dictated the nature and pace of operations at Wallops, and planning centered on specific projects or customers.43 Now, with the initial surge giving way to a more steady effort, thought could be given to directing the flow of the program, rather than just hanging on for the ride. Most projects and programs continued to come to the base from outside sources, yet Wallops began to make some grants and sponsor programs. Though not often in the driver's seat, Wallops settled into a secure nook "on the bandwagon."44

The declining NASA budget affected the Station's operations, but not as drastically as at some other installations. Since much of the scale-back...

 


[
115]

The 1970's marked the expansion of oceanic studies, including the management of the Geodynamics Experimental Ocean Satellite (GEOS 3)

The 1970's marked the expansion of oceanic studies, including the management of the Geodynamics Experimental Ocean Satellite (GEOS 3).

 

...involved the completion of Apollo, and Wallops had little direct stake in the piloted program, "we never had that fluctuation, it was just sort of steady."45 The size of the civil service workforce fell by approximately 100 positions, and operational funding stabilized. (See appendix 5)46 Construction funding at the base reflected a trend toward maintenance of existing facilities rather than the construction of new ones, and research and development funding remained stable as well.47 The fact that Wallops provided access to space for a large number of organizations provided it with allies to fight the budget cutters. "That's ... one of the advantages they have; so many universities, so many military organizations, the foreign countries use it, and you've got all these people saying, 'oh, you can't close Wallops, we've got to have it,' ...."48 This diffuse research program also provided no single, big-ticket line items to attract Congressional attention.

Some cutbacks did occur. Range Recoverer was "eventually" retired due to both economic factors and declining need for its capabilities. Scout launches from Wallops dropped by 50%. For the most part, however, the pace and level of support of the projects brought to the Station stabilized and generally continued the pattern established during the transition era.49 Projects, either from or of interest to, the military continued to fly from the base. The expressed civilian nature of the Station kept these projects low-key but did [116] not result from their exclusion from the launch schedule. The relative isolation of the base, favorable funding arrangements, and the fact that despite the open atmosphere of the facility, the press and public paid little attention to the activities there served to keep the services active at the base.

Space science projects from universities, international partners, NASA and other federal agencies remained Wallops' primary stock-in-trade, however. Amid cooperation with Goddard, Langley, and other sponsors, Wallops provided project leadership for some ventures like the Explorer 44 satellite.51 A program of oceanographic research commenced in cooperation with university scientists who took advantage of Wallops' location on the Virginia shore to study interactions between land, marsh, and sea. In the; same vein, Wallops managed the Geodynamics Experimental Ocean Satellite GEOS 3, in 1975.52 While Goddard managed the International Cooperative` Program, a large portion of the foreign visitors continued to come to Wallops Even the Soviets visited the base in 1977 and conducted research by coordinating launches from their ship, stationed off-shore, and the Station.53 The specific experiments changed, but the overall pattern of research at the base continued.

Another area which saw change amid deeper continuity concerned Wallops' relation to its surrounding communities. Initial local grumbling over the expansion of the base settled down after the integration of the disestablished naval base into the NASA operation. Even though growth never reached the levels that some community leaders had hoped for, b: 1965, "NASA [became] one of the biggest employers."54 Aside from the transient researchers, who came to the island only for the duration of their projects, the permanent staff settled in the general vicinity of the base. Even before the creation of NASA they began to take an active interest in local affairs. In 1958, Albert P. Kellam, of the Flight Test Division, requested permission "to run and if elected, serve as councilman for the Town of Wachapreague." The election being non-partisan, Kellam was allowed to participate.55

Joseph Robbins indicated that this kind of civic activity was encouraged by the leadership of the Station."This was a way to get in with the community to let the community know that we were a part of them.... One fellow was mayor of a town, oh I guess, ten or twelve years."56 He also related that the town of Chincoteague was allowed to make use of the excess capacity of the sewage treatment plant on the old Navy base for their own waste disposal needs. In 1965 the Virginia Bureau of Public Roads came to the Station to shoot a "driver's education film on hydroplaning."57 Community interactions like these, in addition to the open houses and the leading role the Station played during the Ash Wednesday Storm, indicate a conscious effort to fit into the local environment. This effort did not stem from any ulterior motive so much as it arose as a consequence of the residential status of the staff. They lived in the area, so they were dealing with friends and neighbors.

[117] Of course, being an active rocket range meant that Wallops could not always remain quietly in the background. Research requirements sometimes dictated launches at odd hours, or infrequent intervals. "Which was hard for the local people to understand, that you couldn't launch anything with the wind blowing a certain [way], or you couldn't launch anything if there were any ships out there you might hit, and this type of thing.... You're sitting back in you're home, 'well boy, they're just goofing-off up there today."58 In January 1965 Wallops personnel began to seek permission to gain access to nearby property in order to set up acoustic sensors needed for a project.59 The aircraft research, which included supersonic flights offshore, and the use of guns to launch probes, also caused occasional difficulties. Despite these side-effects, "We had a good relationship, l think. There were a few farmers that blamed us for the weather conditions, you know, there are always a few superstitious people, ...."60 The openness of the base, with its grandstands and unobtrusive security, contributed to this generally good rapport.

The community did not react to the base with quite the same exuberance shown by other communities that played host to NASA facilities. The residents of Hampton, Virginia, for example, renamed their main highway "Mercury Boulevard" and local bridges bore the names of astronauts. Quite a few retail establishments around Cape Canaveral took names with space program connotations. One does not see this around the Accomack area, though. The roads, villages, and geographic features all seem to retain the names originally bestowed upon them. Names influenced by Native American terms or religious references occur often. Businesses use commonplace names unrelated to space and rocketry. An attempt to rename the island after local native Hugh Dryden, fell through when, "a lot of people got upset, ... Wallops Island had been known as Wallops Island since the 1600's."61 Even today, if one does not pay attention, it's easy to miss the road that leads to the base. This casual acceptance of the Station probably stems partially from the relative lack of glamorous projects (like the piloted space flight projects), and partially from the routine nature of the operations. Wallops has become just another part of the local scene.

A major concern of Krieger's was the matter of education in support of the space program. During NASA's fifth semiannual management conference in 1961, he participated in a working group study on "Improving NASA's Weight Lifting Capability," in which he commented on the problem of "obtaining the type and depth of engineering evaluation needed," for the task under study. As a part of the solution he recommended, "a strong education program by NASA, sponsoring of courses in universities, sponsoring the preparations of textbooks."62 Krieger had a two-fold problem on his hands. First, he needed to attract and retain quality engineers, professionals who would expect the opportunity to further their education. Secondly, he noted that, "Many jobs at this Station ... appear to be somewhat [118] beyond the technical capability normally expected of a mechanic or craftsman, however skilled or dedicated. On the other hand, such a job would not seem a very challenging one for a good engineer."63

"Bob and I conducted surveys of ... practically the whole Delmarva Peninsula. What are the needs of the people? We knew what our needs were."64 The results of these surveys indicated that the area needed a boost in higher education: engineering for the Wallops base, agricultural for the local residents. To help meet these needs, the Station leaders sought to convince Virginia authorities to locate a branch college on the Eastern Shore. "We were courted by both the University of Virginia and VPI to request that we be made a branch of them. Well, we had no say in it, but we went up to Richmond and appeared before the Council of Higher Education, and we were assigned to the University of Virginia."65 The branch college, originally situated in "surplus" housing just outside the base, provided services to both the local communities and to Wallops.66 "They would fly in professors, and we had started our own technician training courses on the base, ..., rather than having our own electrical engineers teaching the courses, we contracted over with this new 'branch,' ..., to do all this."67 Abraham Spinak recognized the importance of this concern for education by noting, "We kept our engineers that way."68

The residents of the area also profited. Course offerings not only included technical subjects like Trigonometry and "Advanced Engineering Math II" but also liberal arts classes such as American History and "Principles of Organization and Management," and "general studies" such as Art and "Basic Grammar Review."69 This type of program almost certainly would not have come to the Eastern Shore during the early 1960's if not for the efforts of Krieger and the staff at Wallops. Given that university students with small projects comprised one of the new groups of customers coming to the base, and Krieger's conviction that, "If the national space program is to capitalize on this resource ..., one must think in terms of experiments that can be performed by Ph.D. candidates," the interest in higher education locally meshed well with Wallops' activities.70

One such activity entailed a program in August 1965 sponsored by NASA and the University of Virginia, that brought 32 biologists to Wallops. A three week course was conducted, designed to teach "operational and engineering aspects of space flight."71 Biological payloads were not new to the base; the biggest press draw had been the flights of the monkeys (which had included "insect eggs, larvae, bacteria cultures, and cell tissue") during Project Mercury.72 The current program incorporated launches of white rats in order to train the biologists in investigative techniques pertaining to researching the impact of space flight on living organisms.73

Wallops maintained its reputation for being a versatile research facility. While the biologists practiced with rats, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory came to the base to investigate "clear air turbulence" for NASA [119] and the Air Force. Satellites, meteorological soundings, military tests, balloons, and "gun probes," all launched from the island in 1965, 418 in all. Add to that 7 flights from Pt. Barrow and 80 from the Croatan, and its easy to see that Wallops kept up a fast pace.74 The failure rate for 1965, where a malfunction caused little or no data to be gathered, was around 13%, nominal and tolerable for low-budget, unpiloted experiments.75 This proved to be a valuable part of operations from Wallops. With so many flights each year, if one failed, another could usually be arranged. The sounding rockets had minimal backup systems in order to keep both weights and costs low. The inexpensive and unspectacular nature of the program made it easy for NASA to continue the NACA's attitude toward failure and look upon these misfortunes as learning experiences.76

The "unique" character of the operations at Wallops, the interactions with the local communities, and the pastoral location all served to foster a definite "esprit de corps" at the Station.77 The old Langley methodology, as brought to the base by Krieger and the other NACA veterans, set the tone for the environment there. Informal ("anybody, from the lowest laborer, could walk into [Krieger's] office and talk to him"), independent ("we didn't get permission, we just did it, period. I'm one of those people, you do it, and you tell [Headquarters] what you're doing, and tell them the attributes, ..."), and committed to the task at hand, this atmosphere prevailed at least until the late 1970's.78 At that time the NACA veterans began to retire; NASA "bureaucratized," and economics finally brought about the absorption of Wallops by Goddard.79 Within a few years people who had thought of themselves as NACA/Langley personnel came to view themselves as NASA/Wallops personnel. Whether a similar shift took place in the early 1980's is a subject open to question.

The underlying theme in this important period of Wallops' history, therefore, is change amid constancy. The variety and scope of the experiments conducted at the base, the physical size and economic investment there, and its relations with the public, press, and scientific community all changed markedly during the 1957-1965 time frame. During that same era, however, the general nature of the research tools used, the Station's role in the larger organization of which it was a part, and the "operational philosophy" and methodology prevalent remained consistent. The most significant changes involved the shift from primarily aeronautical to a more varied research program with a heavy emphasis on space science investigations and the diversification of the customer base. The stability of the staff, equipment, and methodology provided a foundation of experience upon which the new programs could be built. Both of these factors allowed Wallops to stay useful to a range of programs and researchers that might otherwise have been overlooked due to the relative size and mundane nature of their experiments. Thus, Wallops, despite its small stature and uncelebrated role, contributed significantly to the early U.S. space effort.

 


[
120-124] NOTES

 

1. The growth of the base is dramatically illustrated by looking at the figures relating to total plant value. FY58: $3,661,000; FY63: $24,173,000, FY65: $42,978,000; FY68: $103,388,000. figures for 58 and 68 are in Data Book I, 26, table 2-b. Figure for 63 is from, U.S., Congress, Senate, Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA Authorization for Fiscal Year 1963, Hearings before the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences on H.R 11737, 87th Cong. 2nd sess., 6206-13S, 174. Figure for 65 is from, U.S., Congress, House, Committee on Appropriations, Independent Offices Appropriations for 1966, Hearings Before a House Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, 89th Cong. 1st sess., 6502-04H, 1232.

2. Note, for example, "As NASA matured, so did the aerospace industry-in no small part due to the efforts of Glennan and James Webb, ..., to build it up." McCurdy, 167. This ultimately affected the old custom of performing work on an in-house basis, rather than contracting out.

3. "Robbing," OHI, Tape Ib: 300.

4. "Milliner," OHI, Tape la: 335-425, quote is near 425.

5. Rosholt, 197-227.

6. Ibid., 289-302.

7. Ibid., v.

8. Levine, 34-43.

9. Letter, Albert F. Siepert to T. Me]vin Butler, 1 June 1962, in folder "Special File May to September 62," in RGA181-l(S). "Most of you" refers to the aforementioned field administrative officials and HQ representative. See also in the same folder Butler's reply to Siepert of 14 June recommending items for the agenda.

10. Levine, 43-46. Note that this reorganization is unrelated to JFK's assassination.

11. "Robbing," OHI, Tape Ib: 275.

12. Memorandum, G. M. Truszynski for the Staff, Office of Tracking and Data Acquisition, 8 January 1962, in folder "Functions and Authority OTDA," in NASA HQ box #1. This memo lists, among other Office responsibilities "Wallops Station Overall Operations and Budgeting." See also: "Spinak, et al.," OHI, Tape 2a: 180, Abraham Spinak: "We never worked directly for Buckley, except we did."

13. Charts, "NASA Wallops Station, Wallops Island, Virginia," March 1961, 31 August 1964, and 1 June 1967.

14. U.S., Congress, House, Committee on Science and Astronautics, Master Planning of NASA Installations, H. Report 167, 89th Cong. 1st sess., 650315H, 7.

15. Ibid., 35.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid., 3-6.

18. Ibid., 28. The other five facilities examined were: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Flight Research Center, Manned Spacecraft Center, Michoud Plant, and Mississippi Test facility.

19. Ibid., 17-18. See also: "Robbing," OHI, Tape 1b: 326.

20. House Report, Master Planning, 29.

21. Ibid., 32.

22. Ibid., 33, emphasis in original.

23. NASA Wallops News Release, "Contract Awards During August 1965, 3 August 1965, in folder 004696 "Wallops - Contract Awards," in file tray "Wallops Flight Facility (con't)," in NHO.

24. U.S., Congress, House, Committee on Science and Astronautics, 1st Interim Report on Master Planning of NASA Installations, H. Report 1220, 89th Cong. 2nd sess., 6601 -24H. Page 3 notes that Wallops was the first base revisited. The others were: Lewis, JPL, and the Manned Spacecraft Center.

25. Ibid., 8. Phase one of the plan mapped and inventoried the existing plant. Phase two dealt with "demolition, renovation, or new construction," concerning the phase one structures. Phase three listed plans for "future programs." Note, the staff still hoped for programs, "possibly including facilities for large launch vehicles."

26. Ibid., 14.

27. Ibid., 17. The report ends on a somewhat self congratulatory note: "There is profit in congressional attention to the development and utilization of master plans by NASA. Periodic oversight of the policy and practice should be continued by the committee."

28. U.S., Congress, House, Committee on Appropriation, Independent Offices Appropriations for 1967, Hearings before a House subcommittee Of the Committee on Appropriations, 89th Cong. 2nd sess., 6602-OlH, part 2,1533-4.

29. Hallion, 134. "Spinak, et al.," OHI, Tape 2b: 155. "Robbing," OHI, Tape Ib: 360.

30. Data Book l, 11, figure 1-2. "Spinak, et al.," OHI, Tape 2b: 235. Levine, 255-6.

31. "Spinak, et al.," OHI, Tape 2b: 235; Hansen, 376n.

32. "Spinak, et al.," OHI, Tape 2b: 235; "Robbing," OHI, Tape Ib: 360.

33. Levine, 202-09, 254.

34. McCurdy, 101-6.

35. U.S., Congress, House, Committee on Science and Astronautics, Future National Spate Objectives, a Staff Study of a House Subcommittee of the Committee on Science on Astronautics, 89th Cong. 2nd sess., 6607-26H, 354-56. Teague's letter went out on 29 June 1965; Krieger's reply is dated 27 July.

36. Ibid., 354.

37. Recall Krieger's complaint about the meteorological program going too soon operational in chapter 4 above. Also, "very large program" in Wallops terms seems to refer to "billion dollar satellites." Several of those interviewed used that or a similar phrase.

38. Letter, Robert L. Krieger to Floyd L. Thompson, 15 December 1961, in folder "Special File, September - December 1961," in RGA181-l(S), for Krieger's reference to "customers." This is not the only example of the term, and that fact provides insight into how the staff viewed their relationship to those who came to the base. Remember, dissatisfied customers will either complain to the management or take their business elsewhere.

39. Staff Study, Space Objectives, 356.

40. Ibid.

41. Ibid., 354-55.

42. McDougall, 201.

43. Memorandum, Carl A. Sandahl for Associate Director, 10 December 1962, in folder "Wallops, August 62 - February 63," in RGA181-l(C). This memo on "Visit of Wallops personnel to discuss future requirements" demonstrates one type of planning: that involving a specific customer's near-term needs. Joseph Robbins clearly states the station management's feelings toward master planning (ie.long-range planning), in "Robbing," OHI, Tape Ib: 236.

44. "Spinak, et al.," OHI, Tape Ib: 170. Note that the Mobile Sea Launch Expedition, the Master Planning Report, and the Teague letter all occur around 1965.

45. "Milliner," OHI, Tape Ib: 300.

46. U.S., Congress, Senate, Committee on Aeronautics and Space Science, NASA Authorizationfor Fiscal Year 1962, S. Report 475 to accompany H.R. 6874, 87th Cong. 1st sess., 6106-07S, 129, notes that Project Apollo will result in 100 new positions at Wallops. Perhaps coincidentally, the number of NASA employees at the base went from 530 in FY 1964, to 420 in FY 74. Contract personnel stood at 400 in FY 63, and dropped to 209 the next year due to the relocation of the MSFN Evaluation/Training facility to Goddard. Figures are from various budget hearings cited and Marquis Academic Media, NASA Factbook: Guide to National Aeronautics and Space Administration Programs and Activities, 2nd ed. (Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1975), 327.

47. NASA Factbook, 324, 326; Data Book I, 491-2.

48. "Milliner," OHI, Tape Ib: 280.

49. "Spinak, et al.," OHI, Tape 2b: 370, for Range Recoverer. Andrew Wilson, "Scout - NASA's Small Satellite Launcher," Space Flight 21, no. 11 (November 1979): 446-59. This article includes a list of the first 98 Scout launches with pertinent data. 25 of the first 50 launches occurred at Wallops (1960-67). Only 12 of the next 48 flew from that base (1967-78).

50. "Milliner," OHI, Tape la: 498, noted that Wallops has always played host to the military, "They just don't talk about it." U.S., Congress, House, Committee on Science and Astronautics, NASA Authorization for 1962, Hearings before the House Committee on Science and Astronautics on H.R. 3238 and 6029, 87th Cong.1st sess., 6104-18H, part 2,861, for an interesting exchange: Rep Bell: "Are you performing any work at Wallops Island for the Department of Defense now?" Mr. Wyatt: "Yes, sir, a great deal. We supply the facilities and the services in terms of tracking and recording of data and furnish the data then back to the user agency. No charge." [Emphasis mine]. The Navy maintains a training facility for their Aegis radar system at Wallops, and (according to the 21 March 1994 issue of Aviation Week) plans to launch targets for tests of ballistic missile interceptors from the base in late 1994.

51. Data Book III, 156, for Explorer 44. Table 3-4 on page 133 shows that NASA funding for the sounding rocket program stayed around $19 million throughout the 1970's.

52. Ibid., 343, for the GEOS, which was managed by Wallops but launched from Vandenberg on a Delta booster.

53. "Milliner," OHI, Tape la: 520 - Ib: 50.

54. Ibid., Tape la: 335.

55. Memorandum, Albert P. Kellam for Personnel Officer, 25 April 1958, in folder "Special File, March - April 58," in RGA181-l(S). See also in this folder; Letter A. G. Clement to Mrs. A. P. Kellam, 17 April 1958, and Letter, Joseph Robbins to Langley, 29 April 1958, on the same subject.

56. "Robbing," OHI, Tape la: 460.

57. Ibid., for sewage treatment plant. For film see: Memorandum, C. C. Shufflebarger for Associate Director, 28 May 1965, in folder "Special file, June - December 65," in RGA181-l(S).

58. Ibid., la: 495.

59. Memorandum, W. Latham Copeland to Albert J. Saecker, 19 January 1965, in folder "Wallops, January - June 46 [sic]," in RGA181-l(C).

60. "Milliner," OHI, Tape la: 350. See Shortal, 670-73 for problems stemming from sonic boom test flights.

61. "Milliner," OHI, Tape la: 300, for attempt to rename the island. Hansen, 391, for Hampton names which are still in use today.

62. Staff Report, "Summary of Presentations and Discussions, 5th Semi-Annual Conference, Luray Va., March 8-10 1961," 36, in box "NASA Staff Conferences," in NHO.

63. Letter, Robert L. Krieger to Distribution List, 6 December 1963, in folder "Special File, May 63 - February 64," in RGA181-l(S). See also: "Spinak, et al.," OHI, Tape 2b: 80.

64. "Robbing," OHI, Tape la: 410.

65. Ibid. VPI is Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Note that in July 1963, U.Va., VPI, and William and Mary formed the Virginia Associated Research Center in Newport News and began working under a NASA contract; A&A, 1963, 288.

66. "Spinak, et al.," OHI, Tape 2b: 100. "Milliner," OHI, Tape la: 423, notes that the college, reconstituted as a community college, later moved south to the town of Melfa.

67. "Robbing," OHI, Tape la: 440.

68. "Spinak, et al.," OHI, Tape 2b: 130.

69. NASA Wallops News Release #63-2, "Extension Classes Offered at Wallops," 7 January 1963, in folder 004680 "Wallops General (1958-63)," in file tray "Centers, Wallops Flight Facility," in NHO.

70. Staff Study, Future Space Objectives, 355, as cited in note 35 above.

71. NASA Wallops News Release #65-255, "Biologists to Begin Technology Training Program at Wallops," 8 August 1965, in folder OW-0500000-01 "Wallops Island Flight Center (NASA)," in Space History Collection, NASM.

72. Shortal, 656-57.

73. Ernest Imhoff, "Astrorats To Teach Biologists," The Baltimore Evening Sun, Tuesday, 13 July 1965, Bl.

74. Letter Isadore Katz to Possible Participants in Wallops Clear Air Turbulence Project, 10 August 1965, in folder "Special File, June - December 65," in RC,A1 81 - I(S). Memorandum, John R. Holtz to M. W. Rosen, 30 December 1965, in folder 005064 "15.1 Sounding Rockets 1Y64-6C)," in file tray "Sounding Rockets General," in NHO. This memo lists the sounding rocket launches for the calendar years 64 and 65. Recall, however, that a number of small calibration rockets were fired in association with each research launch, thus adding to the total number of firings.

75. My figure for the failure rate is based on the launches recorded in A&A, 1965. 32 launches (out of 418 listed in the memo cited Ibid.) are listed in the chronology. 4 of these are listed as failures, roughly a 13% failure rate or an 87% success rate. This sampling agrees with the figures given for a "tolerable" failure rate by several sources including "Milliner," OHI, Tape Ib: 455.

76. McCurdy, 70-1, 143-55.

77. "Spinak, et al.," OHI, Tape 2a: 540.

78. "Milliner," OHI, Tape la: 320, for Krieger's accessibility. "Robbing," OHI, Tape 1a: 470, for independent attitude.

79. McCurdy, 1, for NASA "bureaucratization." For views on the Goddard/Wallops merger see: "Spinak, et al.," OHI, Tape 2a: 245; "Milliner," OHI, Tape la: 230.


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