Part I : 1945 - 1950

3. Hydrogen-Oxygen for a Navy Satellite



Switch in Emphasis from Military to Science


[46] While the contracts for industrial research were producing satisfactory results, the Navy's change in tactics-emphasizing scientific purposes rather than purely military ones-required closer liaison with civilian scientists. This, in turn, implied a shedding of the secrecy that envelops military projects. Admiral Leslie Stevens of the Bureau of [47] Aeronautics recommended in January 1947 that the Joint Research and Development Board remove the satellite project from the jurisdiction of the Aeronautical Board and "establish an agency for the coordination, study, evaluation, justification, and allocation of all phases of the Earth Satellite Vehicle Program. . . ." 29 The need for something like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was envisioned a decade before it became a reality.


Stevens's recommendation meant the voluntary relinquishment of control over satellites by the Joint Research and Development Board. Not surprisingly, the recommendation was referred to the Aeronautical Board where it was studied for a couple of months with the not unanticipated conclusion that jurisdiction should remain where it had been. By then it was mid- 1947 and although the reports of Martin and Aerojet were in, satellite considerations were becalmed in a sea of changing organizations.


On 26 July, President Truman signed the Armed Forces Unification Act. The Departments of War and Navy were abolished and the National Military Establishment was created, headed by the Secretary of Defense. The Army Air Forces became the Department of the Air Force, equal in status with the Departments of the Army and Navy. By the end of September, the old Joint Research and Development Board was replaced by the Research and Development Board under the same chairman, Vannevar Bush. Reorganization had little effect on the board and its subgroups, but there was much additional work to be done, especially in defining the role of the Air Force with respect to missiles. The Aeronautical Board and the subcommittee on earth satellite vehicles continued to function. In November, the Office of Naval Research asked to be designated the coordinating agency for the "High Altitude Research and Earth Satellite Program." Before the subcommittee reached a decision, the parent Research and Development Board gave responsibility for earth satellites to the Committee on Guided Missiles, which formed a Technical Evaluation Group under the chairmanship of Professor Clark Milliken of the California Institute of Technology.30