DESTINATION MOON: A History of the Lunar Orbiter Program
Early Boeing Preparations
[75] The Boeing Company of Seattle, Washington had been among the bidders for the Apollo Program's Lunar Excursion Module (LEM, later called Lunar Module, or LM) and had lost the competition to the Grumman Aircraft Corporation in the spring of 1963. Boeing's research studies for the LEM proposal enabled a team led by Thomas Yamauchi in the Aerospace Group to develop data for lunar orbital missions. The technical expertise which Boeing had assembled during the work on the LEM proposal subsequently became available for new work on an unmanned lunar orbiter. Boeing began to develop a proposal for a lunar orbiter spacecraft during the summer of 1963, utilizing the earlier research work it had done for its LEM proposal.1

When Boeing presented its proposal to the NASA-Langley Source Evaluation Board it had developed and analyzed a spacecraft system whose capabilities matched or exceeded the requirements of the RFP. The Boeing proposal appeared so complete in its coverage of the technical problems of [76] creating a lunar orbiter that if the members of the SEB were to find any part of it questionable they would be forced to challenge the original assumptions upon which the Request for Proposals had been based.

Among other key system problems, Boeing Company had even analyzed the possible danger to the camera film lot from radiation. From its analysis, Boeing developed data showing that high-speed films were subject to degradation and fogging if they were not properly shielded from solar-flare-particle events. When Boeing convinced the Eastman Kodak Company to build the photographic system for its lunar orbiter, the data on radiation fogging of film enabled both to select a low-speed, insensitive film which would, nevertheless perform the photographic tasks outlined in the RFP.

The Boeing proposal won the NASA-Langley recommendation for acceptance, and on December 20, 1963, NASA Administrator James E. Webb announced the selection of Boeing to build Lunar Orbiter.2

The Boeing Company had already established its Lunar Orbiter Program Office in June 1963 under the direction of Robert J. Helberg. Between June and December Helberg had handled the complete management responsibilities for [77] the 220-man Lunar Orbiter Team. He organized a tightly knit project group and directed its members in the preparatory activities of the Lunar Orbiter proposal. These included research, technical design, test program analytical studies, the reliability program, manufacturing, quality assurance, contract administration, finance, facilities, and program controls. Helberg was a very capable administrator with an engineering background and, since 1958, experience in the Bomarc Program.3

Boeing selected George H. Hage to assist Helberg as the Chief Engineer of the Lunar Orbiter Program. Hage had been a member of the Lunar Excursion Module Engineering Team, and early in 1963 he had also taken charge of new business in the area of lunar reconnaissance. He directed studies and preliminary designing in the development and definition of an unmanned lunar orbiting satellite designed to obtain high-resolution photographic data of the Moon's surface. Following this Hage had handled Boeing's technical activities during its proposal effort on the Agena-class Lunar Orbiter Project.4

Carl A. Krafft was assigned to be the Lunar Orbiter Program Business Manager. Coming from the Bomarc Branch, he had experience in operations planning, costs and expenditures control, performance evaluation, administration, [78] and progress reporting. While with the Bomarc Branch he had directed the use of the PERT/Time and PERT/Cost and Line-of-Balance control techniques. (PERT stands for Performance Evaluation-Reporting Technique.) Krafft had gained extensive experience in contract negotiation, in accounting for contract execution and in the preparation of work statements and contract proposals.5

Two events augured well for the establishment of the Lunar Orbiter Program at Boeing. First the building housing the Bomarc Program became available to Helberg, and he moved his organization in under one roof. At the peak of the program Boeing had 1,700 to 1,800 people working on Lunar Orbiter. The large, isolated facility accommodating Helberg's organization made communications between various members of the Lunar Orbiter Program more open and nearly instantaneous.

Secondly, the U.S. Air Force canceled Project Dynasoar in the spring of 1963, releasing a number of highly qualified resident USAF personnel members to support Boeing's new NASA undertaking. Some of the USAF people had been engaged at Boeing on the X-20 Project,, and they also became available for work on Lunar Orbiter. The Air Force personnel worked in two areas: engineering monitoring [79] and quality control. In both they assisted Boeing with their specific technical expertise. This assistance saved manpower at Langley.