DESTINATION MOON: A History of the Lunar Orbiter Program
Langley-JPL Working Relations
[91] Langley began to work with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the establishment of the formal support activity which the Lunar Orbiter Program would require in order to fly the five authorized missions. Members of the Lunar Orbiter Project Office at the Langley center met with JPL officials during the spring of 1964. The vital service which the JPL-managed Deep Space Net, consisting of the Deep Space Instrumentation Facility (DSIF) and the Space [92] Flight Operations Facility (SFOF), would provide Langley was stated as "the acquisition, transmission, processing, display, and control of spacecraft tracking and communications information necessary to the support of flight projection mission requirements. These project requirements include navigation, scientific measurements, photography, spacecraft and mission control, and spacecraft performance monitoring."21

Eventually the JPL DSN support effort for Lunar Orbiter approached the level between 500 and 1,000 man-years of work. At the same time the tracking and data-acquisition facilities also served the Ranger, Mariner, and Surveyor programs. At first Langley experienced some difficulties in defining precisely what tasks JPL could perform for the program, but this was no fault of JPL. On the contrary, JPL, facing manpower shortages and a scarcity of computer time, managed to meet the needs of the Lunar Orbiter Program without causing and schedule slippages or launch delays.22

One of the key problems in establishing a coordinated working relationship between Langley and JPL was the [93] definition of the extent to which JPL should become involved in analytical work for Orbiter, involving such areas as trajectory design. Langley requested JPL to make a definitive study of the Lunar Orbiter tracking data requirements to parallel a similar one which Boeing was conducting. At the Lunar Orbiter Mission and Trajectory Analysis Meeting on April 15, JPL representatives suggested to Langley officials that Boeing send one or more men to undergo a familiarization and orientation period at the DSN facilities so that Boeing might know exactly what the facilities offered. Following this Boeing could erect its own computer facility to simulate the Space Flight Operations Facility, accomplish its own programming, and check out and integrate this set-up with that of JPL at SFOF.

The problem which Langley and Boeing had to work around was the shortage of computer time at the JP L facilities due, in part, to the needs of Surveyor. The familiarization and orientation period would involve approximately 20 man-years of work. More important, however., for JPL was the recognition that any direct and intimate involvement in trajectory design and related analyses would demand that JPL also become involved in spacecraft design, because much of the planning of software and trajectory design depended upon the design of the spacecraft's communications system. JPL, understandably, was not in a position [94] to commit manpower and computer time to such work for Langley, and it made this clear, in a memorandum to Floyd L. Thompson on April 2, 1964. Following the April 15 Trajectory Analysis Meeting Thompson notified Newell at NASA Headquarters of the JPL position.23 The JPL suggestion to educate Boeing men at its DSN facilities proved acceptable to Boeing and Langley.

In addition to meetings with JPL officials, Lunar Orbiter Project officials from Langley spent two days at the beginning of April with representatives from Boeing and OSSA at the Kennedy Space Center inspecting the facilities for Lunar Orbiter. They also briefed personnel there on the Orbiter requirements which KSC would have to meet. Scherer noted that the program needed new hangar facilities at Cape Kennedy if it wanted to avoid an undue burden on existing space.24

With most of the anticipated problems resolved, the Langley Research Center and the Boeing Company signed the Lunar Orbiter contract on April 16 and sent it to NASA Headquarters for final review. The total period of contract negotiations had been remarkably short and intense.[95] NASA and Boeing worked out an excellent implementation cycle for program activities while, simultaneously, Boeing supplied Langley and NASA Headquarters with very extensive supporting documentation, which detailed among other things the cost back-up data from the major subcontractors.

Scherer ascribed Boeing's excellent responsiveness during contract negotiations to the fact that NASA had predetermined the incentive features of the contract in the Request for Proposals. Moreover, the absence of a letter contract made it mandatory that negotiations be completed before actual work began, creating a sense of urgency for completing them as quickly as possible.25 Boeing's willingness to listen to and analyze NASA's requests paid off on May 7, 1964 when James E. Webb signed the document approving the Lunar Orbiter contract and making the program an official NASA commitment.

Lunar Orbiter was a second-generation spacecraft and the first new start in lunar exploration since the decision to attempt a manned lunar landing mission to the Moon. The program's objectives were straightforward: the implementation at the earliest possible date of simple, reliable engineering measurements to determine the soundness of the [96] spacecraft's design and the acquisition of scientific data about the Moon and its environment.26 This information would prove vital for the mission design activities of the Apollo Program. In every respect, therefore, the Lunar Orbiter Program must be viewed as a direct support activity in implementing the decision to land men on the Moon and return them safely to Earth.