DESTINATION MOON: A History of the Lunar Orbiter Program
Problem Areas: Last Quarter 1964 to First Half 1965
[163] Several problem areas had developed by late 1964 which threatened the original schedules of the program. Some of these have already been mentioned. Two more are noteworthy, however. At the Lunar Orbiter Preliminary Design Review held at Boeing on October 27 and 28, 1964, the status of the micrometeoroid and radiation experiments had somewhat alarmed Israel Taback, the Langley Lunar Orbiter Spacecraft Manager, and Martin J. Swetnick, the Lunar Orbiter Program Scientist from NASA Headquarters. They learned that the instrumentation which Boeing proposed to procure for the two experiments by letting bids to Space [164] Technology Laboratories or Texas Instruments, Inc., did not meet the actual specifications in the experiments document. Indeed Taback and Swetnick felt that even the specifications document which Boeing had drawn up did not demonstrate an understanding of the experiments which the Lunar Orbiter Project Office desired to have on board the spacecraft.
Swetnick called a special meeting with Boeing representatives on October 29 for a detailed discussion of Boeing's approach to the experiments. He and Taback made clear to the contractor that Boeing's specifications document for the radiation experiment was very confusing because "it did not in any way provide the bidders with a description of the requirements for the radiation data, a statement of objectives, and a description of what should be done."34 Boeing's lack of knowledge about the radiation experiment surprised the two NASA officials, who urged Boeing to work out a more realistic approach to fabrication and testing of the experiments instrumentation as Dr. Foelsche had designed it.
The October 29 meeting revealed the existence of poor communications between Langley and Boeing in the area of experiments. Boeing did not lack .the ability to carry out [165] the work required or to obtain competent support for the work. Instead Boeing personnel responsible for the experiments had not understood precisely what Langley desired them to do. Boeing management officials realized that they needed to modify the specifications document to give their bidders a much clearer idea of the nature and objectives of the two experiments. They assured Taback that they would send the modified document to Langley for review and approval before submitting it to the bidders.
The problem with the micrometeoroid experiment was different. Boeing had made certain design changes on it without notifying the principal investigator, Charles A. Gurtler at Langley. Taback and Swetnick were disturbed that Boeing had decided to locate the micrometeoroid pressure cells on the periphery of the tank deck (middle deck) outside the thermal blanket, necessitating reduction of the number of cells from 20 to 15. Worse yet, the leads from the cells to the respective electronics would have to pass through the thermal blanket. Taback made it clear that Langley would have to examine this alteration very carefully before making a decision on. the experiment's final design.35
[166] Swetnick told the Boeing people that Gurtler did not believe that the experiment could be useful with fewer than 20 cells and any change in their location would require substantial redesign. Again the fact that Langley. officials were unaware of Boeing's thinking on the micrometeoroid experiment showed a surprising lack of communication, steps were taken to strengthen ties between the Langley LOPO people and their Boeing counterparts.
Another problem of note was the status of the Lockheed Agena D launch vehicle, its adapter, and the spacecraft shroud. The Lewis Research Center near Cleveland, Ohio, had the responsibility for these pieces of hardware. Early in 1964 Lewis had insisted that Lockheed handle the entire integration of the booster-adapter-shroud hardware for Lunar Orbiter. Langley had proposed to have Boeing provide the adapter and the shroud. This arrangement had not been acceptable to Lewis. Dr. Abe Silverstein, the center's director, had personally guaranteed that the adapter and the shroud would be delivered to the Boeing Company at the time stipulated in the contract.36 By late 1964 Lewis was confronted with the predicament that Lockheed, as sole vendor of the hardware, was not going to [167] meet the target dates for delivery. Moreover, to meet its schedule might cause it to overrun the original contract price by as much as 100%. Realizing this, Lewis desired to open the field to competitive bidding for the hardware, but it had to wait for a Headquarters review of the situation before making such a move.37
Scherer's office at NASA Headquarters was disturbed by the unforeseen turn of events at Lewis. Lockheed had failed to provide Boeing with an adapter master gauge on December 1. 1964, as it had promised; and Boeing still did not have one by January 5. Worse yet Lewis had not finalized the adapter design by the beginning of 1965, and this would impinge upon program schedules unless NASA Headquarters quickly altered the situation. Boeing, meanwhile, had sent Lockheed a model of the spacecraft on January 4 for separation tests with the Agena, but it remained uncrated pending a decision by NASA to open the field for competitive bids for the adapter and the shroud.38
By February 8, 1965, Lewis had opened bidding for the spacecraft adapter, the Atlas SLV-3 and the Agena D launch vehicles. Headquarters gave Lewis permission to open [168] bidding on the shrouds and the bidding began on February 5.39 On March 8 Lewis awarded Lockheed the adapter hardware contract, and in the interim Lewis delivered the Adapter Master Gauge to Boeing.40 Boeing, intent upon avoiding any delays or compatibility problems, bid for the spacecraft shroud and was awarded the contract by Lewis on April 1. Boeing would build two ground-test shrouds and five flight shrouds for its Lunar Orbiter.41 On April 26 Lewis sent Boeing a shroud from the Mariner D spacecraft to be used as a "stand-in" for tests with component sets A and C.42 These progressive actions by Lewis corrected a situation which could have caused substantial schedule slippage, possibly affecting the incentives in the Boeing contract.
From February 24 through 26, Langley held the Third Quarterly Review. During the review three meetings convened to examine the status of the spacecraft, the results of the Critical Design Review and the interrelations of the [169] program's various systems: spacecraft, launch vehicle, and tracking and data acquisition.
Boeing reported that the late availability of hardware from Eastman Kodak and RCA had necessitated a schedule adjustment moving prototype systems tests back eight weeks. Beginning in November 1964 Eastman Kodak had to rearrange its schedules with Boeing because its hardware deliveries would not come in time to undergo testing with the spacecraft component sets. Instead Boeing had to use a photographic subsystem simulator during the design verification tests.43
By late January 1965 the photo subsystem was still experiencing delays. Eastman Kodak had problems in procuring high-reliability parts and in a power change for the subsystem. The 610 mm lens was also a problem, because of difficulties in attaining the proper resolution; Kodak, however, succeeded in eliminating the error in the lens formula and proceeded with fabrication.44 The delays did not change the first launch date because the program used the parallel testing mode. However, Langley deleted the Flight Acceptance Test on Spacecraft 1 and established [170] testing restraints to fit the schedule changes because of the delays at Eastman Kodak.45
Boeing also reported to the members of the Third Quarterly Review that all designing was essentially completed and a substantial amount of structural and thermal testing of components had been conducted. No serious failures or deficiencies in components had been uncovered during testing. Nevertheless a few hardware items did have problems: 1) the design and operation of the camera thermal door; 2) telemetry data handling during testing; 3) the photographic recording equipment at DSIF Site 71 (located at Cape Kennedy), and 4) several potential trouble areas in the spacecraft's film processing system. Work on these items did not threaten schedules or hinder the progress of other subsystems in any substantial ways largely because of the loose integration of all subsystems in the spacecraft system design.
Boeing officials also noted at the review that the situation at Lewis was improving and being monitored by NASA Headquarters. Finally, the men present at the Third Quarterly Review decided to have Boeing conduct "qualification tests on S/C 1, one mission simulation test on S/C 2, and [171] phase one of the Goldstone Test on S/C 3 ... prior to the start of FAT on the first flight spacecraft."46
By early March Langley had altered the testing program, removing several conservative features in the initial phase of testing to allow for further schedule compression. At the same time restraints were established which required that 1) the qualification and reliability tests of each component for a flight spacecraft had to be completed before the Flight Acceptance Test on the component could begin and that 2) no FAT of an entire flight spacecraft would commence before the completion of qualification tests on Spacecraft 1, of one mission simulation test on Spacecraft 2, and of the first phase of the Goldstone Test on Spacecraft 3.47 These steps left little room for any major testing failures without causing serious schedule slippages. This was a risky, but one which was calculated, relying on testing procedures at the component level to catch and correct any design or fabrication anomalies before they could reach the subsystem integration level undetected and have a serious impact on the program's timetable.
[172] One example of the early detection of such an anomaly had come to light during the February 17 Photographic Subsystem Critical Design Review. Leon Kosofsky, Headquarters Program Engineer, reported to Israel Taback., Langley LOPO Spacecraft Manager, in a memorandum dated March 4 that "the film processor cannot be stopped indefinitely without the risk of losing the mission due to the sticking of the Bimat web to the exposed film."48
This condition meant that either the processor or the mission design would have to be altered. At least some of the film would have to be wasted to keep the whole film and the Bimat processing web (film) advancing at a rate sufficient to preclude any sticking.
The Lunar Orbiter Program Office had to know the time the Kodak SO-243 film and the Bimat could safely remain in contact during a non-photographic period. Kosofsky pointed out that, as matters stood, if this time were 3.5 hours or less, then a typical mission such as that envisioned in Bellcomm report TR-65-211-1 (January 25, 1965) would be impossible.49 If the safe time was between 3.5 [173] and 6.33 hours, waste exposures would be required on every non-photographic orbit of the Moon, because of the forty-minute processing period which could be subtracted from the time requirement of a photographic and a non-photographic orbit combined. Finally, a safe time of 7.5 hours meant that wasted exposures would be required only on alternate orbits during non-photographic periods, while a 10.5 hours safe time would allow two successive orbits during such periods without having to waste film. This problem presented sufficient potential impact upon Lunar Orbiter's mission capabilities to require immediate study of ways to reduce or eliminate film wastage regardless of the final processor safe time.50
The amount of time wasted in the readout process by blank pictures presented one of the worst aspects of the film advance problem. As of March 4, 1965,the design of the photographic subsystem precluded any rapid operation of the rewind drive. Unless changed, this problem would severely affect the critical readout process. Kosofsky instructed G. Calvin Broome, Chief of the Photo Subsystem Section of the Langley LOPO, to explore ways of overcoming the necessity to waste film and prolong the readout [174] process.51
Except for several minor problems the Lunar Orbiter design phase was completed by April 13, 1965; over 80% of the procurement had been started and over 60% of the first sets of components had been delivered to the contractor. Development tests had begun and mission planning for Orbiter was just commencing. The Kent Testing Facility at Boeing in Seattle also neared completion. Boeing would use it for the spacecraft's mission simulation tests. It consisted of a major chamber with a working section 12 meters high by 9 meters in diameter, capable of having its internal pressure pumped down at twice the rate of the planned Lunar Orbiter ascent profile for the mission simulation-tests. Other smaller chambers were also part of this listing facility.52
By the middle of 1965 the Lunar Orbiter Program was well into its major development phase. The Program Office and the Project Office at Langley had maintained an equilibrium among the many different needs which had to be fulfilled, and among working groups at Langley, Boeing, [175] the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lewis, and the major subcontractors. Langley maintained tight control of its funds and the rate of funding required by Boeing as the program moved into the mission planning phase.