DESTINATION MOON: A History of the Lunar Orbiter Program
Flight Recording Equipment
[220] On April 4 Leonard Reiffel of the Apollo Program notified Oran W. Nicks that Apollo requirements for Lunar Orbiter data made It highly desirable, if not necessary, to have sufficient magnetic recording facilities to record incoming data on magnetic tape. He stated that quantitative photometric work made the use of magnetic tape superior to film because: "1. the quality of the data is degraded in the ground photographic process, and 2. magnetic tape provides higher data processing convenience and speed."75
[221] Reiffel emphasized the necessity to have back-up recorders to record all data and avoid irretrievable losses. If, however, this were not possible, he suggested that a tape change schedule be set up which would allow tapes on primary recorders to be changed during times when low-resolution frames were being received at Deep Space Network facilities. He further requested of Nicks a firm commitment on the availability of recorders, including those for the first mission. He stressed that Apollo site selection analysis depended heavily on magnetically recorded data, and he requested more specific information on the Lunar Orbiter Program's plans for automatic data processing and. validity tests of processed data.76
Nicks replied to Reiffel's memorandum on April 26. He concurred that a meeting between technical specialists from both programs should be called to discuss the problem of magnetic recording of data, the availability and cost of extra recorders, and the best way to secure Lunar Orbiter data in a form that the Apollo Program could use at the earliest possible date. He also pointed out that the Deep Space Network had received three Ampex FR 900 recorders but that their necessary amplifiers would not be delivered before June 1. This late delivery, the period of installation and testing, and the training of personnel to operate the [222] recorders kept the Lunar Orbiter Program from making a firm commitment to Reiffel for the first flight.77
Nicks stated that the problem of back-up recorders had been investigated and the results showed that the contractor, Ampex, could deliver three units by the end of October if an order were placed by May 15, 1966. The earliest date for their operation would be February 7. 1967, and the estimated cost would be about $600,000. Until the Lunar Orbiter Program had more reliable information on the performance of the FR 900 in the field, Nicks did not believe it was advisable to ask the Deep Space Network to purchase additional recorders. However, Boeing had been investigating the feasibility of changing tapes during reception of low-resolution data, and it had indicated that this probably could be done.78