Labor Difficulties

Construction on several of LC-34's most prominent features including the service structure, launch pedestal, and umbilical tower was just getting under way when a serious labor dispute broke out at the Cape. On 5 August 1960, members of the electricians' union (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) informed a Corps of Engineers representative that, "It's too hot and ABMA is making it hotter. . . We're going fishing." 29 The Launch Operations Directorate had generated the heat earlier that morning when some of its personnel unloaded a dozen firing consoles at the launch control center. The incident touched off four months of conflict between LOD and labor unions at the Cape, and eventually received the attention of Congress and the Secretary of Labor.

Involved were jurisdictional issues between unions, as well as the role of labor unions in research and development work. During the late 1950s, the building trades unions had achieved jurisdiction over a large share of the construction of ground support equipment for missiles. They feared loss of such jobs to the aircraft industry union. LOD officials believed that the building trades unions had won a number of concessions at the Cape because the Air Force normally yielded to labor demands. While the urgency of military programs made the Air Force position understandable, Debus refused to take the same course. * LOD articulated its philosophy in a 6 September presentation to General Davis, Air Force Missile Test Center Commander:

All ground equipment including measuring, launch controls, plumbing, instrumentation which are directly connected to the missile are a very integral part of the missile system. In the early phase of any program, the missile constitutes a flying laboratory for the purpose of gathering data and testing feasibility on design concepts, operational techniques. . . Thus the ground equipment is just as important to the success of the mission as is the actual flight of the missile. . . and must come under the direct control, from installation to final use, of the LOD missile people. All our firings will be R&D in nature, not operational prototypes. 30

General Davis was impressed with the LOD arguments, but not so the unions. When LOD personnel returned to the launch control center on 10 October to install more panels, 47 electricians walked out again. Ten days earlier, 27 ironworkers had left work on the service structure complaining of excessive supervision; on 4 October, 17 carpenters stopped work in a jurisdictional dispute with electricians over the installation of static ground lines.31

These walkouts were brief and contractors lost only 800 man-days from August to November. Then on 14 November LOD resumed its activities at LC-34, with civil service personnel installing cables and consoles. When the electricians struck again, LOD initiated injunction proceedings. The other trade unions retaliated with a mass walkout at the Cape. By Thanksgiving 650 union members were on strike. With the problem attracting national attention, Secretary of Labor James P. Mitchell intervened. His appointment of a fact-finding committee placated the unions and work resumed 28 November. The committee's findings, released after the New Year, included recommendations that LOD improve its communications with the unions and that both sides re-examine the controversial interface points (between rocket and ground support equipment). While the basic issue remained and work stoppages continued, relations never again reached the low ebb of November 1960.32

LC-34 soon after its dedication. Looking north, the pad is in the center; The service structure has been removed along its parallel tracks to the parking position. The control center (blockhouse) is on the near side and left ofthe service structure. In the background, land is being cleared for LC-37.

LC-34 looking southwest. LC-20 is in the background. The white rectangle in the foreground is the skimming pond. The RP-1 facility is at the extreme left.

Work moved ahead rapidly on LC-34's major structures in early 1961. By February the inverted U shape of the service structure's rigid box truss frame was clearly recognizable. At the pad, four reinforced concrete columns, 7 meters high and more than 2 meters thick, stood at the corners of the 13-meter-square launch pedestal. Nearby rose the steel frame of the abbreviated umbilical tower. The walls of the 7 x 7 x 8-meter base would incorporate blowout panels to reduce structural damage from a pad explosion.

At its formal dedication 5 June 1961, LC-34 represented the largest launch facility in the free world. Although complexes 37 and 39 would soon overshadow it, LC-34 was destined to play an important and tragic role in the Apollo history. Its inaugural would come in four months with the first Saturn I launch as the United States tried to recover lost ground in the space race.

* Gen. Donald Yates contends that Air Force policy was a better approach to labor relations, Non-union contractors did work at the Cape, but the Air Force never placed a non union contractor on the same job with a union contractor. Furthermore, Yates felt that LOD leaders tended to challenge union labor with their new rules.

30. Debus to Wernher von Braun, "Labor Situation," 21 Sept. 1960.

31. George V. Hanna, "Chronology of Work Stoppages and Related Events, KSC/NASA and AFETR through July 1965," KSC historical report (KSC, FL, Oct. 1965), pp. 26-27.

32. Ibid., pp. 30-35; DDJ, 15 and 28 Nov., 5 and 22 Dec. 1960.

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Chapter 3

Launching the First Saturn I Booster

The Magnitude of the Task

Models of Jupiter, Juno, and Saturn I.

Just as launch complex 34 dwarfed its predecessors, Saturn checkout represented a new magnitude in launch operations. The Saturn C-1 stood three times higher, required six times more fuel, and produced ten times more thrust than the Jupiter. Its size, moreover, was only a part of the challenge to the Launch Operations Directorate (LOD) at Cape Canaveral. The costs and complexity had also increased markedly. Because of the costs (eventually $775 million for the Saturn I program's research and development alone), there would be fewer test flights. This meant the engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) had to have more test data per flight - such measurements as the temperature of the flame shield, the pressure in combustion chambers, the rocket's angular velocity in pitch and roll. Whereas two telemetry links (radio transmitter-receiver systems) sending 116 measurements had been adequate for Redstone testing, the first Saturn booster employed eight telemetry links to report 505 measurements. The rocket's overall complexity necessitated a longer checkout: Saturn C-1 launch preparations averaged 9 weeks, almost three times longer than for a Jupiter missile. 1

Ultimately the new procedures were to work a major change in the human role on the launch pad. Until the Saturn, the Debus team had been on a first-name basis with the rockets. LOD members who were not crawling around inside the Jupiter worked within a few yards of the pad. The Saturn brought little change initially; checkout for the first Saturn C-1 remained largely a manual operation. In the block house, a console operator with a test manual threw a switch connected to a rocket component and checked the results on a meter or strip chart. Automation on the first Saturn booster was rudimentary, limited to relay logic during the last minutes of countdown. It increased as the Saturn grew more complicated. The addition of a live second stage to the Saturn C-1 and the appearance of the much larger Saturn V dictated greater reliance on machines and computers. By the mid-1960s the Saturn checkout was well on the way to automation. Chapter 16 will address this subject in detail.

NASA had firmed up the Saturn C-1 program in late 1959 by adopting the Silverstein Committee's proposals (pages 13-14). Marshall Space Flight Center would start with the clustered booster (S-1) and dummy upper stages. A second block of missions would add a hydrogen-fueled second stage, and a third block would add a third stage to the stack. The Program Office listed the SA-10 launch, set for April 1964, as the Saturn C-1's debut as an operationally ready vehicle. Plans beyond the ten-vehicle research and development (R&D) schedule were indefinite. A 1960 NASA Long Range Program called for 50 Saturn C-1 and C-2 launches between 1965 and 1970. Twenty of these flights would launch Apollo spacecraft reentry tests, earth orbital missions, and circumlunar shots.2

These plans were altered in January 1961 when Wernher von Braun proposed to eliminate the third stage; a two-stage Saturn C-1 would meet the needs of the early Apollo missions. Following NASA Headquarters formal approval of von Braun's recommendation, the Saturn Office in Huntsville rearranged the ten-vehicle R&D program. Block I, beginning that fall, would consist of four S-1 stage tests from LC-34 (mission numbers SA-1 through SA-4). Block II, the next six launches (SA-5 through SA-10), would add the second stage from the LC-37 launch pad, and from an upgraded LC-34.3

The Saturn C-1 test flights were to prove the design of the launch vehicle. The block I launches in particular would test the eight-engine propulsion system, the clustered tank structure, the first-stage control system's ability to cope with sloshing and nonrigid-body dynamics, and the compatibility of the vehicle and launch facility. During the block I series, Marshall engineers proposed a systematic buildup of tests to prepare the way for two-stage flights. Broadly stated, LOD's responsibilities were fourfold: assuring that transportation had not affected vehicle components, mating stages and ground equipment to verify the compatibility of the different stages, launching the rocket, and analyzing the performance of all vehicle systems immediately after launch to detect flight failures. Although the mission was referred to as "launch vehicle test and checkout," less than half of LOD's scheduled activities involved test performance. The balance of the total launch preparation effort included activities more properly described as assembly, installation, preparation for test, and evaluation of records.4

1. W. R. McMurran, ed., "The Evolution of Electronic Tracking, Optical, Telemetry, and Command Systems at the Kennedy Space Center," mimeographed paper (KSC, 17 Apr. 1973), fig. 2; MSFC, Saturn SA-1 Flight Evaluation, report MPR-SAT-WF-61-8 (Huntsville, AL, 14 Dec. 1961), p. 235. The Saturn Flight valuation Working Group at MSFC published reports on all the Saturn C-1 launches. See also MSFC, Results ofthe First Saturn I Launch Vehicle Test Flight, SA-1, report MPR-SAT-64-14 (Huntsville, AL, 27 Apr. 1964) which superseded the above report, and MSFC, Results ofthe Saturn I Launch Vehicle Test Flights, report MPR-SAT-FE-66-9 (Huntsville, AL, 9 Dec. 1966).

2. MSFC, C-1, C-2 Comparison, pp. 3-7. See pp. 68, 78-82 for Long-Range Program (Sloop Committee Report) of Sept. 1960.

3. Oswald H. Lange, "Saturn Program Review," 27 Jan. 1961; Akens, Saturn Illustrated Chronology, pp. 13, 19.

4. F. A. Speer, "Saturn I Flight Test Evaluation," American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics paper 64-322 given at Washington, D.C., 29 June-2 July 1964, p. 2; ARINC Research Corp., Reliability Study of Saturn SA-3 Pre-Launch Operations, by Arthur W. Green et al., publication 247-1-399 (Washington, 3 Jan. 1963), pp. 2-21 through 2-23.

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