The Test Catalog for SA1

LOD began preparing for the first Saturn launch in mid-March of 1961 when Debus directed the Scheduling and Test Procedures Committee to review launch procedures. The Director did not want to "automatically transfer into the Saturn, things that may have been important in past operations." 11 The committee - composed of the operations office deputies Gorman, Moser, and Williams - agreed that Saturn required basic changes in launch procedures. For example, LOD personnel had conducted a detailed identification of component serial numbers on previous rockets. Since a serial inspection of Saturn components would require many man-hours, the committee proposed to rely on MSFC's detailed list instead. LOD would update the Marshall list when components were changed. The committee eliminated some redundant systems checkouts and recommended less component testing. During the Saturn C-1 launches, the emphasis would shift gradually from component testing to integrated systems testing. As the checkout for SA-1 was revised, other MSFC personnel undertook to coordinate all Saturn testing. 12

The test catalog that emerged in May 1961 indicated the magnitude of the Saturn C-1 program. The catalog included 233 system tests, 102 of which were prepared by LOD. The tests were grouped in seven categories: electrical networks, measuring, telemetry, radio frequency and tracking, guidance and control systems, mechanical systems, and vehicle systems. The last category included overall tests, simulated flight tests, cooling systems tests, propellant loading tests, static firing, and fuel tank pressurization. Most of the tests ran from four to eight hours; a few required days. An example of LOD's contribution was 6-LOD-26, the fuel and LOX systems full-pressure tests: 6 indicated the category, mechanical systems; LOD, the responsible division; and 26 identified the particular test among 42 in that category. The test objectives were to "accomplish a pressure test of both propellant tanks to full working pressure, performed and monitored from the Blockhouse to determine if any major structural defects have occurred due to transporting, handling, erecting, etc. Pressure drop-off time, and pressure switch cycles will be recorded for system leakage analysis at full working pressures." 13

While operations personnel were determining test requirements, construction at the launch complex progressed toward the 5 June 1961 dedication, when the Corps of Engineers would formally transfer LC-34 to NASA. LOD personnel began outfitting the service structure in early May. The propellants team used "live" fuel to run a "wet test" of the fuel system on the 19th, No serious leaks appeared in the LOX and RP-1 transfer lines, and the pumps worked satisfactorily. At the dedication ceremony the long cable mast and two short cable masts were the only major items missing, Redesign had slowed their development, but shipment from Huntsville was expected in mid-June.14

Assembling the long cable mast at LC-34.

A new ground support requirement, however, threatened to delay the October launch date. On 11 May launch vehicle designers notified Maj. Rocco Petrone's Heavy Vehicle Systems Office that the high-pressure gas system would have to be modified. Model tests indicated that LOX sloshing in the Saturn tanks caused condensation of the gaseous nitrogen used for pressurizing the fuel, and this lowered the pressure to marginal limits. The solution was to pressurize the LOX tanks with helium. Petrone took immediate steps to procure a helium facility through sole-source procedures - an emergency government purchase without competitive bidding. He transferred LC-37 funds to cover the expense and secured eight steelworkers, skilled in working on high-pressure tubes. Debus told von Braun the following day that the change to helium might hold up the launch. The Marshall director mentioned NASA Headquarters fear that a delay would have political repercussions, but assured Debus that Huntsville understood the problem. Modifications progressed rapidly, easing Debus's mind, and the helium facility was ready by mid- September. 15

Up in Huntsville, the Fabrication and Assembly Engineering Division had fallen behind on its booster assembly schedule. Debus reluctantly agreed to have the work completed at the Cape. Albert Zeiler detailed a list of unfinished items in a letter to Debus on 14 July. Zeiler expressed particular concern about the scheduling problems posed by these requirements:

3 - Install hula hoops [rings that retained the heat shield] and coat uncoated portion on eight engines.

This would require 30 hours of unobstructed work in the tail section during the last 10 days before launch.

10 - Heat shield beams have to be coated, estimated time three days for application and up to ten days in addition where no work can be performed around the tail section because the coating discharges, during the curing time, burnable fumes.

Zeiler considered this a safety, as well as a scheduling, problem, but noted that the curing time could possibly be shortened.

11 - Four curtains for outboard engines will be prefitted, then coated, and then shipped.

The installation would require one day and should be done as late as possible to avoid any damage. 16

Robert Moser was responsible for fitting the Fabrication Division's activities into the Saturn checkout. As SA-1 test conductor, he coordinated launch operations and ensured that proper procedures were used for the 102 formal tests. Moser's operations schedule, prepared in early August, included:

15 Aug. - Unloading barge and transporting S-1 stage to pad 34.

17-21 Aug. - Erection of stages.

15 Sept. - Removing service structure for RE tests with the range. 20-25 Sept. - Overall systems tests. 2 Oct. - LOX loading test, 9 Oct. - Simulated flight test.

Moser's schedule also listed much component testing and instrument calibration during the first half of the schedule; system and vehicle tests predominated in the second half. 17

11. Debus to Committee for LOD Scheduling and Test Procedures, "Day-by-Day Test Schedule for Saturn SA-1," 16 Mar. 1961, ibid.; DDJ, 14 Mar. 1961.

12. Moser interview, 30 Mar. 1973; DDJ, 17 Apr. 1961,

13. MSFC, Catalog of Systems Tests for Saturn S-1 Stage, pp. III-46-III-54 (Huntsville, AL, 1 Sept. 1961), Moser papers, Federal Archives and Records Center, East Point, GA, accession 68A1230, boxes 436257, 436259.

14. "Launch Facilities and Support Equipment Office [hereafter cited as LFSEO] Monthly Progress Report," 12 June 1961, p. 2; "LFSEO Monthly Progress Report," 13 July 1961, pp. 2-3.

15. DDJ, 11, 12 May 1961; "LFSEO Monthly Progress Report," 12 June 1961, p. 3.

16. Zeiler to Debus, "Work Statement," 14 July 1961.

17. "Saturn SA-1 Schedule," 15 Aug. 1961, Moser papers, Federal Archives and Records Center, East Point, GA, accession 68A1230, boxes 436257, 436259.

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The Saturn Goes Sailing

Two years earlier Marshall Flight Center officials had decided to transport the Saturn booster (SA-1's only live stage) from Huntsville to Cape Canaveral by water. In April 1961, Test Division personnel loaded a waterballasted tank, the approximate size and weight of the booster, and a dummy upper stage aboard the barge Palaemon. The barge, resembling a Quonset hut on a raft, made the first leg of its trial trip in five days, descending the Tennessee, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. There, a seagoing tug replaced the river tug. The Palaemon crossed the Gulf of Mexico to the Florida Keys, sailed through the straits, and up the Atlantic coast via the Intracoastal Waterway. The LOD team on the Saturn dock, located at the south end of the Cape industrial area, witnessed a strange sight when the simulated booster emerged from the Palaemon's hatch. The big spoked rings, 4.3 meters across, on each end of the 25 x 2. 1-meter tank, looked like the wheels and axle of a gigantic vehicle. The simulation served its purpose, proving that both the Palaemon and the Cape's secondary roadways could carry the load.18

The Palaemon was undergoing modifications back at Huntsville in early June when the lock at Wheeler Dam, Tennessee, collapsed, stranding the barge upriver. Test Division and LOD personnel moved quickly to secure a reserve barge from the Navy's mothballed fleet at Green Cove Springs, Florida. Although there was not enough time to construct a cover for the second barge, the Avondale Shipyards at Harvey, Louisiana, made emergency modifications. Concurrently, the Tennessee Valley Authority enlisted the Corps of Engineers to build a bypass road and dock at Wheeler Dam. The Navy had identified its drab barge by a number, YFNB33. NASA rechristened the vessel Compromise, in hopes it would prove a workable one.19

The Compromise at Wheeler Dam, 5 August 1961, with SA-1 onboard.

The booster was ready for shipment in early August, following static firing and two months' further testing at Redstone Arsenal. To protect the booster during its voyage, the Test Division installed humidity and pressure regulating equipment within the LOX and RP-1 systems. Protective covers were placed on each end of the booster, as well as on the dummy upper stage and payload. After the assembled booster, with its support cradles, connecting trusses, and assembly rings, was jacked onto two axle-and-wheel units, an M-26 Army tank retriever towed the load to Redstone's dock. Marshall engineers had provided for the Tennessee River's three-meter fluctuation at the arsenal by building special ballasting characteristics into the Palaemon.20

The portage at Wheeler Dam, the reloading on the Compromise, and the journey to New Orleans went smoothly. Out in the Gulf of Mexico, however, the ten-man crew had rough sailing. Test Director Karl L. Heimburg attributed the handling problems to the Compromise's insufficient ballast. Negotiating the Intracoastal Waterway proved even more difficult, and the Compromise went aground four times. Heimburg blamed this on unreliable channel depths due to the shifting of the loose, sandy bottom. Crosswinds were an additional hazard; besides threatening to blow the barge around, the wind caused several near-accidents at bridges. (The Compromise was to collide with a bridge on the return trip, causing minor damage.) Despite Heimburg's frustrations, the SA-1 arrived unscathed at the Cape's Saturn dock on the 15th. 21

Transporting SA-1 to the pad.

Unloading the booster was relatively easy in the almost tideless Banana River. Henry Crunk's vehicle-handling unit towed the S-1 transporter across the Cape at a majestic 6.5 kilometers per hour. Although the operation required little physical exertion, the ten-man team perspired freely on the treeless Cape. At pad 34 ocean breezes made the heat and glare more tolerable. Most visitors, associating Florida's beaches with leisure, would have found the mixed sounds of service structure cranes and pounding surf incongruous. The novelty for LOD veterans lay in the huge Saturn booster, which had at last arrived at its action station.22

Lifting the first stage from the transporter.

Hoisting the stage in vertical attitude.

Setting the first stage on the support arms at LC-S4.

The booster or S-1 stage was erected on Sunday, 20 August. Crunk's unit had practiced maneuvering a dummy tank on the pad, but this was the first mating of the booster to the launch pedestal. With the service structure in place over the pedestal, an M-26 driver positioned the transporter parallel to the service structure base. The crew connected crane hooks to pickup points on the booster, a 60-ton hook to the forward sling and a 40-ton hook to the thrust frame sling. The crane operator raised the S-1 stage vertically, brought it into the service structure, and lowered it onto four preleveled support arms. Removal of the transportation assembly rings proved the most time-consuming aspect of an uneventful operation. Early the following week, Crunk's unit hauled the dummy stages and payload from hangar D, where they had undergone inspection. The handling unit mated the dummy stages and the nose cone on the 23rd. Cables and cable masts were installed, the four retractable support arms positioned, and network power applied on the 25 th. Concurrently the Fabrication Division installed exhaust duct brackets, access doors, and the radio frequency shield.23

18. DDJ, 24 Mar., 26 Apr. 1961; Akens, Saturn Illustrated Chronology, p. 18; Georg von Tiesenhausen, "Ground Equipment to Support the Saturn Vehicle," paper 1425-60 presented at the 15th annual meeting of the American Rocket Society, Washington, D.C., 5-8 Dec. 1960, pp. 2-3.

19. "LFSEO Monthly Progress Report," 13 July 1961, p. 4; Akens, Saturn Illustrated Chronology, pp. 21, 26-27.

21. Karl L. Heimburg to MSFC Dep. Dir. for R & D, "Water Route for NASA Vessels to Cape Canaveral," 9 Feb. 1962, attached to a response from Debus, 14 Feb. 1962, in Debus papers.

22. MSFC, SA-1 Flight Evaluation, p. 7; Akens, Saturn Illustrated Chronology, p. 26; Crunk interview; Zeiler interview, 23 July 1973; von Tiesenhausen, "Equipment to Support the Saturn," pp. 2-3.

23. MSFC, SA-1 Flight Evaluation, p. 7; "LOD Daily Journal," 27 July 1961; "Saturn SA-1 Schedule," 15 Aug. 1961.

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