The Lunar Roving Vehicle Request For Proposals

In May 1969, George E. Mueller, Associate Administrator for the Office of Manned Space Flight, selected the Lunar Roving Vehicle as the means Apollo astronauts would use to traverse and explore the Moon. On 26 May, the crew of Apollo 10 -Thomas P. Stafford, John Young and Eugene Cernan - splashed down in the Pacific Ocean after a completely successful mission designed to duplicate every step of Apollo 11, apart from landing on the surface. On 29 May, the Office of Manned Space Flight issued a memo to MSFC, the Manned Spacecraft Center and Kennedy Space Center titled: "Requirements assessment for Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV)''.

Then, on 11 July 1969, shortly before the successful Moon landing of Apollo 11, the LRV Task Team issued a Request for Proposals (RFP), No. IL-LRV-1, from twenty-nine NASA contractors, based on the extensive previous lunar mobility studies and testing. Within the RFP, the Scope of Work listed twenty-two specific requirements for the vehicle. They were:

1. Configuration - the LRV will be a four-wheel vehicle powered by storage batteries with each wheel powered by an electric motor. The LRV will be operated manually by one astronaut.

2. Weight - 400 lb maximum which includes the tie-down and unloading system.

3. Cargo Carrying Capacity - 100 lb of science experiments plus two astronauts at 370 lb each for 840 lb total or alternate of one astronaut plus 470 lb, and also to provide the capability of carrying 70 lb of lunar soil and rock samples.

4. Range - the LRV will be capable of performing four 30 km traverses in a 78hour period for a total of 120 km.

5. Life - the LRV will be capable of an operational life on the lunar surface of a minimum of 78 hours during the lunar stay.

6. Stowage - the LRV will be capable of being stowed in one bay of the Extended

LM. The CG and the envelope of the LRV must be consistent with the constraints outlined in the LM interface exhibit of this Statement of Work.

7. Speed - the fully loaded LRV will be capable of a sustained velocity of 16 km/ hr on a smooth mare surface. The LRV speed shall be continuously variable from 0-16 km/hr.

8. Deployment - the LRV will be capable of being deployed with minimum activity by one astronaut.

9. Sterilization - not required, but the contractor shall indicate his approach to reduce the level of biological contamination to be consistent with present LM requirements.

10. Obstacle Negotiation - step obstacle 30 cm high with both the wheels in contact at zero velocity; crevasse capability of 70 cm wide for both wheels at zero velocity.

11. Slope negotiation - the fully loaded LRV will be capable of climbing and descending slopes of up to 25 degrees.

12. Single-Point Failures - the LRV system and subsystem design will be such that no single-point failure shall abort the mission and no second failure shall endanger the crew.

13. Operation - the LRV will be capable of being checked out and operated by one astronaut on the lunar surface with the controls and displays located on the vehicle.

14. Crew Safety - the LRV design and the LRV operational procedures shall include the required provisions to ensure crew safety from all identified hazards. (Examples of hazards are solar glare from reflecting LRV surfaces, lunar surface roughness, vehicle instability, etc.).

15. Reverse - the LRV will be capable of backing up with provisions for the driver to have visibility when operating in this mode.

16. Dust - critically-affected surfaces or components shall be designed to minimize degradation by dust and should be located such that dust coverage is difficult.

17. Clearance - the LRV will be capable of a minimum ground clearance of 35 cm on a flat surface.

18. Lateral and Longitudinal Static Stability - minimum pitch and roll angles of 45 degrees with full load.

19. Turn Radius - approximately one vehicle length.

20. Emergency Aids - emergency aids will be considered to help free the vehicle (e.g., hand holds).

21. The power system shall provide a contingency 150 watts over and above the LRV requirements while driving.

22. The contractor shall specify the LRV acceleration capability in the proposal.

These were not the only requirements given in the Statement of Work. The contractor also had to address the needs of mobility, controls and displays, electrical power supply, scientific equipment, equipment thermal control, caution and warning indication visible to the astronauts, deployment, crew station accommodations, and more.

Early Wheel Design

GM-DRL performed extensive wheel studies in the late 1960s as part of their vehicle concepts for NASA. This is an early wheel design being tested on a sand trench fixture. (NASA/MSFC)

With the euphoria of the successful lunar landing by Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin and the imminent return of the Apollo 11 crew, a bidders' briefing was held on 23 July at NASA's Michoud assembly facility east of New Orleans, Louisiana. Only four companies accepted the challenge of building the LRV and were prepared to deliver proposals. Present were representatives from the Boeing Co., Bendix Corp., Grumman Aerospace and Chrysler Space Division. Some were shocked to learn that they had only six weeks to prepare their proposals for consideration. It was during this time that Morea attended a debriefing of the Apollo 11 crew at Johnson Space Center in Houston, in order to provide additional insight for the prospective bidders for the LRV subsequent to the 23 July briefing.

MSFC evaluated the LRV contractor proposals during September and October. By the end of September, they had eliminated Chrysler and Grumman, leaving Boeing and Bendix. It should be stated here that Bendix had committed itself in 1960 to long-range research and development of lunar exploration vehicles. It had invested over twelve million dollars of its own money in this pursuit. The corporation realized that in order to obtain a return on this investment, it would have to win the LRV contract. During October, MSFC worked on preliminary contract negotiations with Boeing and Bendix. Saverio Morea published the results in an internal document dated 23 October 1969. Boeing's negotiated baseline was $17,280,000 with a target vehicle weight of 181.6 kg (399.5 lb). Boeing was counting

GM performed durability tests on its wheel and drive motor concepts on a number of different fixtures. (NASA/MSFC)

heavily on its subcontractor, GM's Defense Research Laboratories, to help deliver the LRV at that price and that weight. Bendix's negotiated new baseline was $22,957,000 with a target vehicle weight of 180.9 kg (398.0 lb). Other factors were of prime importance to MSFC, including the depth of the vehicle design and its projected reliability, human factors, manufacturing capability, the experience of the management team, the attitude of the individuals during presentations and negotiations, and their ability to meet performance goals and schedules.

On 28 October, MSFC formally announced Boeing as the winning bidder - at $19.6 million - for the LRV contract. This was a tremendous blow to the Bendix

Corporation. Boeing promised delivery of LRV-1 to the Kennedy Space Center on schedule for April 1971. Now it came time to negotiate the contract itself. The timetable to deliver the LRV was unprecedented; most Apollo man-rated systems took three to four years to complete. But the task facing Boeing was really much bigger, and the actual contract spelled out what they had to accomplish to fulfill its terms. Morea knew from experience that costs, timetables and performance goals could spiral out of control (as they had on some other Apollo systems) and he was determined that would not happen with the Lunar Roving Vehicle.

"What stands out in my mind," Morea stated to this author, "was the type of government contract we had with Boeing. We recognized they were the low bidder. How did we protect the government's interest? The contract was written in such a way as to provide Boeing an incentive bonus if the program and vehicles were delivered for the 19.6 million dollars they stated it would cost. However, if the program were grossly over budget, Boeing would receive only a small percentage over and above the 19.6 million to cover additional expenses. In addition, there was a vehicle performance clause that was structured much the same way, which essentially stated that if the LRVs failed to perform on the Moon, Boeing would receive only one per cent of the contract amount above costs. The third variable was the schedule. NASA was ready to put forty million dollars into this project, and we didn't want them to spend all that money and then not deliver the hardware in sufficient time to fly on Apollo 15, 16 and 17. So we put another incentive in that said if they didn't deliver the LRV in time for Apollo 15, they would not collect their entire contract fee.''

Based on his considerable experience on the F-1 engine program and how changes in design affect not only schedule but cost, Morea was adamant about limiting changes to the LRV during the engineering phase. To accomplish this, Marshall Space Flight Center laid down very specific performance goals the LRV had to meet based on known lunar surface features.

"We said to Boeing,'' Morea vividly recalled, " 'Look, this thing has got to work on the Moon and this is what we know about what it's got to do: It has got to be able to go in and out of craters that are two feet deep and two feet wide. It's got to be able to go over a rock that's one foot high. It's got to be able to travel at a certain speed. It's got to be able to climb a hill of 25-degree slope and it's got to be stable in roll and pitch on a slope of 45 degrees.' Anything necessary to meet these requirements, Boeing had to do within the cost of the program.''

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