Encyclopedia Astronautica
CSM Parachute


CSM Parachute Development Diary

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CSM Parachute Chronology


1959 August 12 - .
  • NASA's future manned space program - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute; CSM Source Selection. The STG New Projects Panel (proposed by H. Kurt Strass in June) held its first meeting to discuss NASA's future manned space program. Present were Strass, Chairman, Alan B. Kehlet, William S. Augerson, Jack Funk, and other STG members. Strass summarized the philosophy behind NASA's proposed objective of a manned lunar landing : maximum utilization of existing technology in a series of carefully chosen projects, each of which would provide a firm basis for the next step and be a significant advance in its own right. Additional Details: here....

1961 April 10-12 - .
  • Second meeting of the Apollo Technical Liaison Group for Configurations and Aerodynamics at STG - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute; CSM Source Selection. At the second meeting of the Apollo Technical Liaison Group for Configurations and Aerodynamics at STG, presentations were made on Apollo-related activities at the NASA Centers: heatshield tests (Ames Research Center); reentry configurations (Marshall Space Flight Center); reentry configurations, especially lenticular (modified) and spherically blunted, paraglider soft-landing system, dynamic stability tests, and heat transfer tests (Langley Research Center); tumbling entries in planetary atmospheres (Mars and Venus) (Jet Propulsion Laboratory); air launch technique for Dyna-Soar (Flight Research Center); and steerable parachute system and reentry spacecraft configuration (STG). Work began on the background material for the Apollo spacecraft specification.

1961 December 21 - .
  • Four major subcontractors for Apollo - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. NAA's Space and Information Systems Division selected four companies as subcontractors to design and build four of the major Apollo spacecraft systems. The Collins Radio Company, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, received the telecommunications systems contract, worth more than $40 million; Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Company, Minneapolis, Minn., received the stabilization and control systems contract, $30 million; AiResearch Manufacturing Company, division of The Garrett Corporation, Los Angeles, Calif., was awarded the environmental control system contract, $10 million; and Radioplane Division of Northrop Corporation, Van Nuys, Calif., was selected for the parachute landing system contract, worth more than $1 million. The total cost for the initial phase of the NAA contract was expected to exceed $400 million.

1962 February - .
  • Apollo command module couch redesign - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. The command module crew couch was repositioned and redesigned because of numerous problems. In the new design, an adjustable hand controller, similar to that used on the X-15, would be attached to an adjustable arm rest. The head rest could be regulated for an approximate four-inch movement, while the side head support was limited in movement for couch-module clearance. The adjustable leg support included a foot controller which could be folded up.

    The center couch, including the crewman parachute and survival kit, could be folded out to a sleep position and stowed under either remaining couch. Allowance was made for the crewman to turn over.

    Principal problems remaining were the difficulty of removing the center couch and providing the clearances needed for the couch positions specified for various phases of the lunar mission.


1962 May - .
  • Telescope requirements for the Apollo - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Telescope requirements for the spacecraft were modified after two study programs had been completed by NAA.

    A study on the direct vision requirement for lunar landing showed that, to have a simultaneous direct view of the lunar landing point and the landing feet without changing the spacecraft configuration, a periscope with a large field of view integrated with a side window would be needed. A similar requirement on the general-purpose telescope could thus be eliminated, reducing the complexity of the telescope design.

    Another study showed that, with an additional weight penalty of from five to ten pounds, an optical drift indicator for use after parachute deployment could easily be incorporated into the general-purpose telescope.


1962 July - .
  • Camera selected for Apollo mission photo documentation - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. A 70-mm pulse camera was selected by NAA for mission photodocumentation. The camera was to be carried in the upper parachute compartment. Because of the lack of space and the need for a constant power supply for a 35-watt heating element, NAA was considering placing the camera behind the main display panel. The advantages of this arrangement were that the camera would require less power, be available for changing magazines, and could be removed for use outside the spacecraft.

    One 16-mm camera was also planned for the spacecraft. This camera would be positioned level with the commander's head and directed at the main display panel. It could be secured to the telescope for recording motion events in real time such as rendezvous, docking, launch and recovery of a lunar excursion module, and earth landing; it could be hand-held for extravehicular activity.


1962 August - .
  • Layouts of Apollo CM telescope installation - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Layouts of a command module (CM) telescope installation in the unpressurized upper parachute compartment were completed by NAA. The concept was for the telescope to extend ten inches from the left side of the spacecraft. The light path would enter the upper bulkhead through the main display panel to an eyepiece presentation on the commander's side of the spacecraft. A static seal (one-half-inch-thick window) would be used to prevent leakage in the pressurized compartment. The installation was suitable for use in the lunar orbit rendezvous mission and would allow one man in the CM to accomplish docking with full visual control.

1962 August - .
  • First tests incorporating data acquisition in the Apollo test program - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Summary: The first tests incorporating data acquisition in the Apollo test program were conducted at El Centro, Calif. They consisted of monitoring data returned by telemetry during a parachute dummy-load test..

1962 September 23-October 6 - .
  • Deletion and improvement of equipment reduced the weight of the Apollo CSM by 1,239 pounds - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute; CSM Television. Deletion of non-critical equipment and improvement of existing systems reduced the weight of the command and service modules by 1,239 pounds, with a target reduction of 1,500 pounds.

    Among the items deleted from the command module (CM) were exercise and recreation equipment, personal parachutes and parachute containers located in the couches, individual survival kits, solar radiation garments, and eight-ball displays. A telescope, cameras and magazines considered scientific equipment, and a television monitor were deleted from the CM instrumentation system.


1962 October 30 - .
  • Apollo drogue parachutes wind tunnel tests - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Summary: MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth reported to the Manned Space Flight Management Council that the Apollo drogue parachutes would be tested in the Langley Research Center wind tunnels..

1962 October - .
  • Study of Apollo reentry temperatures - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute; CSM Recovery. NAA completed a study of reentry temperatures. Without additional cooling, space suit inlet temperatures were expected to increase from 50 degrees F at 100,000 feet to 90 degrees F at spacecraft parachute deployment. The average heat of the command module inner wall was predicted not to exceed 75 degrees F at parachute deployment and 95 degrees F on landing, but then to rise to nearly 150 degrees F.

1962 October - .
  • Apollo CM blowout emergency escape hatch not needed - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Hatch; CSM Parachute; CSM Recovery. Elimination of the requirement for personal parachutes nullified consideration of a command module (CM) blowout emergency escape hatch. A set of quick-acting latches for the inward-opening crew hatch would be needed, however, to provide a means of egress following a forced landing. The latches would be operable from outside as well as inside the pressure vessel. Outside hardware for securing the ablative panel over the crew door would be required as well as a method of releasing the panel from inside the CM.

1962 November - .
  • Problems with the Apollo CM's aerodynamic characteristics - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute; CSM Recovery. North American reported several problems involving the CM's aerodynamic characteristics; their analysis of CM dynamics verified that the spacecraft could - and on one occasion did - descend in an apex-forward attitude. The CM's landing speed then exceeded the capacity of the drogue parachutes to reorient the vehicle; also, in this attitude, the apex cover could not be jettisoned under all conditions. During low-altitude aborts, North American went on, the drogue parachutes produced unfavorable conditions for main parachute deployment.

1962 December 21 - .
  • Apollo CM boilerplate (BP) 3 delivered - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute; CSM Recovery. Summary: North American delivered CM boilerplate (BP) 3, to Northrop Ventura, for installation of an earth-landing system. BP-3 was scheduled to undergo parachute tests at El Centro, Calif., during early 1963..

1963 February 19 - .
  • Apollo CM boilerplate 19 shipped - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Summary: North American shipped CM boilerplate 19 to Northrop Ventura for use as a parachute test vehicle..

1963 March 4 - .
  • Apollo solid parachute from Pioneer Parachute - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. As a parallel to the existing Northrop Ventura contract, and upon authorization by NASA, North American awarded a contract for a solid parachute program to the Pioneer Parachute Company. (A solid parachute is one with solid (unbroken) gores; the sole opening in the canopy is a vent at the top. Ringsail parachutes (used on the Northrop Ventura recovery system) have slotted gores. In effect, each panel formed on the gores becomes a "sail.")

1963 May 3 - .
  • Qualification drop test series for the earth landing system - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute; CSM Recovery. At El Centro, Calif., Northrop Ventura conducted the first of a series of qualification tests for the Apollo earth landing system (ELS). The test article, CM boilerplate 3, was dropped from a specially modified Air Force C-133. The test was entirely successful. The ELS's three main parachutes reduced the spacecraft's rate of descent to about 9.1 meters (30 feet) per second at impact, within acceptable limits.

1963 May 29 - .
  • Three methods of providing a recovery hoisting loop on the Apollo CM considered - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute; CSM Recovery. The Operational Evaluation and Test Branch of MSC's Flight Operations Division considered three methods of providing a recovery hoisting loop on the CM: loop separate from the spacecraft and attached after landing, use of the existing parachute bridle, and loop installed as part of the CM equipment similar to Mercury and Gemini. Studies showed that the third method was preferable.

1963 June 28 - .
  • Apollo Pioneer tri-conical solid parachutes canceled - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Summary: A cluster of two Pioneer tri-conical solid parachutes was tested; both parachutes failed. Because of this unsatisfactory performance, the Pioneer solid-parachute program was officially canceled on July 15..

1963 September 4 - .
  • Series of water impact tests recommended for the Apollo CM's recovery systems - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute; CSM Recovery. MSC Flight Operations Division (FOD) recommended a series of water impact tests to establish confidence in the CM's recovery systems under a variety of operating conditions. FOD suggested several air drops with water landings under various test conditions. Among these were release of the main parachutes at impact, deployment of the postlanding antennas, actuation of the mechanical location aids, and activation of the recovery radio equipment.

1963 September 6 - .
  • Apollo CM boilerplate destroyed during tests - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. At El Centro, Calif., CM boilerplate (BP) 3, a parachute test vehicle, was destroyed during tests simulating the new BP-6 configuration (without strakes or apex cover). Drogue parachute descent, disconnect, and pilot mortar fire appeared normal. However, one pilot parachute was cut by contact with the vehicle and its main parachute did not deploy. Because of harness damage, the remaining two main parachutes failed while reefed. Investigation of the BP-3 failure resulting in rigging and design changes on BP-6 and BP-19.

1963 September 19 - .
  • Changes in the Apollo CM's landing requirements - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute; CSM Recovery. MSC made several changes in the CM's landing requirements. Impact attenuation would be passive, except for that afforded by the crew couches and the suspension system. The spacecraft would be suspended from the landing parachutes in a pitch attitude that imposed minimum accelerations on the crew. A crushable structure to absorb landing shock was required in the aft equipment bay area.

1963 November 7 - .
  • Apollo Pad Abort Mission 1 - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM LES; CSM Parachute. Apollo Pad Abort Mission I (PA-1), the first off-the-pad abort test of the launch escape system (LES), was conducted at WSMR. PA-1 used CM boilerplate 6 and an LES for this test.

    All sequencing was normal. The tower-jettison motor sent the escape tower into a proper ballistic trajectory. The drogue parachute deployed as programmed, followed by the pilot parachute and main parachutes. The test lasted 165.1 seconds. The postflight investigation disclosed only one significant problem: exhaust impingement that resulted in soot deposits on the CM.


1963 November 8 - .
  • Drop test to evaluate dual drogue parachute for Apollo CM - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. At El Centro, Calif., a drop test was conducted to evaluate a dual drogue parachute arrangement for the CM. The two drogues functioned satisfactorily. The cargo parachute used for recovery, however, failed to fully inflate, and the vehicle was damaged at impact. This failure was unrelated to the test objectives.

1963 November 12 - .
  • Meeting reviewed the tower flap versus canard concept for the Apollo earth landing system (ELS) - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute; CSM Recovery. A joint North American-MSC meeting reviewed the tower flap versus canard concept for the earth landing system (ELS). During a low-altitude abort, MSC thought, the ELS could be deployed apex forward with a very high probability of mission success by using the tower flap configuration. The parachute system proposed for this mode would be very reliable, even though this was not the most desirable position for deploying parachutes. Dynamic stability of the tower flap configuration during high- altitude aborts required further wind tunnel testing at Ames Research Center. Two basic unknowns in the canard system were deployment reliability, and the probability of the crew's being able to establish the flight direction and trim the CM within its stability limits for a safe reentry. Design areas to be resolved were a simple deployment scheme and a spacecraft system that would give the crew a direction reference.

    MSC directed North American to proceed with the tower flap as its prime effort, and attempt to solve the stability problem at the earliest possible date. MSC's Engineering and Development Directorate resumed its study of both configurations, with an in-depth analysis of the canard system, in case the stability problem on the tower flap could not be solved by the end of the year.


1964 February 27 - .
  • Apollo boilerplate (BP) 19 drop tested - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Boilerplate (BP) 19 was drop tested at El Centro, Calif., simulating flight conditions and recovery of BP-12. A second BP-19 drop, on April 8, removed all constraints on the BP-12 configuration and earth landing system. Another aim, to obtain information on vehicle dynamics, was not accomplished because of the early firing of a backup drogue parachute.

1964 October 30 - .
  • First drop test of boilerplate 28 - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. North American conducted the first drop test of boilerplate 28 at Downey, Calif. The test simulated the worst conditions that were anticipated in a three-parachute descent and water landing. The second drop, it was expected, would likewise simulate a landing on two parachutes. The drop appeared normal, but the spacecraft sank less than four minutes after hitting the water. Additional Details: here....

1964 November 23 - .
  • Preliminaries for the formal Flight Readiness Review of Apollo boilerplate 23 - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Summary: A "pre-FRR" laid some preliminaries for the formal Flight Readiness Review (ERR) of boilerplate 23 (held at WSMR on December 4, 1964). . Additional Details: here....

1964 December 3-10 - .
  • Design frozen of the Apollo drogue mortar - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Summary: MSC froze the design of the drogue mortar for the launch escape system. Laboratory qualification was scheduled to begin about the middle of the month. Qualification of the mortars for the pilot parachute would then follow..

1964 December 8 - .
  • Apollo main parachute drop-tested - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. A single main parachute was drop-tested at El Centro, Calif., to verify the ultimate strength. The parachute was designed for a disreef load of 11,703 kg (25,800 lbs) and a 1.35 safety factor. The test conditions were to achieve a disreef load of 15,876 kg (35,000 lbs. Preliminary information indicated the parachute deployed normally to the reefed shape (78,017 kg (17,200 lbs) force), disreefed after the programmed three seconds, and achieved an inflated load of 16,193 kg (35,700 lbs), after which the canopy failed. Additional Details: here....

1965 January 7-14 - .
  • Change in the Apollo CM back-face temperature - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Changing the CM back-face temperature requirement from 600 degrees F at touchdown to 600 degrees F at parachute deployment threatened to increase the cabin air temperature. Physiologists at MSC had previously declared that the cabin temperature should not exceed 100 degrees F. The proposed change in the back-face requirement, North American reported, would raise the cabin's interior to 125 degrees F. MSC's Crew Systems Division reviewed these factors and decided the increased cabin temperature would not be acceptable.

1965 January 14-21 - .
  • Development firings of the Apollo parachute mortars completed - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Summary: Development firings of the launch escape system's drogue and pilot parachute mortars were completed, and the units were slated for qualification trials the following month..

1965 January 21 - .
  • Apollo dual drogue parachutes in drop test - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Northrop-Ventura verified the strength of the dual drogue parachutes in a drop test at El Centro, Calif. This was also the first airborne test of the new mortar by which the drogues were deployed and of the new pilot parachute risers, made of steel cables. All planned objectives were met. Additional Details: here....

1965 January 21-28 - .
  • Main parachute disconnects verified - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Summary: Two underwater firings verified the design concept of the main parachute disconnects..

1965 February 11 - .
  • Drogue parachutes tested to ultimate load - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. A drop test at EI Centro, Calif., demonstrated the ability of the drogue parachutes to sustain the ultimate disreefed load that would be imposed upon them during reentry. (For the current CM weight, that maximum load would be 7,711 kg (17,000 lbs) per parachute.) Preliminary data indicated that the two drogues had withstood loads of 8,803 and 8,165 kg (19,600 and 18,000 lbs). One of the drogues emerged unscathed; the other suffered only minor damage near the pocket of the reefing cutter.

1965 February 18-25 - .
  • Launch escape system no longer met specification - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM LES; CSM Parachute. Because of the CM's recent weight growth, the launch escape system (LES) was incapable of lifting the spacecraft the "specification" distance away from the booster. The performance required of the LES was being studied further; investigators were especially concerned with the heat and blast effects of an exploding booster, and possible deleterious effects upon the parachutes.

1965 February 25-March 4 - .
  • Thermal and vacuum effects on the Apollo CM's parachute material tested - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. To determine thermal and vacuum effects on the CM's parachutes, MSC Structures and Mechanics Division tested nylon samples in a vacuum under varying temperature conditions. After two weeks of exposure to this spacelike environment, the samples exhibited only a 16 percent loss of strength (as against a design allowable of 25 percent).

1965 May 6 - .
  • Apollo earth landing system tested - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. The Apollo earth landing system (ELS) was tested in a drop of boilerplate (BP) 19 at El Centro, Calif. The drop removed constraints on the ELS for BP-22; also, it was a "prequalification" trial of the main parachutes before the start of the full qualification test program.

1965 June 3 - .
  • Qualification testing of the earth landing system for Apollo - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Summary: Northrop-Ventura began qualification testing of the earth landing system for Apollo with a drop of boilerplate 19 at El Centro, Calif. The entire landing sequence took place as planned; all parachutes performed well..

1965 August 5 - .
  • Apollo boilerplate (BP) 6A sustained considerable damage - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. During tests of the Apollo earth landing system (ELS) at El Centro, Calif., boilerplate (BP) 6A sustained considerable damage in a drop that was to have demonstrated ELS performance during a simulated apex-forward pad abort. Oscillating severely at the time the auxiliary brake parachute was opened, the spacecraft severed two of the electrical lines that were to have released that device. Although the ELS sequence took place as planned, the still-attached brake prevented proper operation of the drogues and full inflation of the mains. As a result, BP-6A landed at a speed of about 50 fps.

1965 September 9-16 - .
  • Apollo parachute test cancelled - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Summary: Northrop-Ventura canceled a parachute test because of problems with the reefing line rings and the main parachute bags. North American was looking into these problems which, it was anticipated, would affect both blocks of spacecraft..

1965 October 8 - .
  • Failed drop of Apollo boilerplate 6A due to braking parachute - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. A drop in the boilerplate 6A series, using flight-qualifiable earth landing system (ELS) components, failed because the braking parachute (not a part of the ELS) did not adequately stabilize the vehicle. MSC invited North American and Northrop-Ventura to Houston to explain the failure and to recommend corrective measures.

1965 December 9-16 - .
  • Apollo Block II critical design review on the earth landing system - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Nine review item dispositions were submitted at the Block II critical design review concerning the earth landing system and shock attenuation system (struts). Six were on specifications, one on installation drawings, and two on capability. The two most significant were:

    1. the contract for Block II parachutes had not been awarded and consequently top installation drawings were not yet available for review; and
    2. specifications defining crew couch strut loading tolerances had not been released but the strut drawings had.

1966 May 3 - .
  • Plans for full-scale Apollo parachute tests at White Sands - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth wrote George E. Mueller, NASA OMSF, that plans were being completed for MSC in-house, full-scale parachute tests at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), N. Mex. The tests would be part of the effort to develop a gliding parachute system suitable for land landing with manned spacecraft. Tests were expected to begin in July 1966, with about six tests a year for two or three years. Gilruth pointed out that although full-scale tests were planned for WSMR it would not be possible to find suitable terrain at that site, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., or at El Centro, Calif., to determine operational and system requirements for land landing in unplanned areas. Unplanned-area landing tests were cited as not a major part of the program but a necessary part. He pointed out that the U.S. Army Reservation at Fort Hood, Tex., was the only area which had the required variety of landing obstacle sizes and concentrations suitable for the unplanned-area tests. Scale-model tests had been made and would be continued at Fort Hood without interference to training, and MSC had completed a local agreement that would permit occasional use of the reservation but required no fiscal reimbursement or administrative responsibility by MSC. This action was in response to a letter from Mueller July 8, 1965, directing that MSC give careful consideration to transfer of parachute test activities to WSMR.

1967 September 29 - .
  • Poor quality control of the Apollo parachute system - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. ASPO Manager George M. Low, in a letter to Richard E. Horner, Senior Vice President of Northrop Corp., following a phone call to Horner on Sept. 28, reiterated NASA's "continuing and serious concern with the quality control at Northrop Ventura on the Apollo spacecraft parachute system. In recent weeks, I have had many reports of poor workmanship and poor quality, both in the plant at Northrop Ventura and in the field at El Centro."

    On October 20 Horner told Low he had taken time to assure himself of the best possible information available before replying and offered background on the situation: "The design effort goes back to 1961 and testing began at the El Centro facility in 1962. There was continuous operation of the test group at El Centro until 1966 when the completion of the Block II testing program dictated the closeout of our operation there. In our total activity, we have had a peak of 350 personnel assigned to the Apollo, with 20 of that number located at El Centro during the most active portion of the test program. When it was finally determined that the increased weight capability redesign was necessary for mission success, the program nucleus had been reduced to 30 personnel and the established schedule for the system re-design, test and fabrication requires a build-up to 250. . . . The schedule has also dictated the adoption of such procedures as concurrent inspection by the inspectors of Northrop, North American and NASA, a procedure which, I am sure, is efficient from a program point of view but is inherently risky in terms of the wide dissemination of knowledge concerning every human mistake. This is significant only from the point of view of the natural human failing to be more willing to share the responsibility for error than for success. . . . We do not intend in any way to share responsibility for these errors and expect to eliminate the potential for their recurrence. We have established standards of quality for this program that are stringent and uncompromising. . . . Even though the technical and schedule challenge is substantial, we are confident that by the time qualification testing is scheduled to start during the first week of December 1967 we will have a flawless operation. . . ."


1967 October 13 - .
  • Ballute system for Apollo rejected - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. A proposal to use a Ballute system rather than drogue parachutes to deploy the main chutes on the Apollo spacecraft was rejected. It was conceded that the Ballute system would slightly reduce dynamic pressure and command module oscillations at main parachute deployment. However, these advantages would be offset by the development risks of incorporating a new and untried system into the Apollo spacecraft at such a late date.

1967 October 30 - .
  • Apollo Drop Test failure 84-1 - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. A parachute test (Apollo Drop Test 84-1) failed at EI Centro, Calif. The parachute test vehicle (PTV) was dropped from a C-133A aircraft at an altitude of 9,144 meters to test a new 5-meter drogue chute and to investigate late deployment of one of the three main chutes. Additional Details: here....

1967 November 9 - . 12:00 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC39A. LV Family: Saturn V. Launch Vehicle: Saturn V. LV Configuration: Saturn V SA-501.
  • Apollo 4 - . Payload: Apollo CSM 017 / LTA-10R / S-IVB-501. Mass: 36,656 kg (80,812 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NASA Houston. Program: Apollo. Class: Moon. Type: Manned lunar spacecraft. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Duration: 2.35 days. Decay Date: 1967-11-09 . USAF Sat Cat: 3032 . COSPAR: 1967-113A. Apogee: 371 km (230 mi). Perigee: 370 km (220 mi). Inclination: 32.7000 deg. Period: 91.90 min. Apollo 4 (AS-501) was launched in the first all-up test of the Saturn V launch vehicle and also in a test of the CM heatshield. The Saturn V, used for the first time, carried a lunar module test article (LTA-10R) and a Block I command and service module (CSM 017) into orbit from KSC Launch Complex 39, Pad A, lifting off at 7:00:01 a.m. EST - one second later than planned. The launch was also the first use of Complex 39. The spacecraft landed 8 hours 37 minutes later in the primary recovery area in the Pacific Ocean, near Hawaii, about 14 kilometers from the planned point (30.06 N 172.32 W). CM, apex heatshield, and one main parachute were recovered by the carrier U.S.S. Bennington

    Main objectives of the mission were to demonstrate the structural and thermal integrity of the space vehicle and to verify adequacy of the Block II heatshield design for entry at lunar return conditions. These objectives were accomplished.

    The S-IC stage cutoff occurred 2 minutes 30 seconds into the flight at an altitude of about 63 kilometers. The S-II stage ignition occurred at 2 minutes 32 seconds and the burn lasted 6 minutes 7 seconds, followed by the S-IVB stage ignition and burn of 2 minutes 25 seconds. This series of launch vehicle operations placed the S-IVB and spacecraft combination in an earth parking orbit with an apogee of about 187 kilometers and a perigee of 182 kilometers. After two orbits, which required about three hours, the S-IVB stage was reignited to place the spacecraft in a simulated lunar trajectory. This burn lasted five minutes. Some 10 minutes after completion of the S-IVB burn, the spacecraft and S-IVB stage were separated, and less than 2 minutes later the service propulsion subsystem was fired to raise the apogee. The spacecraft was placed in an attitude with the thickest side of the CM heatshield away from the solar vector. During this four-and-one-half-hour cold-soak period, the spacecraft coasted to its highest apogee - 18,256.3 kilometers. A 70 mm still camera photographed the earth's surface every 10.6 seconds, taking 715 good-quality, high-resolution pictures.

    About 8 hours 11 minutes after liftoff the service propulsion system was again ignited to increase the spacecraft inertial velocity and to simulate entry from a translunar mission. This burn lasted four and one half minutes. The planned entry velocity was 10.61 kilometers per second, while the actual velocity achieved was 10.70.

    Recovery time of 2 hours 28 minutes was longer than anticipated, with the cause listed as sea conditions - 2.4-meter swells.


1967 December 8 - .
  • Apollo drop test failed - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. An Apollo drop test failed at El Centro, Calif. The two-drogue verification test had been planned to provide confidence in the drogue chute design (using a weighted bomb) before repeating the parachute test vehicle (PTV) test. Preliminary information indicated that in the test one drogue entangled with the other during deployment and that only one drogue inflated. The failure appeared to be related to a test deployment method rather than to drogue design. The test vehicle was successfully recovered by a USAF recovery parachute-intact and reusable.

1968 January 11 - .
  • Apollo Parachute Test Vehicle failed - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. A Parachute Test Vehicle (PTV) test failed at El Centro, Calif. The PTV was released from a B-52 aircraft at 15,240 meters and the drogue chute programmer was actuated by a static line connected to the aircraft. One drogue chute appeared to fail upon deployment, followed by failure of the second drogue seven seconds later. Additional Details: here....

1968 January 17 - .
  • Review of recent Apollo parachute test failure - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Rees. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Eberhard Rees, Apollo Special Task Team chief at North American Rockwell, participated in a failure review at Northrop-Ventura of the recent parachute test failure and in development of a revised test plan. Others at the review included Dale Myers and Norman Ryker from North American and W. Gasich and W. Steyer, General Manager and Apollo Program Manager at Northrop-Ventura. Those at the review put together a revised drop test program that resulted in only a two-week schedule delay because of the failure. Repair of the parachute test vehicle was under way. Meantime, tests would continue, employing bomb and boilerplate devices. Also, Rees decided to establish a Flight Readiness Review Board (headed by Joseph Kotanchik of MSC) to approve each drop test, and Northrop officials had established an internal review board to review test engineering and planning and were tightening their inspection and quality control areas.

1968 January 24 - .
  • Apollo CSM chief problems listed - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Rees. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute; CSM Recovery. Eberhard F. M. Rees, head of the Apollo Special Task Team at North American Rockwell, met with Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, MSC, and Martin L. Raines, Manager of the White Sands Test Facility, to review the team's recent operations and the responses of North American and its numerous subcontractors to the team's recommendations. Kleinknecht listed what he thought were the chief problems facing the CSM program: the S-band highgain antenna (which he said should be turned over entirely to the task team for resolution); the parachute program; the environmental control system; and contamination inside the spacecraft. He urged that the team take the lead in developing solutions to these problems.

1968 January 30 - .
  • Apollo parachute test vehicle concerns - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. MSC CSM Manager Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, in a letter to North American Rockwell's Dale D. Myers, protested lack of North American reponse to written MSC direction concerning parachute test vehicles. Kleinknecht pointed out that MSC had "considerably modified our usual requirements in supporting the boilerplate 19 task being performed for you by Western Ways, Inc. These efforts seem to be completely negated by delayed go-ahead to Northrop Ventura for their portion of the task. I understand that neither Western Ways nor Northrop Ventura was given a go-ahead until January 19, 1968. The original written direction to NR (North American) was on November 9, 1967, to provide another parachute test vehicle (PTV) and give us an estimate of cost and schedule for another boilerplate PTV." If the effort on the PTV had started at that time, "we would now be able to use that vehicle rather than the bomb-type vehicles after losing PTV No. 2. The cost and schedule for boilerplate 19 was not submitted to MSC until later, on December 22, asking for a reply by January 2, 1968. Because of the holiday period, this written reply was furnished on January 5, after an investigation of the cost and schedule. The Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) stated a completion date of May 5; however, after a request by my people to see what could be done to improve this date, the improvement moved the Northrop Ventura schedule from June 14 to May 24 (a Friday). This date is three weeks later than the date cited in the ECP and is completely unacceptable. . . ."

    On February 29, Myers assured Kleinknecht that North American had proceeded with the BP-19A task in advance of NASA full coverage. Initial partial coverage was issued to North American on January 5, 1968. On March 14, in a letter of commendation, Kleinknecht thanked Myers for the attention given the BP-19A effort that made a March 15 completion by Western Ways possible. On May 27, W. H. Gray, RASPO Manager, wrote another letter of commendation thanking North American for completing BP-19A in time for a drop test in May 1968.


1968 March 23 - .
  • Apollo drogue chute test failure 99-5 - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Apollo drogue chute test 99-5 failed at the El Centro, Calif., parachute facility. The drop was conducted to demonstrate the slight change made in the reefed area and the 10-second reefing cutter at ultimate load conditions. The 5,897-kilogram vehicle was launched from a B-52 aircraft at 10,668 meters and programmer chute operation and timing appeared normal. At drogue deployment following mortar activation, one drogue appeared to separate from the vehicle. Additional Details: here....

1968 April 4 - . 12:00 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC39A. LV Family: Saturn V. Launch Vehicle: Saturn V. LV Configuration: Saturn V SA-502.
  • Apollo 6 - . Payload: Apollo CM 020/ SM 014 / Apollo LTA-2R / S-IVB 502. Mass: 36,806 kg (81,143 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NASA Houston. Program: Apollo. Class: Moon. Type: Manned lunar spacecraft. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Duration: 2.43 days. Decay Date: 1968-04-04 . USAF Sat Cat: 3170 . COSPAR: 1968-025A. Apogee: 184 km (114 mi). Perigee: 183 km (113 mi). Inclination: 32.5000 deg. Period: 88.20 min. Apollo 6 (AS-502) was launched from Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. The space vehicle consisted of a Saturn V launch vehicle with an unmanned, modified Block I command and service module (CSM 020) and a lunar module test article (LTA-2R).

    Liftoff at 7:00 a.m. EST was normal but, during the first-stage (S-IC) boost phase, oscillations and abrupt measurement changes were observed. During the second-stage (S-II) boost phase, two of the J-2 engines shut down early and the remaining three were extended approximately one minute to compensate. The third stage (S-IVB) firing was also longer than planned and at termination of thrust the orbit was 177.7 x 362.9 kilometers rather than the 160.9-kilometer near-circular orbit planned. The attempt to reignite the S-IVB engine for the translunar injection was unsuccessful. Reentry speed was 10 kilometers per second rather than the planned 11.1, and the spacecraft landed 90.7 kilometers uprange of the targeted landing point.

    The most significant spacecraft anomaly occurred at about 2 minutes 13 seconds after liftoff, when abrupt changes were indicated by strain, vibration, and acceleration measurements in the S-IVB, instrument unit, adapter, lunar module test article, and CSM. Apparently oscillations induced by the launch vehicle exceeded the spacecraft design criteria.

    The second-stage (S-II) burn was normal until about 4 minutes 38 seconds after liftoff; then difficulties were recorded. Engine 2 cutoff was recorded about 6 minutes 53 seconds into the flight and engine 3 cutoff less than 3 seconds later. The remaining second-stage engines shut down at 9 minutes 36 seconds - 58 seconds later than planned.

    The S-IVB engine during its first burn, which was normal, operated 29 seconds longer than programmed. After two revolutions in a parking orbit, during which the systems were checked, operational tests performed, and several attitude maneuvers made, preparations were completed for the S-IVB engine restart. The firing was scheduled to occur on the Cape Kennedy pass at the end of the second revolution, but could not be accomplished. A ground command was sent to the CSM to carry out a planned alternate mission, and the CSM separated from the S-IVB stage.

    A service propulsion system (SPS) engine firing sequence resulted in a 442-second burn and an accompanying free-return orbit of 22,259.1 x 33.3 kilometers. Since the SPS was used to attain the desired high apogee, there was insufficient propellant left to gain the high-velocity increase desired for the entry. For this reason, a complete firing sequence was performed except that the thrust was inhibited.

    Parachute deployment was normal and the spacecraft landed about 9 hours 50 minutes after liftoff, in the mid-Pacific, 90.7 kilometers uprange from the predicted landing area (27.40 N 157.59 W). A normal retrieval was made by the U.S.S. Okinawa, with waves of 2.1 to 2.4 meters.

    The spacecraft was in good condition, including the unified crew hatch, flown for the first time. Charring of the thermal protection was about the same as that experienced on the Apollo 4 spacecraft (CM 017).

    Of the five primary objectives, three - demonstrating separation of launch vehicle stages, performance of the emergency detection system (EDS) in a close-loop mode, and mission support facilities and operations - were achieved. Only partially achieved were the objectives of confirming structure and thermal integrity, compatibility of launch vehicle and spacecraft, and launch loads and dynamic characteristics; and of verifying operation of launch vehicle propulsion, guidance and control, and electrical systems. Apollo 6, therefore, was officially judged in December as "not a success in accordance with . . . NASA mission objectives."


1968 May 25 - . LV Family: Saturn V. Launch Vehicle: Saturn V.
  • Effects of launch vehicle "pogo" vibrations - on Apollo spacecraft studied - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo LM; CSM Parachute. Summary: ASPO Manager George M. Low informed Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips of recent MSC work on the effects of launch vehicle-induced oscillations - i.e., "pogo" vibrations - on the spacecraft and its subsystems. . Additional Details: here....

1969 January 27 - .
  • Certification reviews for parachute packers in the Apollo program - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. MSC and North American Rockwell reached agreement on certification reviews for parachute packers in the Apollo program. The certification was effective for all parachute packers not previously certified, with upgrading of packers and recertification of present Apollo packers when required.

1972 May 7 - .
  • Tank cart defueling the Apollo 16 command module exploded - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Flight: Apollo 15; Apollo 16. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; CSM Parachute. Summary: A tank cart at the San Diego Naval Air Station, defueling the Apollo 16 command module after its April 27 return from its mission to the moon, exploded because of overpressurization. . Additional Details: here....

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