First Launch: 1958-04-24. Last Launch: 1958-04-24. Number: 1 .
Within a month the ARDC had established two research projects. The Manned Glide Rocket Research System would be a rocket-boosted winged follow-on to the X-15 that would reach 120 km altitude and Mach 21 - orbital velocity. The Task 27544 Manned Ballistic Rocket Research System would be a re-entry capsule, boosted by an ICBM, which would allow quick reaction delivery of critical cargo to any point on earth in less than an hour - or place a man in orbit. It was recommended that the second alternative be pursued as a priority, since development of re-entry vehicles and the Atlas ballistic missile would allow the first manned flight by 1960. It was seen as important to establish Air Force priority in this field since von Braun's Army team at Huntsville was known to be making similar proposals for rocket-powered troop transport.
In order to protect its precedence ARDC briefed the classified projects to the USAF Western Development Division (later the Ballistic Missile Division, BMD), in Inglewood; the Wright Air Development Center, in Dayton; the NACA at Langley; the prime aircraft contractors; and the American Rocket Society. In the absence of any funding from headquarters, ARDC had to rely on the contractors to invest their own funds in feasibility studies. McDonnell, a small aircraft company seeing a future business opportunity, began work in March 1956. Avco, the lead USAF contractor for ICBM re-entry vehicles, produced its first study by November 1956.
BMD formulated a long-range plan for Air Force dominance in space. On 29 July 1957 presentations were made at the Rand offices to the Air Force Scientific Board on competing concepts from ARDC and BMD. BMD had ambitious plans that extended to lunar flight (which would evolve into Project Lunex), while ARDC stuck to its two short-term projects. NACA's interest was confined to the Manned Glide Rocket Research System. They proposed a raised-top, flat-bottom glider configuration in a September 1957 feasibility report.
Russia launched Sputnik 1 on 4 October, creating a political furor and giving new priority and urgency to the military's space efforts. On 15 October the NACA held a technical conference to resolve the final configuration for the Manned Glide Rocket Research System. The agreed delta-winged flat-bottom configuration would evolve into the X-20 Dyna-Soar.
On 20 November Avco issued its second report, advocating a spherical manned reentry capsule brought down from orbit by a shuttlecock-like steel drag brake. Harrison Storms of North American conceived of a way to get an American into space as quickly as possible. North American had a warehouse full of partially-completed G-38 boosters for the just-canceled Navaho missile program. Storms proposed to cluster four of them together in order to launch an orbital version of the company's X-15 manned rocketplane. From the ARDC's point of view, the problem with either approach was the appalling reliability of either of these rocket boosters. The Atlas had only been launched twice so far, and not made it to burnout without veering off course. The Navaho G-38 had never been launched, although the prototype G-26 boosters were finally looking reliable on the last three flights after catastrophic results on the first four.
The ARDC still had no funds for research work, but the political furor over the Sputnik surprise mounted. Air Force efforts to do something were frustrated by the Eisenhower administration's disinterest in expanding the military-industrial complex into the space - at literally astronomical cost. An emergency committee chaired by physicist Edward Teller had proposed on 28 October that a crash space program, run by the Air Force, should be undertaken immediately. On 3 December Eisenhower's officially-sanctioned "civilian" satellite vehicle, the Vanguard, exploded on the pad on its first orbital launch attempt. But when the Air Force created a Directorate of Astronautics on 10 December, it was derided by Secretary of Defense McElroy and shut down three days later. No funds were forthcoming for either the Avco or North American proposals.
Headquarters USAF nevertheless ordered ARDC to prepare a comprehensive five year astronautics program. This was delivered to the Pentagon on 30 December. The plan foresaw development of reconnaissance, communications, and weather satellites, using recoverable data capsules. The manned program would begin with a manned capsule test system, followed by space stations, and an Air Force base on the Moon. Funding required would be $1.7 billion in FY 1959 alone.
Although this plan stalled in the offices of the civilian management of the Pentagon, the ARDC pushed ahead at full speed. On 20 to 31 January 1958 ARDC held a secret conference at Dayton where eleven airframers briefed their concepts for the first American manned spacecraft. There seemed to be a consensus that the basic Atlas ICBM alone was incapable of boosting sufficient payload to orbit for a manned capsule. The Atlas with an upper stage would be required. Most contractors proposed using the Hustler (later Agena) upper stage. This secret Lockheed vehicle was already under development for the deep black Corona reconnaissance satellite. A few contractors suggested using a solid propellant upper stage with the Atlas or he two-stage Titan-I booster. Only North American dissented, still advocating its cluster-of-Navaho-booster approach. Avco presented its drag-brake capsule concept, boosted by a Titan I. Lockheed, Martin, Aeronutronics, McDonnell, and Goodyear all advocated simple ballistic capsules of various forms, boosted by an Atlas with an upper stage. Bell and Northrop rejected the ballistic approach, one of them saying that a capsule 'would be only a stunt', and presented their Dyna-Soar designs. Republic presented the Ferri sled, a weird lifting vehicle.
On the last day of the conference, ARDC directed Wright Field to ignore the lifting concepts and concentrate on the fastest way of getting a man into space. BMD was to advise on the booster system to be used to accomplish that task. Overnight after the conference, von Braun's team launched the first US satellite using an Army Redstone booster. The Air Force was not only behind the Soviets, it was behind the Army. The first request for purchasing action, for a 24-hour environmental control system for the capsule, was issued a few days later.
The ARDC boiled down the 11 proposals to the three that had the best chance of quick realization - North American's X-15B, acceleration of the nascent program for the X-20 Dynasoar winged space glider, or one of the simple ballistic capsule designs, boosted by an existing launch vehicle. On 27 February they took these straight to Curtis LeMay, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff and former head of the Strategic Air Command. LeMay's main comment was: "Where's the bomb bay?" Nevertheless, he instructed ARDC to select one of the concepts and submit a detailed plan for an Air Force man-in-space program as soon as possible.
The next day, Roy W Johnson, former vice-president of General Electric and now head of the Pentagon's new Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA), affirmed that "the Air Force has a long term development responsibility for manned space flight capability with the primary objective of accomplishing satellite flight as soon as technology permits." On 8 March BMD proposed an 11-step "Manned Space Flight to the Moon and Return" program. This began with instrumented and primate orbital missions, followed by a manned orbit of Earth; circumnavigation of the Moon, first with instruments, then primates; instrumented hard and soft landings on the Moon; a primate landing on the Moon; manned lunar circumnavigation; and a manned lunar landing.
On 10-12 March ARDC held a conference at BMD of 80 technical and biological specialists. The objective was to reach agreement on a plan to get a man-in-space - soonest - in accordance with LeMay's orders. Unfortunately for North American's X-15B, the consensus at the conference was that the "quick and dirty" approach was best. This would consist of a simple ballistic capsule using parachutes for a water landing, weighing around 1300 kg. The capsule would be 1.8 m in diameter and 2.4 m long, and completely automated - the human-factors people felt there was no certainty that a pilot could function under the stresses of space flight. This last point ruled out the piloted X-15B.
The capsule's life support system would be designed for single-crew missions of up to 48 hours. The preferred re-entry vehicle was the 'Discoverer' type being developed for the Corona project. For this kind of capsule, where the direction of G-forces was reversed between ascent and return, the pilot's couch proposed by Harold J von Beckh of ARDC's Aeromedical Field Laboratory was necessary. This was attached at pivot points at the head and feet of the pilot, so it would rotate freely to bring the pilot's back against the G forces, regardless of their direction. An ablative heat shield would allow re-entry deceleration to be kept below 9 G's, and the cabin temperature below 65 deg C. Multiple small solid propellant retro-rockets would brake the capsule back into the atmosphere at the end of its mission.
Nobody advocated using the Atlas alone as the booster. The medical specialists concluded that the occupant might be subjected to 20-G's in an abort from the Atlas, believed to be beyond the limit of human tolerance, whereas a two-stage vehicle would limit that to an acceptable 12-G's. Space Technology Laboratories, technical advisor to the Air Force for the ICBM program, believed the Atlas would be too unreliable. They favored using the Thor IRBM with the Nomad fluorine-hydrazine upper stage. A development program was sketched out, requiring flight of 10 Thor-Ables for initial tests and primate flights, to be followed by 20 Thor-Nomad flights. While all this was going on, NACA management was still committed to winged orbital flight, and had not participated in the Air Force capsule discussions. It was not until three days after the conference that NACA agreed to support the effort, although it declined to jointly manage the project with the Air Force.
ARDC sent its crash development plan for a manned orbital capsule to Headquarters USAF on 14 March. Based on this, on 19 March, the Air Force requested $133 million from ARPA for the program in FY 1959. While the Air Force was charging forward, Eisenhower had numerous high-level studies underway, all with the objective of preventing the extension of the military into space. He also approached the Russians on calling off the space race altogether, but got nowhere.
NACA held its own internal conference on manned spacecraft on 18 March at Ames at Moffett Field. Faget led the Langley majority group, advocating a ballistic capsule. This would be semi-conical, 2.13 m in diameter, 3.35 m long, using a heat sink heat-shield. The advantage over the Discoverer-type re-entry vehicle was that the pilot's seat would not have to pivot. The design was aerodynamically unstable compared to the self-righting Discoverer design, but attitude control jets were believed to be sufficient to keep the capsule from oscillating uncontrollably during re-entry.
John Becker from Langley offered a winged configuration, which would re-enter at a high angle of attack, using its flat under-side as a heat shield. He argued that a one-man vehicle would weigh 1390 kg, not significantly heavier than Faget's ballistic capsule, while limiting re-entry deceleration to 1 G.
The Ames concept was the blunt M-1 lifting body that the center had been refining for many months. This was a compromise between the pure ballistic and winged vehicles. Reentry deceleration would be kept to 2-G's, and the pilot could remain in control at all times.
All of these NACA discussions were held in a vacuum regarding the launch vehicle. It was felt that waiting for development of a two-stage vehicle would take too long; the Atlas ICBM alone should be sufficient. But no one at NACA had the 'need to know' to gain access to the classified performance characteristics of the Atlas.
Within ARDC a Man-in-Space Task Force was set up at BMD. While the final goal was to "… to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth," the first phase was "Man-in-Space-Soonest." This was the program sketched out in March, and used the Thor-Nomad vehicle. Once the first human had been orbited, MISS-1 would be followed by MISS-2 - "Man-in-Space-Sophisticated". This would use a heavier version of the same capsule, demonstrating manned flight up to the 14-days required for a voyage to the moon and back. Phase 3, "Lunar Reconnaissance," would soft-land an unmanned probe equipped with a television camera on the lunar surface, to prove landing techniques and verify the nature of the lunar surface. Phase 4, "Manned Lunar Landing and Return," MALLAR, would orbit primates, then men, around the moon; and then land primates, and then men, on the moon and return them to earth. For the Phase 4 lunar flights a Super Titan launch vehicle, using fluorine-oxidizer second and third stages, would power the spacecraft toward the moon.
By 2 May the task force forwarded to Headquarters USAF the detailed designs, operational procedures, and schedule for Man-in-Space-Soonest. The Thor-Agena/WS-117L, Thor-Able, and Thor-Nomad boosters would be used. The first manned flight would be made on the tenth launch of the Thor-Nomad, in October 1960. The capsule had an abort system that used high-thrust solid fuel rockets at the base of the capsule to fire it clear of the booster in case of an emergency.
But suddenly there was a three-week delay. Avco had gotten back together with Convair, and on 30 April they back-doored to LeMay a convincing and highly detailed proposal for development of their minimum vehicle. This used the Atlas without an upper stage, and the same Avco drag brake design they had been working on for two years. Even BMD, which hated the idea of using the "bare" Atlas, had to admit it would save four months in development time. But ARDC, advised by Faget at NACA, still favored the simple ballistic capsule with a parachute landing. Therefore on 20 May, Lieutenant General Samuel E Anderson, Commander of ARDC, replied to LeMay that he had no confidence in Avco's design, and recommended that the Air Force proceed as per the 2 May plan. LeMay accepted the response, and the program lurched back into gear.
But ARPA was still reluctant to provide the $133 million required to start development. They felt the development of the Thor-Nomad would take longer than planned, and possibly require 30 vehicle launches rather than 20, causing a massive cost escalation. Convair convinced Air Force Under Secretary MacIntyre and Assistant Secretary Richard E Horner that using Atlas instead could cut the program cost below $100 million. BMD grumbled that this would mean cutting the orbital altitude of the 900 to 1360 kg capsule from 275 km to 185 km, leaving the capsule out of range of the tracking network for much of the time. Nonetheless they submitted a revised plan on 15 June, using the Atlas and bringing the budget to $99.3 million while moving up first manned flight to April 1960.
With these changes ARPA released modest budget funds for initial study contracts for MISS-1. Convair had won the booster race, but Avco was out of the running on the spacecraft. Up to this point McDonnell had invested more work than any other contractor on designing the spacecraft. They had over 70 staff working full-time on it, at their own expense. They had consulted extensively with Faget at Langley to keep abreast of NACA's latest information on capsule design. Therefore it was quite a blow when, on 16 June, Wright Field issued competitive design study contracts to North American and General Electric for the capsule. Each contract was nominally valued at $370,000 and was to run for three months. Each contractor was to complete design of the capsule and present a mock-up of their planned spacecraft. A down-select would be made in September, once fiscal year 1959 had begun.
On 25 June the Air Force completed a preliminary astronaut selection for the project. The list was prioritized according to the weight of the pilot due to the low payload available. The 150-175 pound group consisted of test pilots Bob or Robert Walker, Scott Crossfield, Neil Armstrong, and Robert Rushworth. In the 175 to 200 pound group were William Bridgeman, Alvin White, Iven Kincheloe, Robert White, and Jack McKay. It was the first astronaut selection in history. (Most historians assume the Bob Walker listing is an error for X-plane pilot Joseph Walker, although a Captain Robert P Walker, USAF, did graduate in the Edwards test pilot school class 54-C on 17 January 1955, together with Robert White).
While all of this was going on Eisenhower's plan to create a civilian space agency had developed into legislation, which was working its way through Congress. ARPA was not willing to put too much ARPA money into what might be another agency's project. Herbert York at ARPA put the brakes on by replacing the USAF's swift decision-making with committees and studies. He decided NACA would have to start clearing important decisions. An ARPA coordination meeting on 25-26 June with representatives from ARDC, BMD, Convair, Lockheed, Space Technology Laboratories, and NACA failed to reach a decision on the payload capability of the Atlas for the mission, the reliability, or on the use of a heat sink or ablation heat shield. They even started studying other booster possibilities. ARPA still withheld formal release of funds for the full-scale development program.
While all of this was going on, NACA Langley, expecting to receive the project in FY 1959, worked independently to complete its own in-house manned capsule design. The original flat-bottomed concept of March was refined, first to the Soyuz-like configuration that McDonnell was working on, and finally to the rounded-bottom, conical configuration finally adopted for the Mercury capsule. Faget continued to work closely through the back door with McDonnell despite the fact that the USAF had already down-selected to North American and General Electric.
On 10 July Brigadier General Homer A Boushey of Headquarters USAF informed ARDC that Eisenhower's Bureau of the Budget, firmly in favor of placing the manned space flight program in the new civilian agency, was blocking further release of funds for the program. On 16 July the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 was passed by Congress, and NASA was created out of the NACA and some Army and Navy rocket laboratories. But ARPA told the Air Force there was still a chance the White House would support MISS if costs could be kept to under $50 million in FY 1959. They could present the project as so far along, and with so low a cost to complete, that it would be a big setback to start all over with NASA.
But BMD couldn't make the figures come out this way. Funding of only $50 million in FY 1959 would delay the first American in space to early 1962. Instead, on 24 July, General Bernard Schriever at BMD issued the sixth revision to the MISS development plan. This had a total cost of $106.6 million with the bare Atlas as the booster. Salient features included establishment of a worldwide tracking network, resolving quickly the heat sink versus ablation heat shield issue, and continuing with design of the Thor WS-117L and Thor-Able as backups in case the Atlas proved to be unreliable. Assuming immediate authorization from ARPA, Schriever promised release of the final tender documents to the contractors within 24 hours, and orbiting of the first man in space by June 1960.
The next day there was one last session with ARPA Director Johnson at the Pentagon. BMD pointed out that only full, unrestricted, immediate program approval to go ahead with MISS would give the United States a real chance to be "soonest" with a man in space. Johnson flatly refused. Eisenhower saw no valid role for the military in manned space flight. NACA didn't plan to spend more than $40 million on their manned space program in FY 1959, fiscally much more attractive than the $107 million the Air Force was asking for.
On that day - 25 July 1958 - America gave up its chance to put the first man into space. A manager like Schriever could undoubtedly have rammed the project through on the promised schedule. The collection of scientists and tinkerers at NACA had no chance.
Air Force participation in what was now a NASA program continued briefly. It was not quite clear that the new civilian agency would be given the lead in the manned space capsule program. Harrison Storms at North American was informally told he would be given the MISS capsule contract. In mid-September, action was replaced by a committee - a joint NASA-ARPA Manned Satellite Panel to draw up recommendations. NASA became operational on 30 September 1958, and the Air Force took only a logistical support role in the new program.
NASA ran a new competition for the manned capsule, which was to be produced to Faget's precise specifications. McDonnell, which had worked so closely with Langley, unsurprisingly won the award in January 1959. NASA would spend over $400 million on Mercury, but not fly the first American in orbit aboard an Atlas until February 1962. McDonnell's corporate commitment, preparation, and kowtowing to Faget's preferences were noted by Harrison Storms at North American. He vowed not to make the same mistake again. Four years later he convinced North American's management to take the same approach, and won the biggest plum of all, the Apollo moon-landing contract.
|Project 7969 American manned spacecraft. Study 1959. North American was the final selected vendor for Manned-In-Space-Soonest. The 1360-kg ballistic capsule would be launched by an Atlas booster to an 185-km altitude orbit.|
|Aeronutronics Project 7969 American manned spacecraft. Study 1958. Aeronutronics' proposal for the Air Force initial manned space project was a cone-shaped vehicle 2.1 m in diameter with a spherical tip of 30 cm radius. It does not seem to have been seriously considered.|
|Avco Project 7969 American manned spacecraft. Study 1958. AVCO's proposal for the Air Force initial manned space project was a 690 kg, 2.|
|Bell Project 7969 American manned spacecraft. Study 1958. Bell's preferred concept for the Air Force initial manned space project was the boost-glide vehicle they had been developing for the Dynasoar program.|
|Convair Project 7969 American manned spacecraft. Study 1958. Convair's proposal for the Air Force initial manned space project involved a large-scale manned space station. When pressed, they indicated that a minimum vehicle - a 450 kg, 1.|
|Goodyear Project 7969 American manned spacecraft. Study 1958. Goodyear's proposal for the Air Force initial manned space project was a 2.1 m diameter spherical vehicle with a rearward facing tail cone and ablative surface.|
|Lockheed Project 7969 American manned spacecraft. Study 1958. Lockheed's proposal for the Air Force initial manned space project was a 20 degree semiapex angle cone with a hemispherical tip of 30 cm radius. The pilot was in a sitting position facing rearward.|
|Martin Project 7969 American manned spacecraft. Study 1958. Martin's proposal for the Air Force manned space project was a zero-lift vehicle launched by a Titan I with controlled flight in orbit. The spacecraft would be boosted into a 240 km orbit for a 24 hour mission.|
|McDonnell Project 7969 American manned spacecraft. Study 1958. McDonnell's design for the Air Force initial manned space project was a ballistic vehicle coordinated with Faget's NACA proposal and resembling the later Soviet Soyuz descent module.|
|Northrop Project 7969 American manned spacecraft. Study 1958. Northrop's proposal for the Air Force initial manned space project was a boost-glide vehicle based on work done for the Dynasoar project.|
|Project Mer American manned spacecraft. Study 1956. April 1958 design of the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics for a Manned Earth Reconnaissance spacecraft - consisting of a cylindrical fuselage and telescoping, inflatable wings for flight in the atmosphere.|
|Republic Project 7969 American manned spacecraft. Study 1958. Republic's studies for the Air Force or NACA initial manned space project started at the beginning of 1958. Their unique concept was a lifting re-entry vehicle, termed the Ferri sled.|
|MISS Flight 1 In the USAF Man-In-Space Soonest program plan issued on 15 June 1958 targeted the first manned flight for April 1960. Ten days later the first astronaut group was identified - consisting of Robert Walker, Scott Crossfield, Neil Armstrong, and Robert Rushworth. But a month later the project was stopped, and NASA was handed the program in September 1959. NASA's project Mercury wouldn't orbit an American until 1962.|
In 1955-1957 many Air Force officers in widely scattered field units, without coordinated effort, prepared papers and studies proposing military space projects. Small groups at Headquarters Air Research and Development Command, at the Ballistic Missile Division, at Holloman Air Force Base, and at Wright Air Development Center (WADC) sensed danger in the Government's unwillingness to give the new technology the urgent support they felt it deserved. Programs were proposed which called for organized space experiments, "at the earliest practicable date." Such experiments included orbiting satellites, manned and unmanned, a manned space station and a spacecraft voyage to the moon. (Bowen, Lee, The Threshold of Space, Sep 1960, published by the Air Force Historical Liaison Ofc, p.7)
Quarles Committee studies best method of furnishing the United States with a sattelite by end of 1958. A committee, appointed by Secretary of the Air Force, D. A. Quarles, to recommend the best method of furnishing the United States with a satellite between the dates of June and December 1958, was briefed at Western Development Division (WDD). The Atlas project was reviewed and the potential of Atlas as a booster vehicle in a selected satellite system was presented. The committee was advised that WDD was qualified to manage the program if so directed but that such a program would interfere, to some extent with the high priority of the Atlas development effort. (Memo, Col C. H. Terhune, Dep Cmdr Tech Opns, WDD, to Brig Gen B. A. Schriever, Cmdr WDD, 28 Jun 55, subj: Visit of DOD Satellite Committee, 28 Jun 55.)
Eisenshower announced that the USA would launch 10-kg satellites in 1958 without the use of military missiles. The President announced that the United States, as part of its International Geophysical Year contributions, would attempt to launch a number of 21 pound satellites without the use of military missiles. The project, named Vanguard, although organized in the Department of Defense under Navy management, would be completely removed from military significance. (Bowen, The Threshold of Space, p.10.)
Project 7969, entitled 'Manned Ballistic Rocket Research System,' was initiated by the Air Force with a stated task of recovering a manned capsule from orbital conditions. By December of that year, proposal studies were received from two companies, and the Air Force eventually received some 11 proposals. The basis for the program was to start with small recoverable satellites and work up to larger versions. The Air Force Discoverer firings, which effected a successful recovery in January 1960, could be considered as the first phase of the proposed program. The Air Force program was based upon a requirement that forces no higher than 12g be imposed upon the occupant of the capsule. This concept required an additional stage on the basic or 'bare' Atlas, and the Hustler, now known as the Agena, was contemplated. It was proposed that the spacecraft be designed to remain forward during all phases of the flight, requiring a gimballed seat for the pilot. Although the Air Force effort in manned orbital flight during the period 1956-58 was a study project without an approved program leading to the design of hardware, the effort contributed to manned space flight. Their sponsored studies on such items as the life-support system were used by companies submitting proposals for the Mercury spacecraft design and development program. Also, during the 2-year study, there was a considerable interchange of information between the NACA and the Air Force.
Army Ballistic Missile Agency requested permission to use its Jupiter C missile to launch a satellite. The Army Ballistic Missile Agency requested that the Department of Defense grant permission to use its Jupiter C missile to launch a satellite, "in view of Vanguard delays and increasing evidence that the Soviets would be first in space--an event certain to inflict 'serious damage' to the prestige of the United States. The Army's proposal was rejected by the Department of Defense, presumably in line with the policy announced by the President on 29 July 1955, that the United States would remain strictly within its International Geophysical Year satellite commitment without using military missiles, thus clearly demonstrating United States intent to explore space for peaceful purposes. (Bowen, Threshold of Space, pp, 10-11.)
Western Development Division released a short study report entitled, "Ballistic Missiles, Satellites and Space Vehicles. " The paper recommended a detailed survey of technical developments which might anticipate "logical extensions of our present ballistic missile and satellite programs." Advanced systems were foreseen in the next 20 years which might well furnish equipment and technology for manned exploration of space including voyages to the moon and near by planets. The paper also recommended that the Air Force plan an orderly development of space programs aimed at these far reaching but reasonable long term objectives. (Paper, Ballistic Missiles, Satellites and Space Vehicles, 1956 to 1976, dtd 3 Oct 56, prep by Col L. D. Ely, Asst for Tech Groups, Tech Operations, WDD.)
USAF recommends 1955-1970 program for ballistic missiles, satellite reconnaissance systems, recoverable satellites, and manned interplanetary space exploration. Air Research and Development Command Guided Missile and Space Vehicle Committee report, based primarily on Western Development Division-Ramo -Wooldridge sources, contained a technological forecast (1955-1970) and program recommendations for ballistic missiles, satellite reconnaissance systems, recoverable satellites, manned interplanetary space exploration, and related facilities, funds and manpower requirements. It was estimated that program costs would reach $800 million by fiscal year 1961 and continue at a level of $500 million a year until 1970, then soar to $1.9 billion in 1971. (Early BMD-ARDC General Space Chronology, 11 Feb 59.)
Air Force Ballistic Missile Division (Western Development Division was redesignated Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, 1 Jun 1957) presented to the Scientific Advisory Board Ad Hoc Committee, meeting at Rand Corporation, a summary of follow on ballistic missile weapon systems and advanced space programs which it was prepared to undertake. These programs included development of high thrust space vehicles capable of earth orbital and lunar flights. (AFBMD Presentation to the Scientific Advisory Board Ad Hoc Committee to Study Advanced Weapons Technology and Environment, 29 Jul 57, prep by AFBMD.)
Scientific Advisory Board Ad Hoc Committee urges development of second generation ballistic missiles and military satellite systems for reconnaissance, communications and weather. The Scientific Advisory Board Ad Hoc Committee on Advanced Weapons Technology and Environment published its review of "... problems of national defense in cislunar space, with particular regard to their impact on future weapons technology and the operating environment in which these weapons might function. " The committee report urged development of second generation missiles not only for their primary weapon system value but for their use as space boosters. The next priority, in the committee's analysis, was to develop military satellite systems for reconnaissance, communications and weather prediction. The Air Force should also plan on reaching the moon and, despite the failure of the committee to define any specific military application resulting from occupation of the moon, appropriate steps should be taken to develop a space technology to support advanced exploration of space. The committee was also concerned that, while it appeared to be the plan of the Air Research and Development Command to place all ballistic missile programs under the management of the Ballistic Missile Division, there was not yet " . . ar official understanding that Air Force Ballistic Missile Division is a permanent organization set up to cover this role into the future." The committee therefore urged that "... Air Force Ballistic Missile Division be recognized at the earliest possible date as a permanent organization for ballistic missiles and satellite projects. " (Rpt of the Scientific Advisory Board Ad Hoc Committee to Study Advanced Weapons Technology and Environment, 9 Oct 57.)
Despite the focus of worldwide interest and public acclaim on the launch of Russian satellites (Sputnik I, 4 October; Sputnik II, 3 November) many high ranking government officials attempted to belittle this Russian scientific achievement. On 9 October the White House announced that the "United States would not become engaged in a space race with other nations and that Project Vanguard would not be accelerated." Nevertheless, the Secretary of the Air Force, James H. Douglas, called upon a committee of distinguished scientists and Air Force officers headed by Dr. Edward Teller to propose a line of positive action. The committee's report, completed 22 October, contained a strong recommendation for a unified program--a recommendation which was disregarded, "in favor of a divided program that, in the opinion of many, tended to dissipate rather than concentrate the expanded effort. " (Bowen, Threshold of Space p. 13.)
The Air Force briefed the Armed Forces Policy Council on a reconnaissance satellite program and possible combinations of vehicles that could be used for "cold war and scientific programs." The Air Force recommended using the available intermediate range ballistic missile as a booster to hasten launching an orbital system as early as March 1958. If approved this program would require an additional six Thors and $12 million to cover additional costs. (Ltr, Co0 R. J. Nunzia.o, Asst for Spec Prog, DCS/Dev, Hq USAF, to SAFRD, 12 Nov 57, subj: Outer Space Vehicle.)
Three Thor IRBM's to be diverted from the missile test program and used for an early satellite capability. In response to the nation's urgent need to demonstrate at least an early space vehicle capability it was suggested that three Thor boosters be made available from the missile test program and from these an early satellite or space capability could be obtained. Accordingly, Air Force headquarters requested Air Research and Development Command to conduct an engineering study which would " . . . provide sufficient information to this headquarters within the next 30 45 days on which a decision can be based as to the feasibility, capability and cost of such a program. " An immediate release of $100,000 enabled the command to fund preliminary design studies. (Msg, 11-033, ARDC to AFBMD, 13 Nov 57.)
USAF requested the Department of Defense approve a crash space program using the Thor IRBM as the booster. Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Research and Development, R. E. Horner, requested the Department of Defense approve a space program that would furnish an early demonstration of space capability and "provide important development test vehicles leading to larger reconnaissance and scientific satellites." To hasten action three Thor missiles, 114,116 and 118 ". . could be made available in a relatively short period of time with minimum interference to the IRBM program. " These boosters could be used to orbit a recoverable animal satellite prior to 1 July 1958. Thor, it was also suggested, would be a practical vehicle to furnish the Air Force satellites with specific military capabilities. (Memo, Asst SAF (R&D), R. E. Homer, to SOD, 1Z Nov 57, subj: Outer Space Vehicle.)
Major General B. A. Schriever, Commander of Air Force Ballistic Missile Division directed preparation of a plan for a 10 15 year program leading to development of man carrying vehicle systems for space exploration. A preliminary plan for an orderly space development effort and ultimate manned flight had, in fact, already been prepared and awaited presentation to General S. E. Anderson, Commander of Air Research and Development Command. The plan envisioned manned space flight with a minimum of new development through the use of existing knowledge, experimental programs, missile-boosters, and facilities available throughout the command. (Memo, Col L. D. Ely, Dir Tech Divs, Weapon Systems, AFBMD, to Col C. H. Terhune, Dep Cmdr, Weapon Systems, AFBMD, 13 Dec 57, subj: Manned Space Flight Program; Cmdrs Reference Book, Chronology of Man in Space Effort, 23 Mar 59, prep by AFBMD.)
Air Force Missile Development Center (AFMDC) was investigating vital environmental elements applicable to manned space flight. One of two technical development projects was titled, "Human Factors of Space Flight. " The investigation covered exposure to space radiation, tolerance to high g loads and weightlessness, problems of descent and recovery from space, and physical and environmental problems of sealed cabins. A second study, "Biodynamics of Human Factors for Aviation", investigated tolerance to abrupt deceleration, total pressure changes, abrupt wind blasts and aircraft crash forces. These studies were symptomatic of a renaissance of scientific interest in space research throughout the Air Research and Development Command. (Memo, Maj D. L. Carter, Dep Dir, Tech Div, Weapon Sys, AFBMD, to Col C. H. Terhune, Dep Cmdr, Weapon Sys, 19 Dec 57, subj: Meeting With Major Simons, AFMDC.)
Air Force headquarters affirmed the necessity for the Air Force to acquire recognized competence in "astronautics and space technology." Therefore the Air Research and Development Command was instructed to prepare by 1 December 1957 an astronautics program with estimates of its funding requirements. The plan was to review those space programs already underway and make a projection of development in astronautics and space technology over the next five years. (Msg, Cmdr ARDC, to Comdr AFBMD, 20 Nov 57.)
Air Research and Development Command began a strong effort to orient the work of the command to meet accelerating demands of space technology. A Ballistic Missile Space Vehicle Working Group, appointed by the Commander on 18 January 1957, was convened to establish "new Research and Development Parameters for the Technical Program. " The group's work, essentially, was to predict Air Force space vehicle requirements and developments over the next 15 year time period. (Ltr, Col R. V. Dickson, Asst Dep Cmdr (R&D), to Cmdr AFBMD, 26 Nov 57, subj: Ballistic Missile/Space Vehicle Working Group.)
The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board Ad Hoc Committee on Space Technology recommended, because "Sputnik and the Russian ICBM capability have created a national emergency, " acceleration of specific military programs and a vigorous space program with the immediate goal of landings on the moon. (Rpt, SAB Ad Hoc Committee on Space Technology, 6 Dec 57.)
The basic elements of the proposal included a Titan rocket to boost a manned satellite into a 110 nautical mile earth orbit. The satellite would be a spherical capsule containing instrumentation and a life support system capable of sustaining one man for three or four days. A novel feature of the system would be development of a stainless steel cloth parachute which would lower the capsule safely through re-entry deceleration. As the air pressure increased the parachute would automatically expand to its full size and land the capsule at a survival, if bone jarring, rate of 35 feet per second. AVCO asked $500,000 for a three month study and mockup of the capsule device and estimated, as a rough guess", a total development cost of $100 million. The ballistic missile division, however, was not convinced that this was the best approach to the manned reentry problem. The division' s position was that when the Air Force identified its space goals and established specific technical requirements it would then be wiser to "ask for bids and put it (development) on an open competitive basis. " (Memo, Col L. D. Ely, to Col C. H. Terhune, 17 Dec 57, subj: AVCO Proposal for Manned Satellite.)
Although the tempo of space technology research within recent months had been significantly accelerated by the Air Research and Development Command, a further increase was yet desirable. A plan, which would increase space research by 50 percent or more by fiscal 1959 and place management responsibility for the over-all space technology program within command headquarters, now adopted. (Ltr, Lt Gen S. E. Anderson, Cmdr ARDC, was to Cmdr AFMDC, 10 Dec 57, subj: Space Technology.)
Lieutenant General D. L. Putt, Deputy Chief of Staff Development at Air Force headquarters, announced establishment of the Directorate of Astronautics, to be headed by Brigadier General Homer A. Boushey. There was, however, an adverse Department of Defense reaction to this action. The Secretary of Defense objected to the use of the term "astronautics" and William Holaday, Defense Director of Guided Missiles, publicly stated the Air Force "wanted to grab the lime light and establish a position. " Just three days later General Putt directed that the organizational change be cancelled. (Bowen, Threshold of Space, p. 20.)
The Scientific Advisory Committee to the Secretary of the Air Force met at the ballistic missile division. The committee reviewed Air Force plans for advanced ballistic missile and space programs and recommended that space technology development be managed by the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division. (Early BMD-ARDC General Space Chronology, 11 Feb 59, prep by AFBMD Hist Ofc.)
Major General B. A. Schriever again offered a well defined astronautics program at an estimated cost of $16 million in fiscal 1958 and $112 million in 1959. In addition, $10 million in 1958 and $2O million in 1959 would be needed to procure Thor hardware and acquire a Thor space launch complex. Furthermore, said Schriever, although use of all resources qualified to participate in the program was endorsed it was ". . . imperative that the total Air Force effort in the ballistic missile and space field must be managed by one agency and that agency must be the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division. " Schriever also proposed creation of a research and development command committee, chaired by the missile division, to formulate and recommend technical development in space technology. "The committee would meet periodically and make recommendations to the commander, AFBMD, for formulation of the Air Force program." "(Ltr, Maj Gen B. A. Schriever, Qmdr AFBMD, to Lt Gen S. E. Anderson, Cmdr ARDC, 18 Dec 57, subj: Proposal for Future Air Force Ballistic Missile and Space Technology Development.)
The technical program of the Air Force research and development structure was being reoriented toward state of the art development. This would "..... provide the United States significant capabilities in the area of space technology. " Air Force Ballistic Missile Division was instructed to review and revise its technical programs to insure that they were contributing to the development of a sound space technology. (Ltr, Maj Gen J. W. Sessums, V/Cmdr ARDC, to Cmdr AFBMD, 20 Dec 57, subj: Space Technology.)
An appraisal of Air Research and Development Command research and engineering resources revealed that the command was well prepared to undertake immediate development of a manned space program. The ballistic missile division possessed the resources to embark on vehicle development and command headquarters was ready with a " . . . Fairly comprehensive program laid out in support of the manned aspects of space flight. " In specific terms this involved support from the School of Aviation Medicine, the Aeromedical Laboratory at Wright Air Development Center (WADC), and the Aeromedical Field Laboratory at AFMDC. (Memo, Col L. D. Ely, to Col C. H. Terhune, 30 Dec 57, subj: Telephone Call from General Flickinger and Visit of Colonel Karstens, School of Aviation Medicine.)
USAF Air Research and Development Command completed a 15 year plan for astronautics research and technical development. From this effort was distilled a five year astronautics program which, on this date, was presented to Air Force headquarters. (Ltr, Brig Gen M. C. Demler, D/Cmdr, R&D, Hq ARDC, to Cmdr AFBMD, 30 Dec 57, no subject.)
The astronautics program "package" was under review by Air Force headquarters. Some additional data from AFBMD was requested - cost information, amount of money needed to perform specific tasks and the desirable priority to be assigned each task. (MFR, Brig Gen 0.J. Ritland, V/Cmdr, AFBMD, 31 Dec 57, subj:. Telephone Call from Col Nunziato.)
The Navy space proposal to the Advanced Research Projects Agency, during the tenure of that organization's interim surveillance over national space projects, was known as Project Mer. This plan involved sending a man into orbit in a collapsible pneumatic glider. The glider and its occupant would be launched in the nose of a giant launch vehicle. After the glider had been placed in orbit, it would be inflated, and then flown down to a water landing.
Air Force Ballistic Missile Division's recommendation for a strong astronautics program, forwarded to Lt General D. L. Putt, Deputy Chief of Staff, Development, at Air Force headquarters, included the following specific proposals: (1) Thor plus a Vanguard second stage would be used as the basic booster to provide a vehicle with a recoverable data capsule: first orbital flight with telemetry only by September 1958, followed by four additional flights during the remainder of fiscal 1959. (2) Develop a recoverable animal carrying satellite using rhesus monkeys; four flights during fiscal 1959. (3) Lunar impact missions could be attempted with a high probability of success by adding a Vanguard third stage to the Thor and Vanguard second stage vehicle; four vehicles should be planned for this mission beginning during the last quarter of 1958, (4) Four vehicles should be assigned the mission of circumlunar flight. Total cost of these programs was estimated at $26.8 million during fiscal 1958, and $30.4 million in fiscal 1959 including ground equipment and Thor production would have to be increased by two units per, month if the entire astronautics program were adopted as proposed. (Msg, WDG-I -Z, Cmdr AFBMD, to Cmdr AIDC, 3 Jan 58.)
The first clarification to emerge from the nation's amorphous space policies was revealed on 15 November 1957 when Secretary of Defense McElroy told a press conference he was thinking of centralizing control of space research and development in a special agency, This was the first public announcement of the future birth of ARPA, as it was later called-the Advanced Research Projects Agency. Confirmation of this intent was stated in the President's State -of-the -Union message to Congress on 9 January 1958, when he said that Secretary McElroy "has already decided to concentrate into one organization all the anti-missile and satellite technology undertaken within the Department of Defense. " (History, HqARDC, 1 Jan 31 Dec 1958, Vol 1,prep by ARDC Hist Div, p.7.)
Chief problems were safe re-entry and recovery of a manned space capsule. Deceleration through re-entry might well exceed the. limits of human tolerance. Experimental evidence, however, suggested that forces high as 18 g's might be tolerated for short periods and that an actual series of tests conducted in Berlin had human subjects enduring 15 g's as long as two minutes without harmful effects., The effect of weightlessness was far more difficult to assess and nearly impossible to simulate for any appreciable length of time other than through actual orbital experimentation. The weight of evidence suggested that manned entry into space and return to earth would be a difficult, but far from impossible, task and the scientific and engineering arts could control the space environment within limits of human tolerance. (Memo, Col L. D. Ely, to Col C. H. Terhune, 13 Jan 58, subj: Additional Human Factors Information.)
Representatives of Aeronutronic Systems, Inc. , visited the ballistic missile division to present their concept of an Air Force astronautics program. Their program was based on use of existing hardware and conservative evaluation of new equipment. to be obtained through technical evolution. Test flight of earth satellites and lunar vehicles would acquire necessary data concerning the space environment. Specific goals included biomedical experiments, development of precision orbital flight, recovery and reconnaissance systems, and lunar impact. From this background of successful technical achievement the program would move to manned satellite flights, lunar flights and manned space exploration. This program was designed to lead to manned flight in approximately four to six years. (Memo, Col L., D. Ely, to Col C. H. Terhune, 23'Jan 59, subj: Astronautics Briefing by Aeronutronic Systems, Inc.)
The first rough draft of a development plan for the Air Force space weapons development and technology program was completed by the ballistic missile division. This was oriented to meet five basic requirements: reconnaissance, communications, manned space flight, technical development and experimental support. To accomplish these objectives it was necessary to make maximum use of Air Force missile hardware and pursue a "daring and bold merger of the aeronautics and manned aircraft experience of the last decade with the rocket and ballistic missile experience in recent years." The program' s fiscal 1958 funding needs were estimated to be as follows: astronautics, $16 million; additional Thor hardware and launch complex for the advanced astronautics program, $10 million. (Memo,. Col C. H. Terhune, Dep Cmdr, Weapon Sys, AFBMD, to Cmdr ARDC, 16 Jan 58, subj: AF Astronautics Development Program.)
Lt General S. E. Anderson, Commander, Air Research and Development Command. outlined the command concept of the missile division's space mission. This was in reply to General Schriever's proposals of 18 December 1957. Said Anderson: "It is our intention to make maximum use of the peculiar talents of your Division while at the same time bringing capabilities of all elements of the Command to bear upon the problems in this area. " Therefore it was the view of the commander that the division should concentrate on ". .,. the development and model improvements. of certain scheduled space systems to include both planning and management associated therewith.: " In application this policy meant that the division would in "certain instances perform technical developments in astronautics.," The Deputy Commander for Research and Development at Command Headquarters was to retain over-all responsibility for formulation of the Astronautics Technical Development Program. (Ltr, Anderson to Schriever, ZZ Jan 58, subj: Proposal for Future Air Force Ballistic Missile and Space Technology Development.)
The Air Research and Development Command convened a committee to prepare a final planning draft of an Air Force Astronautics Program for presentation to Mr. W. M. Holaday. The Air Force proposed five year space program included development of research and test vehicles, satellite reconnaissance systems, a lunar based intelligence system, defense systems, logistic requirements of lunar transport, and strategic communications. If the program wei.accepted in its entirety, $1.156 billion in initial funding would be needed in fiscal 1959. (Memo, Col L. D. Ely, Dir Tech Div, to Col C. H. Terhune, AFBMD, 28 Jan 58, subj: Trip Report.) The Air Force invited the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) to participate in "a research vehicle program to explore and solve the problems of manned space flight. " Specifically, the Air Force objective was to achieve the earliest possible manned orbital flight which would significantly contribute to development of "follow-on scientific and military space systems." An immediate decision was therefore necessary to determine the best approach to the design of an orbiting research vehicle--should it be a glide vehicle or one designed only to accomplish the satellite mission? Inasmuch as both NACA and the Air Force were well along in their investigations of the best approach to be taken in the design of a manned orbiting research vehicle it was suggested that, "These efforts should be joined at once and brought promptly to a conclusion. " Accordingly NACA was invited to collaborate with Air Research and Development Command on an over-all evaluation of relevant space plans and projects and any program resulting from the joint evaluation would be, it was suggested, "managed and funded along the lines of the X-15 effort. " Specific guide lines were furnished the Advisory Committee to facilitate its response to the Air Force request. (Ltr, Lt Gen D. L. Putt, DCS/D, Hq USAF, to Dr. H. L. Dryden, Dir NACA, 31 Jan 58, no subject.)
Air Research and Development Command headquarters directed the Wright Air Development Center to "investigate and evaluate" the quickest way to put a man in space and recover him. Since the crux of the problem was the obvious lack of large high performance booster, the center requested the assistance of the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division in finding a solution to the problem., (Chronological Space History, 1958, prep by AFBMD.)
Air Force headquarters instructed the Air Research and Development Command to expedite man-in-space projects. Air Force headquarters instructed the Air Research and Development Command, in collaboration with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics to " expedite the evaluation of existing or planned projects, appropriate available proposals and other competitive proposals with a view to providing an experimental system capable of an early flight of a manned vehicle making an orbit of the earth." Furthermore, it was asserted that it was "vital to the prestige of the nation that such a feat be accomplished at the earliest technically practicable date--if at all possible before the Russians. " It was therefore important that the evaluation determine whether the objective of a manned space flight could be accomplished more readily under the Dyna Soar program or by means of an orbiting satellite. The minimum time to the first orbital flight and the associated costs were to be determined. The approach to this objective was also to furnish tangible contributions to the over-all Air Force astronautics program. Furthermore, the hazard accompanying such a flight was to be the minimum dictated by sound engineering and experimental flight safety practices. If at all possible, pilot safety was to be secured by furnishing an emergency escape system. (Ltr, Lt Gen D. L. Putt, DCS/D, Hq USAF, to Cmdr, ARDG, 31 Jan 58, subj: Advanced Hypersonic Research Aircraft.)
Secretary of the Air Force James H. Douglas urged the Secretary of Defense to approve Air Force use of Thor missiles to boost test satellites into orbit before the close of the calendar year. The Secretary of Defense was also advised that in the face of the impending establishment of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), the Air Force continue managing development of military space reconnaissance projects, first under the general direction of the Director of Guided Missiles and then under the general direction of ARPA. (Memo, SAF J. H. Douglas, to SOD, 1 Feb 58, subj: Reconnaissance Satellite.) Experimental preliminary steps to a manned space program were directed by Air Force headquarters. development command was assigned authority to develop a recoverable satellite and the first launch date was set for October 1958. The command was also instructed to conduct a moon impact program although the authority to conduct such a program had not yet been granted. Necessary planning action would be taken in order to expedite the program immediately upon approval from the Department of Defense. " (Ltr, Brig Gen H. A. Boushey, DCS/D, Hq USAF, to Cmdr ARDC, 3 Feb 58, subj: Astronautics Program.)
The Department of Defense established the Advanced Research Projects Agency. ARPA was to direct and conduct space research leading toward operational systems. In pursuit of these objectives the agency was authorized management of projects which would be conducted by military departments and it was also empowered to contract directly with individuals, private business organizations, scientific institutions and public agencies. (DOD Dir 5105.15, 7 Feb 58, subj: Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.)
Air Research and Development Command headquarters forwarded further instructions to the missile division as a guide to planning for a space program. The research command was to proceed, when Department of Defense approval was obtained, with development of a ballistic research and test system (WS 609A, later called Blue Scout), specifically designed to satisfy most research flight test requirements. In addition, the Thor missile was to be used as a booster for (1) "Able" re-entry tests; (2) recoverable satellites; (3) and moon impact. The latter program was not yet finally approved but planning actions were authorized to "expedite this project immediately upon receipt of DOD approval" and $1 million had been set aside to cover initial project costs. (Msg, RDX-2-I-E, Hq ARDC to AFBMD, 10 Feb 58.)
The ballistic missile division informed command headquarters that as many as 14 Thor boosters would be available during the calendar year for special purpose flights. These were tentatively allocated as follows: three were assigned to Phase I "Able" series flights, six were assigned to the program for recoverable satellites, and five were assigned to Phase II "Able" for continued development leading to a Thor ICBM capability. (For a time Thor plus a second stage and warhead was considered as a means of acquiring an early emergency ICBM inventory well ahead of Atlas and Titan.) However, only eight additional launchings could be scheduled through 1958--three for Phase I "Able", three for recoverable satellites to be launched one a month beginning in October, and two in support of Phase II "Able" precisely guided reentry vehicles. Thus this appeared to be the maximum effort possible in the category of space related experimental flights essential to a more advance program. If a greater effort was desirable it would be necessary to obtain additional launching facilities, a problem that might be quickly and easily solved by modifying Navaho launch stands to accept Thor vehicles. (Msg, WDT 2-7E, AFBMD to ARDC, 11 Feb 58.)
The Secretary of the Air Force forwarded to the Secretary of Defense, recommendations on space priorities. These recommendations "should be undertaken promptly by the Air Force. " Other than the first project, converting Thor into an intercontinental range weapon by adding a second stage, the recommendations concerned the following space proposals: (1) develop and orbit a satellite equipped with a small television transmitter to furnish weather information. A Thor plus a second stage could accomplish the first orbital launch by September 1958.: (2) Develop a recoverable satellite equipped to carry a variety of payloads which might be ejected from orbit by decelerating devices. This project would also use a Thor booster with an added Vanguard second stage which could be launched by July 1958. (3) A Thor-Hustler (later called Agena) second stage to launch a 300 pound scientific satellite by October 1958., (4) As previously recommended, the Air Force was prepared to launch a moon rocket by using a Thor plus two Vanguard upper stages. Said the secretary: "In addition to the scientific data that can be obtained from such a flight, the United States could make a major international psychological gain by beating the Russians to the moon. I urge that this Air Force approach be used. " (Memo, SAF J. H. Douglas to the SOD, 14 Feb 58, subj: Thor and WS 117L Program.)
Wright Air Development Center and Air Force Missile Development Center recommended industrial sources and provided the money to study and design a life support system for manned spacecraft. WADC issued a purchase request valued at $445,954 for procurement of the study.
Air Force headquarters affirmed its strong support to demonstrate at the earliest possible date a capability to launch a satellite and to follow as soon thereafter as practicable with a moon impact. "Until such time as the Department of Defense approved early satellite launchings in support of 117L, and launch of a moon impact payload, the research command was directed to "take all actions necessary to be in position to accomplish both projects at the earliest time feasible." The command was further advised to design the first satellite as simply as possible and consider it a "warm up for subsequent more sophisticated vehicles. " Simplicity and an early launch date were considered more important than demonstrating a capability to recover payloads or otherwise demonstrate an advanced state of competence.. (Msg, AFCVC 56978, Hq USAF to ARDC, 26 Feb 58.)
Advanced Research Projects Director, Mr. R. W. Johnson declared the Air Force had a ". . . long term development responsibility for manned space flight capability". In pursuit of this objective the Air For ce was told to develop a Thor booster with a suitable second stage vehicle "as an available device for experimental flights with laboratory animals." Provision for the recovery of the orbiting animals in "furtherance of the objective of manned flight" was also authorized. (Memo, R. W. Johnson, Dir, ARPA, to SAF, 28 Feb 58, subj: Reconnaissance Satellites and Manned Space Exploration.)
The Secretary of Defense approved acceleration of the 117L military satellite system, including test vehicles launched with the Thor booster--a series of orbital experiments that were also considered. The ballistic missile division was instructed to submit a complete development plan and fiscal estimate by 15 March 1958 for "review and approval."
The Air Force Chief of Staff directed that space projects which depended on the use of ballistic missile components use the same procedures as IRBM/ICBM programs. The Air Force Chief of Staff directed that space projects which depended on the use of ballistic missile components "if... will be administered in the same manner and by the same procedures as the ICBM/IRBM programs. " The decision process would be identical and, as in the "ballistic missile programs,approved development plans will constitute action documents. " (Memo, Maj Gen J. E. Smart, AF Asst Vice Chief of Staff, to Air Staff distribution, 4 Mar 58, subj: Space Projects Involving ICBM/IRBM Components.)
The Office of the Secretary of Defense, in the first significant forward step to accelerate development of a space capability, reiterated the space role of the Air Force. In addition to its missile programs the Air Force was responsible for the 117L system and "... has a recognized long term development responsibility for manned space flight capability with the primary objective of accomplishing satellite flight as soon as technology permits." Furthermore, the Air Force was told it was to carry forward and accelerate the Atlas 117L project "under the highest national priority in order to attain an initial operational capability in the earliest possible date," But the proposed interim system using a Thor booster combined with a second stage and recoverable capsule "should not be pursued. " The Department of Defense did agree that a Thor booster with a suitable second stage "may be the most promptly and readily available device for experimental flights with laboratory animals" and development of such hardware including a system for recovery of animals was authorized. (Msg 03-014, Cmdr ARDC, to Cmdr AFBMD, 5 Mar 58.)
The Air Force Ballistic Missile Division proposed an over-all space objective about which all other experimental projects would be oriented. This goal was briefly stated as "Manned Space Flight to the Moon and Return. " To achieve this ultimate accomplishment many other space projects and programs would be necessary. The final goal would furnish an objective and a means to develop an integrated space program instead of isolated space ventures whose value might be unrelated to any national purpose. Admittedly, achieving this goal would require much preliminary work and completion of the following programs: Instrumented Satellite Flights and Return; Animals in Satellite Orbit and Return; Biomedical Experiments in Satellite Flights; Man in Satellite Orbit and Return; Instruments and Equipment Around Moon and Return; Animal Around Moon and Return; Instrumented Hard Landing on Moon; Instruments -Equipment Soft Landing on Moon and Return; Animal Soft Landing on Moon and Return; Man Around Moon and Return; Manned Landing on the Moon and Return (Memo, Col L. D. Ely, to Co) C. H. Terhune, 8 Mar 58, subj: Meeting with Hq ARDC Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences Panels, 10-12 Mar.)
A working conference in support of the Air Force 'Man-in-Space Soonest' (MISS) was held at the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division in Los Angeles, California. General Bernard Schriever, opening the conference, stated that events were moving faster than expected. By this statement he meant that Roy Johnson, the new head of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, had asked the Air Force to report to him on its approach to putting a man in space soonest. Johnson indicated that the Air Force would be assigned the task, and the purpose of the conference was to produce a rough-draft proposal. At that time the Air Force concept consisted of three stages: a high-drag, no-lift, blunt-shaped spacecraft to get man in space soonest, with landing to be accomplished by a parachute; a more sophisticated approach by possibly employing a lifting vehicle or one with a modified drag; and a long-range program that might end in a space station or a trip to the moon.
An Air Research and Development Command meeting held at the ballistic missile division to prepare an abbreviated development plan for the man in space program. The general Air Research and Development Command headquarters outline of the immediate planning task centered about designing a manned vehicle within a weight limitation of 2, 700-3,000 pounds which would have to contain a man, a life support system with a capacity to remain aloft for 48 hours, telemetry-communications, and a recovery system. The Air Force Ballistic Missile Division approach was directed to a more distant goal, "Man on the Moon and Return. " By the second day of the conference general agreement on program objectives had been reached. Technical recommendations included selection of an improved thrust Thor with a fluorine-hydrazine second stage, 2, 700-3, 000 pound spacecraft and a General Electric guidance system. As then planned the complete experimental and test program would require approximately 30 Thor boosters, 8 to 12 Vanguard second stages and about 20 fluorine-hydrazine second stages for testing and advanced phases of the program. By the third day an abbreviated dra.ft development plan had been completed. The conference was pervaded by a strong sense of urgency, motivated by the dramatic Air Force mission to get a man in space at the earliest possible time. Those attending the conference anticipated accelerated program approval and scheduled contractor selection to begin on or about 10 April 1958., (Memo, Col C. H. Terhune, Dep Cmdr, Tech Operations, to Maj Gen B. A. Schriever, Cmdr, AFBMD, 25 Mar 58, subj: Man in Space Meeting at AFBMD, lu-12 March 58.)
Air Force Undersecretary, M. A. Maclntyre, submitted to the Advanced Research Projects Agency Fiscal 1959 budget requirements if the Air Force man in space program was to meet its mid-1960 operational date: Budget Category, Amount (millions): P-100 Aircraft and Missiles: $82.0; P-200 Support: $11.5; P-300 Construction: $ 2.5; P-600 Research and Development: $37.0; Total: $133.0 If this amount was not fully funded the following projects could be progressively undertaken, but the first manned capsule launch would be delayed to some future date: (1) Development of small animal carrying capsules for use in the 117L program starting November 1958 $16 million. (2) Construction of launch pad assembly buildings and instrumentation modifications $5 million. (3) Design of man size capsule, second stage booster; development, procurement, test of support test vehicles $30 million. (4) Fabrication of a small number of capsules, second stages and boosters $15 million. (5) Design, development, test and procurement of capsules, second stages, boosters and support test vehicles leading to the earliest possible manned space flight $67 million. (Memo, Undersecretary of the Air Force, M. A. Maclntyre, to Dir, ARPA, 19 Mar 58, subj: Air Force Man-In-Space Program.)
The President's Science Advisory Committee affirmed that development of space technology was required by, human curiosity, scientific knowledge, the maintenance of national prestige, and defense. This was the first official declaration by the government that space was of military significance, but there was still no evaluation of space as a realm of military operations.
Major General B. A. Schriever, Ballistic Missile Division Commander, directed the preparation of a development plan for a full scale manned military space systems program. The goal of the program was to achieve a manned flight to the moon and return. (Chronological Space Hist, 1958.)
The President, basing his recommendation on the March Z6th report of his Science Advisory Committee, stated it was essential that the nation adopt the program because it represented the next step forward in man's compelling urge to explore and discover, it would develop space technology essential to our defense, enhance our national prestige, and furnish the nation new opportunities for scientific observation and experiment which would add to man's "understanding of the earth, the solar system and the universe." The President therefore advised Congress that a National Aeronautics and Space Administration be created to furnish, "a civilian setting for administration of space functions [which] will emphasize the concern of our nation that outer space be devoted to peaceful and scientific purposes." (History, Hq ARDC, 1 Jan 31 Dec 1958, p. 13; Max Rosenberg, The Air Force in Space, 1959-1960, dtd Jun 62, USAF Hist Div Liaison Ofc, p.3.)
The Air Research and Development Command informed the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics that it had initiated a 30 day effort at the ballistic missile division to prepare a detailed development plan for "an extended manned space vehicle program of which man in space at the earliest practicable date is an integral part." The advisory committee was invited to participate in the preparation of the plan and to advise the Air Force of their anticipated action. (Msg, 04-9-01, Cmdr, ARDC, to Cmdr AFBMD, 9 Apr 58.)
Air Force Ballistic Missile Division presented briefings on the manned Military Space System Development Plan to higher Air Force and Department of Defense authorities in Washington. Also briefed were Air Research and Development Command headquarters, the Vice Chief of Staff, and R. W, Johnson, Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency. (Chronological Space Hist, 58.)
The first Thor/Able missile, a special test vehicle designed to examine an improved General Electric lightweight, ablative nose cone at full ICBM ranges failed. Mouse 'Mia' not recovered. This was the first small beginning of a research program to determine the requirements of a space life support system. (Msg SAFIS-3C 47151, SAF to AFBMD, 29 Apr 58.)
The Air Force Ballistic Missile Division published the development plan for an Air Force Manned Military Space Systems Program. The objective was to ". achieve an early capability to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth. The program represented a reasonable level of accomplishment with a minimum of time and money and called for start of a high priority program (similar to that enjoyed by ballistic missiles) characterized by "concurrency" and single Air Force agency management. The complete program would be carried out in four phases: first, "Man-In-Space-Soonest," was to determine functional capabilities and limitations of man in space by means of earth orbital flights--beginning with an instrumented 2,900 pound re-entry body, then a primate passenger and, finally, a manned capsule. The second, designated "Man-In-Space-Sophisticated," would use a drag type 3, 200 pound re-entry vehicle, capable of a 14 day manned space flight. This device would be used for earth orbital flight only but it would perform experiments essential to the final phase of the lunar program. The third phase, "Lunar Reconnaissance," would explore the moon by television camera and by means of a soft landing of an instrumented package on the moonIs surface. The final phase of the projected program was "Manned Lunar Landing and Return, " which would first test equipment by circumlunar flights returning to earth with instrumented capsules containing animals. At this stage of project development payload capacity would be increased to 9,000 pounds. The spacecraft would then undertake a full scale flight to the moon and safe return to earth with an animal passenger. The climax of the entire project would then be a manned lunar landing, brief surface exploration, and return to earth. This would be followed by other circumlunar flights to fully explore the moon's surface and gather additional physical data. The program was scheduled for completion in December of 1965 at a total estimated cost of $1.5 billion. Program cost estimates were based on use of Air Force rocket hardware and available ground facilities thus eliminating much new development and construction funding. However, new launch vehicle combinations would have to be developed progressing in performance as follows: a Thor-Vanguard second stage, a Thor-fluorine second stage, a "super" Titan with a fluorine-hydrazine second and third stages. Methods of landing involved use of retrorockets to insure a soft landing on the moon and return to earth through re-entry to a predetermined landing area. (USAF Manned Military Space Syst.em Development Plan, 25 Apr 58, prep by AFBMD.)
The director of the Advanced Reseach Projects Agency received a brief review of the Air Force proposed man in space program. This meeting also produced an arrangement to have the man in space development plan reviewed by the Secretary of the Air Force a Ld Chief of Staff prior to its formal presentation tu the Advanced Research Projects Agency. The director also expressed interest in ". . . the early recovery of a small chimpanzee from orbit as a prelude to man in space. " Such a flight not only would have significant scientific value but a considerable amount of psychological value a. well. Therefore the missile division was requested to analyze the value of developing a small capsule for a chimpanzee orbital flight test in addition to the man-sized capsule and to estimate the cost and possible timing of such a program. (Msg 04-29-01, Hq ARDC, to Cmdr, AFBMD, 29 Apr 58.)
An AVCO-Convair contractor team submitted to the Air Force an unsolicited proposal for development of a manned satellite at the earliest possible date. The proposed system was built around an Atlas booster, no second stage, mounting a light double walled capsule which would rely on a steel mesh drag chute for deceleration and recovery. The proposal was analyzed by Air Force space specialists who concluded that the plan was feasible but offered little margin for error. Furthermore, weight estimates were optimistic, its orbital endurance and altitude were low and it possessed no growth potential although use of Atlas as a booster appeared to have merit. Air Force Ballistic Missile Division felt adoption of the proposal would only gain three or four months over the much more versatile Thor-fluorine combination vehicle which would also be free from the major limitations inherent in the AVCO-Convair proposal. (Memo, Col J. D. Lowe, AFBMD. to Col H. Evans, AFBMD, 16 May 1958, no subject.)
The missile division published its second Man-In-Space Development Plan. This plan concentrated on the first phase of the over-all manned lunar program, designated "Man-In-Space-Soonest". During this phase of project development the launch vehicles would be a Thor-Vanguard combination for instrumented tests, and a Thor fluorine second stage combination for the manned flights. This plan, if approved, would place a man in a 150 nautical mile orbit by October 1960 at an approximate cost of $120 million. (USAF Manned Military Space System Development Plan, 2 May 1958, prep by AFBMD)
Data on bio-medical aspects of man in space were to be provided through experiments planned in the 117L program. Design, development, and fabrication of five animal containers, and associated environmental control and telemetry equipment was planned under a fiscal 1959 117L budget item of $1.3 million. In addition, $4.7 million was allocated for specialized checkout equipment, recovery devices, beacons, and necessary recovery operations for bio-medical specimens. (Ltr, Lt Gen S. E. Anderson, Cmdr, ARDC, to Cmdr, AFBMD, 22 May 58, subj: Support of Bioastronautics Program; Chronological Space Hist, 1958.)
On instructions from command headquarters, the ballistic missile division prepared several funding alternatives to meet the amount of money that might be realistically budgeted for manned space. These were sorted out at four levels: (a) $100 million fiscal 1959 appropriation which reduced the test program for Thor-Vanguard vehicles but maintained the October 1960 date for the first manned space flight; (b) a $90 million program for the same number of vehicles but postponing the first manned flight from October 1960 to April 1961; (c) a $90 million high risk effort incurred by deleting four more vehicles from the program and retaining the October 1960 launch date; (d) a $75 million program with the same number of vehicles as (c) but delaying the first manned flight date to October 1961. (Memo, Col C. H. Terhune, Dep Cmdr, Tech Operations, AFBMD, to Maj Gen B. A. Schriever, Cmdr AFBMD, 15 May 58, subj: Revisions to the Man-In-Space Development Plan.)
Acting on directions from General Schriever, the missile division staff prepared to establish a fluorine propulsion program. This development was to support the manned military space system, particularly the Man-In-SpaceSoonest effort which was to use a Thor-fluorine second stage. The first action was to arrange a meeting of Air Force, North American Aviation and Bell Aircraft propulsion specialists to determine the status of their fluorine propulsion programs, funds available and overall development expectations for fluorine propulsion systems. (Chronological Space Hist, 1958.)
This was similar to the other two plans except it contained additional fiscal 1959 funding alternatives; i. e. , $100 million; $90 million; $75 million or $67 million. It was clearly apparent that I a major stumbling block to Air Force manned space program approval was its high cost, particularly for development of a new fluorine second stage. (Commander's Reference Book, "Chronology of Man-In-Space Effort, ~23 Mar 59.)
The ballistic missile division briefing on Man-In-SpaceSoonest was presented at Air Research and Development Command headquarters. Present were General C. E. LeMay and "members of the Air Staff, and to Air Force Undersecretary M. A. Maclntyre and Assistant Secretary R. E. Horner. Favorable reception was accorded the briefings and the command was assured that adequate funding, "somewhere between seventy-five and one hundred million dollars" would be allocated the program for fiscal year 1959. The briefing to Maclntyre and Horner evoked a specific suggestion that an ICBM be used as a booster in lieu of developing a second stage for the Thor. The division was allowed two weeks to prepare a plan using an Atlas booster and bring it to Washington for secretarial review. (Memo, Col H. L. Evans, Asst Dep Cmdr, Space Sys, to Col C. H. Terhune, 23 May 58, subj: Trip Report.)
Major General B. A. Schriever takes on initial responsibility for the Manned Military Space System Program. In an attempt to define more clearly the role of the ballistic missile division in space projects, Major General B. A. Schriever, division commander, outlined his understanding that he was assigned initial responsibility for "planning, initiating and managing the Manned Military Space System Program. " Planning had advanced to the point of contractor selection, awaiting only allocation of sufficient funds to begin the Man-In-Space-Soonest program. Moreover, General Schriever was arranging to meet with Dr. H. L. Dryden of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, "... at the earliest practicable time," to establish the highest level of support and mutual cooperation possible. Working level conferences were already underway to develop concrete application of this cooperative interest in the program. It was also intended that other organizations were to be used as appropriate to "insure maximum utilization of the Air Research and Development Command's Resources. (Ltr, Maj Gen B. A. Schriever, Cmdr, AFBMD, to Lt Gen S. E. Anderson, Cmdr, ARDC, 21 May 58, no subject.)
Air Force Ballistic Missile Division completed its fourth Man-In-Space Development Plan.This, in the form of charts rather than a formal publication, proposed use of the Atlas booster plus a second stage consisting of a Lockheed Hustler (second stage of the 117L, later called Agena) to place a man in a 150 nautical mile orbit during October 1960. Cost for this project was estimated to be $106.11 million for fiscal 1959. The plan was briefed at command and Air Force headquarters, as well as the Air Force secretariat level. (Chronological Space Hist, 1958.)
Washington discussion of the Air Force Man-In-Space proposal continued to ferment without any sign of the approval necessary to start the program. The Advanced Research Projects Agency indicated general agreement with the Air Force space development plan and the National Security Council Planning Board displayed a "feeling of great urgency to achieve animal flights in space with safe return and to achieve the Man-In-SpaceSoonest at the earliest possible date." Other than this nebulous progress the Air Force man in space effort was no nearer realization. (Memo, Col H. L. Evans, Asst Dep Cmdr, Space Sys, to Col C. H. Terhune, 31 May 58, subj: Trip Report.)
The Air Force obtained Advanced Research Projects Agency approval to proceed with study contracts on space life support systems. Ecological aspects of the manned space capsule environment were to be investigated and the study effort was to include construction of a mockup. Two three month contracts totaling $740,000 were awarded to North American Aviation and General Electric for life support system development. (Rpt, Comparison of NASA Manned Space Program and USAF Manned Military Space Proposal, Z5 Feb 60, prep by AFBMD.)
After serving as a liaison officer of NACA and as a participating member of an Advanced Research Projects Agency panel, Maxime A. Faget reported to Dr. Hugh Dryden on resulting studies and attending recommendations on the subject of manned space flight. He stated that the Advanced Research Projects Agency panel was quite aware that the responsibility for such a program might be placed with the soon-to-be-created civilian space agency, although they recommended program management be placed with the Air Force under executive control of NACA and the Advanced Research Projects Agency. The panel also recommended that the program start immediately even though the specific manager was, as yet, unassigned. Several of the proposals put forth by the panel on the proposed development were rather similar to the subsequent evolvement. The system suggested by the Advanced Research Projects Agency was to be based on the use of the Atlas launch vehicle with the Atlas-Sentry system serving as backup; retrorockets were to be used to initiate the return from orbit; the spacecraft was to be nonlifting, ballistic type, and the crew was to be selected from qualified volunteers in the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
Air Research and Development Command headquarters established a post of Special Assistant for BioAstronautics to the Deputy Commander for Ballistic Missiles. Life sciences personnel were to be placed on temporary duty with, or assigned to the ballistic missile division and authorized to make appropriate decisions. Command headquarters was to be informed of all decisions and through monthly reports maintain cognizance of development, fabrication, testing and scheduling of the life sciences portion of the over-all program. The Aeromedical Laboratory at Wright Air Development Center; USAF School of Aviation Medicine; and Aeromedical Field Laboratory of Air Force Missile Development Center were designated points of contact for weapon systems management organizations and contractors concerned with the life sciences experiments and hardware development. (Chronological Space Hist, 1958.)
A conference was scheduled at Air Force headquarters on 25-26 Jun 1958 to discuss the "over-all problems of the manned satellite development program." The conference was sponsored by the Advanced Research Projects Agency with representatives of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, Air Research and Development Command, Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, Space Technology Laboratories, and Convair invited to the meeting. Questions to be attacked were: Could the booster be an Atlas without a second stage? What would be the subsystem distribution of payload weight? What was Atlas maximum payload weight performance? question of ablation or heat sink capsule design was to be resolved before the conference. If it was concluded that Atlas weight lifting performance was inadequate an alternate choice would be the Atlas with a 117L second stage. Complete funding plans covering program options were to be available to the conferees. (Msg, AFDRD 51947, Hq USAF, to Hq ARDC, 13 Jun 58.)
The ballistic missile division informed command headquarters that reducing the orbit of a manned spacecraft from 150 to 100 nautical miles would either significantly (by 50 percent) increase the number of -stations needed for tracking and control of the manned satellite or decrease the reliability and length of contact appreciably. Also on this same date, the missile division agreed to prepare a revised manned space program which scheduled its first manned flight in April 1960--moving the date up from October by six months -by using an Atlas D booster (Chronological Space Hist, 1958..)
In an agreed draft revision of its "Man-In-Space-Soonest" development plan, AFBMD proposed the use of an Atlas D booster to put the first manned spacecraft into a 115-NM orbit during April 1960. If Atlas D performance were not sufficient, an Agena or Vanguard second stage would be added.
This plan proposed use of an Atlas booster to place a man in 115 nautical milt, orbit during April 1960. In event the performance was not up to lifting the required payload weight, a 1177L or a Vanguard second stage would be added. Costs were estimated at $99.3 million for Atlas alone, $139.51 million if a 117L vehicle were used as the second stage. (Chronological Space Hist, 1958.)
Air Force Ballistic Missile Division presented its fifth Man-In-Space-Soonest development plan to Washington decision points in the Air Force and Office of the Secretary of Defense. The division was instructed to complete its plans for an Atlas vehicle plus a second stage as a backup in the event the Atlas could not handle the job alone. (Chronological Space Mist, 1958.)
The Advanced Research Projects Agency had not yet directed a "go ahead" for the man in space program. However, Air Force headquarters considered it a certainty that direction of an Atlas boosted manned space flight would be given to the Air Force at an early date, that funds for the project would probably total $66 million and that a series of Thor boosted, instrument and animal capsule flights would precede the Atlas full sized instrumented capsule, chimpanzee, and manned shots. The Air Force would probably re-program to obtain whatever additional funds were required to support the program. The ballistic missile division was advised that while waiting for an authoritative "go ahead" it should continue preparation of work statements for industry competition and contractor selection so they might be coordinated with the Advanced Research iProjects Agency and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. (Ltr, Maj Gen J. E. Smart, Asst V/CS, to Lt Gen S. E. Anderson, Cmdr ARDC, 19 Jun 58, no subject given, quoted in TWX, RDZGW6-33-K, Hq ARDC, to Hq AFBMD, 27 Jun 58.)
Inasmuch as availability of basic booster units threatened to limit selection of the most desirable space programs, the Secretary of the Air Force authorized an increase in missile production as follows: four more Thor boosters, delivery to begin in December 1958 at a rate of one a month; four more Atlas boosters, delivery to begin in May 1959 at a rate of one a month; and $8 million budgeted to the Advanced Research Projects Agency for procurement of four additional Lockheed 117L vehicles, delivery to begin January 1959 at a rate of one a month. (Memo, SAF to C/S USAF, 24 Jun 58, no subject.)
In a US Air Force briefing a preliminary astronaut selection for the Man-In-Space Soonest project is made. The list consisted of USAF test pilots Robert Walker, Scott Crossfield, Neil Armstrong, Robert Rushworth, William Bridgeman, Alvin White, Iven Kincheloe, Robert White, and Jack McKay. This was the first preliminary astronaut selection in history. The project was cancelled when NASA was formed in and took responsibility for all manned space flight on 1 August 1958. Prospective contractors estimated it would take from 12 to 30 months to put the first American in orbit. In retrospect the orbital flight portion of NASA's Mercury program was paced by the availability of the Atlas booster. Therefore it is unlikely Man-in-Space-Soonest would have put an American in orbit any earlier than Mercury.
Space Technology Laboratories was requested to submit a proposal to perform system engineering and technical direction of the Air Force man in space program based on the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division's work statement. In event program authorization was received prior to completion of the proposal, work would begin under a letter contract. Pending receipt of such approval, the contractor's work on Man-In-SpaceSoonest program would be confined to technical staff assistance, a function it was performing as a technical requirement of the existing contract. (Chronological Space Hist, 1958.)
General Electric Company personnel presented a briefing at NACA headquarters on studies related to manned space flight. The company held contracts let by the Wright Air Development Center for study and mock-up of a manned spacecraft. NACA made no official comment.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency addressed two questions to the research and development command: Would the Air Force accept a 110 nautical mile orbit instead of 150 nautical miles for the manned space flight? What degree of program accomplishment could be obtained with a fiscal 1959 program of $50 million based on an Atlas-117L second stage? (Chronological "Space Hi't, 1958.)
The Advanced Research Projects Agency favors the Convair-AVCO proposal to complete the Man-In-Space-Soonest Program. Air Force Ballistic Missile Division answered the two questions forwarded on 10 July. The division understood that the Advanced Research Projects Agency was disposed to favor the Convair-AVCO proposal to complete the Man-In-Space-Soonest Program. Under this assumption 150 nautical miles would be the minimum altitude for technical and economic reasons. Although the division would not choose to drop to a $50 million level for fiscal 1959, if it were directed to do so it could prepare the planning in time for a briefing to the commander of Air Research and Development Command by 15 August 1958. A manned orbital flight under such a program would not be possible until late in calendar year 1961 or early 196Z. The division requested that command headquarters issue confirming instructions and additional guidance. (Chronological Space Hist, 1958.)
Cook Electric Company submitted a proposal to the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation as a part of a preliminary study and design effort by McDonnell for a manned satellite. McDonnell, prior to being awarded the Mercury prime development contract in February 1959, spent 11 months under a company research budget working on a manned orbital spacecraft concept.
Major General B. A. Schriever, missile division commander, recommended slipping the target date for the first manned flight from April to May 1960 because of continued delay in approving MISS. Work statements had been initiated for all aspects of the program and the Air Fzrce was studying the Ground Based Information System (tracking and control network) "andthe heat sink versus ablation problem, while Convair, Aerojet-General and Lockheed were studying the design of the backup second stage. Source selection had been established to evaluate prospective contractors to submit proposals for a small capsule. Invitations to the request for proposals briefing would be dispatched within 24 hours after program approval and commitment of funds. Requests for proposals were also being prepared on system assembly tests and a large capsule design. To forestall further program slippage, Schriever made the following recommendations: immediate approval of Man-In-Space-Soonest at a level of $106.6 million for fiscal 1959; grant $31.92 million immediately for first quarter commitment; remainder of second quarter funds, $21.85 million, be released by 1 October and the third and fourth quarter funds of $52.89 million be available by 1 January 1959., Finally, the program should be assigned a priority commensurate with the urgency of the man in space mission. (Ltr, Schriever to Anderson, 24 Jul 58, subj: Actions Required for Man-In-Space-Soonest Program.)
Air Force Ballistic Missile Division published its sixth Manned Military Space System Development plan. This proposed a single Atlas booster, but with a back-up program for a second stage (either 117L or AJ 10), to place a man in a 150 nautical mile orbit in June 1960. The cost to carry out this plan was estimated at $106.66 million for fiscal 1959. (Chronological Space Hist, 1958.)
Air Force Ballistic Missile Division representatives again presented a series of Washington briefings. These were to Lt General S. E. Anderson, Commander, Air Research and Development Command; the Air Staff; Secretary of the Air Force and Staff; and Director Roy Johnson, of the Advanced Research Projects Agency. The latter presentation, in addition to reporting detailed man in space planning, requested prompt program approval and emphasized the urgency of firm funds commitment if further delay was to be avoided. Johnson's response to the briefing may be summarized as follows: (a) the man in space program would not be approved at this time; (b) it appeared that $50 million would be an optimistic estimate of man in space funding until the Space Council, authorized by recent legislation, was organized and working, an event that was not probable before Thanksgiving; (c) planning anything over a $50 million program, the maximum likely to be approved under any circumstances, was wasted effort; (d) statements of prominent scientists had convinced the White House there was no currently valid reason for Man-InSpace: (e) when the Space Council became a viable organization, man in space would probably become a joint effort of the Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics; (f) The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (the National Aeronautics and Space Act creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was to become law on 29 July 1958) was already thinking of an independent but very similar space program that would cost about $40 million in fiscal 1959. After these two days of briefings it was clear that quick approval of a military man in space program was not forthcoming. (MFR, Col J. D. Lowe, Ch, Space Sys Div, AFBMD, 30 Jul 58, subj: MISS Briefing to Hq ARDC, Hq USAF, the Secretary of the Air Force and ARPA on 24-25 July 1958.)
Despite mounting evidence that the Air Force would not be assigned management of any national lunar program, it continued to press for a manned space program. On this date there was a meeting of Dr. Dryden, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics; Mr. R. Johnson, Advanced Research Projects Agency; and Secretary of Defense Neil McElroy but future management of a manned space program was not resolved and it appeared that resolution would only bp attained at the Presidential level. It was assumed, however,that the Air Force would have at least $50 million in fiscal 1959 funds to further its space program. (MFR, Col J.D. Lowe, AFBMD, 29 Jul 58, subj: Man-In-Space Program, cited in Chronological Space Hist, 1958.)
The President signed the law by which the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics would be succeeded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The new agency would have custody of all space programs except those clearly oriented toward military objectives. Air Force headquarters obtained approval of the Office of the Secretary of Defense to establish within the Deputy Chief of Staff, Development, a Directorate of Advanced Technology. Brigadier General H. A. Boushey was appointed director of the new office and its primary function, although the words "space" and "astronautics" were conspicuously absent from its mission description, was to serve as the control point for all Air Force space projects. (Bowen, The Threshold of Space, p. 21.)
Air Force headquarters forwarded the following instructions and request for information to the Air Research and Development Command:. the Man-InSpace Program was to be programmed at a fiscal 1959 level of $50 million. The 1evel of expenditures was to be scheduled so that acceleration would be possible on 1 December 1958 if additional funds were forthcoming or if they were not, the program could be funded in an orderly manner through the remainder of the year. The research and development command should also seek to answer the question: Why should the military furnish the first man in space ? (Msg, AFDAT 53918, Hq USAF to Cmdr ARDC, 30 Jul 58, cited in Chronological Space Hist, 1958.)
Obviously the military services no longer controlled development of space vehicles and programs. Through fiscal 1958 all space programs had been managed by the Department of Defense through the Advanced Research Projects Agency. The new fiscal year offered little hope for change and, on 29 July, the President ordered transfer to National Aeronautics and Space Administration of nonmilitary space programs such as lunar probes, scientific satellites, and the Vanguard project. (Bowen, The Threshold of Space, p. 28.)
Republic Aviation representatives briefed NACA Headquarters personnel on the man-in-space studies in which the company had been engaged since the first of the year. They envisioned a four-stage solid launch vehicle system and a lifting reentry vehicle, which was termed a sled. The vehicle was to be of triangular shape with a 75 degree leading-edge sweep. Aerodynamic and reaction controls would be available to the pilot. For the launch vehicle, Republic proposed a Minuteman first stage, a Polaris first stage, a Minuteman upper stage, and a Jumbo rocket fourth stage. Other details relative to reentry and recovery were included in the briefing.
AVCO briefed Brigadier General H. A. Boushey, Director of Advanced Technology, Headquarters USAF. The company proposed--as it had on previous occasions -a metal drag brake system. The proposal appeared especially attractive to the Advanced Research Projects Agency staff and the Air Staff because of its apparent potential versatility in terms of military applications. The Air Research and Development Command was directed to proceed immediately with a technical evaluation of the proposal and the Defense Department seriously considered supporting a project which would test AVCO's concept., The ballistic missile division preferred the solution to the re-entry problem offered in the man in space technical plan-which appeared to be in the process of being absorbed by the civilian space agency; evidence of the plan's technical validity. Beyond these developments there was no change in the status of the military space program and the likelihood of the Advanced Research Projects Agency accepting even a scaled down fiscal 1959 appropriation of $40 million in support of the military space effort appeared, in the words of Johnson, "to be less than 50 50. ' (Msg RDZGW 8-25 -E, Hq ARDC, to AFBMD, 21 Aug 58.)
The future of the proposed Air Force space program was uncertain due to the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It appeared probable that final over-all space program would be adopted until the large area of overlapping jurisdiction between the two agencies was sorted out. In addition, the Department of Defense was required to transfer some $117 million in fiscal 1959 funds to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of which $58.8 million was Air Force money. Thus it appeared that of the various proposed programs already within National Aeronautics and Space Administration's legitimate area of interest it might well take over the man in space program primarily because it had the money to undertake its development. In respect to the lunar probe program, the Air Force had to wait for further direction before proceeding further. The large booster (one million pound thrust) authorized for Air Force development was transferred to the civilian. space agency. The Air Force would continue development of the 117L system under the over-all direction of the Advanced Research Projects Agency. (Memo, Col C. R. Roderick, Committee Liaison Div, Ofc of Legislative Liaison, to Asst Dir, Legislative Liaison, Sep 58, no subj.)
Air Force Ballistic Missile Division published the seventh Manned Military Space System Development Plan. The word "Soonest" was conspicuously absent from the title. The plan contained no startling innovations but reduced the program to fit fiscal 1959 anticipated expenditures of $40 million with no second stage backup. The first manned flight was scheduled for December 1960. (Ltr, Brig Gen 0. J. Ritland, V/Cmdr, AFBMD, to Crndr, ARDC, 15 Sep 58, subj: Man-In-Space Program.)
The deputy commander organizational structure, under which the division carried out its development mission and support functions, was enlarged to four deputy commanders--one each for ballistic missiles, military space systems, installations, and resources. 3 (Hist, The Space Systems Division--Background (1957-1962), Feb 63, prep by SSD Hist Div.)
Evaluation of life support Phase I contractor efforts at North American Aviation and General Electric was completed. The studies of both contractors were considered excellent. The contract winner, however, was not announced because the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was taking over the manned space program. The mockup of the manned capsule developed I by North American Aviation, together with associated technical data was, subsequently, delivered to the civilian agency's Space Task Group at Langley Re"-search Center., (Rpt, Comparison of NASA Manned Space Program and USAF Manned Military Space Proposal, 25 Feb 60, prep by AFBMD; Cmdrs Ref Book, 25 Mar 59.)
The first of a series of meetings between the Space Task Group and Air Force Ballistic Missile Division was held to define support required by the civilian space agency. The scope of the manned space effort, its booster requirements, procurement procedures, launch schedules and facilities, were defined. The missile division also needed to define the extent of its own role in the. Mercury program. Control of booster procurement, scheduling use of scarce ground and launch facilities in the face of possible interference with ballistic missile development, and the desire to use the existing Air Force Ballistic Missile Division/ Space Technology Laboratories management structure in carrying out the support role were some of the questions and policies to be resolved. The first meeting was exploratory in nature; the missile division indicated its complete support of the Mercury program insofar as it did not interfere with the missile development effort; the space agency indicated its desire to procure boosters through, and use as much of Air Force Ballistic Missile Division's resources and capabilities as possible. (Rpt, AFBMD Support, Project Mercury, Dec 1960, prep by AFBMD Space Div (WDZ.)
A second Space Task Group Air Force Ballistic Missile Division meeting, held at Langley Research Center, continued the task of developing a coordinated Project Mercury effort. The space agency offered a tentative launch and test program and the missile division assisted in preparing a development plan. Schedules, operating procedures, funding and general allocation of responsibilities were discussed but the meeting was not marked by any major agreements. (Rpt, AFBMD Support, Proj Mercury, Dec 1960 prep by AFBMD Space Div (WDZ.)
At the request of John W. McCormack, Chairman of House Committee on Aeronautics and Space Exploration, Major General B. A Schriever prepared a paper, "Space Development Capabilities 1958-1968" This eloquently projected space advances and goals over the next decade. Schriever pointed out that above developments in any other technical area ". improvements in rocket thrust--our lifting capability -will be a direct determinant of our overall). rate of progress, " To this date the rate of progress in space rested directly on the nation's missile program. Another area of primary concern was increasing the reliability of all elements of a space system. with significant improvements in these two areas the nation could anticipate ever increasing payloads placed in orbit, manned orbital satellites and space stations , lunar flights and near planetary explorations. Recoverable chemical powered boosters, ion beam or thermo-nuclear plasma propulsion systems outer space would open an ent; rely new phase of space exploration. Thus in the months and years ahead it was possible to foresee many dramatic developments in propulsion systems, high thrust space vehicles and a vastly increased knowledge of the space environment. (Paper, "Space Development Capability, 1958-1968, " submitted 15 Nov 58, prep by Maj Gen B. A. Schriever, Cmdr, AFBIVID.)
Air Force Ballistic Missile Division received its first specific request from the civilian space agency to support a "preliminary research program leading to manned space flight." The division was requested to procure one Atlas C ballistic missile booster with its associated control and guidance equipment." '... This request was a forerunner of a support effort for a program "requiring approximately thirteen (13) ballistic missile boosters of the Thor and Atlas class."' The space agency would procure the payload, scheduled for May 1959 delivery. The missile division was to furnish detailed plans, subject to the approval of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, for the design, construction and launching of this vehicle. One million dollars was immediately transferred to the Air Force with more money to be supplied as it was requested. (Msg, no cite number, Hq NASA, to Cmds. AFBMD, 25 Nov 58.)
While the probability of the ballistic missile division developing a military manned space system was rapidly diminishing, military and civilian demand for space boosters was accelerating. Except for certain strictly military applications it was plain the Air Force would play mainly a supporting role in the nation's space program, supplying boosters and launch facilities to the civilian .space agency and the Advanced Research Projects Agency. On this date there were approximately 11 scheduled programs, several only in the planning stage. One of the firm programs was the civilian agency's man in space which was scheduled to launch its first experimental Atlas C payload in May 1959 and start a series of nine Atlas D launches beginning December 1959. (Ltr, Col L. D. Ely, Asst Dep Cmdr, Military Space Sys, AFBMD, to Col C. H. Terhune, 1 Dec 58, subj: Atlas Boosters for Space Projects.)
Testifying before the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Maj. Gen. Bernard A. Schriever, Commander of the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, stated that all three military services should be studying the possibility of a base on the moon. Up to that point, he felt, all such studies had been "in the blue thinking."
The Air Force no longer seriously entertained the prospect of a separate military man in space program. Instead the ballistic missile division became deeply involved in support activity for the civilian space agency, especially developing and supplying hardware for the Mercury program. As of this date, Air Force Ballistic Missile Division participation included the following: providing 16 Atlas D boosters to accept Mercury capsules and adapters, to be provided by the space agency, a modified guidance structure, an installed abort system to insure pilot safety, and telemetry. Air Force Ballistic Missile Division also furnished launch facilities at the Atlantic Missile Range Complex 14, and one-half of Hangar J and the necessary modifications thereto as requested and made necessary by booster requirements. Such work included installation of capsule umbilical and checkout cabling, telemetry, communications, and data transfer equipment required by the payload. The missile division also provided the guidance site and use of the range Atlas guidance computer (Mod III) for powered trajectory guidance and the special computations requested by the space agency. Air Force Ballistic Missile Division and several Air Force contractors provided, as of this date, 401 military and civilian personnel to the program. Much of the cost of this support activity was reimbursed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, but some was not. Air Force personnel costs, military and civilian; office space and equipment; and normal base support functions were provided at Air Force expense. Cost of a 14 booster "program (the additional two boosters were ordered too late to be included in this summary) was as follows:(Millions of Dollars)
|Prior Years||FY 61||FY 62||Total|
|Booster Hardware and Launch Service||19.769||15.324||5.924||41.017|
|Engineering Modifications and Studies, Technical Direction, Booster Safety Program, etc.||3.436||6.367||1.362||11.165|
|Miscellaneous, Propellant, Transportation, Travel, etc.||.466||1.133||.122||1.721|
Key staff members of NASA Headquarters and the Commander, U.S. Air Force Research and Development Command, met at the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, Los Angeles, Calif., to attend briefings and discuss matters of mutual concern.
At an executive session, Air Force and NASA programs of orbital rendezvous, refueling, and descent from orbit were discussed. Long-range Air Force studies on a lunar base were in progress as well as research on more immediate missions, such as rendezvous by an unmanned satellite interceptor for inspection purposes, manned maintenance satellites, and reentry methods. NASA plans for the manned lunar landing mission included the possible use of the Saturn booster in an orbital staging operation employing orbital refueling. Reentry studies beyond Mercury were concentrated on reentry at escape speeds and on a spacecraft configuration capable of aerodynamic maneuvering during reentry.