Surveyor Day–Monday December 14, 1964

Editors Preface:

Prospects for a successful Surveyor mission appeared exceedingly dim in 1964. The first launch, originally scheduled for August 1963, was no longer a possibility in 1964. The spacecraft development suffered many difficulties over the year. The crucial drop test program, necessary to validate the descent flight control system, had suffered two failures without a success. NASA headquarters became quite concerned about the program and conducted a full-scale review in March. This was followed by a detailed JPL review in April. NASA concluded that the JPL staff assigned to the project was insufficient and as a result was increased from 100 to 500 engineers assigned to monitor Hughes in more detail. These problems caused both the JPL and Hughes project managers to be replaced. In addition, the Centaur program was also having difficulties. As of the end of 1964 there had only been one successful Centaur flight of the four attempted.   As the year came to an end there were concerns about the morale of both the Hughes and JPL staff and it was felt necessary to provide the project team with a new, more realizable program schedule. In order to publicize these objectives, a meeting of the entire project staff was planned and held on December 14.

Surveyor Day – a time to remember—Hughes News December 18, 1964 transcribed by Faith Macpherson.

The Surveyor spacecraft’s role as a prime element in U.S. space policy and its importance to national and company prestige was highlighted as more than 2500 members of the Hughes-Jet Propulsion Laboratory Surveyor Team met Monday to start the drive down the homestretch toward the late 1965 launch date.

Terming the Surveyor program “unbelievably important” in its impact on the rest of the world, Vice President and General Manager L.A. Hyland told the huge “Surveyor Day” throng that they are “carrying the torch for the United States and the rest of the world in direct competition with Russia. We must not fail.”

Feel the Challenge

No one in the audience, composed primarily of Hughesites from throughout the company who are involved in the gigantic Surveyor effort, could help but feel the challenge and the responsibility for meeting admittedly difficult delivery deadlines.

All, however, were assured by Space Systems Division Manager Fred P. Adler that the program is “feasible, reasonable, and well defined.”

“The success of Surveyor is crucial to the division and the program will make or break the Hughes reputation as a contractor on major space programs,” Dr. Adler said. “The individual has a real contribution to make. All of us have a real chance to become real heroes to the company….or the opposite. To succeed takes a team of dedicated and success-oriented people who each will take responsibility for his own contribution.   We are going to make sure that you are aware where the program stands and how it is going.”

Essence of the Day

And that was the essence of “Surveyor Day” – to inform people associated in any way with the program of where it stands now, where it is going, and what has to be done to get there.

An impressive list of speakers charted the path.

William H. Pickering, director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, manager of the unmanned lunar program for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said that the Surveyor program holds the highest priority in unmanned projects and is clearly essential as the next step in lunar exploration.

“Surveyor, with its challenge of actually making a landing on the moon, is one of the most fascinating programs in the nation today,” Dr. Pickering said. “It certainly is one of the most sophisticated NASA has undertaken.”

He pointed out that Surveyor will make the first controlled lunar landing and will provide information on the landing site for the Apollo manned lunar landing later on.

“Exert Every Effort”

“Surveyor is committed to support Apollo,” Dr. Pickering said. “Growing costs and slipping schedules, however, are of concern to NASA and it behooves both JPL and Hughes to exert every possible effort to meet the launch date. This date is real. It can be met. But time and money are short.

“There is no room for mistakes. Design must be right, manufacture must follow design. There is no room for incompetence or mistakes anywhere in the project,” the noted scientist declared.

After showing pictures of Ranger 7’s successful moon shot, Dr. Pickering put it all in a nutshell when he said:

“Ranger does not answer many of the key questions which must be answered before man lands on the moon. It is up to you. Surveyor is the next big event in moon exploration.”

Hyland Speaks


Mr. Hyland, before introducing Dr. Pickering, said “there’s no alibi for anybody anymore. It’s up to us. Economically and as a matter of national prestige the landing of an instrumented vehicle on the moon is extremely important.”

Then Mr. Hyland added a personal note, which explains his own dedication to the program.

“Most of you have 20, 30, or 40 years of your careers remaining – time to become involved in many other great projects. But my career is drawing to a close and I can’t think of any better way to wind up a long career than to participate in a landing on the moon.

“I want to land one of our vehicles on the moon! There will be no lack of interest, no lack of support from the central office.”

Vice President Allen E. Puckett, Aerospace Group executive cited some of the frustrations and uncertainties early in the program, along with some of the accomplishments of the past. But he said, “what lies ahead is the most crucial part of this program. We are coming into the homestretch – the real dash for the finish. The part of the program between now and the first launch in an attempt to land on the moon is the crucial time.”

He pointed out that many tough technical problems had to be solved and that there were difficult compromises to arrive at, measured against the boundaries of time and cost.

“By means of a truly intensive joint effort we (HAC-JPL) have arrived at a definition of the program between now and the first launch. We know what we are going to do,” Dr. Puckett declared.

He said that the actual launch date, still classified, was selected because it represents essentially the last practical moment for a launch that will permit a day-light landing on the moon so that television pictures can be transmitted back to earth under best possible conditions.

Much to Be Done

There still is much work to be done, specific equipment improvements to be accomplished, and there is the element of risk, but the Surveyor program is practical, “do-able,” Dr. Puckett said.

“We must understand the program plans clearly and implement them with great precision and accuracy,” he added. “And I hope that we share a feeling of great excitement as we near our goal and that you will accept individual responsibility as we move to meet our objectives.”

Details of the “hard core” Surveyor program were spelled out by R.L. Roderick, assistant manager of Space Systems Division and manager of the Surveyor program.

Subsystem testing is continuing, Dr. Roderick said, with the drop-tests of T-2 at Holloman AFB the most dramatic – and presenting considerable difficulties though being pursued with success following one major setback.

“Subsystems tests to date, however, give us confidence in the future,” he said.

Important Milestone

Aug. 2 looms as the fifth and most important milestone in the “hard core” program, Dr. Roderick said.

“That’s the delivery date of the completed spacecraft, SC-1, to Cape Kennedy. And that’s Aug. 2 – not Aug. 4 or Aug. 5. These are vital days. Aug. 2 is the latest we can possibly deliver to use the last ‘window’ of 1965 that will permit us to land on the moon in daylight.”

Then, he listed the five key dates between the time of the meeting and shipment of spacecraft:

Dec. 17 – A Thursday – From upgrade to systems test (accomplished). This involved putting the first spacecraft into systems test.

March 23 – A Tuesday – Start of first mission sequence, sequence of events the spacecraft will meet on the way to the moon.

May 6 – A Thursday – Start of vibration tests, on the X-axis, part of the flight acceptance test.

June 23 – A Wednesday – Pumpdown starts for the solar thermal vacuum tests which simulate all the conditions, including radiation, the spacecraft is expected to encounter in transit to the moon.

Aug. 2 – A Monday – Shipment of spacecraft from El Segundo to Cape Kennedy.

“That gives us 160 working days from now,” Dr. Roderick said. “We are wholly committed and hope all of you are, to achieving this goal.”

Russians Ready

As if to stress the challenge to Hughesites, Mr. Hyland pointed out a sobering fact. Every time there has been a suitable window for a launch, the Russians have had a vehicle ready.

“It is our best hope that when the window takes place we will be able to fire. We know that the Russians will be able to.”

Vice President John H. Richardson, who conducted the “Surveyor Day” meeting, introduced Howard Haglund, head of the Surveyor program for JPL, then closed with these remarks:

“You have heard of the difficult job it has been to nail down these dates, to define the program in the detail we now have, of the shipping dates, and of the magnitude of the job ahead. These are sobering factors to consider. Much must be accomplished by all of us in the few months in front of us.”

Hughes Wins New Satellite Contract—Hughes News December 3, 1965.

Apollo, Public Applications

Plans for a two-ocean system of commercial communications satellites to link tow-thirds of the world by television and telephone and to aid in America’s attempt to land men on the moon moved ahead when the Communications Satellite Corporation (Comsat) awarded HAC an $11.7 million contract to build four 303A satellites.

The satellites function is to provide satellite communications for the first time in the Pacific area and provide instant voice contact between the Apollo moon astronauts, the Space Flight Center at Houston, Tex., and the various ground stations during Apollo’s earth-orbiting phase.

Bigger, More Powerful

John H. Richardson, senior vice president and Aerospace Group executive, said the new satellites will have three times the transmitter power of Early Bird, the world’s first commercial communications satellite, and will be twice its size (56 inches in diameter and 26 inches high.

Early Bird, also built for Comsat by Hughes, was launched fro Cape Kennedy last April and has been in commercial operation between the United States and Europe since June. Among notable news events televised through Early Bird to Europe were the U. S. visit of Pope Paul and the launching of Gemini V with astronauts Gordon Cooper and Charles Conrad.

The new satellites, unlike Early Bird whose squinted antenna concentrated its beam between western Europe and the U. S., will have broader antenna coverage over a wider global area and will be able to carry multiple conversations among several stations simultaneously.

Launch Next Summer

Launch of the new satellites is scheduled for late next summer, when the spacecraft are sent, separately into synchronous orbits 22.300 miles above the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The Atlantic satellite will be place in space above the Ivory Coast of western Africa and the Pacific satellite will be positioned near the International Dateline in the Pacific.

The global coverage of the satellites is expected to enable voice contact with the Apollo astronauts to be made directly from ground terminals in contact with the orbiting spacemen. These reports will be flashed directly to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration control center in Houston.

Satellite communications with the astronauts will be continuous via ships and ground stations deployed around the world.

Nine ground terminals are planned to meet the communications requirements of the program. Three will be operated by Comsat. These will be transportable terminals with 42-foot antennas which will be located at Andover, Me., Brewster Flat, Wash., and Paumalu, Oahu, Hawaii.

Three shipboard terminals, provided by the U. S, government, will be located in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans during the Apollo orbits. Three others will be fixed terminals provided by the United Kingdom on Ascension Island in the Atlantic, by Australia at Carnarvon, and by Spain on Grand Canary Island.

An advanced satellite antenna design developed by Hughes will permit direct contact with several ground stations simultaneously and provide for greater commercial use without any degradation or loss of power in the transmitted signals.

Tight Schedule Set

The HS-303A team faces the stern test of delivering the first satellite to Comsat by July 13 and the second just 21 days later if it is to realize the maximum incentive fee, R. M. “Dick” Bentley, Syncom/HS 303 program manager reports.

Work under the new $11.7 million contract started Nov. 15 and the first flight spacecraft is to be delivered 240 days later Mr. Bentley said. Deliveries of the second and third satellites follow in 21-day periods.

Editors Note: These spacecraft were later given the designation Intelsat II. The first spacecraft was launched in October 1966, but suffered an apogee motor failure and did not achieve a geosynchronous orbit. The remaining three spacecraft, launched during 1967 were successful and were retired after their three-year design lifetimes.

Test Craft Makes Soft Landing—Hughes News December 3, 1965

The first successful “soft Landing” of an unmanned vehicle using self-contained automatic control and a technical feat equaling the first launch of a ballistic missile was achieved Nov. 22 with the Surveyor T-2N-1 test spacecraft at Alamogordo, N. M.

The entire terminal descent test at the Air Force Missile Development Center was termed by Senior Project Engineer Bob McNamara as “perfect in every detail.”

This means that the entire flight control system, including the vernier propulsion system, designed to slow or speed the descent of the Surveyor spacecraft to the desired landing speed during the final few miles of flight after the 18,000-mile-per-hour trip fro earth to the moon, and the unique Ryan radar system worked “A-OK.”

“The technical problems involved in slowing a speeding unmanned vehicle so that it lands without damage are no less complex than those in launching the first ballistic missile,” said R. R. Roderick. Surveyor Program Manager. “In effect, we’ve reversed the launching procedure to get a soft landing.”

He pointed out that newspaper accounts of Soviet attempts to soft-land a vehicle on the moon said that the vehicles crashed into the moon apparently because of failures in their radar systems.

“A great deal of credit goes to the men who have struggled with and conquered these flight control problems,” Dr. Roderick added.

The T-2N descent test program is under the direction of Warren Nichols at Culver City. Larry Steffan is the test director at AFMDC, supported by Flight Test Division’s Holloman Operations under Manager Lloyd McClellan. Mr. McNamara headed systems  engineering.

Others cited by Dr. Roderick are subsystems engineers Truett Black, Davey Alders, Ray Barber, Rob Smith, Bernie Malitsky, Saul Briskin, Walt Shippy, Chuck Anthens, and Jack Preston who directed the reliability effort.

Also credited were Larry Albright, Merle Borman, Gordon Brooks, Bill Cook, Bill Edenfield, Rod Edwards, Ep Epstein, Roy Goodgion, Freer Gottried, Sam Kerr, Sam Parker, Russell Ridgeway, Harry Schiller, Frank Zolner, and Darlene Pickerd.

The T-2N-1 was returned to Culver City via airplane late Nov. 24 for additional tests before returning to AFMDC for a new series of descent tests. A second test spacecraft, T-2N-2 left Culver City last Monday to begin its role in perfecting the soft-landing technique.

The following is excerpted from JPL Space Programs Summary No. 37-37, January 31, 1966.

T-2N Descent Test Program

a. T-2N-1 first descent test vehicle. On November 22, 1965, a successful descent test was performed. The vehicle trajectory control during free flight followed the predicted profile. During the descent, the vehicle maintained a velocity of 5 ft/sec for 4 sec. At approximately 600 ft from the ground, after a free flight from approximately 1430 ft, recovery was initiated as programmed and all recovery functions were successful. Good test data were received on all telemetry channels and optical tracked was complete. Detailed analysis of the data is being performed, after which a complete report will be issued. At the conclusion of the test, the T-2N-1 vehicle was returned to Culver city for minor upgrade, inspection, and repeat of the system functional tests.


Pioneer Venus people happy with success—Hughes News January 5, 1979 transcribed by Faith Macpherson

The four week-old success story of HAC’s Pioneer Venus really began in January 1972 when work on the first proposal for NASA began.

A little more than two years later, Space and Communications Group received the first hardware contract, and manufacturing and testing on what has become one of the major historical events of 1978 got under way.

Throughout those seven years hundreds of Hughesites have contributed their expertise to the project.

Hughesnews asked some of those employees to express their thoughts on the accomplishments. Here’s what they had to say:


“An inviting challenge, even from a contracts standpoint was NASA Systems Division Contracts Manager “Hap” L’Heureux’s opinion of the Pioneer Venus mission. “We were always optimistic about the program and thoroughly pleased with the way it all turned out.”

Henry DiCristina, in charge of integration, test and launch operations for both the Orbiter and Multiprobe, said the mission was “flawless.”

“We hoped that Pioneer Venus would be this kind of a success, but none of us thought it would be flawless. With all the complicated instruments on board, we thought it inevitable that there would be parts that would not work as originally designed.

“Our goal throughout the program was to make it flawless, and that’s the way it happened,” Mr. DiCristina said.

Systems Engineering Manager Jack Fisher said he was “flabbergasted” that everything worked perfectly, and particularly pleased that the Day probe continued to send back data to Earth for more than an hour after reaching the planet’s surface.

Pioneer Venus was better than Surveyor I, another mission expected to have problems, he said. “And they both turned out to be totally successful programs.”

“This has been a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Arnold Neil, Orbiter spacecraft manager. “I’d really like to do another mission like it sometime.”

The Orbiter has been a real fantastic success story. There have been no spacecraft hardware failures of any kind and it collected more and more scientific data on each orbit of Venus.

Meeting a fixed launch date was a challenge by itself. The whole team put on a lot of extra hours at night and on weekends to meet the deadline.

“All of that work has been rewarded so far by the way the Orbiter is continuing to do its job. The mission’s success shows a tremendous team effort by all the HAC organizations taking part.”

John Ribarich, Multiprobe spacecraft manager, called the mission a “techno-poetic performance of people, planets, and probes.”

“There were never any questions about the success of the Multiprobe bus; it performed as expected. The real questions were in the probes, and they worked well beyond our expectations. The success of the mission is a reflection of the various personalities involved,” he said.

Bob Fehr, a project engineer in the Pioneer Venus thermal analysis area, said the spacecraft performances were very close to what was predicted.

“There were no significant differences in the thermal aspects of the mission. We knew it would be hot there.”

Bob Morris, in charge of Orbiter launch operations, said cooperation from NASA helped make the launch a “smooth” one.

“We were extremely pleased with the performance of all of HAC’s and NASA’s people at the Cape. When the automatic sequence following launch performed as designed, we knew we had done our jobs.”

As Experiments manager for the mission in its initial stages, Tony Lauletta was in charge of those people who made certain the HAC design would satisfy the needs of scientists.

He praised Bob Varga, Jerry Zomber, Frank McLaughlin, and Chris Thorpe for their work on the mission’s detailed engineering interfaces, which must provide procedures for fitting the various scientific instruments in the spacecraft.

“Their responsibilities included making sure each instrument had enough room, making sure each instrument was pointed in the right direction, and seeing to it that all necessary cables were routed the most efficient way,” he said.

“The mission accomplished all of the initial objectives proposed by scientists years ago, and that was a feat in itself.

“The outstanding data sent back and having all the instruments work satisfactorily were the fulfillment of any engineer’s dreams,” he said.

Bob Farmer, test director on Orbiter launch operations, can remember breathing a sigh of relief, along with other members of the HAC team, when the Orbiter came out from behind the Venusian clouds on its first orbit of the planet and all instruments were working.

“It felt pretty good when we knew we hadn’t overlooked anything that could have jeopardized the mission,” he said.

Estelle Smith, part of SCG’s Thermal Insulation group, stitched many of the tissue-thin layers of Kapton insulating material to create thermal blankets that protected the probes from excessive heat and pressure on Venus.

“It made me feel good that Pioneer Venus was such a success and to know that I played my part. While the engineers told us how many layers to sew, we were the ones who did the work and made the blankets.”

George Thomas was senior project engineer working on the mission’s two star sensors. A star sensor is a device used to track the actual attitude of the spacecraft.

The attitude is, George explained, the relationship between the spacecraft’s axis and a reference point such as a star.

One sensor was aboard the Orbiter and the other was aboard the Multiprobe.

“Our design worked in space just as it did in the lab. Everything worked perfectly and we’re really happy about that.

“We were able to tell the spacecraft’s residual attitude – the difference between the predicted and actual attitudes – down to one-hundreth of a degree instead of one-tenth of a degree as required.”

Bernie Bienstock, involved with Orbiter testing, said he was “overjoyed” with the success of Pioneer Venus.

“It’s rewarding to work so hard on something and have it result in such a great success.

“We did a good job of simulating on the ground what happened on Venus. The mission is going very much like our tests showed it would.

“We tested the orbit insertion process many times in the lab and it worked in space perfectly, just as well as it did here.

Naomie Nakamura has been Program Manager Steve Dorfman’s secretary since the early stages of Pioneer Venus.

“It’s been fantastic,” she said. “Back when the program started, I didn’t think it would be as newsworthy as it is today. It’s always been interesting to me, though.

“I’ve been really lucky to be a part of a program that gave me the opportunity to go to Cape Canaveral and have such a good boss. Pioneer Venus is something that I will never forget.”

John Bozajian was the associate manager in charge of subsystems during the proposal, conceptual design, and subsystem hardware design stages.

“Pioneer Venus was a technically diverse and inspiring program from the beginning,” he said. “It was a rare opportunity to be a part of such a technically involved program. I will treasure the memory. It was a long, arduous, and difficult task with a fantastic outcome.”

Jack Dempsey was structural supervisor during the final buildup of the probes and on the early test model of the Orbiter.

“We thought we built a good product,” he said. “We all hoped at least one of the probes would withstand the impact on Venus and continue sending back data and we’re really pleased one of them did.

“Much credit should go to Guy Wells, crew chief on the probes, and all his people.” Mr. Dempsey said they all worked “hand-in-hand” with him to make certain the job was done right.

“It was really a challenging task. Without our top-notch crew, it would have been impossible.”




The Surveyor Lunar Orbiter—Jack Fisher

The Surveyor as originally planned by NASA in 1959 included a lander and a lunar orbiter; both were congressionally authorized programs. The early NASA concept considered an orbiter based upon a modified lander to be launched with an Atlas Centaur. However, the Surveyor orbiter did not materialize although studies were conducted by Hughes and others. Lunar exploration became much more focused with the beginning of the Apollo program and the need for a photographic atlas of the moon to aid in the selection of landing sites became a high priority goal. JPL had their hands full with the Ranger, Mariner, and Surveyor programs and Centaur development difficulties ruled out a timely launch of a lunar orbiter based upon this approach. In early 1963 the Langley Research Center developed a concept using an Agena-class spacecraft that was adopted by NASA. An RFP was released to industry on August 30, 1963. Five bidders submitted proposals including Hughes, STL, Martin, Lockheed and Boeing. I participated in the Hughes proposal that was managed by John Housego. Our proposal was not successful and the contract was awarded to Boeing. An account of these developments is presented in NASA TM X-3487 Destination Moon: A History of the Lunar Orbiter Program by Bruce K. Byers published in 1977. This document includes a description and evaluation of the designs submitted by the five bidders. The program was very successful and provided photographs of the lunar surface that were used to select landing sites for both Apollo and Surveyor.