In Memoriam: William A. Armstrong

This was sent to me today by Charles Armstrong’s daughter. He passed away in 2020 at the age of 91 ~ Julianne

Charles A. Armstron

Korean War Period: 1951-1955

After graduating Boston College, I was accepted into the OCS program in Newport, Rhode Island.

I was  selected to be a member of the second class. Upon successful completion of a very intense 90-day program I was assigned to the USS Los Angeles. With my background and studies in science and physics I was assigned to the gunnery department and focused on fire control electronics and optical systems. Upon arriving in Korea, I was designated the Main Battery (8”/55 guns) Fire Control Director Officer. I remained in this position for the full tour of combat duty in Korea, approximately 2 ½ years. 

Upon returning to Long Beach, California, I received orders to leave the USS Los Angeles and report to instructors’ school at Norfolk, Virginia and then to Fleet Air Defense (and Guided Missile), Center at Dam Neck, Virginia Beach, Virginia.

 The final two years of my service was spent as the Range Officer and Fire Control Director. There were additional duties as the Ammunition Officer, legal support, to enlisted personnel, and providing support to the future assigned members of SEAL Team Six.

 I completed a full and exciting term of service for the Navy in February 1955.

Hughes Aircraft 1962- 1987

I started with Hughes Aircraft in their Naval Programs (DPRD). I participated in several Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) projects. I quickly advanced to become Project Manager in the Systems Division (SD) for new programs on command control, communications (C3), and intelligence studies. A focus in this division were the operational requirement, and design guidelines for the U.S. Navy Advances surface Missile Systems (ASMS) and the Army Surface Missile Defense (SAM-D). These programs produced the Navy’s Aegis missile weapon system and the Army’s Patriot Weapon System for Army units in the field. The next endeavor was the DX Program which evolved into the Spruance Class guided missile destroyer which are currently operating in the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets.  I spent the next 17 years in the Strategic Missile Division. My work in the Navy’s Special Project included the electronic and guidance systems for the Fleet Ballistic program (Polaris, Poseidon, and Trident submarines). Other projects included Air Force navigation systems, and portable calibration equipment for on -site destroyer electrical equipment. The following projects involved the development of the Star Tracker, and to study the signal processing technology that could be implemented in future guidance and control systems. I retired after 25 years of service at Hughes Aircraft and went on to another 24 years in Aerospace. I took with me a lifetime of friendships and memories.

Community Request: Information Regarding Surveyor

Sharing an email request for information. See below.

From: Danny Ravelo raveloda [at]
Subject: Surveyor Orbiter records,

First, thank you for maintaining this site and records of the work and lives of previous employees at Hughes Aircraft. 

I am in the search of any data, records or diagrams of the Hughes Aircraft proposal for a lunar orbiter using the modified Surveyor frame that the late Mr Fisher worked on. The ultimate goal is to try and build a computer model of it. References and data on it are very scarce but would you be able to point me in the right direction?

Any tips or help is very appreciated. Direct emails to raveloda [at]

Charles Richard Johnson Obituary

Charles Richard Johnson (Dick) died peacefully at his home in El Segundo surrounded by his family on March 31, 2022 following a long illness. Dick was born on December 4, 1936 in Lewiston, Idaho to Lillian H. and Charles J. Johnson. His family moved several times around the country, but ended up back in Lewiston in 1949.

His lifelong interest in classical music started with his playing the clarinet and violin in the Lewiston High School band and orchestra. He also acquired a passion for fly fishing leading to numerous trips in future years around the west to the best fly fishing rivers in the country.

He also developed an interest in chemistry in high school and with a friend built a chemistry lab in a detached shed at his home. His superior performance on the chemistry achievement test was instrumental in his admission to Caltech and his future life in Southern California. Dick came to Caltech in 1955 and received a BS degree in applied chemistry in 1959 and a Masters Degree in mechanical engineering in 1960. The next year Dick was an exchange student for a year at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm Sweden, where he met his first wife, Gudrun. Returning to Los Angeles in 1961,

Dick joined Hughes Aircraft Company as a Member of the Technical Staff and married Gudrun in 1962. Dick had a varied and successful career in the Hughes Space and Communications Group (HSC) over the next 48 years. He started working as a systems engineer on studies and government satellite proposals. Dick went on to work as the systems engineering manager on several government programs. He was the program manager of both HS-350, a large classified communication satellite program, and the UHF Follow-On program. Dick served as manager of commercial new business programs at HSC for two years. He also was manager of the HS-601 programs division, which developed the highly successful 601 satellite bus used by commercial and government satellite programs. Before retirement in 1994 he was the manager of all HSC government new business. After a very brief retirement he came back to work in 1995 as a consultant offering technical support to numerous HSC/ Boeing programs, proposals, and several technical review teams until he fully retired in 2009.

Dick and Gudrun had an active family life during these years, raising three children, Karin, Erik, and Anders. They had numerous trips to Europe, especially Sweden, and visited many of Gudrun’s friends and family. They started their married life in Baldwin Hills, but moved to El Segundo in 1974 and lived here the remainder of their lives. Gudrun predeceased Dick, and he married Linda Yan in 2006. During this time Dick continued his interest in music as the president of the South Bay Community Concert Association for eight years. He spent many hours listening to CD’s from prospective performers to recommend artists to the board for upcoming concert seasons. Another of Dick’s avocations was cooking. Taught by his mother, he developed his skills and did a lot of cooking in his retirement years, Dick and Linda took several trips abroad including one to China to meet Linda’s family. They were both active in and sang in the choir of the United Methodist Church of El Segundo. Linda was devoted to Dick and attended him with great care in his declining years.

Dick is survived by his wife, Linda Yan Johnson, his brother, Bob Johnson, his three children, Karin Tan, Erik and Anders Johnson, and four grandchildren, Ginger and Serkan Tan and Steele and Kaylee Johnson.

Dick’s memorial service will be held on April 30th, 2022 at 2:00pm at the United Methodist Church of El Segundo, located at 540 Main Street. There will be a reception at the church following the service. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, the United Methodist Church of El Segundo, or to a charity of your choice. 

Paul Sengstock – Rest In Peace

Paul Sengstock passed away on January 28, 2021 at age of 88, spending his final months in hospice care. He is survived by his wife Judy – his college sweetheart, three children, and five grandchildren. Paul attended Northwestern University where he earned his degree in Electrical Engineering and was in the Navy ROTC program. Following his Navy career, he was hired by Hughes Ground Systems and moved to California, settling in Torrance.

At Hughes Space and Communications, Paul was part of Dr. Harold Rosen’s team that built and launched the first commercial communications satellites (Syncom I and II) in 1963. His contributions included design development and support of Launch and Mission Operations. Paul subsequently worked on several commercial HS376 spin stabilized spacecraft that were launched on several different expendable launch vehicles and then the first space shuttle optimized spacecraft, Syncom IV.

Syncom IV was the brainchild of Alois Wittman and Dr. Harold Rosen who handpicked a small dedicated team to run the program led by Ron Swanson as program manager and Jerry Dutcher as system engineering manager. The system engineering team consisted of Chuck Rubin mechanical and Paul Sengstock for spacecraft electrical interfaces that worked closely with NASA and the different Hughes functional areas during the development phase. Syncom IV required development of its own propulsion to transfer from the Shuttle orbit (LEO) to Geosynchronous orbit. It was to be secured to the Shuttle’s payload bay using a reusable “cradle” adapter encircling the lower half of the spacecraft’s cylindrical drum. Deployment in orbit was to be implemented through a “Frisbee” ejection, clearing the payload bay with a small residual velocity and low spacecraft spin. Spacecraft on-board timers would autonomously command deployment of the S/C omni antenna to enable command and telemetry capability, spin up the spacecraft to about 30 rpm and fire the solid rocket motor to achieve the first transfer orbit. Electrical interfaces with the shuttle, the on-board S/C timer, launch, mission control and operations control centers were Paul’s primary responsibilities.

Syncom IV S/C was offered to the Navy as a lynch-pin for 5 years of world-wide communication service from 4 geosynchronous locations. Options were identified for 2 years of service extension and Navy could purchase the satellites after option exercised. The project was renamed LEASAT for Leased Service.

The Leasat contract provided Hughes an opportunity to expand its business from a spacecraft manufacturer to developing the system architecture and providing hardware for an entire worldwide communications system, including being a service provider. Hughes responsibilities included financing, launching, insuring, building the ground control network and operating the satellites for their lifetime in addition to spacecraft manufacture. Hughes Communications Inc (HCI) was formed as a subsidiary to Hughes Aircraft to provide ground stations and become the service provider to the Navy. 

Jack Fisher, Rest in Peace

by Andy Ott

Jack Fisher, the key founder, architect and manager of this website ( capturing Hughes Space and Communications Group history from 1960 to 2000 passed away November 2, 2020 at the age of eighty-eight after a battle with lung cancer. His legacy includes his wife Myra of 64 years, two children (Robert and Julianne) and four grandchildren. Jack retired from Hughes SCG in 1992 but continued to manage this website until the illness would no longer allow. 

Jack was born in Berwyn Illinois in 1932. His avid interest in airplanes during WWII was key to his graduation from the University of Illinois (BSAE); then USC (MSAE) and UCLA (Hughes Executive Education Program). Prior to joining Hughes in 1961, Jack worked for Lockheed in trajectory design and optimization of several launch vehicle and aircraft systems. This experience paved the way for Jack to join the Orbital Dynamics Section of Hughes.

Jack’s first assignment at Hughes was directing the trajectory and orbit design for the Hughes Lunar Orbiter proposal to NASA. This was in addition to various studies of Surveyor transit trajectories. He was assigned to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for 6 months to learn Ranger trajectory procedures and support Ranger 5 flight operations and became responsible for Ranger 6 trajectory design. Jack became the Group Head of the Guidance and Trajectory Department for the Surveyor program.Jack became a nationally recognized expert of systems engineering in spacecraft development and mission design for commercial, NASA and DoD programs, including:

  *Managing Spacecraft Systems Engineering Laboratory that provided mechanical, electrical, launch systems and mass properties expertise, including oversight.

  *Led Pioneer Venus and Galileo Systems Engineering which resulted in launch and delivery of six spacecraft to Venus and a probe to Jupiter that increased our knowledge of both by orders of magnitude.

  *Planned and directed Systems Engineering Training Program at SCG that resulted in training of several hundred Systems Engineers. Planned and presented a 3-day seminar on Mil Std Systems Engineering on both the East and West coasts, a seminar to General Motors Executive committee and hundreds of top executives both in the United States and GM Europe familiarizing them with Spacecraft Systems Engineering processes, and a 5-day NASA Systems Engineering Course to Goddard, JPL, Langley, Lewis, and Ames.

Jack has published and presented numerous papers to several professional societies and has consulted with a number of organizations including the Royal Australian Air Force. Jack also consulted with NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory and Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) project leading the Project Manager’s Independent Review Team.

Comments on the Challenger Disaster

Larry Nowak

Having watched all segments of the Netflix coverage of the Challenger disaster, I concluded that there are two basic questions being covered. The first is how did they decide to launch on such a cold day in January and how did our candidate Greg Jarvis get bumped from April 1985 to January 1986.

I was down at the Cape the previous year in January 1985 prepping our first LEASAT spacecraft for launch. There was a shuttle launch that afternoon around 3 PM; it was a very cold day. The launch was a success, but recovery of the solid motors showed major leakage around the seals and almost a total burn though.  I believe these photos were used in the Netflix documentary.

The Thiokol workers knew that the seals were a major problem and needed to be fixed.  A design change was initiated but had not been finalized and implemented for the Challenger launch.

The movie seemed to indicate that they didn’t know the cause of failure at the time of launch. With the history of seal leakage, I was surprised when they did launch on that fateful day when there were icicles hanging from the launch vehicle.

As Steve pointed out, NASA was trying to use the shuttle for all launches. Their aggressive schedule was to launch at least two per month and up to four spacecraft per launch. Any delays by one would probably bump the launch dates for all the others to later dates (my conclusion).  This would be a major cost overrun I’m sure.

Apparently, the new criteria to launch was changed from “Prove it is OK to launch” to “Prove it’s not OK to launch”.  Following the disaster, the launch schedule was delayed until the mod had been authorized and implemented. As the movie points out, there were no more rocket failures after this change had been implemented.

So how did Greg get bumped to this fateful launch date?  Greg was originally assigned to be on a launch in April 1985 along with our LEASAT F3 spacecraft.  Senator Jake Garn was assigned to a TRW spacecraft the previous month. That one had problems and was scrubbed. He then bumped Greg because the rules allowed him to do that. Greg could have been on the next launch in September with our F4 but F3, which Jake Garn took, failed to activate properly upon deployment. Subsequent meetings with NASA personal showed F3 could be saved by installing a bypass switch around the malfunctioning switch. This did not allow Greg to ride along.  

I think Greg could have taken the next flight scheduled for December but thought it would be a better choice to go with the schoolteacher, Christa McAuliffe in January and help her with her activities. I also heard a rumor that Rep Bill Nelson didn’t want to fly with Christa because she would get all the news coverage. Greg agreed to switch to the January 1986 flight and all were happy.

Netflix Challenger Documentary

Steven D. Dorfman

As head of HCI I was involved in a pitched battle between NASA and Arianne for a contract to launch 10 future Hughes spacecraft. It was important for NASA to win to demonstrate their ability to serve the commercial market. We were skeptical when the government shut down all US Expendable Launch Vehicle launches of commercial satellites but we were pressured to accept the government position. NASA and Arianne both had very aggressive (and government subsidized} bids of about $30M per launch. In the heat of the competition NASA added the sweetener of permitting Hughes employees to fly on two of our launches as Payload Specialists though it soon became clear that they wouldn’t let us have much to do with our payloads. Frankly it was a marketing ploy that couldn’t be matched by Arianne. 

After we selected the Shuttle to launch our satellites (for other reasons) we decided to accept the NASA offer knowing that it would be a thrill for many at HSC to be in space despite the danger and a good morale booster for a dedicated workforce. We decided to post the opportunity and soon had 600 applicants! We narrowed it down to 10 and then selected a prime and backup for the two missions. Greg Jarvis as prime for the first mission and Bill Butterworth backup. After a schedule was posted for Greg’s flight NASA said they would like to bump him to a future flight in order to enable Senator Jake Garn to fly on the next Shuttle mission. I protested strongly but they wanted to placate an important source of funding for NASA so Greg was moved to another flight where the same thing happened for Representative Bill Nelson. That is how Greg wound up on the Challenger flight.

I was devastated after the explosion. Sometimes you make the right decision but you have the wrong outcome. This was such a case.

Later on, the government reversed the decision they had imposed on us and instead of all launches being on Shuttle… no commercial launches would be on Shuttle! And they unilaterally canceled our contract causing us to have several years of scrambling for ELVs. We ultimately sued the government for breach of contract and many years later won a $300M settlement.

The excellent Netflix documentary brought back all these memories and reminded me how badly NASA had screwed up and caused Greg’s death. It was painful but motivated me to share my thoughts.

Kobayashi, Kenji ““Ken”

November 12, 1936—July 10, 2020

This obituary appeared in the LA Times on August 2. 2020

Ken Kobayashi, 83, of Torrance, CA passed away on July 10, 2020.  Born in LA to Tsuneyoshi and Yaeko Kobayashi, he attended Redondo Union High, proudly served in the U. S. Air Force, loved being a UCLA Bruin Alumni and retired after 35 yrs at Hughes Aircraft.  Ken is survived by his brother Eichi Kobayashi, wife Naomi Kobayashi, daughters–Tammi & Terri (Kevin) Seki, sons—Scott & Kory (Elizabeth), and grandchildren–Jason, Kyra, & Krystal, along with nieces, nephews and dear relatives.

  A private family service will be held at Green Hills Memorial Park.

William Frederick Hummel December 26, 1922–July 18, 2020

This obituary appeared in the LA Times on July, 24, 25, and 26.

William Frederick Hummel died peacefully on July 18, 2020 after 97 years, six months, and 22 days of life.  He was born in 1922 in Nanjing, China to American missionary parents along with all of his siblings and cousins.  The family returned to the United States in 1927 and settled permanently in Los Angeles. William attended Los Angeles High School commuting from the family home in eastern Hollywood aboard the Red Car.  He attended UC Berkeley, majoring initially in Astronomy, and later in Physics.

His studies were interrupted by his service in the US Navy during World War II.  The Navy sent him to midshipman school at Columbia University in New York City, and then to advanced training in the newly emerging field of microwave technology at Harvard University and MIT in Boston.  (UC Berkeley later awarded him his bachelor’s degree based on these credits.)  He served as a radar officer aboard the cruiser Boston in the Pacific Theater, traveling throughout Japan during the first year of the postwar occupation.

After separating from the Navy, he returned to California and soon met his future wife, Laurel Elizabeth Jones.  They married on July 20, 1947.  Their first child, Gregory Evan Hummel, was born in 1950, and died at the age of 17 months due to a congenital heart defect.  Their surviving children are Gwendolyn Elisa Hummel (born 1953) and Martin Edward Hummel (born 1954).

William embarked on a long and distinguished career in the aerospace industry, which was then rapidly growing in Southern California.  He simultaneously pursued graduate studies in Electrical Engineering at USC earning his MSEE in 1957.  He worked at Hughes Aircraft Company for 35 years, retiring as Chief Scientist of the Controls Systems Laboratory.  One accomplishment in which he took great pride was designing the control system for the Surveyor series of unmanned spacecraft, which successfully soft-landed on the Moon, proving the feasibility and paving the way for the astronauts of the Apollo program.  In connection with his work, he also returned to China, and lived in Munich, Germany during an extended assignment to partner with an aerospace company there.

He and Laurel enjoyed traveling extensively throughout Europe, Hawaii, and the Caribbean.  His many other interests included gardening, candid photography, personal computers, and dogs.  He was an ardent lover of classical music and made sure his children were initiated into a love of music.  After he retired from Hughes he bought a van and traveled extensively along the back roads of California, accompanied by his beloved Labrador Danny Boy.

In later years he pursued his deep interest in economics and monetary systems developing an acclaimed website and publishing a book, “Money—What It Is and How It Works.”  He also founded an online Google discussion forum called Understanding Money, which still continues.  After his beloved wife Laurel died in 2005, in her memory he endowed the Laurel Hummel Scholarships for international students at UCLA Extension.  He will be mourned and greatly missed by all who knew him.