Titan Historian’s Corner (July 2009)
By: Jim Rivers
Fall 1975 – Space Shuttle or Else!
the fall of 1975, the Space Shuttle program was like a runaway freight
train in a one way tunnel and a head-on collision with the Titan and
the other expendable launch vehicle programs was
inevitable. The Administration was committed to the Space
Shuttle program and all expendable Launch vehicle users were to
transition to the Space shuttle ASAP (as soon as possible). The
Government Accounting Office (GAO), National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA), Defense Department (DOD) and Air Force budget
planners were assuming that after the first Space Shuttle launch, the
Government Satellite programs would fly on an Expendable Launch Vehicle
for one mission and on the Space Shuttle for the next, i.e., no need
for parallel Space Shuttle and Expendable Launch Vehicle programs.
Their assumptions were based on the fact that this is how the Satellite
programs had accommodated to the introduction of new vehicles into the
Expendable Launch Vehicle Fleet in the past.
The Air Force Space
Booster Program Element Monitor (PEM) and the Systems Command Systems
Technical Officer (SYSTO) could see the wreck coming and started an
education program for the budget planners. The message was that
due to the human element in the Space Shuttle program a different
approach was needed. It wasn’t unusual for previous Launch
failures to result in 6 to 12 month delays between launches. With
the human element involved in the Space Shuttle program, it wasn’t
unreasonable to expect that even relatively minor problems in the early
Space Shuttle launches could result in delays of a year. It took a lot
of one-on-one meetings with considerable sharing of data to raise the
understanding of the risks with the budget planners’ existing
plan. In the end, the message seemed to resonate with the budget
planners in the GAO, DOD and Air Force, and they were open to a plan
that would accommodate this type of situation.
With the door now
open, a plan was needed that was technically practical, minimized the
amount of extra hardware bought, maximized flexibility, and sounded
reasonable to a non-technically inclined audience.
Since the Space Shuttle could only fly to low earth orbit, satellites
needed to use either a small kick motor for small increases in orbital
altitude or the DOD’s Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) for larger increases
in orbital altitude. The DOD Satellite programs were not planning
on changing the configuration for initial transition to the Space
Shuttle; therefore the changes were limited to integrating to the Space
Shuttle environments and to the IUS. Also, a special approach was
needed for the Titan and Atlas Centaur programs because of the multiple
launch vehicle configurations, orbital injection requirements and
The Plan: A single Titan launch vehicle configuration
was proposed that would be adaptable to using strap-on Solid Rocket
Motors (SRMs) and when necessary, use an IUS. The Titan would use
a radio guidance system or the IUS guidance system input as a reference
signal. The IUS would be a modified version of the IUS that was
purchased for the satellite program to accommodate the energy
capability differences between the Titan vs. Space Shuttle vehicles.
The plan was called the Titan 34D program.
The initiative and
initial ground work by the PEM and SYSTO had been well received because
the Titan 34D program was well received by the all the budget
planners. Not surprisingly, it was also well received by the
congressional staffers. In the 1976 Five Year Defense Plan, out
year funds were added to the Air Force Space Booster budget for nine
Titan 34D vehicles, and in March of 1977 a reprogramming request for
$10.3 million for integrating the Titan and IUS vehicles was approved
by the all four of the Congressional Defense Committees. The
concept for orderly satellite transition and backup launch capability
was now established.
But for the initiative of the Air Force
Space Booster PEM and Systems Command SYSTO, Titan might not have been
available when DOD needed an alternative to the Space Shuttle. We
all know the ending – this was the foundation for the Titan IV program
and the eventual 50 years of Titan.
Monday, May 4, 2009, AVIATION HISTORY
aviation history, decades before geeks and nerds altered our way
of life, young and gutsy aviation pioneers changed the world with their
wood sticks, bailing wire, canvas and aluminum.
of you know that in 1910, mighty Martin Marietta got its start in an
abandoned California church? That's where Glenn L. Martin with his
amazing mother Minta Martin and their mechanic Roy Beal constructed a
fragile biplane that Glenn taught himself to fly.
often been told how Douglas Aircraft started operations in 1920 in a
barbershop's backroom on L.A.'s Pico Boulevard . Interestingly, the
barber-shop is still operating.
The Lockheed Company built
the first of their famous Vegas' in 1927 inside a building currently
used by Victory Cleaners at 1040 Sycamore in Hollywood.
1922, Claude Ryan, a 24 year old military reserve pilot, was getting
his hair cut in San Diego, when the barber mentioned that the 'town's
aviator' was in jail for smuggling Chinese illegals up from Mexico.
Claude found out that if he replaced the pilot 'sitting in the pokey,'
that he would be able to lease the town's airfield for $50 a month BUT
he also needed to agree to fly North and East BUT not South!
original location was an obscure So California hotel. It was available
because the police had raided the hotel and found that its steady
residents were money-minded gals entertaining transitory male hotel
Glenn Martin built his first airplane in a vacant
church, before he moved to a vacant apricot cannery in Santa Ana . He
was a showman and he traveled the county fair and air meet circuit as
an exhibitionist aviator From his exhibition proceeds, Glenn was able
to pay his factory workers and purchase the necessary wood, linen
and wire. His mother, Minta and two men ran the factory while Glenn
risked his neck and gadded about the country. One of his workers was
22-year old Donald Douglas [who WAS the entire engineering department].
A Santa Monica youngster named Larry Bell [later founded Bell Aircraft]
ran the shop.
Another part of Glenn Martin's business was
a flying school with several planes based at Griffith Park , and a
seaplane operation on the edge of Watts . His instructors taught a rich
young man named Bill Boeing to fly. Then, Boeing bought one of Glenn
Martin's seaplanes and had it shipped back to his home in Seattle. At
the same time, Bill Boeing hired away Glenn's personal mechanic. Later,
after Boeing's seaplane crashed in Puget Sound , he placed an order to
Martin for replacement parts.
Still chafing from having
his best mechanic 'swiped,' [a trick he later often used himself]
Martin decided to take his sweet time and allowed Bill Boeing to 'stew'
for a while. Bill Boeing wasn't one to 'stew' and he began fabricating
his own aircraft parts, an activity that morphed into constructing
A former small shipyard nicknamed 'Red
Barn' became Boeing Aircraft's first home. Soon, a couple of airplanes
were being built inside, each of them having a remarkable resemblance
to Glenn Martin's airplanes. that, interestingly, had its own
remarkable resemblance to Glenn Curtiss' airplanes.
years later, when the Great depression intervened and Boeing couldn't
sell enough airplanes to pay his bills, he diversified into custom
built speed boats and furniture for his wealthy friends.
WWI, a bunch of sharpies from Wall Street gained control of the Wright
Brothers Co in Dayton and the Martin Company in L.A. and 'stuck them'
together as the Wright-Martin Company.
building an obsolete biplane design with a foreign Hispano-Suiza
engine. Angered because he had been out maneuvered with a bad idea,
Martin walked outŠ. taking Larry Bell and key employees with him.
the deep wallet of a wealthy baseball mogul, Martin was able to
establish a new factory. Then his good luck continued, when the future
aviation legend Donald Douglas, who Glenn persuaded to join his team.
Quickly emerging from the team's efforts was the Martin Bomber, the
Although too late to enter WWI, the Martin
bomber showed its superiority when Billy Mitchell made everyone mad at
him by sinking several captured German battleships and cruisers.
Cleveland, a young fellow called 'Dutch' Kindelberger joined Martin as
an engineer. Later, as the leader of North American Aviation, Dutch
became justifiably well-known.
Flashing back to 1920,
Donald Douglas had saved $60,000, returned to L.A. and rented a
barbershop's rear room and loft space in a carpenter's shop nearby.
There he constructed a classic passenger airplane called the
A couple of years later, Claude Ryan
bought the Cloudster and used it to make daily flights between San
Diego and Los Angeles. This gave Ryan the distinction of being
the first owner/operator of Douglas transports. Claude Ryan later
custom built Charles Lindbergh's 'ride' to fame in the flying fuel tank
christened: The Spirit of St. Louis .
In 1922, Donald
Douglas won a contract from the Navy to build several torpedo carrying
aircraft. While driving through Santa Monica 's wilderness, Douglas
noticed an abandoned, barn-like movie studio. He stopped his roadster
and prowled around. That abandoned studio became Douglas Aircraft's
first real factory. With the $120,000 contract in his hand,
Donald Douglas could afford to hire one or two more engineers. My
brother Gordon Scott had been schooled in the little known science of
aviation at England's Fairey Aviation, so he hired Gordon.
first association with the early aviation pioneers occurred when I paid
my brother a visit at his new work place. Gordon was outside on a
ladder washing windows. He was the youngest engineer. Windows
were dirty. And Douglas Aircraft Company had no money to pay janitors.
introduced me to a towhead guy called Jack Northrop, and another chap
named Jerry Vultee. Jack Northrop had moved over from Lockheed
Aircraft. And all of them worked together on the Douglas Aircraft's
world cruiser designs. While working in his home after work and on
weekends, Jack designed a wonderfully advanced streamlined airplane.
When Allan Loughead [Lock-heed] found a wealthy investor willing to
finance Northrop's new airplane, he linked up with Allan. Together,
they leased a Hollywood workshop and constructed the Lockheed Vega. It
was sensational with its clean lines and high performance. Soon Amelia
Earhart and others flew the Vega and broke many of aviation's world
I had the distinct pleasure of spending time with
Ed Heinemann who later designed the AD, A3D and A4D. He told me how my
Dad would fly out to Palmdale with an experimental aircraft they were
both working on. They would fly it around for a few hops and come up
with some fixes. After having airframe changes fabricated in a nearby
machine shop, they would hop it again to see if they had gotten the
desired results. If it worked out, Mr. Heinemann would institute the
changes on the aircraft's factory assembly line. No money swapped hands!
May 1927, Lindbergh flew to Paris and triggered a bedlam where everyone
was trying to fly everywhere. Before the first Lockheed Vega was built,
William Randolph Hearst had already paid for it and had it entered in
an air race from the California Coast to Honolulu . In June
1927, my brother Gordon left Douglas Aircraft to become Jack Northrop's
assistant at Lockheed. While there, he managed to get himself hired as
the navigator on Hearst's Vega. The race was a disaster and ten lives
were lost. The Vega and my brother vanished. A black cloud hung heavily
over the little shop. However, Hubert Wilkins, later to become Sir
Hubert Wilkins, took Vega #2 and made a successful polar flight from
Alaska to Norway . A string of successful flights after that placed
Lockheed in aviation's forefront.
I went to work for
Lockheed as it 26th employee shortly after the disaster and I worked on
the Vega. It was made almost entirely of wood and I quickly become a
At this time, General Motors had
acquired North American consisting of Fokker Aircraft, Pitcairn
Aviation [later Eastern Airlines] and Sperry Gyroscope and hired Dutch
Kindelberger away from Douglas to run it Dutch moved the entire
operation to L.A. where Dutch and his engineers came up with the P-51
Mustang. Interestingly, just a handful of young men played roles
affecting the lives of all Americans ..... as it initiated the So
California metamorphosis, from a semi-desert with orange groves and
celluloid, into a dynamic complex, supporting millions.
this technological explosion had startling humble beginnings, taking
root as acorns in a barber shop's back room, a vacant church, and an
abandoned cannery but came to fruition as mighty oaks.
Denham S. Scott, North American Aviation Retirees'