Historian’s Corner (Oct. 2009)
By: Carlos de Moraes
FROM P5M-2 TO VIKING
DATE- December 20, 1960. THE OCCASION-delivery of the last P5M-2 to the
U.S. Navy. THE SPEAKER- William B. Bergen, President of the Martin Co.
Quoted the next day in the Baltimore Sun, Mr. Bergen noted
that “...During the past 50 years The Martin Co. has built 12,400
planes, but has now closed the books on aircraft production as it turns
to the business of spaceflight.” He added that “... Martin
has every expectation that Baltimore, with the start we already have
here , will emerge in the future as the space capital of the free
world. Now on our horizon are such projects as Dyna-Soar and Apollo
- beginnings of Martin’s contribution to an exciting
and dynamic era in which man will delve into space.” The prophesy
he was expounding
would take a tortuous trail and a decade just to get to Viking, the starting point.
start he referred to includes the first Martin Viking, a research
rocket designed to probe the outer reaches of the earth’s atmosphere,
The Vanguard rocket for launching small satellites into earth orbit,
and the Dyna- Soar and Gemini launch vehicles. The Vanguard
initially stubbed its toe, but was ultimately successful. The Dyna-Soar
program was subsequently cancelled.
The Apollo contract
was one of three awarded by NASA to originate preliminary designs
and plans for the nations lunar exploration program- Convair and
G.E.’s Space Vehicle Department were the other two. A lot
of internal interest developed during this contract as it offered
fulfillment of President Bergen’s prophesy. When we went down to make
our final presentation in Hampton, Va. We were cheered on by a crowd,
our bus was bedecked with ribbons and sign urging us to beat Convair
and G.E. much like a send off to a football bowl contest. Unusual in my
NASA’s RFP for the Apollo Spacecraft System followed some
nine months later. It is well known that Martin did not win this
contract. It is less well known that, as reported in “Chariots for
Apollo” one of the NASA history series, NASA’s Apollo Source Board
recommended the Martin Co. concluding that “ The Martin Company is
considered the outstanding source for the Apollo prime contractor.”
of the Apollo prime contract was followed a year later by the loss of
the Lunar Exploration Module. NASA reported, “A major factor in
Grumman’s selection had been its facilities.” Another factor was
the merger with American Marietta. Martin Marietta was born, and in
the process corporate management was not able to focus on the LEM
Proposal as it had with the
Apollo Proposal. Having been
unsuccessful in the manned spacecraft arena, the focus turned to the
unmanned scientific spacecraft arena. The first success was winning a
program definition phase for a proposed Solar Probe spacecraft. This
was a joint proposal with the RIAS group. Unfortunately. the program
becoming clear that Martin had recognized technical skills in the space
arena, but something was missing in the quest to win major space
programs. Hence, in 1964, President Bergen established in his office a
Space Exploration Group under the direction of Bud Carlson. The purpose
was to facilitate bringing to bear the capabilities of the whole
company in the pursuit of space business. Our initial focus was the
NASA’s evolving Mars exploration program, at the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, where we had not been a particularly visible voice. That
had to be corrected. We had to expand our R&D program to the
technologies requisite to a Mars
exploration program, including the issue of planetary quarantine.
We got active in the AIAA Spacecraft committee. We won the right
to sponsor AIAA’s Mars symposium, “Stepping Stones to Mars,” in
Baltimore in March1966. Some 600 AIAA members converged on the city.
Speakers included NASA Headquarters and JPL personal associated
with the Mars exploration program. Keynote speakers included Dr.
William Pickering, Director of the JPL Laboratory, Dr. Edward C. Welsh,
Executive Secretary to the National Aeronautics and Space Council,
Edgar Cortright, Director of Planetary Exploration at NASA
Headquarters, and William Bergen, President of Martin Marietta. We were
getting to know the customer.
The Mars exploration program ,
Voyager, was to be based on the Saturn V launch vehicle, and consisted
of an Orbiter Bus and two Mars lander spacecraft. We were unsuccessful
in our bid for the Lander definition contract. During our debriefing
re. our proposal Dr. Pickering commended Martin Marietta for its
overall proposal, but made it clear that our ability to acquire later
phases of the program depended in large measure on having laboratories
and other facilities pertinent to the design ,manufacturing, assembly
and testing of spacecraft on our campus. Martin Marietta’s response to
this was to commit some $20 million to the
acquisition of such facilities. The
corporation’s decision was to place them in Denver. Accordingly,
on April 1, 1966 some 35-40 people were transferred
from Baltimore to Denver, and ultimately housed on the new second floor
of the R&D building. Supporting R&D programs were also
transferred, and program direction came under the Denver Division,
specifically Al Kullas. Having the corporate commitment for the new
facilities we went after the program definition phase of the orbiter
bus, and were successful. That win kept us engaged with the customer.
The most significant outcome of the Lander and Orbiter phase 1
contracts was that the program was too expensive, and a different
approach would have to be conceived. That program was the Viking
program. It also consisted of an orbiter bus and a lander, but small
enough to be launched by the Titan III / Centaur. At the
same time, NASA shifted their internal program responsibilities; the
Langley Research Center became responsible for the Viking overall
program, and for the lander. JPL became responsible for building the
orbiter bus in addition to operating the deep space tracking network.
Martin Marietta made the decision to continue to support the program
while the other potential prime contractors dropped out awaiting for
the prime system RFP to follow the conclusion of Phase 1.
were awarded the only Phase 1 program definition contract for the newly
named Viking Spacecraft destined to land on Mars in the mid 1970's.
This fact and the corporate commitment for the new facilities, made us
think that things seemed to be finally going our way; that is until
NASA’s administrator gave a speech in which he announced .the Viking
program, and then opined that it was so complex that only the companies
in the east or west coast aerospace complexes would be capable of
handling it. Denver was, and is still, 1000
miles from the west coast.
had to face this issue head on! Not only to convince the Administrator
of Martin Marietta’s capabilities, but with those of the Rocky
Mountain Region i.e. a third aerospace complex. Remember, it was in his
office that The Martin Co. lost the Apollo program. The vehicle we
chose for this was a technical symposium demonstrating those
capabilities, and to get him to be the keynote speaker. Colorado’s
senior U.S senator at the time, Gordon Allot, was also the
ranking minority member of the Senate Appropriations Committee that
approved NASA’s annual budget. He agreed to invite Mr. Webb
and got him to commit to July 15 - 16, 1968.The American
Astronautical Society, George Morgenthaler president, committed to
sponsoring it, and invited the AIAA to join them as co- sponsors.
The stated purpose of the symposium,
“SPACE PROJECTIONS from the ROCKY MOUNTAIN REGION,” was to “...
exchange recent university, government and industry space
developments....and to display the substantial resources resident in
the Rocky Mountain Region supporting the national space program.” The
Rocky Mountain Federation of States, which was formed by the governors
of the seven states, also agreed to co-sponsor the symposium with five
governors agreeing to speak at the opening session to present to Mr.
Webb the current space research going on at the various facilities in
their respective states. In all, 75 technical papers were presented
from all seven states in the ten technical sessions..Mr. Webb also
toured the research labs at Martin Marietta, Ball Brothers, and the
Denver, Colorado and Colorado State universities. At the end of a
reception in his honor, Mr. Webb expressed his appreciation of the
reception he had received, and of the message we were conveying.
Phase 1 contract with NASA Langley allowed us to spend six months with
our new customer office and its people, helping them to define a Viking
program they met their scientific objectives within their budget.
Viking Lander and Program Integration proposals were submitted in early
1969. NASA visits to competitor facilities were in April, and on May
29, Martin Marietta received a fax from NASA Langley that stated, in
part, “ .....you are hereby formally advised that the Martin Marietta
Corp. has been selected by the NASA as the contractor with whom
negotiations will be Conducted.
The decade long quest from the P5M-2 to a major spacecraft program was over. You all know the rest of the story !