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Post  Dick Russ Tue Feb 01, 2022 3:02 pm

Hello my friends. Here it is the 1st and I promised you more of the Space program. I last left you with arriving at the Delta Test site in the Santa Susan rocket test facility.
Even though I was surprised at being told to bring in my tools I assumed that it was part of my training (or learning curve) since I had no experience with rocket engines. So I did as I was instructed and worked side by side with the technicians and did what ever I was instructed. Actually it was enjoyable because I was getting hands on experience working on the J2 rocket engine that would be propelling the second stage of the Saturn V launch vehicle. When the end of the week rolled around I was informed that it was company policy to withhold ( in reserve for what ever reason) the first weeks pay. Now this where it got rather interesting. The following Friday The lead man was calling roll to hand out the pay checks which were all yellow. Then finally I was called up and my check was in an envelope addressed to me and the lead man thought that was rather strange (as I did also). When I opened the envelope the check was blue and from the "Space and Information Systems Division of North American Aviation: now at least I know what the interviewer was referring to by S&ID.

Things were going well untill after a couple of weeks I was called in from the test stand. As I entered the office I was greated buy a man in a suit and tie who said he was John Gera and wanted to know what in the hell was I doing working as a mechanic ( technician to coin a phrase). I explained that I was instructed to bring my tools to work and be in working clothes. His responce was a little disturbing to say the least . I was then advised I did not work for Rocketdyne! I worked for him at S&ID and was sent to the Delta Test site to be the Test Stand Engineer and observe and learn as much as possible about the J2 Rocket engine in preparation for the completion of Cocoa test site where I will be part of the SII Test and operations team. He then said to take my tools home and when I report back in the next day I will be wearing a white shirt and Tie and he will be telling the superviser what my position is and I do not work for him or Rocketdyne and the J2 Belongs to S&ID. They are just providing the operational testing.

Well now at least I felt a little better being told what I was suposed to be doing. At this point my job became a little different. Initially the technicians were a little cool with me just standing around and watching everything that was going on and in many cases taking notes and asking questions. But that changed and the working environment returned to normal when the were told of my position and they did not work for me but were required to help me an any way I needed. We continued on with the test program. One specific area I was unaware of initially is that we were  directed by NASA to accomplish our task by a Pert Chart which was NASA's way of saying what had to be accomplished and the date it was to be accomplished which we pretty much adhered too. As we were nearing our final tests which was made up of test firing the J2 and observing that the J2 was performing as required. We completed the 5 secind burn followed by the 50 second, 200 second burn tests with the final test of the 360 second burn which was the final test before sending it to COCO to be installed on the Battleship Second stage which I will explain later.

In the mean time we prepared for our 360 burn which would also be observed by the father of Rocketry Dr. Wernher Von Braun. My being the stand engineer he wanted to visit with me before heading down the to test control center. It was more of a get to know me since we had not met before and I was conducting the final acceptance test of the J2 prior to sending it to Cocoa. I advised the supervisor we were ready to proceed and everyone (including me and Wernher Von Braun) headed for the control center for firing the rocket engine. Actually everything went quite well. We finished our 360 second burn and vented the remaining hydrogen propellant to the atmosphere and just as I was about to clear the control center and send everyone back to the Delta pretest building we had and unbelievable explosion up at the Delta test site. Our safety engineer immediately called for the site fire department to come and said everyone was to stay in the control center until released by the fire depertmant. We could see the firemen up on the hill working and extinguishing the fires. Shortly afterwards the firechief came to control center and clearedd us to return to the pretest building. Before he left he said to not be to shocked when we get back there. We all climbed into the bus and headed back to the test side. When we got there, the pretest building was gone, Steel beams twisted and all the mechanics (technicians ) tool kits were no were  to be seen. I have never seen such distruction except maybe in pictures of a tornado direct hit. As I stood there in amazement, I thought about how I was just ready to release everyone to return to the site. Just as I was preparing to walk around Dr. Von Braun came over and put his arm on my shoulder and said "Well Deek, what you do fo n encor". (to be continued)
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Post  fredvon4 Tue Feb 01, 2022 3:19 pm

love this series of memories, and very well written.
You paint great pictures with your descriptions and activity

if this was a book I would pre order it

What would be a good museum and missile park to see these early devices and test structures

I assume at some point you describe the test instrumentation, computers, digital and analog

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Post  Marleysky Tue Feb 01, 2022 9:17 pm

YUM good, tasty story..I want to read more.
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Post  Davenz13 Wed Feb 02, 2022 1:48 am

Yes, if all the chapters of this story were written here now I would be binge reading deep into the night (and early morning) lol!

Loving it. Thumbs Up
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Post  getback Wed Feb 02, 2022 7:12 am

affraid Hand Shake lol! lol! good stuff man what an experience that would bee !!
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Post  rdw777 Wed Feb 02, 2022 9:03 am

Awesome to share that experience, Thank you!!! I Googled J2’s and watched a few runs, Very impressive, I bet the noise was fearsome!!! Best I know Saturn V still holds the record for heavy lift…. Was a wonderful time in our history….

What an honor to meet Von Braun…. I remember seeing old films of V2’s being tested…. Lifting off the pad a little then falling and exploding…. Scary business!!!!

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Post  Dick Russ Tue Feb 15, 2022 8:52 am

Well here we go again. I last left you with Dr. Werner Von Braun and I looking at the results of the explosion that destroyed the Delta Test site PreTest building. Fortunately the test stand with the J2 engine we had just fired was not damaged. I didn't see when Von Braun left the site but within minutes I did visit with the site suoervisor John Sullivan. There wasn't much to say except that it was wonderful no one was injured. He did say that since we had just completed the 360 second cerification run he supposed I would be leaving the site. Now that raised the question in my mind that where was I going to go since the new office complex for all the S&ID engineers a support staff was still under construction as well as the SII Battleship test site referred to as the COCA. Mr. Sullivan did say that probably I should call my supervisor in Downey and let him know what had happened, and especially since my temporary office no longer existed. He said I should go over to the main office complex and make my call.

In the Space program news like a major explosion travels very fast. John Gera (my supervisor) knew almost immediately about the explosion and was actually waiting to hear from me. I took a few minutes to reiterate what had happened as well mentioning a very successful run of the engine (which he already new). We briefly went over my situation. He said that the Rocketdyne headquarters Complex at Santa Susana had an area for most of us to work until the S&ID facilty was ready and tomorrow I should report to the receptionist and she would direct me to my new work area and he would meet me there. Now where "THERE" was would be the question until I reported in the next morning. Since it was still early afternoon and no place to go and no one to tell me what to do until morning I thought it wise to find out where I was going the next morning. So I caught the next bus and headed for the main office on top of the mountain. I visited briefly with the receptionist and she had no idea what I was talking about but did suggest she would make some calls to find out. Fotunately the first call she made was what was needed. She escourted me to another building next door and said this is where S&ID would be located. For those who have just tuned in S&ID is North American Aviation's Space and Information Systems Division with headquarters in Downey, California which is South east of Long Beach. S&ID is the contractor for building and testing of the SII second stage of the Sarurn V Rocket to the moon.

The facility where she left me was a large open area with lots of desks along with some enclosed offices and drafting tables. She then said she had to get back to her work station and said goodby. Well at least now I had an idea as to where I would park myself the next morning and headed for home which I had rented in Simi Valley.

When I arrived the next morning all I could see was phone service men installing phones at each desk. Very soon after I arrived I was greated by John my supervisor who suggested we sit down and visit. He said that a meeting had been set up with Rocketdyne to go over the explosion incident and I needed to be there. He also said he would be there also and since I was the Test Stand engineer he wanted to hear in advance what I was going to say. In the mean time he filled me in on my new position since the test firing at Delta was completed. He said I would be working with George Knudsen in Stage Pressurization and Ground Pneumatics ( which I knew nothing about). George would be my lead engineer and fill me in on the details when he arrived later that morning. I ask about what specifically I would be doing and John laughingly said "I know you are educated, now we are going to teach you to be an engineer" (which I thought I was) and that will be George's job.

The meeting with Rocketdyne Safety and all the powers to be was the next morning at the headquarters in Canoga Park. It was kind of like the court room we see on TV with a group of men sitting at a table looking over the rest of the room. Dr. Von Braun wasn't there but his right hand man Deiter Huitzel from Petremundi in WW2 was there and I'm sure would be filling Von Braun the results of the meeting. They did have tables in front of them with name tags where we were to be sitting including mine. There was lot of chit chat about the explosion when one of the leaders ask for my input as the stand engineer as to what happened. I really didn't know for sure but suggested that my theory was that when we vented to Hydrogen from the test stand following the firing, instead of just disipating in thin air as it normally does, being a warm day with hardly any wind the Hydrogen gas formed a cloud over the pretest building. Hydrogen gas being rather unstable I suggested that possibly that molectular frictiion within the gas caused the explosion. No one seemed to be willing to comment on my theory but the question came up as the stand engineer what was I going to do to see it didn't ever happen again. In the back of my mind I still remembered Von Braun asking "what I was going to do for an encore". I had been thinking about that ever since the explosion and had an idea which I offered the panel. I suggested that they (Rocketdyne) run a small tube up the side of the test stand to where the vent line for the Hydrogen was located and connect a acetelyne bottle at the base and prior to any firing have a technician climb up on the test stand and light the acetylene gas so when they vented the Hydrogen it woukld be ignited by the acetylene flame preventing this from ever occuring again. The leader of the meeting looked at me and all he said was DO IT. This meeting is over! I thought surely they were aware I did not work for Rocketdyne but that didn't seem to matter. So my next and last job as Test Stand Engineer at Delta was to issue an E.O. (engineering order) to install a 1/4 inch stainlees tube to the top of the stand and connect a regulated bottle of Acetylene at the stand base. It didn't take long for the installation and it was rather fun to watch the technician climb up the test stand and light the acetylene gas. Not much of a fix, but it worked. (to be continued March 1)
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Post  fredvon4 Tue Feb 15, 2022 9:15 am

Repeat of initial thoughts

You paint great pictures with your descriptions and activity
I Love This Forum!
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Post  cstatman Tue Feb 15, 2022 9:50 am

Mr. Russ,

Thank you so much for these memories. I hope you consider collecting them as book, or at least article. One step better? it would be amazing if you recorded them, so next generations could hear and be inspired by them.

I've been printing these out for my 15yr old son, who is amazed and inspired (young roboticist and programmers need inspiration)
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Post  Dick Russ Tue Feb 15, 2022 9:59 am

cstatman wrote:Mr. Russ,

Thank you so much for these memories.  I hope you consider collecting them as book, or at least article.   One step better? it would be amazing if you recorded them, so next generations could hear and be inspired by them.

I've been printing these out for my 15yr old son, who is amazed and inspired  (young roboticist and programmers need inspiration)

Thank you. I think you will enjoy the next one with pictures of COCA and the SII Battleship test stand. Plus an amazing and shocking unwritten part behind the scene.
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Post  getback Wed Feb 16, 2022 7:49 am

Popcorn Popcorn Loving this sooooo much Thank You for your time to do the write up and remembering /scene you have put in my mind.
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