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Young engineers Space program Story

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Post  Dick Russ Sat Apr 02, 2022 2:34 am

Hello my friends, I left you Last time as I was being introduced to my new Lead engineer George Knudsen and fellow engineer John Baldwin. Our task from this point on in the program was to write the test procedures for Stage pressurization and Ground pneumatics for the Second Stage Rocket for the Saturn V moon launch vehicle. We finally received the all our ground servicing equipment (GSE) to perform the previously mentioned systems which was basically huge mechanical consoles to provide the regulated pressure needed to maintain the pressure in the Stage Hydrogen and Oxygen fuel tanks. Our ground pneumatics consisted of providing the operating medium to the our stage systems which consisted of providing the pressure to fueling engineers and propulsion engineering teams. Not really to exciting to write about but highly important to the program.

Each of us (George, John and myself) had a few specialized tasks in our support rolls). My specific function as low man on the team was to to take samples of environment of the Hydrogen and Oxygen tanks to insure it was safe to proceed with fueling which was primarily taking a sample of the helium in each cell on a gas analyzer to make sure the moisture content was low enough to proceed with fueling. My secondary task was to secure the Rocket following a test firing and make sure it was safe for our technicians' to return to the stage GSE to shutdown the systems which required manually closing of all the different Ground Support equipment valves. Not to exciting but before I would allow them to enter the stage area we had to make sure there were no leaks or fires caused by the firing of the J2 engines. Following each stage firing I would send in three technicians to inspect the stand and GSE (Ground Servicing Equipment), This was very important due to the tremendous vibration of the stand created by the engines which was over a million pounds of thrust. What made it so dangerous was if there was hydrogen leak somewhere and ignited it could not be seen since a hydrogen flame is virtually invisible and since we were working with 3000 PSI systems if there was a fire the Technicians could be instantly burned to death. Our safety engineer was overly concerned and wanted to know how I was going to protect the inspection team when I sent them to the test stand. I explained that I would have each technician take with them a common household broom and after each firing they would enter the test stand holding the broom out in front of them and sweeping the air in search for a hydrogen leak which as I mention would be burning. The first time following a test firing I made sure each technician had a broom and I explained how I wanted them to procced once they were entering the test stand. Now appreciate I was only 24 at the time and I think they thought I was rather weird with this broom idea. That was until our second cluster (5 engine) firing. As directed, one of the technicians upon entering the test stand while holding the broom out in front of himself walked around one of the ground GSE units (which stood about 5 feet high) and instantly the broom ignited. Without the broom he could have instantly been cut in two as he turned the corner and burned to death as well. As you can imagine to his surprise, the broom saved his life as well as notified us in the control center we had a fire and needed us to take appropriate action which was to secure the hydrogen system upstream which we had that capability.
Once the system was secured and we entered the test stand we found a 2 inch hydrogen fitting on one of the GSE equipment had failed. Like I said, Not really to exciting; but a life saving measure. To be continued (if you wish).
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Post  fredvon4 Sat Apr 02, 2022 6:52 am

Fascinating stuff
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Post  davidll1984 Sat Apr 02, 2022 7:39 am

Great story I can imagine guys tinking that this was a weird idea this was probable the safest thing To do somtime we had to find the The best way and the easiest this idea of genius save his life I think that's typical of brilliant people with out-of-the-ordinary ideas. Often people think they're a little weird  Very Happy  Thumbs Up


Last edited by davidll1984 on Sun Apr 03, 2022 7:02 am; edited 1 time in total
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Post  Marleysky Sat Apr 02, 2022 1:14 pm

Very interesting, please continue if you don't mind!
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Post  Davenz13 Sat Apr 02, 2022 1:18 pm

Yes please continue. I find this very interesting and great reading.
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Post  rsv1cox Sat Apr 02, 2022 6:05 pm

History here.
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Post  getback Sun Apr 03, 2022 6:56 am

Popcorn Good Stuff Thanks and more please . sunny
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Post  NEW222 Sun Apr 03, 2022 10:56 am

Wow. Great story. I think it was great that you had the idea of a regular broom to find defects related to the firing while keeping others safe. Never would have thought of that.
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Post  Dick Russ Fri Apr 15, 2022 5:24 pm

Hello again my modeling friends. As promised i will continue the story as long as you wish. Nothing real exciting from this point. We did complete all of our program firings which consisted of starting at the first which was out single engine test run. We did this primarily to test all our systems while we waited for Rocketdyne to  manufacture the rest of J2 engines. I don't remember exactly how many S&ID contracted for but one thing for sure until we had all 5 installed on the Battleship and completed the acceptance testing none were going to Downey where the flight second stage was being assembled. So you can see how important our testing was because without successful tests none were going to be installed on the actual second stage which would be the Apollo 8 Saturn V launch. I will jump forward a little since nothing was happening while we waited for the other four engines. When we did receive them we went into high gear to complete the testing. Our first test was 5 seconds long. We then analyzed the data to verify the engines each was meeting the 200,000 pound thrust which relates to a million  pounds of thrust. We continued increasing each test run until we finally finished the 360 run which was needed during the actual separation booster thrust. One thing we were able to accomplish was increasing the  thrust to 220,000 pound of thrust (each) which was a great boost to reach orbit safely. Now appreciate we started this test program in December of 1963 and finished in 1965 which at time our test program was complete.

Very shortly after I was transferred (along with all of the other SII battleship test engineers) to Cape Kennedy to continue the Saturn V launch program which for us was the Apollo 11 Moon landing. I know most will wonder about the launches from Apollo 12 on. That is a special story that I will cover later.

In December 1965 I arrived at the Cape. My first day was enteresting to say the least. George my lead engineer met me for breakfast in Titusville a bedroom village where many of the personnel were living. It was a rather social visit which helped getting me checked in. I had to first pickup my badges one of which was a Top Secret badge issued by the FBI and the other was a badge to get in past the guard gate.

Our offices were on the 180 floor of the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building). Sounds pretty high until you consider the VAB was over 500 feet high. George said he wanted to show me just how high the VAB was and since we had Top Secret Clearances we could go just about any where we wanted. So we went up to the Roof of the VAB. This is the first time I have been 500+ feet above ground without being in a plane. Since the roof was a restricted area you can imagine how it felt at the edge with no guard rails especially looking over the side.

In the mean time I was introduced to our supervisor (Brian Andrews). It amazes me I can even remember his name after all these years. We had the same the test teams that I worked with in Santa Susana. The only difference was each of us had a NASA engineer that was assigned to each engineer which i thought was rather strange. Mine was Gary Rueterscold. At first I felt a little uncomfortable because where ever I went I was to advise Gary as to where I was going and what I would be doing (regarding vehicle testing). I will explain that later also. I hope you are not bored at this time but you will enjoy some of the following stories .
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Post  rsv1cox Fri Apr 15, 2022 6:13 pm

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Post  Davenz13 Fri Apr 15, 2022 7:01 pm

Not boring at all. please continue with your experiences. Thumbs Up
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