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EDGAR M. CORTRIGHT
Deputy Director, Office of Space Sciences and Applications, NASA
Edgar M. Cortright was appointed Deputy Associate Administrator for Space Sciences and Applications on November 1, 1963. In this position, he shares responsibility with the Associate Administrator for Space Sciences and Applications, Dr. Homer E. Newell, in planning and directing all of NASA's programs for the unmanned exploration and exploitation of space.
These programs include all lunar and planetary probes, geophysical and astronomical satellites and probes, biological satellites, meteorological satellites, communication and navigation satellites, and the development and use of launch vehicles through the Atlas-Centaur class. In addition, the launch program includes the administration of a supporting university research and training program. The Office of Space Sciences and Applications is also responsible for the institutional management of the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.; the Wallops Flight Station, Wallops Island, Va.; and the Pacific Launch Operations Office, at the Pacific Missile Range, Calif.
From November 1961 to November 1963, Mr. Cortright served in a similar capacity as Deputy Director of the Office of Space Science, which has now been expanded to include space applications and the management of the aforementioned research centers and stations.
Prior to November 1961, Mr. Cortright was Assistant Director for Lunar and Planetary Programs, Office of Space Flight Programs. In this capacity he directed the planning and the implementation of NASA's unmanned lunar and planetary program including such projects as Mariner, Ranger, and Surveyor. Before holding that post, he was Chief of Advanced Technology Programs where he directed initial formulation of NASA's meteorological satellite program including Projects Tiros and Nimbus.
Mr. Cortright joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor of the NASA, as an aeronautical research scientist on the staff of the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in 1948. From 1949 to 1954, he was head of the Small Supersonic Tunnels Section; from 1954 to 1958, he was Chief of the 8-foot by 6-foot Supersonic Wind Tunnel Branch at Lewis. In January 1958, he was appointed Chief of the Plasma Physics Branch after attending Nuclear Reactor Training School at the Lewis Laboratory.
A native of Hastings, Pa., Mr. Cortright served as an officer in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946. He earned a bachelor of aeronautical engineering degree in 1947 and a master of science in aeronautical engineering degree in 1949, both from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He was awarded membership in the Sigma Xi, Tau Beta Pi, Gamma Alpha Rho, and Pi Delta Epsilon honorary societies.
During his research career, before the establishment of NASA, Mr. Cortright specialized in supersonic aerodynamics, particularly problems related to air induction system design, jet nozzle design, and interactions of a jet with external airflow, and is the author of numerous technical reports and articles. He is an associate fellow of the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. He is a recipient of the Arthur S. Flemming Award for 1963.
Mr. Cortright is married to the former Beverly Hotaling. Mr. and Mrs. Cortright and their two children, Susan J. and David E., live at 6909 Granby Street, Bethesda, Md.
Dr. NEWELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. KARTH. Dr. Newell, I want to thank you very much for your statement.
I might suggest that at this time we recess until 2 o'clock this afternoon since it is now about 12 minutes of noon and the House goes into session. We would like to get permission so that we can sit during the regular order of business of the House this afternoon.
If there are no objections, we will now recess until 2 o'clock this afternoon, at which time Mr. Nicks will be with us.
(Whereupon, at 11:48 a.m., the subcommittee was recessed to reconvene at 2 p.m. the same day.)
Mr. KARTH. The meeting will come to order.
This afternoon we are privileged to have with us the Director of the Interplanetary Programs of the Office of Space Science and Applications, Mr. Oran Nicks.
Mr. Nicks had suggested that he could summarize his statement in about 20 minutes. I felt that, because there may be materials in the prepared statement that the subcommittee would otherwise not be familiar with, he proceed with the prepared statement. Unless there is objection, we will proceed in that fashion.
Mr. Nicks, welcome to the subcommittee, and thank you very much for taking time out from your busy schedule to be here. You may proceed, if you will.
STATEMENT OF ORAN W. NICKS, DIRECTOR, LUNAR AND PLANETARY PROGRAMS, OFFICE OF SPACE SCIENCE AND APPLICATIONS, ACCOMPANIED BY N. W. CUNNINGHAM, RANGER PROGRAM MANAGER, NASA, AND H. M. SCHURMEIER, RANGER PROJECT MANAGER, JPL
Mr. NICKS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Before proceeding, I would like to introduce Mr. N. W. Cunningham on my right. His name is Newton, but we call him Bill, program manager for Ranger, and Mr. H. M. Schurmeier on my left, whom we call Bud. Bud is the Ranger project manager at JPL on the Ranger.
Before reviewing the Ranger program in detail, I should like to summarize some major points which are pertinent to the present investigation.
The Ranger concept of employing a basic spacecraft to carry different payloads was chosen because of a desire to amortize development experience and costs on all elements except the scientific payload, which must be tailored to the specific investigations desired at a given time. I believe the Ranger program has demonstrated the soundness of that concept. The Ranger VI carried the third type of scientific payload to be adapted to the Ranger, the spacecraft bus retained basic elements and the original concept throughout, and it performed its
functions as intended.
It is also believed that the concept of multiple flights, divided into blocks aimed at accomplishing specified objectives, has been validated. The block concept was initiated because it was recognized that existing statistics on vehicle performance indicated the probability of 50 to 75 percent launch successes.
Although the realization of these facts was the basis of the planning process, it should be emphasized that we have tried to regard each spacecraft as if it were the only one we had, and have endeavored to achieve 100 percent success on each flight. Never has the "Ordnance
philosophy" of accepting a certain percentage of success been adopted. Mr. KARTH. I assume there is considerable disagreement with that statement.
Mr. NICKS. The Ordnance concept?
Mr. KARTH. If that is the Ordnance philosophy.
Mr. NICKS. Well, sir, I meant by that the philosophy of knowing that in a certain number of rounds there could be some percentage of defective rounds which when recognized calls for an increased number of shots to overcome that deficit. I didn't mean it in a derogatory sense at all. I think it is a very common method of providing
Mr. KARTH. I didn't mean to argue with that. My point was that I had heard considerable comment about the philosophy that had been adopted for the Ranger program, at least the initial four or five. The time schedule, for example, was more important than reliability, and from that standpoint I would say that perhaps it did fit into the Ordnance philosophy.
Mr. NICKS. I think, sir, that our approval might have been challenged because we did have three firings the first year of the Ranger program. However, as you heard this morning, the first two of those spacecraft seemed to work satisfactorily. We knew what was wrong with the launch vehicle and were able to fix it, so we didn't have reason to hold up the regular schedule which had been set. After Ranger IV and Ranger V, we have had these long periods of waiting to try and fix what we thought was wrong. Although it may be that the later failures made it look as if we were firing without fixing things. There didn't seem to be anything to fix after the first two that there was not time enough to fix within the original schedule.
Mr. KARTH. I see. I am glad you made that explanation, because I have been aware of some criticisms which have been made. I think they have been official or semiofficial criticisms that the philosophy adopted generally was "shoot and hope it works" as opposed to extensive and reliable testing procedures prior to the launching of the craft.
Mr. NICKS. I hope we can give you a different viewpoint after this hearing today.
Although Mr. Cortright has covered this point, I should like to reiterate for the record that only four Rangers have been launched toward the Moon, and that two of these succeeded in hitting this difficult target. Because our goals were justifiably higher, the impacts alone were not satisfying. However, the evolutionary development of the launch vehicle system, the spacecraft, the operations techniques, and the deep space net work has been marked.
The initiation of this major effort 5 years ago was accompanied with many tasks of organizing diffuse elements across the country into a project team. At the present time, my staff and I are in daily contact with project management personnel. I would like to make it clear that we have been and are participating in all major program decisions in accordance with established NASA policies for the management of such projects, and that we know what is going on within the project. Mr. KARTH. Could you tell us, Mr. Nicks, approximately when this policy was adopted?
Mr. NICKS. Yes, sir; the management instruction which applied to both NASA field centers and JPL was issued first in 1961, January, I believe early 1961.
Mr. KARTH. This apparently was an instruction sheet that went out to all of the existing centers and major prime contractors?
Mr. NICKS. No; this went to all major elements of NASA, program management offices and field centers, and was followed by a letter from our office to JPL explaining it and asking them to put it into effect early in 1961.
Mr. KARTH. And when did your daily contact routine with project management personnel begin?
Mr. NICKS. Well, it was going on before that time, but this formalized the arrangement for having one center work with other centers, such that all NASA projects are done more or less within the same framework.
Mr. KARTH. How about the decision to use common components in the TV system? D. you participate in that proceeding? Did industry participate in it? Or who made that decision?
Mr. NICKS. May I-I am not sure I understand what you mean by "common components."
Mr. KARTH. Well, these I think are referred to as commercial components as opposed to specialized items. There has been some criticism that too many of the components, for example, were of the commercial, off-the-shelf type, rather than the more sophisticated, professional type.
Mr. NICKS. The choice of components and design elements in the spacecraft is a responsibility primarily of the project management in the field center. In other words, when we assign them responsibility for implementing the project, these technical details are their responsibility.
In cases where improving the overall reliability of all NASA programs, and this sort of thing that you mentioned this morning became a part of an overall NASA effort, then we do get involved in helping that to be implemented. I believe, specifically, that the use of commercial grade parts has always been a practice until more recently when high-reliability components have been developed and involved in such early programs as the Minuteman, so that there is really a trend to go toward the Minuteman parts rather than a change to go back to the commercial grade.
Mr. KARTH. The reason I asked the question is because in Mr. Webb's letter, one of the points he raised was that the two video systems were more complex than required and were not completely redundant. They included a number of common components in which a single failure would lead to disablement of the television systems.
Mr. NICKS. I believe he means the word in a different way, sir. He means there are components in the system that are common to the functioning of both chains-that is, that are the same for both.
Mr. KARTH. Like the switch, for example?
Mr. NICKS. Yes, not that they were common; that is, “garden variety."
Mr. KARTH. Let's explore the other. Had the philosophy prevailed that common components, commercialized, off-the-shelf-type com
ponents were sufficiently adequate? When was that determination changed and by whom?
Mr. NICKS. The decision was made when we initiated the block III program that we would try to use as many high-rel components as we could. Before that time it had been standard practice to use the best components available, but there wasn't a difference between commercial components, in that case, all the way up and down the line.
Mr. KARTH. Isn't there a general philosophy in NASA; for example, to use extremely high reliability components as opposed to this ordnance philosophy concept which you mentioned?
Mr. NICKS. The trend is definitely in that direction, yes, sir. Mr. KARTH. Is not this a practice of NASA in all major programs. and hasn't it been almost from the inception of the program?
Mr. CORTRIGHT. Mr. Chairman, I think that it has been a policy within NASA to invoke procedures such as the use of high-rel parts as soon as it appears practical and feasible to do so. If we go back in our own programs and those of the military from whom we buy equipment, we find that in this same time period, that the same practices which JPL used in that time period, did in fact obtain.
In other words, there is nothing unusual about the JPL practices in selecting parts for the Ranger or spacecraft of that vintage, and actually they in many cases came from the JPL preferred parts list.
Mr. KARTH. Well, I can understand why there should be two different philosophies. The ordnance philosophy applying to weapons systems where you are going to make several thousand of them, and work out the bugs by trial and error, this being the most expeditious even though it is undoubtedly the most costly. On the other hand, it seems to me that, where you only have a small specified number from which to glean success, we should have a completely different philosophy, and that is to make the system as redundant and as reliable as you can, so that you have a high probability of success.
When you have five spacecraft, it is not like when you have the challenge
Mr. WAGGONNER. Would the chairman yield?
It is not like when you have the challenge of trying to meet a systems schedule with a military weapon where cost is probably a secondary objective, national security being first, and where in the final analysis you are going to make several thousand of them, as opposed to our situation where you are going to have 5 or 10, but where you must get a fairly high reliability and mission success rate
Mr. CORTRIGHT. Do you want a comment on that before Mr. Waggonner speaks?
Mr. WAGGONNER. Let him go ahead.
Mr. KARTH. Does NASA recognize this philosophy, and do you have a policy substantially different from an ordnance policy?"
Mr. CORTRIGHT. Yes, and I believe our requirements procedures are the most rigorous in the country, but in all fairness to the military, I believe the military pioneered in this very high-rel part concept with systems such as the Minuteman, which have their own peculiar sort of requirements.
For example, they have to be ready to go at the push of a button over months or even years unattended, so that what we are doing is