Born: 1916-03-15. Died: 1998-01-03.
Tom Dixon was a young engineer living in Arlington, Virginia, when he was brought to a hangar at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough to view data, analysis, and key portions of the V-2 rocket recovered by the Polish underground and flown to the West in the daring Wildhorn 3 operation of 25 July 1944. He helped piece together what an intact rocket would look like and was one of the few Americans to have studied the engine. He flew back to America on 14 October 1944, bringing this essential data back to the states. When North American received a contract to build the Navaho, an American version of the planned German A9 boost-glide rocket weapon, Dixon was one of the first people they hired. The propulsion starting point was the V-2's rocket engine, and the company received some captured versions of the engine from the Army and began analyzing and testing them. The all-American version of the V-2 engine, the XLR-43-NA-1 "Booster Engine One", began testing in November 1950 at a new facility on 400 acres of land purchased by North American north of Canoga Park for $300 an acre. Navaho grew from a short range vehicle to an intercontinental one, and the engine grew from 333 kN to 683 kN thrust. By 1955 the Rocketdyne division was contracted to develop a prototype million-pound thrust engine for the Air Force. Dixon continued working for Rocketdyne, being deeply involved in the successful proposal effort for the J-2 liquid oxygen/hydrogen engine for the Saturn V booster. Thereafter he was hired by NASA, and appointed a Deputy Associate Administrator in September 1961.
NASA Administrator Webb announced major organizational changes and top-level appointments to become effective November 1. The reorganization should provide a clearer focus on major programs and allow center directors to have a louder voice in policy making. The new appointments included the following Directors of major program offices: Ira H. Abbott, Office of Advanced Research and Technology; Homer E. Newell, Office of Space Sciences; D. Brainerd Holmes, Office of Manned Space Flight; and an as yet unnamed Director of Office of Applications Programs. Also, Thomas F. Dixon was appointed Deputy Associate Administrator; Abe Silverstein was named Director of the Lewis Research Center, and Robert R. Gilruth was chosen Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center.
NASA announced the realignment of functions under Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr. D. Brainerd Holmes assumed new duties as a Deputy Associate Administrator while retaining his responsibilities as Director of the Office of Manned Space Flight. NASA field installations engaged principally in manned space flight projects (Marshall Space Flight Center Manned Spacecraft Center, and Launch Operations Center) would report to Holmes; installations engaged principally in other projects (Ames, Langley, Lewis, and Flight Research Centers, Goddard Space Flight Center, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Wallops Station) would report to Thomas F. Dixon, Deputy Associate Administrator for the past year. Previously most field center directors had reported directly to Seamans on institutional matters beyond program and contractual administration.