Encyclopedia Astronautica
1968.09.25 - Concerns over quality coverage of Apollo spacecraft testing


NASA Resident ASPO Manager Wilbur H. Gray at Downey told Dale D. Myers, North American Rockwell CSM Manager, that NR quality coverage of spacecraft testing no longer provided NASA with confidence in test results and that NASA Quality Control would return to monitoring test activities in and from the ACE (acceptance checkout equipment) control room. Gray charged that North American had progressively backed away from contractually agreed steps of the November 30, 1967, Quality Program Plan, and that these actions had affected test readiness, testing, and trouble shooting to the point that test acceptance could not be accepted with any reasonable assurance. Gray said that - unless North American responded by immediate reinstatement of the procedures which, as a minimum, were those that worked satisfactorily on CSMs 103 and 104 - NASA formal acceptance of operational checkout procedures would be discontinued and contractual action initiated. An annotation to George Low from Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, MSC's CSM Manager, indicated the letter had been written with the concurrence and at the suggestion of Kleinknecht.

Myers replied: "I regret that NASA feels any lack of confidence in current test results. . . . For the past year, there has been a constant improvement program carried out in Test Quality Assurance to (1) perform quality evaluation and acceptance of test results in real time and (2) upgrade the test discipline to be consistent with good quality practice. I believe that this improvement program has been effective and is evidenced by the current efficiency of test and expedient manner in which test paper work is being closed out. While there is naturally some cost benefit experienced from the successful improvements, cost never has been placed as a criteria above quality. . . .

"Again, I want to emphasize that the CSM Program has not nor will not intentionally place cost ahead of quality. . . . The procedures which worked satisfactorily on CSM 103 and 104 are being improved to provide better test discipline and more effective Quality Assurance coverage. Test progress on CSM 106 to date indicates a greater test effectiveness and a greater confidence in test results than any previous CSM's."

Myers, North American Rockwell CSM Manager, that NR quality coverage of spacecraft testing no longer provided NASA with confidence in test results and Gray charged that North American had progressively backed away from contractually agreed steps of the November 30, 1967, Quality Program Plan, and that these actions had affected test readiness, testing, and trouble shooting to the point that test acceptance could not be accepted with any reasonable assurance. Gray said that - unless North American responded by immediate reinstatement of the procedures which, as a minimum, were those that worked satisfactorily on CSMs 103 and 104 - NASA formal acceptance of operational checkout procedures would be discontinued and contractual action initiated. An annotation to George Low from Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, MSC's CSM Manager, indicated the letter had been written with the concurrence and at the suggestion of Kleinknecht.

Myers replied: "I regret that NASA feels any lack of confidence in current test results. . . . For the past year, there has been a constant improvement program carried out in Test Quality Assurance to (1) perform quality evaluation and acceptance of test results in real time and (2) upgrade the test discipline to be consistent with good quality practice. I believe that this improvement program has been effective and is evidenced by the current efficiency of test and expedient manner in which test paper work is being closed out. While there is naturally some cost benefit experienced from the successful improvements, cost never has been placed as a criteria above quality. . . .

"Again, I want to emphasize that the CSM Program has not nor will not intentionally place cost ahead of quality. . . . The procedures which worked satisfactorily on CSM 103 and 104 are being improved to provide better test discipline and more effective Quality Assurance coverage. Test progress on CSM 106 to date indicates a greater test effectiveness and a greater confidence in test results than any previous CSM's."

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