Encyclopedia Astronautica
Nova



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Nova Advanced - MM
Nova Advanced Concepts - Martin Marietta
Credit: © Mark Wade
Nova was NASA's ultimate launch vehicle, studied intently from 1959 to 1962. Originally conceived to allow a direct manned landing on the moon, in its final iteration it was to put a million-pound payload into low earth orbit to support manned Mars expeditions. It was abandoned in NASA advanced mission planning thereafter in favor of growth versions of the Saturn V.

Before there was Saturn, when it was still known as the Juno V, there was - NOVA. The US Air Force had begun development of a 1.5 million pound thrust engine, the F-1, in the 1950's. When NASA was formed, it considered a new launch vehicle beyond the Saturn, using the F-1 engine and capable of sending a manned expedition to the moon. This launch vehicle was identified as Nova in NASA's first long range plan, delivered to President Eisenhower on January 27, 1959.

NASA, Von Braun's team at Huntsville, and major aerospace contractors conducted a number of design studies of Nova from January 1959 to June 1960. A common characteristic was the clustering of modular units consisting of an F-1 or J-2 engine and their associated propellant tanks. The first Nova designs used four F-1's in the first stage and had a translunar payload of only 24 tonnes. Once the three-man, 5 tonne Apollo capsule was settled on, payload for a direct landing on the moon increased quickly - first to 45 tonnes, then finally over 60 tonnes. The number of F-1's in the first stage correspondingly increased to 8 or 9.

In April 1961 President Kennedy set a national goal of a manned lunar landing before 1970. As NASA and its contractors scrambled to make the necessary decisions to reach this goal, it was felt that Nova, which would require construction of new manufacturing facilities, could not be developed in time to meet the deadline. Instead a member of the Saturn family, would have to be used. It was initially planned that two Saturn C-3's (three F-1's in the first stage) would put the Apollo spacecraft and its translunar boost stage into earth orbit. After docking and fuel transfer, the combined spacecraft would set off for the moon. Eventually lunar orbit rendezvous was selected as the landing mode, resulting in a single Saturn C-4 launch to send the Apollo spacecraft and lunar module toward the moon. At the last minute an extra F-1 engine was slid in ‘for insurance' and the Saturn C-5 was the configuration that went into production. The dimensions of Saturn were limited by the mundane realities of the ceiling height and bay lengths of an existing factory at Michoud, Louisiana, where the Von Braun team intended to build the S-IC first stage. Ironically, the Saturn V as it eventually flew was of essentially the same lift-off mass and payload capability as the Nova!

Despite the selection of Saturn in 1961, studies on Nova continued into the middle of 1962. There were those at NASA headquarters who advocated using large solid rocket motors in place of an F-1 liquid fuelled first stage. They were sure these could be developed in time for the deadline, allowing the use of Nova to launch a direct landing mission to the moon. The first Nova did not finally die until the great ‘mode debate' was settled in June 1962 with the selection of lunar orbit rendezvous for the landing method. This marked the end of consideration of Nova designs dedicated to launch of a direct-landing Apollo spacecraft.

But was not quite the end of Nova. The launch vehicle was now recharacterised as the ‘next' launch vehicle after the Saturn V. Design objective was a million-pound payload to low earth orbit. Two major rocket companies that did not receive production contracts for Saturn stages - General Dynamics (Convair) and Martin Marietta - were given ‘consolation' study contracts for Nova in July 1962. Philip Bono of Douglas Aircraft characteristically did his own study without a contract. The contractors were to make preliminary designs of million-pound-payload launch vehicles that explored all possible combinations of:

  • one versus two stages
  • use of existing (F-1A and M-1) engines versus higher thrust, higher performance engines
  • recovery and reuse of either or both stages

Martin handed in the most comprehensive study, with all possible combinations evaluated, and advanced concepts such as plug nozzles and air augmented engines being considered. General Dynamics had the most conservative designs, using existing engines or enormous conventional bell-chamber engines in the 3 million pound thrust class. Bono at Douglas characteristically was optimistic about achievable stage mass fractions and had designs with masses considerably less than calculated by the other two contractors.

The following table cross tabulates the Nova launch vehicle types versus contractor, indicating lift-off masses, in millions of kg, normalised to a million pound payload:

TypeMartin MariettaGeneral DynamicsDouglas Aircraft
2 stage, F-1A Lox/Kerosene Stage 111.714.27
2 stage, Advanced Lox/Kerosene Stage 1-11.75.2
2 stage, Solid Stage 114.419.4-
------------------------------
2 Stage, Lox/LH2 Stage 26.46.6
2 Stage, Lox/LH2, 1st stage reused6.9--
2 Stage, Lox/LH2, all reused7.8--
------------------------------
1 1/2 stage Lox/LH29.38.9-
------------------------------
Single stage to orbit, Lox/LH28.4-8.5
Single stage to orbit, Lox/LH2, reused7.8-11.4
------------------------------
Single stage to orbit, Air augmented6.9--
Single stage to orbit, Air augmented, reused9.7--

Another aspect of Nova was how to transport and erect such huge launch vehicles. NASA had already selected and purchased land for Nova launch sites north of the Saturn V's LC-39. Nova and others of its ilk essentially require transport by water from the factory to the launch site and launch from sea or at least seaside facilities. NASA had the Army Corps of Engineers study some ingenious launch facility designs using barges and water channels under the pad to move the vehicle into position. Because of the enormous sound that would be generated in a Nova launch, remote off shore or towed launch platforms were considered essential. One exotic concept was to launch Nova not from Cape Canaveral, but from launch tubes hollowed into the side of Hawaiian cliffs!

By the end of 1963 NASA no longer foresaw any need for such huge launch vehicles. Saturn V studies had already begun which indicated that, using solid strap-on motors, the Saturn could deliver up to a million pounds to orbit without the need to build new vehicles or facilities. More importantly, most at NASA saw the follow-on to the Saturn V to be a reusable winged shuttle, which would land at air strips and be fully reusable. Nova was cancelled quietly in 1964. However throughout the 1960's visionaries like Truax and Bono continued to design and advocate very large or single stage to orbit designs like Sea Dragon and Rombus. But in the absence of political support for human colonisation of space or exploration of Mars, the need for such large launch vehicles has not materialised to this day.

More... - Chronology...


Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Nova NASA American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. The Nova vehicle most often illustrated in the popular press and histories. As in other early concepts, this NASA design of 1959/1960 used F-1 engine in both first and second stages. Resulting performance and total liftoff mass was equivalent to later Saturn V. More...
  • Nova B American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Convair/Ehricke Nova design using standard tank/engine modules of 4.9 m diameter in both first and second stages; 6 F-1 engine/modules in first stage, 6 J-2 engine/modules in second stage. More...
  • Nova C American nuclear orbital launch vehicle. General Dynamics Nova vehicle using Nova A as first two stages, nuclear spacecraft with jettisonable tanks as upper stage. More...
  • Nova 8L Mod American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. NASA Nova concept where first two stages use short Nova building blocks with 2 F-1's in each block. Four used in stage 1, one in stage 2. Typical of early Nova designs with F-1's in both first and second stages. More...
  • Nova D American nuclear orbital launch vehicle. General Dynamics Nova vehicle using Nova B as first two stages, nuclear spacecraft with jettisonable tanks as upper stage. More...
  • Nova 9L American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. NASA Nova design using clustered small diameter tanks; 9 x F-1 first stage and 4 x F-1 second stage; compared with solid Nova using five six segment solid motors in first stage and four four segment motors in second stage. More...
  • Nova 4S American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. NASA Nova design using a cluster of 4 x 240 inch solid motors used as first stage; upper stages as Nova 7S and 8L. More...
  • Nova 5S American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. NASA Nova design using segmented solid motors in first and second stages. Five six segment motors in first stage; four four segment motors in second stage, equivalent to 9 x F-1 first stage and 4 x F-1 second stage. More...
  • Nova 7S American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. NASA Nova design using a cluster of 7 x 160 inch solid motors used as first stage; upper stages as Nova 4S and 8L. More...
  • Nova 4L American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Earliest NASA Nova design, using only 4 F-1's, capability less than later Saturn designs. More...
  • Nova A American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Convair/Ehricke Nova design using standard tank/engine modules of 4.9 m diameter in both first and second stages; 4 F-1 engine/modules in first stage, 4 J-2 engine/modules in second stage. More...
  • Nova 8L American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Most capable NASA Nova design, studied in June 1960 just prior to selection of Saturn for moon landing. Used a three stage configuration of eight F-1 engines in stage 1, two M-1 engines in stage 2, and one J-2 engine in stage 3. Similar to the Saturn C-8 except in the use of M-1 engines. Unlike other modular Nova designs of the time, this one had the unitary stage construction of Saturn. More...
  • Nova MM T10EE-1 American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Two stage Nova using CD modules; expendable first stage with 18 modules exhausting to a 10% length plug nozzle; expendable second stage with 2 CD module engines. Operational date would have been November 1976. More...
  • Nova MM T10RE-1 American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Two stage Nova using CD modules; reusable first stage with 18 modules exhausting to a 10% length plug nozzle; expendable second stage with 2 CD module engines. Operational date would have been January 1977. More...
  • Nova MM S10R-1 American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Reusable single stage to orbit Nova using cylindrical shape, 24 CD module engines in zero-length plug nozzle. Operational date would have been June 1978. More...
  • Nova MM S10E-1 American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Expendable single stage to orbit Nova using cylindrical shape, 24 CD module engines in zero-length plug nozzle. Operational date would have been October 1977. More...
  • Nova MM T10RR-2 American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Two stage Nova using CD modules; reusable first stage with 24 modules exhausting to a zero length plug nozzle; reusable second stage with a toroidal plug nozzle engine. Operational date would have been December 1976. More...
  • Nova MM S10R-2 American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Reusable single stage to orbit Nova using conical shape, 30 CD module engines in zero-length plug nozzle. Operational date would have been July 1978. More...
  • Nova MM S10E-2 American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Expendable single stage to orbit Nova using conical shape, 30 CD module engines in zero-length plug nozzle. Operational date would have been November 1977. More...
  • Nova MM R10R-2 American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Reusable version of most exotic Martin Nova vairant; single stage to orbit, 30 cd module air augmented engines in annular shroud. Operational date would have been October 1980. More...
  • Nova MM R10E-2 American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Expendable version of most exotic Martin Nova vairant; single stage to orbit, 30 cd module air augmented engines in annular shroud. Operational date would have been October 1980. More...
  • Nova MM T10RR-3 American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Two stage Nova using CD modules; reusable first stage with 18 modules exhausting to a 10% length plug nozzle; reusable second stage with 2 CD module engines. Operational date would have been July 1977. More...
  • Nova MM 33 American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Nova single stage to orbit design with 24 new high pressure LH2/Lox engines in the first stage in a plug nozzle arrangement. Operational date would have been April 1975. More...
  • Nova MM 34 American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Nova 1 1/2 stage design with 4 new 3 million kgf LH2/Lox engines in the jettisonable booster section and a single 3 million kgf sustainer. Operational date would have been June 1976. More...
  • Nova MM 14A American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Nova design using 4 300 inch solids as first stage, 5 M-1 in second stage. Operational date would have been April 1973 More...
  • Nova GD-B American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. General Dynamics Nova design using existing engines. Recoverable engine package; separation at 3,398 m/s at 76,200 m altitude; splashdown using retrorockets under 7 30 m diameter parachutes 1300 km downrange. Massed estimated based on tank volumes, total thrust, and first stage burnout conditions. More...
  • Nova MM 1B American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Nova design using existing engines; 14 F-1A in the first stage, 2 M-1 in the second. Operational date would have been December 1972 More...
  • Nova MM 14B American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Nova design using 4 280 inch solids as first stage, 4 M-1 in second stage. Operational date would have been February 1973 More...
  • Nova MM 1C American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Nova design using existing engines; 18 F-1A in the first stage, 3 M-1 in the second. Operational date would have been February 1973 More...
  • Nova-2 DAC American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Douglas/Bono design for Nova using LH2/Lox in both stages. More...
  • Nova-1 DAC American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Douglas/Bono design for Nova using Lox/RP-1 in first stage, existing engines. More...
  • Nova GD-E American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. General Dynamics Nova design using 325 inch solid motors as first stage, M-1 engines in second stage. Recoverable solid motors, separation at 1,972 m/s at 53,000 m altitude; splashdown using retrorockets under 3 61 m diameter parachutes 610 km downrange. Recovery of solid motors forshadowed same approach on shuttle 15 years later. Masses estimated based on tank volumes, total thrust, and first stage burnout conditions. More...
  • Nova GD-F American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. General Dynamics Nova design using new 3.5 million kgf Lox/Kerosene engines in first stage. Recoverable stage; separation at 3,365 m/s at 89,300 m altitude; splashdown using retrorockets under 8 46 m diameter parachutes 1300 km downrange. Massed estimated based on tank volumes, total thrust, and first stage burnout conditions. More...
  • Nova MM 24G American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Nova design using new high pressure LH2/Lox engines; 18 in the first stage in a plug nozzle arrangement, 2 in the second. Operational date would have been December 1974. More...
  • Nova GD-H American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. General Dynamics Nova design using 1 1/2 stage arrangement and new 2.4 million kgf Lox/LH2 engines. Recoverable booster 4 engine package would separate at 2,980 m/s at 87,800 m altitude; splashdown under 4 46 m diameter parachutes 1,000 km downrange. Massed estimated based on tank volumes, total thrust, and first stage burnout conditions. More...
  • Nova DAC ISI American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Douglas/Bono design for Nova using LH2/Lox in both stages. Improved Specific Impulse chemical stage uses many engines feeding into single large nozzle. More...
  • Nova GD-J American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. General Dynamics Nova design using recoverable Lox/RP-1 stage of ballistic shape with 3 million kgf engines; separation at 3,420 m/s at 93,900 m altitude; splashdown using retrorockets under 7 parachutes 1340 km downrange. Massed estimated based on tank volumes, total thrust, and first stage burnout conditions. More...
  • Nova American heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Nova was NASA's ultimate launch vehicle, studied intently from 1959 to 1962. Originally conceived to allow a direct manned landing on the moon, in its final iteration it was to put a million-pound payload into low earth orbit to support manned Mars expeditions. It was abandoned in NASA advanced mission planning thereafter in favor of growth versions of the Saturn V. More...

Nova Chronology


1959 January 19 - . LV Family: Nova; Saturn V.
  • Contract with Rocketdyne for development of the F-1 engine - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. NASA signed a definitive contract with Rocketdyne Division, NAA, for $102 million covering the design and development of a single-chamber, liquid-propellant rocket engine in the 1- to l.5-million-pound-thrust class (the F-1, to be used in the Nova superbooster concept). NASA had announced the selection of Rocketdyne on December 12.

1959 January 27 - . LV Family: Atlas; Nova; Saturn I.
  • NASA National Space Vehicle Program - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. After consultation and discussion with DOD, NASA formulated a national space vehicle program. The central idea of the program was that a single launch vehicle should be developed for use in each series of future space missions. The launch vehicle would thus achieve a high degree of reliability, while the guidance and payload could be varied according to purpose of the mission. Four general-purpose launch vehicles were described: Vega, Centaur, Saturn, and Nova. The Nova booster stage would be powered by a cluster of four F-1 engines, the second stage by a single F-1, and the third stage would be the size of an intercontinental ballistic missile but would use liquid hydrogen as a fuel. This launch vehicle would be the first in a series that could transport a man to the lunar surface and return him safely to earth in a direct ascent mission. Four additional stages would be required in such a mission.

1959 February 15 - . LV Family: Atlas; Nova; Saturn I.
  • NASA Booster Development Plan for 60's - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Class: Manned. Type: Manned space station. Summary: NASA issues plan for development in next decade of Vega (later cancelled as too similar to Agena), Centaur, Saturn, and Nova launch vehicles. Juno V renamed Saturn I..

1959 May 25-26 - . LV Family: Nova; Saturn C-3; Saturn V. Launch Vehicle: Saturn C-2.
  • National booster program, Dyna-Soar, and Mercury discussed - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Faget; Low, George. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Mercury. The national booster program, Dyna-Soar, and Project Mercury were discussed by the Research Steering Committee. Members also presented reviews of Center programs related to manned space flight. Maxime A. Faget of STG endorsed lunar exploration as the present goal of the Committee although recognizing the end objective as manned interplanetary travel. George M. Low of NASA Headquarters recommended that the Committee:
    • Adopt the lunar landing mission as its long-range objective.
    • Investigate vehicle staging so that Saturn could be used for manned lunar landings without complete reliance on Nova.
    • Make a study of whether parachute or airport landing techniques should be emphasized.
    • Consider nuclear rocket propulsion possibilities for space flight.
    • Attach importance to research on auxiliary power plants such as hydrogen-oxygen systems.

1959 December 9 - . LV Family: Nova. Launch Vehicle: Saturn C-2.
  • Goett Committee - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Class: Manned. Type: Manned space station. Summary: Committee formed to recommend post-Mercury space program. After four meetings, and studying earth-orbit assembly using Saturn II or direct ascent using Nova, tended to back development of Nova..

1960 July 5 - . LV Family: Hawk; Nova; Saturn C-3; Saturn I; Saturn V.
  • House recommends a high priority manned expedition to the moon - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. The House Committee on Science and Astronautics declared: "A high priority program should be undertaken to place a manned expedition on the moon in this decade. A firm plan with this goal in view should be drawn up and submitted to the Congress by NASA. Such a plan, however, should be completely integrated with other goals, to minimize total costs. The modular concept deserves close study. Particular attention should be paid immediately to long lead-time phases of such a program." The Committee also recommended that development of the F-1 engine be expedited in expectation of the Nova launch vehicle, that there be more research on nuclear engines and less conventional engines before freezing the Nova concept, and that the Orion project be turned over to NASA. It was the view of the Committee that "NASA's 10-year program is a good program, as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. Furthermore the space program is not being pushed with sufficient energy."

1961 January 9 - . LV Family: Nova. Launch Vehicle: Nova 4L.
  • First meeting of the Manned Lunar Landing Task Group - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Silverstein. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM; Apollo Lunar Landing; CSM Source Selection; LM Mode Debate; LM Source Selection. At the first meeting of the Manned Lunar Landing Task Group, Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., Director of the Office of Space Flight Programs Abe Silverstein, and Director of the Office of Advanced Research Programs Ira H. Abbott outlined the purpose of the Group to the members. After a discussion of the instructions, the Group considered first the objectives of the total NASA program:

    1. the exploration of the solar system for knowledge to benefit mankind; and
    2. the development of technology to permit exploitation of space flight for scientific, military, and commercial uses.
    NASA's lunar program was a logical step toward these objectives. In current lunar program planning, three steps were projected:

    1. a manned landing on the moon with return to earth,
    2. limited manned lunar exploration, and
    3. a scientific lunar base.
    To accomplish the first step, a great increase in launch vehicle capability would be needed beyond that provided by current funding. A comparison of a three-million-pound-thrust and a six-million-pound-thrust Nova launch vehicle was made. It was estimated that a 60,000- to 80,000-pound payload to escape velocity would be needed for a manned lunar landing mission.

1961 February 7 - . LV Family: Nova. Launch Vehicle: Saturn C-2.
  • Final report of the Low Committee - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Seamans. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo Lunar Landing. The Manned Lunar Landing Task Group (Low Committee) transmitted its final report to NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr. The Group found that the manned lunar landing mission could be accomplished during the decade, using either the earth orbit rendezvous or direct ascent technique. Multiple launchings of Saturn C-2 launch vehicles would be necessary in the earth orbital mode, while the direct ascent technique would require the development of a Nova-class vehicle. Information to be obtained through supporting unmanned lunar exploration programs, such as Ranger and Surveyor, was felt to be essential in carrying out the manned lunar mission. Total funding for the program was estimated at just under $7 billion through Fiscal Year 1968.

1961 May 2 - . LV Family: Nova; Saturn I. Launch Vehicle: Saturn C-2.
  • Ad Hoc Task Group for a Manned Lunar Landing Study - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., established the Ad Hoc Task Group for a Manned Lunar Landing Study, to be chaired by William A. Fleming of NASA Headquarters. The study was expected to produce the following information:

    • All tasks associated with the mission.
    • Interdependent time-phasing of the tasks.
    • Areas requiring considerable technological advancements from the current state of the art.
    • Tasks for which multiple approach solutions were advisable.
    • Important action and decision points in the mission plan.
    • A refined estimate by task and by fiscal year of the dollar resources required for the mission.
    • Refined estimates of in-house manpower requirements, by task and by fiscal year
    • Tentative in-house and contractor task assignments accompanying the dollar and manpower resource requirements.
    The study began on May 8 and the final report was submitted on June 16. Guidelines served as a starting point for the study:

    • The manned lunar landing target date was 1967.
    • Intermediate missions of multiman orbital satellites and manned circumlunar missions were desirable at the earliest possible time.
    • Man's mission on the moon as it affected the study was to be determined by the Ad Hoc Task Group - i.e., the time to be spent on the lunar surface and the tasks to be performed while there.
    • In establishing the mission plan, the use of the Saturn C-2 launch vehicle was to be evaluated as compared with an alternative launch vehicle having a higher thrust first stage and C-2 upper-stage components.
    • The mission plan was to include parallel development of liquid and solid propulsion leading to a Nova vehicle 400,000 pounds in earth orbit and should indicate when the decision should be made on the final Nova configuration.
    • Nuclear-powered launch vehicles should not be considered for use in the first manned lunar landing mission.
    • The flight test program should be laid out with enough launchings to meet the needs of the program considering the reliability requirements.
    • Alternative approaches should be provided in critical areas - e.g., upper stages and mission modes.

    The engineering sketch drawn by John D. Bird of Langley Research Center on May 3, 1961, indicated the thinking of that period: By launching two Saturn C-2's, the lunar landing mission could be accomplished by using both earth rendezvous and lunar rendezvous at various stages of the mission.


1961 May 25 - . LV Family: Nova; Saturn I.
  • Kennedy Proclaims Moon Landing Objective - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kennedy. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo Lunar Landing. Following Gagarin's flight and Bay of Pigs failure, Kennedy announces the objective of landing an American on the moon by end of the decade. In his second State of the Union Message President Kennedy said: "With the advice of the Vice President, who is Chairman of the National Space Council, we have examined where we (United States) are strong and where we are not, where we may succeed and where we may not. . . . Now is the time to take longer strides-time for a great new American enterprise-time for this Nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement which in many ways may hold the key to our future on Earth." President Kennedy set forth an accelerated space program based upon the long-range national goals of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth; early development of the Rover nuclear rocket; speed up the use of Earth satellites for worldwide communications; and provide "at the earliest possible time a satellite system for worldwide weather observation." An additional $549 million was requested for NASA over the new administration March budget requests; $62 million was requested for DOD for starting development of a solid-propellant booster of the Nova class.

1961 June 10 - . LV Family: Nova. Launch Vehicle: Nova A.
  • Preparation for NOVA rocket motor tests. - . Nation: USA. Summary: National Bureau of Standards broke ground for new research facility at Gaithersburg, Md., which will include a mega-pound deadweight testing machine to provide measurement standards for multimillion rocket thrust requirements..

1961 June 22 - . LV Family: Nova; Saturn C-3. Launch Vehicle: Saturn C-2.
  • First decision on Apollo launch vehicles - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Webb. Program: Apollo. Class: Manned. Type: Manned space station. Spacecraft: Apollo Lunar Landing. Meeting with Webb/Dryden, work on Saturn C-2 stopped; preliminary design of C-3 and continuing studies of larger vehicles for landing missions requested. STG push for 4 x 6.6 m diameter solid cluster first stage rejected for safety and ground handling reasons.

1961 June 23 - . LV Family: Nova; Saturn C-3; Saturn I.
  • NASA / DOD agree to define support requirements - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Debus. Program: Apollo. NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., requested Kurt H. Debus, Director of the NASA Launch Operations Directorate, and Maj. Gen. Leighton I. Davis, Commander of the Air Force Missile Test Center, to make a joint analysis of all major factors regarding the launch requirements, methods, and procedures needed in support of an early manned lunar landing. The schedules and early requirements were to be considered in two phases:

    1. in line with the Fleming Report, a direct flight to the moon would be assumed, using the Saturn C-1 and C-3 launch vehicles in early support phases and liquid- or solid-fueled Nova launch vehicles for the lunar landing;
    2. as a possible alternative or parallel program, orbital rendezvous operations using Saturn C-3 and liquid-fueled Nova.
    The analysis should include recommendations on mutual NASA-DOD range responsibilities, authority, management structures, and other allied subjects. On June 30, Seamans notified Debus and Davis that the evaluation of tracking and command stations should not be included in the study. He stressed that the factors of immediate concern with regard to launch operations were those of launch site locations, land acquisition requirements, spacecraft and launch vehicle preparation facilities, vehicle launch facilities, and other facilities and requirements at the launch site. (Phase I of the Report was submitted on July 31.)

1961 June 23 - . LV Family: Nova; Saturn C-3. Launch Vehicle: Saturn C-2.
  • Saturn C-2 discontinued - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: von Braun. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo Lunar Landing. NASA announced that further engineering design work on the Saturn C-2 configuration would be discontinued and that effort instead would be redirected toward clarification of the Saturn C-3 and Nova concepts. Investigations were specifically directed toward determining capabilities of the proposed C-3 configuration in supporting the Apollo mission.

1961 July 6 - . LV Family: Nova; Saturn C-3.
  • Manned Lunar Landing Coordination Group - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: von Braun; Low, George. Program: Apollo. At NASA Headquarters, the first meeting was held of the Manned Lunar Landing Coordination Group, attended by NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., Ira H. Abbott, Don R. Ostrander, Charles H. Roadman, William A. Fleming, DeMarquis D. Wyatt (part-time), and George M. Low (in place of Abe Silverstein). This Headquarters Group, appointed by Seamans, was to coordinate problems that jointly affected several NASA Offices, during the interim period while the manned space flight organization was being formed. Members of the steering group included NASA program directors, with participation by Wernher von Braun of Marshall Space Flight Center, Robert R. Gilruth of STG, and Wyatt and Abraham Hyatt of NASA Headquarters, as required. Fleming acted as Secretary of the Group. A list of decisions and actions required to implement an accelerated lunar landing program was drawn up as a tentative agenda for the next meeting:

    • Begin Nova systems integration studies and develop the general arrangement of second and third stages. The studies should include spacecraft propulsion stages and spacecraft.
    • Begin Saturn C-3 systems integration studies.
    • Begin developing Nova and C-3 first-stage specifications in preparation to letting contracts
    • Continue Launch Operations Directorate-Air Force Missile Test Center studies of Nova and C-3 launch sites at Atlantic Missile Range (AMR).
    • Take steps to bring the contractor aboard as soon as possible for Nova and C-3 launch facility and test stand designs.
    • Accelerate F-1 engine funding to provide adequate production engines for the Nova and C-3.
    • Examine the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) proposal for static test facilities for large vehicle stages with a view toward beginning detailed site examination.
    • Accelerate funding of the J-2 engine to provide acceptance test stands.
    • Determine the necessity for a one-million-pound-thrust liquid- hydrogen - liquid-oxygen engine.
    • Begin design studies on spacecraft propulsion systems and develop specifications. Define management responsibilities.
    • Begin preparations for letting the contract for a spacecraft operations facility at AMR.
    • Determine the relationships and responsibilities of MSFC and STG on guidance and control.

1961 July - . LV Family: Nova; Saturn C-3.
  • Improved Mercury proposed for lunar landing - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Chamberlin. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Gemini LOR; Apollo Lunar Landing. James A. Chamberlin and James T. Rose of STG proposed adapting the improved Mercury spacecraft to a 35,000-pound payload, including a 5,000-pound "lunar lander." This payload would be launched by a Saturn C-3 in the lunar orbit rendezvous mode. The proposal was in direct competition with the Apollo proposals that favored direct landing on the moon and involved a 150,000-pound payload launched by a Nova-class vehicle with approximately 12 million pounds of thrust.

1961 July 31 - . LV Family: Nova; Saturn C-3; Saturn V.
  • NASA-DOD report on launch sites for Apollo - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Debus; Seamans. Program: Apollo. Phase I of a joint NASA-DOD report on facilities and resources required at launch sites to support the manned lunar landing program was submitted to Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., by Kurt H. Debus, Director, Launch Operations Directorate, and Maj. Gen. Leighton I. Davis, Commander of the Air Force Missile Test Center. The report, requested by Seamans on June 23, was based on the use of Nova- class launch vehicles for the manned lunar landing in a direct ascent mode, with the Saturn C-3 in supporting missions. Eight launch sites were considered: Cape Canaveral (on-shore); Cape Canaveral (off- shore); Mayaguana Island (Atlantic Missile Range downrange); Cumberland Island, Ga.; Brownsville, Tex.; White Sands Missile Range, N. Mex.; Christmas Island, Pacific Ocean; and South Point, Hawaii. On the basis of minimum cost and use of existing national resources, and taking into consideration the stringent time schedule, White Sands Missile Range and Cape Canaveral (on-shore) were favored. White Sands presented serious limitations on launch azimuths because of first-stage impact hazards on populated areas.

1961 August 24 - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. LV Family: Nova; Saturn V.
  • Merritt Island selected for Saturn V launch site. - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo Lunar Landing. After considering Cape Canaveral, Cape Canaveral-Merritt Island, Mayaguana-Bahamas, Cumberland-Georgia, Brownville-Texas, Christmas Island, Hawaii, and White Sands, Merritt Island selected as launch site for manned lunar flights and other missions requiring Saturn and Nova class vehicles. Based upon national space goals announced by the President in May, NASA plans called for acquisition of 80,000 acres north and west of AFMTC, to be administered by the USAF as agent for NASA and as a part of the Atlantic Missile Range. Additional Details: here....

1961 October 20 - . LV Family: Atlas; Nova; Saturn I.
  • STG discussed development of automatic checkout system for the entire NASA launch vehicle program - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. The MSFC-STG Advanced Program Coordination Board met at STG and discussed the question of the development of an automatic checkout system which would include the entire launch vehicle program from the Saturn C-1 through the Nova. It agreed that the Apollo contractor should be instructed to make the spacecraft electrical subsystems compatible with the Saturn complex.

    In further discussion, Paul J. DeFries of Marshall Space Flight Center MSFC presented a list of proposed guidelines for use in studying early manned lunar landing missions:

    • The crew should draw on its own resources only when absolutely necessary. Equipment and service personnel external to the spacecraft should be used as much as possible.
    • Early lunar expeditions would receive active external support only up to the time of the launch from earth orbit.
    • The crew would board the spacecraft only after it was checked out and ready for final countdown and launch.
    • The first Apollo crews should have an emergency shelter available on the moon which could afford several months of lift: support and protection.
    • The capability for clocking an orbital launch vehicle with a propulsion stage - the "connecting mode" - should be possible.
    • The capability of fueling an orbital launch vehicle should be made available - "fueling mode."
    • The capability of making repairs, replacements, or adjustments in orbit should be developed.
    • For repairs, replacements, and adjustments on the orbital launch vehicle in earth orbit, two support vehicles would be necessary. These would be a Saturn C-1 launch vehicle manned by Apollo technicians and an unmanned Atlas-Centaur launch vehicle carrying repair kits.
    • Development of docking, testing of components, and techniques for docking and training of man in orbital operations could be carried out by a space ferry loaded with a Mercury capsule.
    Some of the points discussed in connection with these suggestions were:

    • Orbital launch operations were just as complex, if not more complex, than earth-launched operations.
    • A question existed as to how complex the orbital launch facility could be and what its function should be.
    • There was a possibility that the crew could do most of the checkout and launch operations. Studies should be made to define the role of the crew versus the role of a proposed MSFC auxiliary checkout and maintenance crew.
    After the discussion on orbital launch operations, the Board agreed that contemporary technology was inadequate to support such operations. Both STG and MSFC would need to study and develop both refueling and connector techniques.

1961 October 24 - . LV Family: Nova. Launch Vehicle: Nova A.
  • Nova launch vehicle studies begun. - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Summary: Studies of "unconventional" rockets using liquid fuels in the thrust range from 2 to 24 million pounds announced by NASA; 2 contracts being carried out by Aerojet-General and Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation..

1961 October 25 - . LV Family: Nova; Saturn V.
  • Saturn static test stand site selected. - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Summary: NASA selected Pearl River site in southwestern Mississippi, 35 miles from Michoud plant in New Orleans, for static test facility for Saturn and Nova-class vehicles, completed facility to operate under direction of Marshall Space Flight Center..

1961 November 6 - . LV Family: Nova; Saturn C-3; Saturn V; Titan.
  • Working group on large launch vehicles - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Debus; Holmes, Brainard; Rosen, Milton; Maus; Mrazek. Program: Apollo. In a memorandum to D. Brainerd Holmes, Director, Office of Manned Space Flight (OMSF), Milton W. Rosen, Director of Launch Vehicles and Propulsion, OMSF, described the organization of a working group to recommend to the Director a large launch vehicle program which would meet the requirements of manned space flight and which would have broad and continuing national utility for other NASA and DOD programs. The group would include members from the NASA Office of Launch Vehicles and Propulsion (Rosen, Chairman, Richard B. Canright, Eldon W. Hall, Elliott Mitchell, Norman Rafel, Melvyn Savage, and Adelbert O. Tischler); from the Marshall Space Flight Center (William A. Mrazek, Hans H. Maus, and James B. Bramlet); and from the NASA Office of Spacecraft and Flight Missions (John H. Disher). (David M. Hammock of MSC was later added to the group.) The principal background material to be used by the group would consist of reports of the Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group (Golovin Committee), the Fleming Committee, the Lundin Committee, the Heaton Committee, and the Debus-Davis Committee. Some of the subjects the group would be considering were:

    1. an assessment of the problems involved in orbital rendezvous,
    2. an evaluation of intermediate vehicles (Saturn C-3, C-4, and C-5),
    3. an evaluation of Nova-class vehicles,
    4. an assessment of the future course of large solid-fuel rocket motor development,
    5. an evaluation of the utility of the Titan III for NASA missions, and
    6. an evaluation of the realism of the spacecraft development program (schedules, weights, performances).
    Rosen set November 20 as a target date for a recommended program.

1961 December 21 - . LV Family: Nova; Saturn V.
  • Saturn C-5 launch vehicle configuration selected - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: von Braun; Rosen, Milton. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo Lunar Landing. Rosen Committee studies in November and December indicated that the most flexible choice for Apollo was the Saturn C-4, with two required for the earth orbit rendezvous approach or one for the lunar orbit rendezvous mission, with a smaller landed payload. The panel rejected solid motors again, but Rosen himself still pushed for Nova. An extra F-1 engine was 'slid in' for insurance, resulting in the Saturn C-5 configuration. The Manned Space Flight Management Council decided at its first meeting that the Saturn C-5 launch vehicle would have a first stage configuration of five F-1 engines and a second stage configuration of five J-2 engines. The third stage would be the S-IVB with one J-2 engine. It recommended that the contractor for stage integration of the Saturn C-1 be Chrysler Corporation and that the contractor for stage integration of the Saturn C-5 be The Boeing Company. Contractor work on the Saturn C-5 should proceed immediately to provide a complete design study and a detailed development plan before letting final contracts and assigning large numbers of contractor personnel to Marshall Space Flight Center or Michoud.

1962 February 27 - . LV Family: Nova; Saturn I; Saturn V.
  • Manned Space Flight Management Council meeting - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: von Braun; Maus. Program: Apollo. The preparation of schedules based on the NASA Fiscal Year 1962 budget (including the proposed supplemental appropriation), the Fiscal Year 1963 budget as submitted to Congress, and Fiscal Year 1964 and subsequent funding was discussed at the Manned Space Flight Management Council meeting. Program assumptions as presented by Wernher von Braun, Director, Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), were approved for use in preparation of the schedules :

    • The Saturn C-5 launch vehicle and earth orbital rendezvous were considered the primary mode for the lunar landing.
    • Full-scale orbit operations development, including ground testing, would be accomplished, using S-I boosters and orbital upper stages. This development would be planned so that upper stages and rendezvous techniques would be developed by the time the C-5 was operational. Planning would consider both connecting and fueling modes.
    • The development of a two-stage Nova with liquid-propellant engines in both stages would be activated as early as realistically feasible. This would provide an alternative, direct flight mode carrying the same orbital launch vehicle as developed for the C-5.
    • There would be no solid-propellant vehicle development.
    Charles W. Frick of MSC and Hans H. Maus of MSFC would coordinate schedule assumptions between the Centers.

1962 April 24 - . LV Family: Nova. Launch Vehicle: Nova 8L.
  • Delay in award of a Nova launch vehicle study contract - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. The Manned Space Flight Management Council decided to delay the awarding of a Nova launch vehicle study contract until July 1 at the earliest to allow time for an in-house study of bids submitted and for further examination of the schedule for a manned lunar landing using the direct ascent technique.

1962 May 25 - . LV Family: Nova. Launch Vehicle: Saturn C-8.
  • Apollo lunar landing mode component schedules and cost breakdowns prepared - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Holmes, Brainard. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo Lunar Landing. D. Brainerd Holmes, NASA's Director of Manned Space Flight, requested the Directors of Launch Operations Center, Manned Spacecraft Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) to prepare supporting component schedules and cost breakdowns through Fiscal Year 1967 for each of the proposed lunar landing modes: earth orbit rendezvous, lunar orbit rendezvous, and direct ascent. For direct ascent, a Saturn C-8 launch vehicle was planned, using a configuration of eight F-1 engines, eight J-2 engines, and one J-2 engine. MSFC was also requested to submit a proposed schedule and summary of costs for the Nova launch vehicle, using the configuration of eight F-1 engines, two M-1 engines, and one J-2 engine. Each Center was asked to make an evaluation of the schedules as to possibilities of achievement, major problem areas, and recommendations for deviations.

1962 June 22 - . LV Family: Nova; Saturn I; Saturn V.
  • Lunar orbit rendezvous selected as mode for the Apollo lunar landing mission - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: von Braun. Program: Apollo. After an extended discussion, the Manned Space Flight Management Council unanimously decided:

    • Lunar orbit rendezvous, using the Saturn C-5 launch vehicle, should be the mission mode for lunar exploration.
    • The development of a lunar logistics vehicle, using the Saturn C-1B or the C-5 launch vehicle, should be started and a six-month study of this development should begin immediately.
    • Time was too short and the expense too great to develop a parallel backup mode.
    • Study of the Nova vehicle should continue with the expectation that its development would follow the C-5 by two or three years.
    • The C-1B launch vehicle should be started immediately, looking toward the first two-stage flight in mid- 1965.
    • Development of a lunar excursion module should begin at once.
    These decisions were to be presented to NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., NASA Deputy Administrator Hugh L. Dryden, and NASA Administrator James E. Webb for approval.

1962 July 11 - . LV Family: Nova; Saturn I; Saturn V.
  • Selection of LOR as Apollo Mission Mode - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Class: Manned. Type: Manned space station. Spacecraft: Apollo Lunar Landing. Following a long controversy NASA selected Lunar Orbit Rendezvous (LOR) as the fastest, cheapest, and safest mode to accomplish the Apollo mission. LOR solved the engineering problem of how to land. The EOR or Direct Landing approaches required the Apollo crew to be on their backs during the landing and having to use television or mirrors to see the lunar surface. A lunar crasher stage approach had finally emerged as lesser of evils but raised other issues. LOR allowed a purpose-built lander with a logical helicopter-like crew station layout. Studies indicated LOR would allow landing 6-8 months earlier and cost $9.2 billion vs $ 10.6 billion for EOR or direct. Direct flight by this time would not involve Nova, but a scaled-down two-man spacecraft that could be launched by the Saturn C-5. Additional Details: here....

1962 July 30 - . LV Family: Nova; Saturn V.
  • Conclusions on the selection of a lunar mission mode based on studies conducted in 1961 and 1962 - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo LM; LM Mode Debate; LM Source Selection. The Office of Systems under NASA's Office of Manned Space Flight summarized its conclusions on the selection of a lunar mission mode based on NASA and industry studies conducted in 1961 and 1962:

    • There were no significant technical problems which would preclude the acceptance of any of the modes, if sufficient time and money were available. (The modes considered were the C-5 direct ascent, C-5 earth orbit rendezvous (EOR), C-5 lunar orbit rendezvous (LOR), Nova direct ascent, and solid-fuel Nova direct ascent.)
    • The C-5 direct ascent technique was characterized by high development risk and the least flexibility for further development.
    • The C-5 EOR mode had the lowest probability of mission success and the greatest development complexity.
    • The Nova direct ascent method would require the development of larger launch vehicles than the C-5. However, it would be the least complex from an operational and subsystem standpoint and had greater crew safety and initial mission capabilities than did LOR.
    • The solid-fuel Nova direct flight mode would necessitate a launch vehicle development parallel to the C-5. Such a development could not be financed under current budget allotments.
    • Only the LOR and EOR modes would make full use of the development of the C-5 launch vehicle and the command and service modules. Based on technical considerations, the LOR mode was distinctly preferable.
    • The Directors of MSC and Marshall Space Flight Center had both expressed strong preference for the LOR mode.
    On the basis of these conclusions, the LOR mode was recommended as most suitable for the manned lunar landing mission. (The studies summarized in this document were used by the Manned Space Flight Management Council in their mission mode decision on June 22.)

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