Physicist, Oceanographer, Aerospace Technologist, Rancher, Land Developer and Lecturer
TRW Space Systems Group
Defense & Space Systems Division of the TRW Systems Group, TRW Inc., Redondo Beach, California
My association with TRW began while I was still very involved at the NASA Manned Space Center in Houston, responsible for the operation of the tracking network used to support the manned missions of the program. At that time we had at least 17 tracking stations located around the world, all tracking the spacecraft and sending their data back to the Goddard Space Center data management center which would then transmit the data to our control center in Houston. A more efficient method for doing this was absolutely necessary, especially when looking at future programs such as Apollo and the successor space flight missions.
TRW began looking at the development of a satellite that could be used for tracking and relaying the information back to just a few ground stations, thus reducing the need for so many tracking facilities which were very difficult to manage and coordinate. This budding tracking system was to become known as the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System.(TDRSS). This association with TRW continued when I transferred to NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs where I also had the responsibility for the tracking systems used on unmanned missions into outer space. JPL had already developed spacecraft that were capable of going to the moon, landing on the surface, taking all kinds of information into their data gathering equipment, and in transmitting all this data back to the earth through the Deep Space Network (DSN). Satellite technology at this time was in its infancy and this development of a tracking and a data relay satellite was a brand-new concept.
One Space Park, Redondo Beach, California - my office was in the corner of the building on the left in the photo - a beautiful campus
Main Headquarters building Redondo Beach, California
When I made the transfer to the NASA Jet Propulsion Labs from NASA – Houston, it was with the understanding that I would limit my time at JPL to no more than two years, during which time it was my intent to carry out the job they hired me to do, that is to get their new control center integrated into their tracking systems and to have the communications necessary to do that. I was assigned the task of getting the JPL computing center, the control center, the Deep Space Tracking Stations (DSL) and the communications all working in such a manner as to be able to support the NASA manned missions to the moon. I accomplished the task I was given, and my interests, which had always been headed in this direction, was to leave the Government and enter into the "for-profit" aerospace world.
TRW met my requirements to do that! After completing my two years, I took a position with TRW in their Space Systems Divsion, and started with the Software and Information Systems people in Redondo Beach, California. I was assigned to Command and Control projects, to help those projects with their customer interface and to the culmination of the work that was required of the division.
Upper management at TRW asked me if I would be interested in working in the Washington DC area helping all the TRW projects that were being marketed to NASA and to the Department of Defense. Their challenge seem to be appropriate for me at this stage of my career, so I accepted the new assignment. I was then transferred to the corporate marketing center for TRW in Washington, D.C. There I was assigned the task of interfacing with Department of Defense planners whose interest was in the advacement of their aspirations for space-based systems.
By this time the satellite development people in Redondo Beach had developed a brand-new highly technical satellite which was aptly called the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS). The concept for this sidelight had begun while I was still with NASA – Houston and was very needed in the business of tracking satellites in outer space. We had no other means than land-based radars, and they were not adequate for the job of the future. We needed something that could do the tracking and the data transfer without being restricted to fixed locations on the ground.
I was right where I wanted to be, and this assignment fulfilled my plans for being in on the ground floor of another whole new technical concept, and better yet I was in for an education in how profit-based aerospace companies functioned. I had not been involved in this aspect of the aerospace field before this.
Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) – the replacement for tracking stations on the ground that heretofore had kept track of deep space flights
The following is the write-up on TRW found on Wikipedia:
Space Technology Laboratories (STL), then a division of Ramo-Wooldridge Corp., designed and produced the identical payloads for Pioneer 0, 1 and 2. These were intended to orbit and photograph the Moon, but launch vehicle problems prevented this. NASA launched Pioneer 1 as its first spacecraft on October 11, 1958. It set a distance record from Earth, and provided data on the extent of Earth's radiation belts.
Pioneer 10 and 11 were nearly identical spacecraft, designed and fabricated by TRW Systems Group. They were optimized for ruggedness since they were the first man-made objects to pass through the asteroid belt and Jupiter's radiation belt. Simplicity, redundancy, and use of proven components were essential. As NASA's first all-atomic powered spacecraft, these used plutonium-238 units developed by Teledyne Isotopes. Pioneer 10 carried 11 instruments, and Pioneer 11 carried 12, for investigating Jupiter and Saturn, respectively. Data was transmitted back to Earth at 8 Watts, 128 byte/s at Jupiter, and 1 byte/s from further out. Pioneer 10 was the first man-made object past the planetary orbits, and its last telemetry was received in 2002, 30 years after launch.
First launched in 1970, the company built all 23 reconnaissance satellites in the Defense Support Program (DSP), which are the principal components of the Satellite Early Warning System currently used by the United States. These are operated by the Air Force Space Command, and they detect missile or spacecraft launches and nuclear explosions using sensors that detect the infrared emissions from these intense sources of heat. During Desert Storm, for example, DSP satellites were able to detect the launches of Iraqi Scud missiles and provide timely warnings to civilians and military forces in Israel and Saudi Arabia.
TRW designed and built the descent engine or (LMDE) for the Apollo lunar lander. Due to the need for a soft landing on the Moon, it was the first throttleable engine for manned space flight. This, and the requirements for high thrust, low weight, and crushability (in case of landing on a large rock), earned surprising praise from NASA's history pages, considering the complexity of the lunar missions: "The lunar module descent engine probably was the biggest challenge and the most outstanding technical development of Apollo". This engine was used on Apollo 13 to achieve free return trajectory and make a minor course correction after damage to the Service Module.
After the Apollo program moon landings, the LMDE was further developed into the TRW TR-201 engine. This engine was used in the second stage Delta-P of the Delta launch vehicle for 77 launches between 1972-1988.
During my first three years with TRW in the Washington office, I was in contact with many other aerospace and science firms that were in the same kind of business that we were into. Teams were put together to bid on major weapons systems. Through this mechanism, I met many of the top executives of other firms. It was one of these firms that asked if I might be interested in helping them with a management problem in one of their companies. The major firm was EG&G Corp. based in Massachusetts, and their problem was with a company I had known since my NASA days in Houston, Wolf Research and Development Company, a firm of some 400 physicists and mathematicians doing a lot of significant work for the Government. Dr. Bill Wolf who started Wolf Research had retired and the company was floundering. Their need was for someone to take over the operation of the company, and they offered that challenge to me. But they also contacted top management at TRW whom they knew and asked if the company would let me go for some period so I could help EG&G with a major problem. Of course I was excited about this propect of actually running a company all by myself.
TRW agreed and granted me a leave of absence for an unspecified period to go and help EG&G. What an opportunity for me!
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