The satellite program was transferred from the Wright Air Development Center to the Western Development Division during the first part of 1956, and the satellite development plan was approved by Major General Schriever on 2 April 1956. Research and Development costs were expected to total $114.7 million, with $39.1 million required through fiscal 1957.
Colonel J. J. Cody, Jr. served in that capacity as point-of- contract from late May through the end of July 1958. He was succeeded by Colonel James E. Miller, who continued as the ARPA point-of-contact through late August 1958.
The THOR ballistic missile was used as the first stage of the THOR-ABLE, THOR-ABLE I, THOR-ABLE II and THOR-ABLE-STAR. The ABLE second stage was an Aerojet-General booster rated at 7,700 pounds of thrust. The ABLE I added the Allegheny Ballistic Laboratory's 2,540-pound-thrust solid rocket as a third stage to the ABLE second stage. The THOR-ABLE II consisted of a THOR first stage and a modified Aerojet-General 10-40 second stage. Aerojet General's ABLE-STAR upper stage was designed to boost a 1,000-pound payload into a 300-mile orbit.
The TRANSIT 1A navigational satellite was also launched from Pad 17A by Air Force contractors for ARPA on 17 September 1959, but the payload failed to achieve orbit.
MIDAS Project Division
The Division was phased out on 30 June 1960 after the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation completed its second and final MIDAS R&D launch from Complex 14 on 24 May 1960. Subsequent MIDAS launches were carried out at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Under Major Howard M. Sloan, the TS 609A Operations Division was charged with developing a blue suit capability for a family of small solid propellant rocket test vehicles. The rockets were composed of several stages, and they would be used for a variety of space experiments in basic and applied research for ARDC and NASA. The TS-609A program was given the name "BLUE SCOUT" in the latter half of 1960, but the various TS-609A launch vehicle configurations required more distinctive names to differentiate them. The BLUE SCOUT I was composed of an Aerojet-General solid rocket, a Thiokol TX-33 solid rocket, and an Allegheny Ballistic Laboratory ABL-X254 solid rocket. The SCOUT and the BLUE SCOUT II both included those rocket stages, plus an Allegheny Ballistic Laboratory ABL-X248 rocket. The BLUE SCOUT JUNIOR consisted of the TX-33, ABL-X254, an Aerojet-General AJ 10-41 rocket motor, and the NOTS 100A solid rocket. By the summer of 1960, at least 17 officers and airmen had attended factory orientation courses on the various rocket stages, and a blue suit on-the-job training program was underway at Complex 18 and Building 1366. When the BLUE SCOUT Operations Division merged with the BLUE SCOUT Project Division on 17 April 1961, it became the Operations Section under the BLUE SCOUT Branch. Major Sloan was transferred to the 6555th's Ballistic Missiles Office, and Lieutenant Colonel Jesse G. Henry became the Chief of the BLUE SCOUT Branch. By that time, 71 airmen were working for the BLUE SCOUT Operations Section, and many of them participated in the preparation and launch of BLUE SCOUT vehicles.
The reorganization reflected Air Force Systems Command's management of space and missile activities under two separate intermediate headquarters: the Space Systems Division and the Ballistic Systems Division. The 6555th was assigned to the Ballistic Systems Division in April 1961, but it served both intermediate headquarters. On 1 July 1963, the 6555th was reassigned from the Ballistic Systems Division to the Space Systems Division with no change in manning or station. Once again, it served both intermediate headquarters.
The Space Programs Office became the Office of the Deputy for Space Systems, and the Ballistic Missiles Office became the Office of the Deputy for Ballistic Systems.
Technical Support Office
Following the redesignation of the Directorate of Support as the Technical Support Division in April 1961, the Technical Support Division's Engineering Branch was abolished in July, and its Missile and Ground Safety Branch was abolished in September 1961. The Division became the Technical Support Office subsequently, but it continued to: 1) coordinate technical requirements and facility activities, 2) consolidate budget requirements, 3) manage technical supplies and 4) provide staff logistics support for the entire Wing.
Lieutenant Colonel Harold A. Myers
Lieutenant Colonel Myers had been the Space Projects Division's Assistant Chief of Test Operations under Lieutenant Colonel Thomas W. Morgan, but he moved up to replace Morgan as Division Chief during the last half of 1960. Lieutenant Colonel Morgan spent the better part of a year at Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama before he returned to replace Lieutenant Colonel Erwin A. Meyer as Chief of the Space Programs Office on 15 July 1961. In the meantime, Lieutenant Colonel Myers continued as Space Projects Branch Chief following the 6555th's reorganization in April 1961.
Space Projects Branch
Though some of the Space Projects Branch's ATLAS-related functions were transferred to the new ATLAS Space Branch (formerly, the ATLAS Boosters Branch) as a result of this reorganization, the BLUE SCOUT Branch remained unaffected.
Convair also launched RANGER I and RANGER II from Complex 12, but neither of those flights met their objectives.
memorandum of agreement
Lieutenant General Schriever signed the AGENA B agreement in February 1961, making February 14th the effective date. The Memorandum of Agreement on Participation of the 6555th Test Wing in the CENTAUR R&D Test Program was signed by Dr. Kurt H. Debus, Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center's Launch Operations Directorate, and Colonel Paul R. Wignall, Commander of the 6555th Test Wing (Development) on 18 April 1961.
ATLAS "D" and AGENA B
The ATLAS "D" space booster was essentially a modified ATLAS ICBM. Like the ATLAS "D" series missile, the ATLAS space booster was 75 feet long and 10 feet in diameter. It was a kerosene-fueled vehicle powered by two (first-stage) 154,000-pound-thrust Rocketdyne vernier booster engines and a 57,000-pound-thrust (half stage) sustainer engine. The AGENA B upper stage was 21.6 feet long and five feet in diameter. It used Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) for fuel and Inhibited Red Fuming Nitric Acid (IRFNA) as an oxidizer. The ATLAS "D" was used to launch MERCURY capsules, and the ATLAS D/AGENA B combination was used to launch other spacecraft. The combined weight of the ATLAS/AGENA-B vehicle (minus payload) was approximately 292,500 pounds.
MARINER I had to be destroyed several minutes after lift-off on July 22nd, but MARINER II was launched successfully on August 27th, and it sent back data from the vicinity of Venus on 14 December 1962. RANGER III and RANGER V failed to meet their primary objectives in January and October 1962, but RANGER IV impacted on the moon's surface successfully in April 1962. All three MERCURY missions in 1962 were successful, though the second manned flight in May -- AURORA 7 -- ended 250 miles downrange from the intended target area. AURORA 7's Lieutenant Colonel Scott Carpenter was picked up about three hours later.
ATLAS Space Branch
Lieutenant Colonel Hull became the Acting Deputy for Space Systems on 1 July 1962, and he was reassigned as Chief of the SLV II/IV Division (formerly the THOR/TITAN Space Branch) on 15 September 1962. Major John R. Mullady moved up from the ATLAS Space Branch's Test Operations Section to succeed Lieutenant Colonel Hull as Chief of the ATLAS Space Branch in July 1962, and Mullady continued as Division Chief following the Branch's redesignation as the SLV-III Division on 1 October 1962.
LeDewey E. Allen, Jr.
Major Allen succeeded Major Mullady as Division Chief during the first half of 1963, and he continued in that capacity until the middle of January 1967. His successor, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander C. Kuras, moved into the Chief's office on 27 February 1967. Lieutenant Colonel Kuras was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel Earl B. Essing in August 1967.
limited military launch capability
Following six launches in 1961, operations on Complex 18 were scaled back drastically. Toward the end of 1961, Aeroneutronic began providing only limited assistance to the BLUE SCOUT Branch via a Letter Contract.
The X-20 DYNA SOAR project was an Air Force experimental effort to develop a manned space glider which could be boosted into orbit, maneuvered and piloted back to earth. Plans for the program called for two unmanned and eight manned TITAN IIIC space flights with manned glider landings at Edwards Air Force Base. In 1960, DYNA SOAR contracts were awarded to Boeing as prime contractor, and to Minneapolis-Honeywell and RCA as sub-contractors for the guidance system and communications and tracking system, respectively. Approximately $400 million was spent on the project, but, at Secretary McNamara's request, it was stopped by President Johnson in December 1963 before any space flights were flown. The Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) succeeded the DYNA SOAR as a TITAN IIIC mission, but it was cancelled in June 1969.
Though the TITAN IIIC's missions as a space booster for DYNA SOAR and the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) were eventually cancelled, the Air Force continued to develop the TITAN III to meet other military and non-military space mission requirements. The Titan IIIA and Titan IIIC both utilized a modified TITAN II ICBM first stage as their first stage core. That core stage was rated at 430,000 pounds of thrust at sea level, and it provided the TITAN IIIA with all its power at lift-off. Two 10-foot-diameter solid rocket boosters were attached to the basic "A" configuration to make the TITAN IIIC, and those five-segment solid rockets developed 2,314,000 pounds of thrust -- all the power the 1,300,000-pound TITAN IIIC needed to lift itself off the pad. (The TITAN IIIC's first stage core fired at an altitude of 28 nautical miles, later in the flight.) Both vehicles employed a liquid-fueled second stage (rated at 100,000 pounds of thrust) and a small, pressure-fed transtage (rated at 16,000 pounds of thrust) to place their payloads into orbit.
NASA space missions
THOR/ABLE STAR space vehicles were used for the Navy payloads, and THOR/DELTA space vehicles were launched by Air Force contractors for the following NASA missions in 1962: "Big Shot I," TIROS 4, 5 and 6, OSO 1, ARIEL 1, TELSTAR I, ECHO A-12, EXPLORER 14 and 15 and RELAY 1.
NASA THOR/DELTA missions
Air Force contractors provided space booster support for the following NASA missions from Complex 17 in 1963: TIROS 7 and 8, TELSTAR II, EXPLORER 17 and 18 and SYNCOM A-25 and A-26.
transferred them to NASA
At the time of the transfer, NASA agreed to return Complex 17 and other THOR facilities to the Range at the end of NASA's DELTA program. In accordance with that agreement, NASA completed the transfer of those facilities back to the Air Force in October 1988.
Lieutenant Colonel Albert became the Chief of the GEMINI Launch Vehicle Division in late July 1963, and Major Ausfahl moved over to become the Chief of the Division's Flight Test Operations Branch on 30 July 1963. Over the next five months, the Division grew from six officers, one airman and two civilians to 17 officers, eight airmen and five civilians. Twenty officers, 19 airmen and four civilians were assigned to the GEMINI Launch Division by the end of 1964, and the Division's complement of airmen increased to 35 as personnel were received from the BLUE SCOUT and SLV-III Division in 1965.
Only the second stage of the vehicle was taken down and stored in a hangar on 26 August 1964 in preparation for Hurricane Cleo, but the entire launch vehicle was dismantled and removed from Pad 19 in early September before Hurricane Dora passed over the Cape on September 9th. GEMINI Launch Vehicle 2 (GLV-2) was erected for the final time on Pad 19 on 14 September 1964.
ATLAS/AGENA target vehicles
Two ATLAS/AGENA target vehicles were expended in support of GT-9, the seventh manned TITAN II/GEMINI mission. Following an ATLAS/AGENA target vehicle flight failure on 17 May 1966, GT-9 was delayed until another ATLAS/AGENA could be launched from Complex 14 on 1 June 1966. Astronauts Thomas P. Stafford and Eugene A. Cernan were boosted into orbit from Complex 19 two days later.
TITAN II space boosters
Under the direction of AFSC's Space Systems Division, the Martin Company modified the basic TITAN II ICBM design to create the "man-rated" TITAN II/GEMINI launch vehicle design. The new vehicle's tanks were welded, inspected and tested at Martin's Denver Division before they were sent to Martin's Baltimore Division for systems integration and further testing. The TITAN II's liquid propellant rocket engines were built by the Aerojet-General Corporation, and they were also sent to Baltimore for systems integration. General Electric provided radio command guidance for the vehicles, and the Burroughs Corporation was responsible for ground guidance computers. The Aerospace Corporation provided systems engineering and technical direction. Approximately 1,500 other companies provided parts for the TITAN II/GEMINI vehicle. As Chief of the GEMINI Launch Vehicle Division, Lieutenant Colonel Albert served as the Air Force test controller and ensured the TITAN II/GEMINI vehicle was ready to meet its mission on launch day. Martin's Gemini-Titan II Launch Operations Division erected the vehicle on Pad 19, checked it out and launched it.
Under the Webb-McNamara Agreement of 17 January 1963, NASA and the Department of Defense agreed to consider the Merritt Island Launch Area (north and west of Cape Canaveral) a NASA installation. The agreement also stated that the TITAN III site would be excluded from NASA's administration and considered part of the Atlantic Missile Range (later known as the Eastern Test Range) so it could be administered by the Air Force.
Integrate-Transfer-Launch (ITL) system
As the name suggests, the ITL system was designed to assemble, checkout and integrate the TITAN IIIC's major components before it transferred the TITAN IIIC booster to the pad for payload mating and launch operations. The ITL system consisted on a Vertical Integration Building (VIB) for erection of the Titan III's core stages, a Solid Motor Assembly Building (SMAB) where the solid booster segments were stacked, a railroad track network, a warehouse and various support buildings and storage areas.
Though the first TITAN IIIA launch went well, the third stage of the vehicle malfunctioned, and the 3,750-pound dummy payload failed to achieve orbit. The second TITAN IIIA flight from Complex 20 was more successful, and that mission placed the vehicle's final stage and a 3,750-pound dummy payload into orbit on 10 December 1964. The third TITAN IIIA placed its transtage and a Lincoln Experimental Satellite (LES-1) into orbit on 11 February 1965. The fourth (and last) TITAN IIIA boosted LES-2 on a highly successful orbital mission on 6 May 1965. The first TITAN IIIC carried a 21,000-pound dummy payload into orbit.
In addition to those resources, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wright managed seven other officers, two non-commissioned officers and three civilians assigned to the 6555th's Systems Civil Engineering Office and the Civil Engineering Branch of the TITAN III Task Force.
The Systems Branch was responsible for the flight readiness of the TITAN IIIA and TITAN IIIC boosters and ground equipment. The Operations Branch managed construction, inspections and tests of ITL facilities. The Test Support Branch monitored test support requirements for current and future TITAN III missions, and it updated requirements documents accordingly.
Vandenberg Air Force Base
The TITAN IIIB R&D program at Vandenberg Air Force Base was about one year behind the Cape Canaveral TITAN IIIA program, but it ended with the first TITAN IIIB/AGENA D launch at Vandenberg on 29 July 1966. The TITAN IIID was the first Vandenberg TITAN to be configured with solid rocket motors like the ones used on the TITAN IIIC. The 6595th Space Test Group launched the first TITAN IIID space booster from Vandenberg on 15 June 1971.
Manned Orbiting Laboratory
The Akwa-Downey Construction Company began building Complex 40's MOL Environmental Shelter shortly after the second TITAN IIIC mission in October 1965. The Shelter was ready for beneficial occupancy by the middle of June 1966, and American Machine and Foundry completed installation of the Shelter's work platforms two weeks later. As we noted earlier, a modified GEMINI capsule was launched from Complex 40 as part of an experimental mission on 3 November 1966. That capsule had been launched and recovered during the GEMINI 2 mission, but it was modified by the McDonnell Aircraft Company to perform a heat shield test for the MOL program. The modified capsule was installed in the MOL Environmental Shelter on 3 October 1966, and it was launched with the rest of the TITAN IIIC's payload one month later. Though the MOL program was terminated in 1969, the Shelter was modified to accept new TITAN payload fairings, and the "new" Shelter began supporting TITAN IIIC launch operations when flights resumed at Complex 40 in April 1970.
Complex 41 was used for a VIKING simulator mission and a HELIOS solar mission in 1974, two VIKING missions to Mars in 1975, another HELIOS mission in 1976 and two VOYAGER missions to the outer planets in 1977.
Space and Missile Systems Organization
The Ballistic Systems Division (BSD) and the Space Systems Division (SSD) were replaced by SAMSO on 1 July 1967, and the 6555th was reassigned from SSD to SAMSO on the same date.
During its first year under the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, the 6555th increased its strength from 71 officers, 159 airmen and 21 civilians to 91 officers, 274 airmen and 59 civilians. The Wing had 96 officers, 393 airmen and 64 civilians by the end of December 1961, and 117 officers, 402 airmen and 73 civilians were assigned to various Wing agencies one year later. The 6555th's build-up to its peak strength started in early 1963, and the Wing had 124 officers, 580 airmen and 70 civilians working for it by the end of June 1963. Peak strength was achieved six months later.
drop in status
In the early 1960s, the 6555th and the 6595th had equal status under AFSC: the 6555th reported to the Ballistic Systems Division (BSD), and the 6595th reported to Space Systems Division (SSD). Both wings reported to SSD later on, and they remained on an equal footing when BSD and SSD were inactivated and replaced by SAMSO. The reorganization in April 1970 involved the redesignation of the Air Force Western Test Range as the Headquarters, Space and Missile Center (SAMTEC), and the insertion of SAMTEC into the chain-of-command between the 6595th Aerospace Test Wing and SAMSO. Thus, the 6595th dropped one level in status, and the 6555th dropped to the level of the 6595th's other Groups -- the 6595th Space Test Group and the 6595th Missile Test Group.
dominated by NASA
Complex 11 was deactivated in 1964, and complexes 12, 14, 15, 18, 19 and 20 were either deactivated or sold for salvage in 1967. In 1966, NASA was assigned the second of two launch pads on Complex 17, and it controlled complexes 34, 36 and 37 in addition to its SATURN V launch complexes on Merritt Island. Complex 13 was transferred back to the Air Force from NASA in March 1968 to support a handful of ATLAS/AGENA missions, but it was one of only three Cape complexes devoted solely to Air Force space launch operations. The other two were TITAN III complexes 40 and 41.
principal customer for ballistic missile test
The Navy's launched its first POLARIS ballistic test missile on the Eastern Test Range on 13 April 1957, and it completed its 387th POLARIS flight there on 25 November 1967. Though the frequency of POLARIS launches dropped dramatically after 1971, Navy POSEIDON ballistic missile tests began on the Eastern Test Range on 16 August 1968. Navy ballistic missile tests constituted more than half of all the major launches on Eastern Test Range between 1966 and 1972, and the Navy continued to provide the lion's share of ballistic missile tests in the east throughout the 1970s.
Outstanding Unit Awards
The 6555th's first Outstanding Unit Award was presented for the Wing's efforts between 21 December 1959 and the end of May 1962. The second award recognized the Wing's achievements between 1 October 1962 and the end of September 1964, and the third award distinguished the 6555th for its actions from October 1964 to 31 December 1965. The Wing received the award for the fourth time for its activities in 1966, and it received its fifth Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for its performance from 1 January 1968 to 1 January 1970. The award was conferred a sixth time for the 6555th's work from 1 April 1970 to 31 March 1971. The Group received the award for the seventh time in 1974, for the eighth time in 1978, for the ninth time in 1982 and for the tenth time in October 1990.