George Mueller "All-Up" Memo

Much has been written on George Mueller's "all-up" concept of testing the Saturn series of rockets and how without this radical departure from the established testing methodology the U.S. would not have landed a man on the moon prior to 1970, but one rarely sees the actual memo in which he actually lays out his plan. I tried to locate it in response to a reader request, but was unable to locate it. I consulted a NASA historian, who was able to direct me to the text of the main part of the memo, but it was lacking the memo's two enclosures.

However, that reference book noted that the memo was located in the NASA Historical Reference Collection, History Division, NASA Headquarters and indicated the specific folder in which it was located. Armed with this information, I requested a scan of the document and the NASA HQ HRC was able to quickly locate it.

I present the memo, dated October 31, 1963, here in its entirety (also see the download links):

Washington 25, D.C.

M-C M 9330.186

TO:       Director, Manned Spacecraft Center
          Houston 1, Texas

          Director, Launch Operations Center
          Cocoa Beach, Florida

          Director, Marshall Space Flight Center
          Huntsville, Alabama

FROM:     Deputy Associate Administrator for Manned
          Space Flight

SUBJECT:  Revised Manned Space Flight Schedule

Recent schedule and budget reviews have resulted in a
deletion of the Saturn I manned flight program and
realignment of schedules and flight mission assignments
on the Saturn IB and Saturn V programs. It is my desire
at this time to plan a flight schedule which has a good
probability of being met or exceeded. Accordingly, I
am proposing that a flight schedule such as shown in
Figure 1, with slight adjustments as required to prevent
"stack-up", be accepted as the official launch schedule.
Contractor schedules for spacecraft and launch vehicle
deliveries should be as shown in Figure 2. This would
allow actual flights to take place several months earlier
than the official schedule. The period after checkout
at the Cape and prior to the official launch date should
be designated the "Space Vehicle Acceptance" period.

With regard to flight missions for Saturn I, MSC should
indicate when they will be in a position to propose a
firm mission and spacecraft configuration for SA-10.
MSFC should indicate the cost of a meteoroid payload
for that flight. SA-6 through SA-9 missions should
remain as presently defined.


It is my desire that “all-up” spacecraft and launch
vehicle flights be made as early as possible in the
program. To this end, SA-201 and 501 should utilize
all live stages and should carry complete spacecraft
for their respective missions. SA-501 and 502 missions
should be reentry tests of the spacecraft at lunar
return velocity. It is recognized that the Saturn IB
flights will have CM/SM and CM/SM/LEM configurations.

Mission planning should consider that two successful
flights would be made prior to a manned flight. Thus,
203 could conceivably be the first manned Apollo flight.
However, the official schedule would show the first
manned flight as 207, with flights 203-206 designated
as "man-rating" flights. A similar philosophy would
apply to Saturn V for "man-rating" flights with 507
shown as the first manned flight

I would like your assessment of the proposed schedule,
including any effect on resource requirements in FY 1964,
1965 and run-out by November 11, 1963. My goal is to
have an official schedule reflecting the philosophy
outlined here by November 25, 1963.

                                  George M. Low
                                George E. Mueller
                         Deputy Associate Administrator
                             for Manned Space Flight

  Figure 1
  Figure 2


Saturn I

     SA-5         Veh. Dev.                    Dec. 1963
     SA-6         Apollo B/P                   Apr. 1964
     SA-7         Apollo B/P                   Aug. 1964
     SA-9         Meteoroid                    Dec. 1964
     SA-8         Meteoroid                    Apr. 1965
     SA-10        Undetermined                 Aug. 1965

Saturn I-B

     SA-201       CM/SM                        Jan. 1966
     SA-202       CM/SM                        Apr. 1966
     SA-203       CM/SM/LEM                    Jul. 1966
     SA-204         "   "                      Oct. 1966
     SA-205         "   "                      Dec. 1966
     SA-206         "   "                      Feb. 1967
     SA-207       Manned                       Apr. 1967
     SA-208         "  "                       Jun. 1967
     SA-209         "  "                       Aug. 1967
     SA-210         "  "                       Oct. 1967
     SA-211         "  "                       Dec. 1967
     SA-212         "  "                       Feb. 1968

Saturn V

     SA-501       "All-Up" Vehicle             Jan. 1967
                  and S/C Re-entry
     SA-502          "     "                   Apr. 1967
     SA-503       Lunar Mission Conf.          Jul. 1967
     SA-504         "      "                   Oct. 1967
     SA-505         "      "                   Dec. 1967
     SA-506         "      "                   Feb. 1968
     SA-507       Manned                       Apr. 1968
     SA-508        "  "                        Jun. 1968
     SA-509        "  "                        Aug. 1968
     SA-510        "  "                        Oct. 1968
     SA-511        "  "                        Dec. 1968
     SA-512        "  "                        Feb. 1969
     SA-513        "  "                        Apr. 1969
     SA-514        "  "                        Jun. 1969
     SA-515        "  "                        Aug. 1969


                   Latest Allowable Deliveries

SATURN I             VEHICLE                    S/C

     SA-5            Delivered                  Delivered
     SA-6            Jan. 1964                  Jan. 1964
     SA-7            May 1964                   May 1964
     SA-9            Sep. 1964                  Sep. 1964
     SA-8            Dec. 1964                  Dec. 1964
     SA-10           Feb. 1965                  Undetermined


     SA-201          Aug. 1965                  Jun. 1965
     SA-202          Nov. 1965                  Sep. 1965
     SA-203          Feb. 1966                  Dec. 1965
     SA-204          May 1966                   Mar. 1966
     SA-205          Jul. 1966                  May 1966
     SA-206          Sep. 1966                  Jul. 1966
     SA-207          Nov. 1966                  Sep. 1966
     SA-208          Jan. 1967                  Nov. 1966
     SA-209          Mar. 1967                  Jan. 1967
     SA-210          May 1967                   Mar. 1967
     SA-211          Jul. 1967                  May 1967
     SA-212          Sep. 1967                  Jul. 1967


     SA-501          Jun. 1966                  May 1966
     SA-502          Oct. 1966                  Aug. 1966
     SA-503          Jan. 1967                  Nov. 1966
     SA-504          Apr. 1967                  Feb. 1967
     SA-505          Jun. 1967                  Apr. 1967
     SA-506          Aug. 1967                  Jun. 1967
     SA-507          Oct. 1967                  Aug. 1967
     SA-508          Dec. 1967                  Oct. 1967
     SA-509          Feb. 1968                  Dec. 1967
     SA-510          Apr. 1968                  Feb. 1968
     SA-511          Jun. 1968                  Apr. 1968
     SA-512          Aug. 1968                  Jun. 1968
     SA-513          Oct. 1968                  Aug. 1968
     SA-514          Dec. 1968                  Oct. 1968
     SA-515          Feb. 1969                  Dec. 1968

The impact of this memo aside, I find several aspects of this memo remarkable.

George Mueller joined NASA as the Director of the Office of Manned Space Flight in July 1963, becoming Deputy Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight in September 1963. This memo was dated October 31, 1963. He certainly wasted no time in reorganizing the test flight schedule!

SA-8, which would fly the first industry-manufactured Saturn I first (S-I) stage, was actually launched out of sequence; SA-9, which featured a Marshall-manufactured S-I, was ready to be flown before SA-8. I had always thought that the decision to swap the flights in the schedule relatively late decision, but the flight schedule in Figure 1 shows that SA-9 was scheduled to fly before SA-8 more than a year before SA-9's December 1964 flight.

And the flight rate described in Figure 1 is just incredible: There would be five Saturn V launches and six Saturn IB launches in 1967. Saturn V would dominate 1968's schedule, with six launches. There would be fifteen Saturn V launches between January 1967 and August 1969! The Saturn V wouldn't be manned until SA-507. History actually recorded SA-503 as the first manned Saturn V launch, and SA-507 actually launched Apollo 12 on the second manned lunar landing.

Some say that the "all-up" concept was not that outlandish, as the Saturn V would be the most-tested rocket by the time it was launched: each engine underwent test-firings and each completed stage was subjected to its own static test fire. But all-up changed the course of the Saturn program.

Apollo Expeditions to the Moon sums it up:

To the conservative breed of old rocketeers who had learned the hard way that it never seemed to pay to introduce more than one major change between flight tests, George's ideas had an unrealistic ring. Instead of beginning with a ballasted first-stage flight as in the Saturn I program, adding a live second stage only after the first stage had proven its flightworthiness, his "all-up" concept was startling. It meant nothing less than that the very first flight would be conducted with all three live stages of the giant Saturn V. Moreover, in order to maximize the payoff of that first flight, George said it should carry a live Apollo command and service module as payload. The entire flight should be carried through a sophisticated trajectory that would permit the command module to reenter the atmosphere under conditions simulating a return from the Moon.

It sounded reckless, but George Mueller's reasoning was impeccable. Water ballast in lieu of a second and third stage would require much less tank volume than liquid-hydrogen-fueled stages, so that a rocket tested with only a live first stage would be much shorter than the final configuration. Its aerodynamic shape and its body dynamics would thus not be representative. Filling the ballast tanks with liquid hydrogen? Fine, but then why not burn it as a bonus experiment? And so the arguments went on until George in the end prevailed.

In retrospect it is clear that without all-up testing the first manned lunar landing could not have taken place as early as 1969. Before Mueller joined the program, it had been decided that a total of about 20 sets of Apollo spacecraft and Saturn V rockets would be needed. Clearly, at least ten unmanned flights with the huge new rocket would be required before anyone would muster the courage to launch a crew with it. (Even ten would be a far smaller number than the unmanned launches of Redstones, Atlases, and Titans that had preceded the first manned Mercury and Gemini flights.) The first manned Apollo flights would be limited to low Earth orbits. Gradually we would inch our way closer to the Moon, and flight no. 17, perhaps, would bring the first lunar landing. That would give us a reserve of three flights, just in case things did not work as planned.

Mueller changed all this, and his bold telescoping of the overall plan bore magnificent fruit: With the third Saturn V ever to be launched, Frank Borman's Apollo 8 crew orbited the Moon on Christmas 1968, and the sixth Saturn V carried Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 to the first lunar landing.

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