Reflections on Saturn All-Up Flight Testing: Walter Haeussermann

George Mueller, shortly after being named NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, introduced the concept of "all-up testing" to the Saturn/Apollo program. Rather than traditional method of testing rockets, which called for a slow, methodical program, testing one stage before adding another live stage, "all-up" called for a rocket comprised entirely of live stages from the very first launch.

Aerospace author Mitchell R. Sharpe wrote a paper, "Saturn and All-Up Flight Testing" for the Saturn History Project. As part of his research, Sharpe solicited input from a number of key people from the Saturn program. The paper was published in 1974, which meant that the provided recollections were still relatively fresh, from around the 10th anniversary of Mueller's "all-up testing" memo, sent to NASA center directors on October 31, 1963.

Here are comments from Walter Haeussermann, director of the Astrionics Lab:

Interview with Walter Haeussermann, 14 December 1973.

Subject: All-up testing and reaction at MSFC

Haeussermann, like Geissler, had no real objection to the "all-up" concept in principle. Both had been associated with the more cautious and conservative approach to flight testing, but neither could think of valid reasons against Mueller's proposal from their personal areas of responsibility, i.e., aeroballistics and guidance and control.

Haeussermann pointed out that there was no way to analyze mathematically the "all-up" concept. How could you make a math model of it for the computer? How could you assign a probability of a first stage failure on the first flight?

He said that as the discussion proceeded, more people began coming around to the view that "if we have done our jobs properly, then we have nothing to worry about."

Time, rather than money, was the pacing item or rather the forcing function in the decision to go to "all-up" testing. It was the only way, if the commitment to placing a man on the moon within the decade was to be realized.

There were no insurmountable technical problems as far as guidance and control was concerned. Haeussermann was worried only about the waste of money involved in an early failure.

The burden for the success of "all-up" on the first flight rested with the people who wrote the test procedures and those who carried them out.

In retrospect, Haeussermann feels all of those present admired Mueller's courage in applying the concept to Saturn.

We were used to the cautious approach through experience with V-2, Redstone, and Jupiter. The novelty of the concept of "all-up" created an atmosphere of challenge to us all.

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