The Space Race~Part 2

3 Jun

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites 

Then in 1961 I got a part–time job with the Missile Division of the Douglas Aircraft Co. in Santa Monica, CA as a design draftsman. One of the first projects I worked on was the U.S. Army’s Nike Zeus Anti-Missile Program. The most interesting job I was assigned to on that project, was to witness and evaluate 1st and 2nd stage booster motor case burst tests at the company’s Long Beach facility.

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In 1962 I was transferred to a full-time drafting job on the Saturn S-4B Stage project that the Douglas Space Systems Division was designing and building for the Apollo/Saturn V moon rocket. This change caused me to have to continue my engineering education on a part-time basis at night school. What a drag that was. The school didn’t always have enough students to justify some of the classes I needed at night, so I had to take what I could get, when I could get it.

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By 1963, and mainly because of the Space Race, the Southern California aerospace industry had been building up in many areas. One of my fellow students happen to be a supervisor at the North American Aviation, Inc. (NAA) Space Systems Division plant in Downey, CA.   He helped me get setup for an interview, and before I knew it, I was a full-time Associate Test Engineer with NAA in their Engineering Test Department.

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Even though NAA was well known as the company who built many famous WWII aircraft, such as the AT-6 Texan trainer, the P-51 Mustang fighter and the B-25 Mitchell bomber, this facility and my new job was purely space related and had nothing to do with aviation. However, I never lost my love of everything associated with aviation. I attended airshows and visited aviation museums every time I got a chance. By the time I graduated from NIT in 1965, my job had segued into a Field Test Engineering position. That’s when I was transferred to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida to work on processing the Second Stage booster (S-II) of the giant Apollo/Saturn V Moon Rocket used to put the first U.S. astronauts on the moon. That was a thrilling time in U.S. history, and I am proud to have had a small part in that program.

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After the Apollo Moon Landing program ended for me, in 1973, I was laid off. DiVoran and I didn’t want to return to the Los Angeles area, so I bounced around the local area doing different jobs, for different aerospace contractors, working on different aerospace programs, during those lean years for aerospace engineers in the central Florida area.

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In 1975 I went to work for Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. (LMSC) on the U.S. Navy’s Trident I submarine launched ICBM development program at Complex 46 on Cape Canaveral. That program consisted of the assembling, testing and launching of 20 development missiles from a flat-pad, to qualify the missile for submarine launch operations and eventual duty in the Navy’s new nuclear submarine fleet. The new Ohio class nuclear submarines were modified to accept the smaller Trident I missiles.

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                                                            —–To Be Continued—–

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