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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.



                                                            —–To Be Continued—–

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