The Space Race~Part 3

10 Jun

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Bill Small Red Plane



When that program was over in 1979, I was laid off and lucky enough to get a job with MacDonald Douglas’ (MDAC) Space Operations, who was processing and launching Delta series 3914 vehicles to place communication satellites in orbit for NASA and various U.S. Government organizations from complex 17A/B there on Cape Canaveral. This job required quite a bit of travel to Vandenberg AFB, CA where the U.S. Air Force was using the same Delta series 3914 vehicle to place their own satellites in a different orbit.


In 1981 Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. (LMSC) called me back to Complex 46 on Cape Canaveral, to work on the U.S. Navy’s new Trident II submarine launched ICBM. This program was similar to the Trident I program in that it consisted of the assembling, testing and launching of 21 development missiles from a flat-pad, to qualify that missile for submarine launch operations and eventual duty in the Navy’s new Ohio class nuclear submarine fleet for which it was originally designed.


When that program was completed, I remained a few years to help with the facility transition from a launch operations facility to what was called a Fleet Certification Facility. Then in 1989, rather than being laid off again, I transferred to the Lockheed Space Operations Co. (LSOC) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). By that time NASA’s Space Shuttle Launch & Recovery Operations had recovered from the 1986 Challenger accident, and launches were again on a fast track.


One of my first assignments for LSOC, away from my KSC office, was in 1990 to observe and coordinate several Space Shuttle Drag Chute deployment system tests being conducted at Edwards AFB, CA. NASA’ B-52 (52-0008) was used for the initial tests, and it was quite a site for me to see, and quite a challenge for the pilots, to land that huge aircraft at the 160-230 mph speeds required to simulate the Shuttle landing speeds. NASA eventually added the drag chute system as part of the Shuttle landing system in 1992 on STS-49 and all subsequent orbiters, to help protect the orbiter’s brakes and tires during landings at the KSC runway.



After I retired in 1996, my interest continued to be centered around aviation and I took up flying R/C Model airplanes, as a hobby, along with many of my friends. In addition to flying R/C Model Airplanes, around 2010, I started a bucket list of various aviation museums across the country I wanted to visit. Now I try to plan a two-week museum trip to some area of the country about every six months, one trip in the spring and one again in the fall.


I usually fly to a conveniently located airport, rent a car and use the road-trip to see as many museums and airshows as possible, on the planned route, in the time allotted. My main interest is, off course, visiting aviation museums, but usually includes automobile museums, train museums, and maritime museums alone the way. One of my most exciting aviation airshows I attended last year was in Texas to see “FIFI” (the only air worthy WWII B-29 Flying Fortress in the world). What a beautiful war bird that is. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I got goose bumps when they started up those four huge improved Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone engines. What a thrill that was for me!



                                                            —–To Be Continued—–

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