Tag Archives: Job

The Best Job I Ever Had~Part 2

22 Oct

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites



I would design and have built any test fixtures required. Then I would coordinate with the various support groups necessary for each test. In most cases, the specimen would have to be tested in at least the three realms I mentioned (high temp, low temp, vibration) to verify that they would function under those conditions. This meant the Ordnance Design Engineer had to have at least three of his system specimens built and supplied to the Test Group for testing. It was something to be able to blow up these various test specimens when they worked as designed, but when they didn’t, and the Ordnance Design Engineer had to take the mangled pieces back to his office and his drawing board, to figure out how to make the system work properly, it was rather sad for him. You might have heard the old saying, “Well, it’s back to the drawing board.”  Well, that’s just what he had to do. This would go on until the system was perfected and the test results satisfied the original/modified system designed acceptance requirements. Of course, everyone had their own critical time schedule that they were working to, and any delays caused by malfunctions or unexpected test results only added to the pressure each group involved would feel.



Many of the system specimens we tested were small, which made them easy to setup and test. They included mostly self-contained fuse assemblies and guillotine type cutters, used for cutting such things as parachute shroud lines, etc. The guillotine cutters used pressure cartridges to instantly force the cutting blade thru the lines. The reason most of the explosive systems used on the Apollo Spacecraft and the Saturn V Launch Vehicle had to be self-contained was to prevent damage to the vehicle in which they were located.


For example, one of the main explosive systems used to ignite solid rocket motors was Confined Detonating Fuse (CDF). This was a small flexible lead sheathed explosive core wrapped in alternating layers of plastic and fiberglass weaved cloth. This allowed the explosive train to be routed thru various parts of the vehicle to the rocket motors, or other explosive devises, and still confine the explosion. Then there were the parachute mortars, which were used to deploy the various parachute systems during spacecraft re-entry.  The diagram below shows an example of how CDF was routed and connected for use on a retrorocket system.


There were also various methods of separating the multiple components and stages from each other. All of these explosive devises had to work as designed and exactly when required to insure specific component and overall mission objectives.


—–To Be Continued—–

My One & Only Ski Trip

19 Jun

A Slice of Life
Bill Lites


I believe the year was 1978, and one of my job related trips was to, what was then, the Hercules Powder Co. facility in Utah. The purpose of the trip was to coordinate design requirements for the Navy’s Trident submarine missile with the Hercules engineers. As it turned out, scheduling of the trip took place during the winter and I 1 planned to try my luck at skiing while I was there. All the skiers in my office were envious and wanted to share all their skiing experiences with me. Having lived most of my adult life going to college in southern California and working in Florida,
I hadn’t ever done any snow skiing, and appreciated most of the advice. I had no skiing togs and was in need of everything to play the part of a novice ski bum. Then, as luck would have it, I learned one of the other young engineers in our office was an avid skier and was willing to let me borrow his equipment for the trip. He provided me with a hat, goggles, gloves, sweater, a lined ski jacket and ski pants. All I had to come up with was some long johns, a couple pair of heavy wool socks and sun glasses. What a deal that was! He told me I could rent the skis, polls and boots at the ski lodge. So, off I went ready to meet the challenges of the Utah ski slopes.

It was recommended that I try the Park City, Utah ski resort, and since I was only going to have time for one day of skiing, that’s where I went. The snow that year in the Park City area was deep and beautiful, and I had no trouble finding the resort. The ski lodge was a picturesque structure set at the bottom of a mountain slope, 2where several ski trails were cut into the tree covered mountainside converged, with ski lift access to each. The ski instructors were very helpful, providing all levels of instruction. They had a beginner’s package, which included skis, polls & boot rental, a morning of basic instruction and a full day lift pass, all for a very reasonable price.

Even though I may have looked the part of a skier, I wasn’t ready for those first three hours of hard work it took 3just to learn how to stay upright on skis. They taught us how to walk sideways up a slope, how to point the front of our skis together to “wedge” slowly down a slope, how to fall and how to get up. And boy did I ever need to know how to do that! Once the morning basic class was over, I was ready for a rest and some lunch somewhere warm.

After lunch, the next four hours were spent riding the lift up the mountain and trying to4 get back down the beginners slope without running into a tree or crashing into someone or falling and breaking something. To this day, I can’t believe I fell down that many times, in that many different ways, and didn’t break something. I have to admit, by the end of the day, even though I was tired, I was enjoying myself and really didn’t want to turn in my skis and leave. But I did, and of course that isn’t the end of the story.

I went back to my motel in town, thawed out in a long hot shower, had a wonderful steak dinner at a local restaurant, then went back to the motel and tried to watch some TV. But I was so tired by then I couldn’t stay awake, and just went to bed early, since I had to catch my flight back to Florida the next day anyway.

The next morning I woke up with two surprises. First of all I could hardly get out of 5bed. I was sore from head to toe. I hurt in places I didn’t even know I had muscles. I finally struggled over to the window and looked outside to find it had snowed 6during the night and the rental car was covered with almost 12 inches

of snow. What a sight that was! Then I began to worry if I would be able to get to the airport in time for my flight.

As it turned out, by the time I had breakfast, packed and checked out of the motel, the roads were clear enough for me to make it to the airport in time to catch my flight and my once in a lifetime ski trip was over. But that didn’t mean the muscle pain was over. Not on your life! It took almost a week for my body to recover from that day on the ski slopes. Even though I have never been on snow skis again my entire life, I wouldn’t exchange that experience for anything. I think the only type of snow skiing I would consider now would be in a nice slow horse-drawn sleigh ride with the love of my life by my side.



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