Upthread: MIT’s digital computer facilities are still a problem (Apr 18, 1967)
Downthread: Deep serious trouble (Aug 03, 1967)
KA/Assistant Manager, Apollo Applications Program OfficeMAY 19 196767-FM-T-40FM/Deputy ChiefMIT can handle spacecraft computer program development for both Apollo and AAP to their mutual advantage
This memorandum is a compilation of my ideas and opinions in response to a request from your office regarding the questions of whether MIT should be chosen to perform spacecraft computer program development for AAP, and, if they were, would the impact on their Apollo work be acceptable. They are based on my observations and experiences over the past year while participat- ing in MSC's technical direction and management of MIT work on the Apollo program for which I continue to have some responsibility.
For the past several years, MIT has been engaged in the development of the spacecraft primary guidance system computer programs to be used on the Apollo lunar landing mission and associated earth orbital development flights. It is estimated that approximately 80% of the AAP computer programs will consist of the specific processors MIT has developed for those Apollo missions. The schedules for main line Apollo and AAP missions overlap each other, which makes it certain that program development on both will also be a simultaneous and continuing effort. The advantage of having the same organization – in fact, the same people – do both of these tasks is obvious in terms of program quality, efficient use of this country's resources and, of course, cost. But of greater importance here is the effect on product delivery schedules. Whereas MIT is in a position to begin work and achieve a high level of pro- ductivity almost instantly, any other contractor would require a considerable period of time for personnel training and familiarization and for the procure- ment of program development facilities.
Special emphasis should be given to the problem of procuring the extremely complex digital computer and hybrid simulation facilities required to support program development, and, in particular the very large and sophisticated com- puter programs which make up an integral part of them. These facilities are absolutely mandatory to perform this job and would require another contractor about a year to duplicate.
Therefore, in answer to the first question – should MIT be chosen to do the AAP spacecraft computer programming – I must state that to choose any other contractor is implicit acceptance of a flight schedule slip. There is no choice.
If that is the case, what does this do to the effort on the main line Apollo work at MIT? I am convinced that the effect will be more beneficial than detrimental. Although there will be occasions when Apollo will suffer to some extent, it will be an acceptable amount, and the advantages gained will more than compensate for it. Let us examine separately the two main commod- ities we are procuring from MIT, personnel and facilities.
1. It is MIT's current intention to reduce their staff by about 40 people over a three-month period starting in June 1967. These are subcontract per- sonnel chiefly in the AGC coding and testing business. This represents the first of the personnel cuts which would continue to take place throughout the rest of the Apollo program.
2. Based on the best manpower requirements estimate we can make today for the next year or so, it appears that the present MIT staff is within about 10% of that required to carry out both the Apollo and AAP work. In fact, I feel it is somewhat more probable that they will still have to reduce their staff in early 1968 rather than to increase it even with the AAP work to do.
3. Even if this estimate proves to be wrong due to unforeseen difficulties, it is important to note the rather outstanding capability MIT has demon- strated for quickly staffing up with competent personnel. In the period between June 1966 and March 1967 they increased their technical staff by 150 people. This was done at the same time that they were undergoing extensive reorganization and establishing substantially different working procedures, and producing the AS-204, AS-501, and AS-206 flight programs and the AS-278 Guidance System Operations Plans!
In summary, Apollo cannot employ the entire MIT staff today, and even AAP may not take up the slack. But if more people are required, MIT has shown they can get them and put them to work quickly.
1. MIT is equipped with two Honeywell 1800 digital computers which our pre- dictions show should be able to handle the entire Apollo and AAP program development task through calendar year 1968.
2. MIT is phasing in an IBM 360/75 digital computer which is expected to be completely operational this fall. It alone should have more than double the computing power of the two Honeywell 1800 computers.
3. It is MIT's intention to have the Honeywell computers taken out although I plan to resist this until the end of this year or until I develop some real confidence in the IBM 360/75. In any case, it is evident that, if necessary it is possible to delay this computer phaseout for as long as we need to.
4. The vital digital simulation programs duplicating the spacecraft systems, the environment of space and earth, the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC), etc., are completely compatible to AAP and shall be maintained in a state of readi- ness for both types of computer.
5. The hybrid simulation facility consisting of spacecraft cockpit mockup, AGC and memory simulator, and sophisticated analog and digital computers and programs was found to be an invaluable program development tool on AS-204. This facility has been reworked for Block II and a second more-or-less dup- licate facility is being brought on line now. It is ASPO's intention to turn this second facility over to NASA's Electronic Research Center in Boston next year. It will be necessary that this be retained via AAP fund- ing for the mutual benefit of AAP and Apollo. But it is clear that these two simulators are adequate for both projects.
In summary, the capability of the program development facilities at MIT are still growing just as the Apollo program development effort is reaching its peak – soon to taper off. Current plans are to phase out about one-half of it within the next twelve to eighteen months. Even with AAP some of this phaseout should and would probably continue.
Therefore, I feel there is no other choice than to choose MIT for AAP space- craft computer program development for schedule reasons alone although it is evident there are substantial advantages accrued in the areas of program quality and cost. Furthermore, it is probable that Apollo will also benefit from this arrangement in that it will be necessary to retain some excess capability at MIT to handle the peak load periods and emergencies which AAP will, in effect, be providing now at no cost to Apollo – I refer here to both personnel and facilities. And of course unique programs developed for AAP would be readily available to Apollo. As far as I can see, it is the only reasonable way to go.