Unfortunately, this fact was simply the end result of a string of logical decisions, and not something that anyone had planned for. The engineering specifications speak only of a five-pound oxygen environment, and neither Storms nor Charlie Feltz nor anyone else in top management had any idea that there were three men sitting inside the command module surrounded by pure oxygen at sixteen pounds per square inch?
If Toby Freedman had discovered it, he would have grabbed the phone and screamed at them to hold everything. Toby was a doctor, and every doctor knows of hospital stories involving oxygen fires. True, Toby had signed off on the idea of pure oxygen in the command module, but only at NASA's insistence and then he was under the impression that they were talking about oxygen at five pounds per square inch.
At five pounds the pressure inside the command module in orbit a lighted cigarette would merely burn rapidly; at sixteen pounds, the cigarette would vanish in a flash along with all your hair and your clothes as well."
Yet in the July-August 1964 Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, NAA's Dr. Frank J. Hendel put in an article in which he says this about pure oxygen: "it presents a fire hazard, which is especially great on the launching pad, when the cabin is purged with oxygen at 14.7psia"
Why does NAA claim they thought NASA was doing the test at only 5psi, when as early as 1964 one of their own engineers stated that he knew its done at sea level pressure?
For a start, we are talking about a quote from a biography written by one person. It gives the impression that Harrison Storms did not know about the test. Is this correct, or is it a mistake by the biographer?
The second quote seems to indicate NAA knew about a raised pressure test. So what is correct?
When a spacecraft is received from the contractor, in this case North American Aviation (NAA), it undergoes a number of tests to ensure that the product delivered meets the contracted specifications. Command Module 012 was no different:
- 26 AUG 66 - CM012 received at KSC and mated with service module for certification checks.
- 10-11 OCT 66 - CM012 undergoes unmanned acceptance tests in air at sea-level pressure. Test discontinued to replace bent umbilical pins.
- 12-13 OCT 66 - Unmanned test continues.
- 14-15 OCT 66 - Unmanned test using 100% oxygen and at flight altitude pressures (16.7 PSI or greater).
- 18 OCT 66 - Manned test (with Grissom / White / Chaffee) using 100% oxygen and at flight altitude pressure. Test discontinued after reaching simulated altitude of 13,000 feet due transistor failure in an inverter.
- 19 OCT 66 - Inverter replaced and manned test continued.
- 21 OCT 66 - Manned test (with backup crew) using 100% oxygen and at flight altitude pressure. Test discontinued due failure in oxygen system regulator in the Environmental Control Unit (ECU). The regulator was removed and discovered to have a design deficiency.
- 27 OCT 66 - The ECU was returned to NAA for rectification.
- 14 DEC 66 - ECU returned for testing but developed further leaks in the water / glycol circuit. Returned to NAA. Finally returned 14 DEC.
- 27-28 DEC 66 - Unmanned sea-level and altitude pressure tests conducted.
- 29-30 DEC 66 - Manned tests (with backup crew) using 100% oxygen and at flight altitude pressure.
So yes, NAA knew about the test conditions. The biographer has made an error.