I was a project engineer and the sky was the limit.
In July 1963, after graduation from The Ohio State University, I was posted to Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, California. There I remained until January 1966.
Between the graduation at The Ohio State University and Vandenberg AFB, I did approximately five weeks in ATT’s Long Lines Management Training Program. That company hired me knowing about my service obligation. My five-year university degree was for a B. S. in Industrial Engineering. In reality it was more of a degree in Project Management.
My assignment at Vandenberg AFB was to the 6595th Aerospace Test Wing, specifically the Atlas-Agena Project Office.
The Atlas/Agena was a booster/ satellite program designed to put a General Electric payload into north south orbit around the earth. The north south orbit from Vandenberg AFB allowed the U. S. to launch over water in case of having to abort the launch. The payload allowed the United States to take pictures of our adversaries.
The project office job was to represent the Air Force in terms of accepting the Atlas booster and other stages of the launch package from the various other suppliers that made those stages of the satellite. For example, Kodak made the camera that was used as the payload. The project office was responsible for the approval of the electrical and mechanical assemblies and tests that were done at the factory.
After the stages were sent to Vandenberg, the project office approved and helped the suppliers replicate the tests that were run back at the factory. The project office then shipped the entire launch vehicle to the launch pad where the booster vehicle and stages were tested again. While vertical, the various stages of the assembly were fueled and launched. When the flight was completed the nosecone with the film was ejected, a parachute was opened and the nosecone and the film was retrieved by an airplane. The airplane hooked the rigging of the parachute as it came down and before it landed in the ocean.
During my almost three years in the Atlas-Agena Project Office, I received the equivalent of a master’s degree in Project Management. This became the center of my civilian career after I left the military. I will be forever grateful to the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense Contractors with whom I worked. I was proud to have received that assignment and I was proud of the job that our office did.
To my “Spy in the Sky” friends and to Humphrey Bogart , “here’s looking at you babe”.
Contributed by: Bruce Hume
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