Jets and Moon Rockets: 1957-1970

The Boeing Company ... Supersonic Missiles

We have brought back rocks, and I think it's a fair trade ... these rocks may unlock the mystery of the origin of the Moon, and indeed even of our Earth and Solar System.
-- Michael Collins, Command Module pilot, Apollo 11

By the late 1950s, the technologies forged in the fires of World War II had impacted every aspect of business and manufacturing. In less than a dozen years, these innovations brought the civilized world into the modern era. Boeing President William Allen knew that the company had the scientists, the experience and the facilities to lead the country into uncharted territories -- across barriers of sound, time and space.

Analog computers used to guide the flight of guided missiles during the 1940s, including the Boeing Ground-to-Air Pilotless Aircraft (GAPA), had evolved into much more recognizable predecessors of today's computers. GAPA, a 16-foot needle-nose, solid-fuel supersonic rocket developed in response to German buzz bombs, also laid the groundwork for mass production of the 45-foot Bomarc missiles built in 1957 to intercept invading enemy aircraft.

Boeing created new divisions to meet the challenges that came with the Space Age. Boeing Scientific Research Laboratories was created in 1958, and the Pilotless Aircraft division, formed for Bomarc, became the Aerospace division in 1959. In March, 1960, Boeing acquired the Vertol Aircraft Corp., a major helicopter producer located in Philadelphia. Vertol began as a tiny operation called the P-V- Engineering Forum, incorporated in 1943 by Frank Piasecki, which later became the Piasecki Helicopter Corp. Piasecki produced the HRP-1 "flying banana," the HUP Retriever/H-25 Army Mule helicopter, and the CH-21 Shawnee, precursors of the long line of pioneering tandem-rotor helicopters that led to the CH-47 Chinook helicopter family.

The Systems Management offices provided technical direction for advanced weapons systems, including the Minuteman missile Boeing began building in October 1958. This long-range, solid-fuel, three-stage, advanced intercontinental ballistic missile was capable of carrying single or multiple warheads. Its complex guidance system was developed and produced by North American Aviation's Autonetics division.

The Minuteman program was one of The Boeing Company's largest, longest and most complex military contracts. By April 1967, 1,000 Minuteman missiles were operational and installed in six sites across the country, and during its peak, 39,700 people worked on the program. It used 35,000 suppliers and more than 18,000 subcontractors for equipment, parts and services. Minuteman established the company as a manager of complex systems and also provided Boeing with a wealth of experience in propulsion and guidance systems.

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