Jets and Moon Rockets: 1957-1970

North American Rockwell Corp. ... Spacecraft and High-Powered Engines

Some things have not changed, and should not change, and I trust will not change. We have certain principles and traditions. The company was conceived and founded on a basis of responsibility that when we work for the government, our responsibility is exceptional -- a responsibility of stewardship of public money on one hand, and a responsibility for valuable equipment on the other.
-- Lee Atwood, 1963

On Feb. 26, 1966, NASA conducted the first unmanned flight of an Apollo spacecraft built by North American, under a contract granted Nov. 28, 1961. The company also built the second stage of the huge Saturn V launch vehicle, the rocket engines, and command and service modules. During the 15 Apollo missions, nine crews went to the moon, and six landed.

The first manned Apollo flight, designated Apollo 7, was launched Oct. 11, 1968, and Apollo missions continued until July 1975.

In September 1967, Lee Atwood led North American into a merger with Rockwell Standard Corp. and became the North American Rockwell Corp. The same year, the company's Rocketdyne division designed a new advanced rocket engine, concluded the program building engines for the Gemini program, and completed qualification tests for manned flight of the F-1 and J-2 engines. The division had built engines for the Air Force's Thor and Atlas ICBMs during the 1950s, as well as for Sidewinder and Sparrow air-to-air missiles.

By the 1960s it was building engines for the Saturn IB and Saturn V launch vehicles that would be used throughout the Apollo program. The division also built the propulsion system for the Redstone rocket that launched the U.S. satellite Explorer. In 1961, the Redstone rocket launched a Mercury space capsule -- aboard was Alan Shephard, the first U.S. traveler in space.

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