Space Task Group

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Space Task Group

Center: Langley Research Center
Location: Hampton, Virginia
Year Built: 1958
Historic Eligibility:
Important Tests:

Back Arrow.jpg Programs and Projects Back Arrow.jpg Langley Archives Collection


[top] History of Program

A panel was created for Manned Spaceflight, also know as the Joint Manned Satellite Panel, in September 1958. The panel was chaired by Bob Gilruth. Six days after the establishment of NASA, plans for a piloted satellite program were approved and the final specifications for the capsule emerged. Within days, the Space Task Group was established with Gilruth as the director and Charles Donlan as the assistant director. STG managed Project Mercury and follow-on plans. The philosophy of Project Mercury was "to use known technologies, extending the state of the art as little as necessary." [1]

STG leaders 1960
Charles Donlan, Robert Gilruth, Maxime Faget, and Robert Piland. August, 1960.

In 1958, the original team consisted of 45 people, including eight secretaries and "computers." Of its 37 engineers, 27 were from Langley Research Center and ten had been assigned from Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1959, the group was expanded by the addition of 32 engineers from Canada.

After Kennedy's announcement of plans to put man on the Moon, NASA decided a much larger organization and a new facility was required to perform the Task Group's function, and it was transformed into the Manned Spacecraft Center (now the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center), located in Houston, Texas.

[top] Documents

Early sketch of capsule, artist unknownTracking map

1958 Manned Satellite Project. Early plans for the phases of the flight program.

Initial hiring of personnel. 3 September 1958 memo to Gilruth regarding approval of 200 position for initial operation of Space Center at Langley and Wallops.

FY 1959 Employment estimates Estimates of number of employees and total salaries by month and division

1959 Proposed Organization Chart

Langley support of the manned space vehicle. 1958 memo from NASA Headquarters to NASA Langley regarding Langley's role in the manned space vehicle. Langley proposed RA dated 11-14-1958.

Early Beginnings: insight into some of the early (1958-1959) planning for the Space Task Group.

Preliminary Specifications for Manned Satellite Capsule. 1958.

1959 Complement Analysis

19 Sept 1961 memo: Selection of site in Houston

19 November 1961 memo: Establishment of Manned Spacecraft Center

[top] Original Members

When created in November 1958, the team consisted of 45 people, including eight secretaries and "computers." Of its 37 engineers, 27 were from Langley Research Center and ten had been assigned from Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. The original members from Langley were:

By January 1959, the group had grown and the organizational structure was established by Gilruth: (see for listing of personnel assigned to each organization)

[top] Other Early Personnel

Glynn LunneyRobert O. Piland, Head, Experiments ProgramJohn "Shorty" Powers, Head, Public AffairsJoseph G. ThibodauxManfed H. 'Dutch' von EhrenfriedWalter C. Williams

[top] Oral Histories

Bond, Aleck C.

Chilton, Robert G.

Donlan, Charles J.

Faget, Maxime A.

Hammack, Jerome B.

Hicks, Claiborne R.

Kehlet, Alan B.

Kinzler, Jack A.

Kleinlnechtks, Kevin S.

Kraft, Christopher C.

Lee, John B.

Lunney, Glynn S.

Mathews, Charles W.

Piland, Robert O.

Purser, Paul E.

Thibodaux, Joseph Guy

von Ehrenfried, Manfed H. 'Dutch'

[top] Buildings

8-Foot High Speed Tunnel 641

building 587
Building 587

8-Foot Transonic Pressure Tunnel 640

16-Foot Transonic Tunnel 1146

Free Spinning Tunnel (Scout)646

Full-Scale Tunnel 643

Hangar 1244

Headquarters 587

Impact Dynamics Research Facility 1297

Offices 1195E

Tow Tanks 720

Service Building 586

Spin Tunnel 645

Stability Tunnel 1149

Unitary Plan Tunnel 1251

West Area Model Shop (includes links to east area model shops) 1150

Tunnel One 580 - When the NACA was incorporated into the new NASA agency in 1958, Building 60 (along with several other buildings in the East Area) was used to house personnel of the newly formed STG.

Offices for the original seven Mercury astronauts were located in Building 60 during their early careers at Langley from 1959 to 1961. In September 1961, NASA announced its decision to relocate the STG to Houston, Texas. After the departure of the STG, the building was inhabited by a group of high-speed aerodynamicists. NASA vacated the building shortly afterwards and it was transferred to Langley Air Force Base on 16 August 1963.

Alan Shepard with Boy Scouts
Alan Shepard with Boy Scouts from Franklin, Virginia on June 19, 1961 (B 580)

[top] Group Photos

1959 Donlan, Gilruth, and Faget with unidentified person examine one of the models.

flight controllers at JSC
Flight controllers often used downloaded data and voice transmission tapes for real-time analysis during a mission. Shown here at Manned Spacecraft Center Mission Control Center (MCC) are Eugene F. Kranz (left) and George M. Low, reviewing a transmission tape received on December 9, 1965 from the Gemini VII spacecraft. In the background wearing glasses is flight controller Manfred von Ehrenfried.
von Ehrenfried came to Langley in 1961 as a procedures officer in the Flight Control Operations Branch under Gene Kranz. He became a flight controller under Chris Kraft and served in that position during Glenn's MA-6 mission Segment 51 situation where the landing bag deployed in orbit [2].

[top] References

  1. T. Keith Glennan, The Birth of NASA: The Diary of T. Keith Glennan, (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4105, 1993), p.13.
  2. Friendship 7: The Epic Orbital Flight of John H. Glenn, Jr. Colin Burgess. 2015. pg 131
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