Key Step in Solar System Exploration
Scientific investigations of the Venus atmosphere will benefit from Hughes technology if the company wins an intensely sought contract.
Two teams, Hughes paired with the General Electric Company and TRW teamed with the Martin Company of Denver, are competing for the opportunity to conduct scientific investigations of Venus for NASA.
The S&CG bid was presented to Ames Research Center this month, ending months of hard work and long hours in feasibility studies and proposal preparation. Steve Dorfman is the program manager and John Bozajian the associate program manager, the Pioneer Venus Program Office.
Hughes people envision two spacecraft. One would be an orbiter circling the planet and accomplishing radar mapping of the planet’s surface as well as sampling the constituents of the upper Venus atmosphere. The second spacecraft would release one large and three small probes which would enter the Venus atmosphere.
Scientific measurements would be taken during the four probes‘ descent, about an hour, to the Venus surface. Instruments on the probes would measure the characteristics of the clouds and atmosphere of Venus.
The principal scientific objective is to discover why the Venus atmosphere is so intensely hot (in excess of 900 degrees Fahrenheit) and has such extremely high pressure at the surface (100 times greater than earth’s). Also of interest is the determination of the major constituents of the planet’s atmosphere. It is believed to consist principally of carbon dioxide but also includes traces of sulfuric and hydrochloric acids.
Help With Weather
Steve said it is hoped that by understanding the Venus atmosphere man’s ability to predict weather on earth will be improved.
“The Pioneer Venus Program will be another step forward in NASA’s exploration of the solar system,” he added.
The mission is slated for two launches: May 1978 for the orbiter and August 1978 for the multiprobe spacecraft, both arriving in December 1978.
Upon completion of the proposal effort, the program manager paused a moment to praise “the tremendous team effort and exceptional performance of everyone working on the Pioneer Venus Program.”
“From the minute you start on a program like this everything is team effort,” Steve said.
He credited Marv Mixon with responsibility for managing the developmental planning, Bob Waldren for the management plan, and Ernie Wilkens for the cost proposal. Jack Fisher managed systems engineering; Tony Lauletta, experimental integration; Dan Pedretti, test and operations; Leo Nolte, probes. In the probes area, Rich Reinert made an especially valuable contribution, the program manager added.
“A substantial contribution also was made by Tel Oswald and other Systems Divisions people at Canoga Park,” Steve said, crediting Dr. Oswald with supervising the aerodynamic design.
“And, of course, the Proposals and Publications people, managed by Marilyn Gatto, contributed their usual highly competent service. In these last two months Stu Jones and Kay Churchill (Proposals and Publications) worked day and night and did a particularly fine job.”
The 3800-page wrap-up was preceded by several studies funded at approximately $1 million, including the design and development of 1/10th scale models of the two spacecraft and a full-size mock-up of the probes.
Hardware models went to Ames Research Center along with the bid that was delivered by Harry “Hap” L’Heureux, Contracts manager for the Pioneer Venus Program. Skip Nunnamaker is the Ames Research Center program manager for the Hughes effort.