TACSAT Preview—Tony Iorillo

Recently I contacted Tony and asked about the preliminaries that led up to the TACSAT contract.  He responded and covered a lot more ground.  I thought his response merited posting on our website.  Jack Fisher

As I recall, TACSAT was like any other SAMSO program.  They put out pre-RFP notice in 1966 that they were interested in buying a satellite with the specs which Dick described1.  Our Space Division marketing team followed the development of TACSAT specs very carefully.  There was another contemporaneous procurement SAMSO was working on that we also followed carefully—the DSP ballistic missile early warning satellite.
Ultimately, we had to decide which program to go after because we did not have the resources to compete vigorously for both.  Having recently failed to beat TRW for both Intelsat III and a classified program for the NRO, we needed a win.

Paul Visher, our assistant division manager and Bud Franklin, our manager of Advanced Projects, chose TACSAT as the target.  As Dick Brandes wrote1, they believed that the TACSAT satellite configuration was more representative of future program targets than the peculiar DSP configuration.  Paul foresaw the HS318 ( our “green” program ) and the  Intelsat IV programs which were to evolve shortly after the start of TACSAT in 1967.  So, TRW won the DSP contract.  We won TACSAT.  In 1967 and 1968, even before TACSAT was launched, we used the TACSAT win as our relevant related experience. 

With a large satellite configuration in hand, we beat TRW, and others, for the HS-318 and Intelsat IV contracts.  These wins came just in time to prevent having to lay off the Surveyor and Intelsat II teams whose programs were ending.  Even TACSAT was to end in a year.  Thanks to Mr, Hyland’s foresight and faith, the bulk of these people were carried for many months entirely on company funding
Bob Roney became our new Space Division manager shortly before the wins were announced in 1968.  At an all hands meeting, the day he took over, Bob informed us that our division had but a 60-day backlog.  Dick Brandes and I still recall the tension felt by all in the room.

In 1970, with both programs underway, we then had enough stable business to finally become a Group, and Bud Wheelon joined us as Group Executive.  The rest is history pretty much as Steve Dorfman wrote2.  He, too, was limited by security restrictions to paint a complete picture.  For the record, in 1972, we beat TRW again for the SDS relay satellite contract.
Twenty years later, with our new HS 601 design, we were to beat TRW and GE for the AUSSAT and Navy UHF Follow-on contracts.

During the TACSAT years. In 1964, Paul Visher allocated IR&D funds for me to complete the analytical work deriving the stability rules for dual-spin satellites, Hughes Gyrostats.  The next year, Bernie Burns and I built some small spinning models which were enough to convince management that the analyses were correct. Fortunately, Doctors Puckett, Roney and Adler were steeped enough in spin dynamics to agree.So, when TACSAT came along my task was to build demonstration models elaborate enough to convince SAMSO and Aerospace management.  John Neer wrote about this work3.

     We also hired UCLA Professor Peter Likens, to study my analyses, and to work with Dr. Tino Mingori of Aerospace to promulgate the results. When we submitted our proposal, the novelty of the design was not an issue with the technical evaluators.  And, as Dick Brandes wrote, our proposal was very cost competitive because we valued the future prospects1.  Peter went on to become President of Lehigh university and, later, the University of Arizona.

      After we won TACSAT, I worked on both the HS318 “green” program and Intelsat IV proposals.  Bill Bakemeyer was the “green” proposal manager and Al Owens was the Intelsat IV proposal manager.  I was in charge of the Technical Volumes and Executive Summaries for both.  The proposals were sequential, with brief overlaps, so that I could do both.  I used many of the same staff.  For example, Al Wittman was the principal Design Integration leader for both.  The “green” program was much more demanding.  It was our first entry into the operational world of satellite reconnaissance.  And it was not a geostationary orbit mission.  The satellite was a multi-mission vehicle carrying an electro-optical precision pointed payload and a very wide band ELINT payload with large steerable receive and downlink antennas.  We also designed and built the elaborate ground data processing segments for both payloads along with the satellite command and control station.  The Surveyor guys were perfect for the job.

Jim Cloud was the program manager, aided by Bill Bakemeyer, Shel Shallon, Warren Nichols, Frank Wolf and many other Surveyor veterans. Their contract performance was spectacular. The satellites and the ground segments worked as planned and it was done on schedule and pretty close to our budget.  The program was still going when I retired.  Intelsat IV was a relatively straightforward next generation Comsat.  I then went on to manage the SDS relay satellite proposal, our “yellow” program.  This time I stayed on as deputy to Roger Clapp until the first launch.

Reference 1. TACSAT, Dick Brandes

Reference 2.  A (Very) Short History of the Space and Communication Activities of Hughes Aircraft Company–Steve Dorfman

Reference 3. On the Gyrostat Road, John Neer

2 thoughts on “TACSAT Preview—Tony Iorillo

  1. I was a DSP satellite controller at Woomera from 1979-1980. From there I went to Sunnyvale, where I worked on the GAMBIT and HEXAGON programs until 1982. While I did not work on it, I was officially read into the HS-318 program! From 1984 to 1989 I was a GALAXY and LEASAT controller at HCI in El Segundo.

  2. I have very fond memories of my time working for Nino Noal and Ralph Mitchell in S50 right next to Tony Iorillo and his assistant Joan.

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