Michael Horstein July 7, 1933—July 27, 2017


Mike’s obituary was published in the Los Angeles Time on July 30, 2017 and is reprinted here.

Michael Horstein passed away at home on July 27, 2017, after a year of illness with mantle cell lymphoma.  He was surrounded by his loving family.

Mike was born in Brooklyn, New York on July 7, 1933, the child of Joe and Beatrice Horstein.  He showed an early interest in math and excelled in school.  Mike graduated from MIT in 1960 with a PhD in electrical engineering.  He moved to Los Angeles to work at Hughes Aircraft as an aerospace engineer for 19 years.  After returning to school at UCLA, he earned an MBA in 1979.  He worked on projects for JPL and Xerox Corporation, before spending the rest of his career at TRW in Redondo Beach, CA, where he worked in the satellite communications area.  While there, he received a U. S. patent for developing a medium-earth orbit mobile telephone satellite system.

Mike developed a love of baseball from an early age in Brooklyn, and became a lifelong Dodger fan.  From his childhood bedroom, he could hear the roar of the crowd from Ebbets Field two blocks away and know what was happening in the game.

His hobbies were reading, traveling, and seeing movies and plays.  In retirement, his passion became ballroom dancing and he performed at his studio showcases, as well as in retirement homes.  In addition, Mike enjoyed tutoring math at Santa Monica College.

He will be very much missed by his wife of 48 years, Charlotte; his loving daughter, Dana, and his son Scott and grandsons , Kiyo and Koji, whom he adored.  His daughter-in-law, Antonia Glenn, was dear to him, and he recently took joy in welcoming his son-in-law, Alberto Quiterio, into the family.  He dearly loved his sister, Susan Goldberg, and her family.  He was one of eight first cousins, each of the cousins and their families were important to him.

Elliot Axelband

Elliot’s obituary was published in the LA Times on May 24, 2017 and is reprinted here.

Elliot Axelband died suddenly on May 14, 2017 two weeks shy of his 80th birthday. He was born in Brooklyn New York in 1937. He attended Erasmus High School and earned a BS in Electrical Engineering in 1958 from Cooper Union on full scholarship. He then moved to Los Angeles to begin a long career with Hughes Aircraft Company. While working full time, he earned an MS in Electrical Engineering from USC, and a PhD in Control Theory from UCLA. His academic focus was helping to develop what is now known as Classical Control Theory.

Early in his career at Hughes Aircraft, he worked on communications satellites and on the motion control of the Surveyor which was the first craft to soft land on the moon. This paved the way for the Apollo program. He was a fellow in numerous professional societies, published over 50 scientific papers, was President of the IEEE Controls Society in 1977 and a recipient of the Air Force Meritorious Civilian Service Award. He worked at Hughes for 35 years ending his career there as a Vice President and General Manager. In his “retirement” he was, among many other things, Associate Dean of Engineering and Professor at USC, a senior researched at RAND Corporation and Director and part owner of Legacy Engineering.

Elliot is surviced by Barbara Axelband, his wife of over 40 years, his children, Erica Small (David), Allen Axelband and Debra Smotherman (Bob) and six grandchildren. He was a long time member of Temple Akiba in Culver City. He loved gourmet food, sailing, golf, vacations in Mammoth Lakes, Lakers Basketball and UCLA and USC athletics. In his later years he especially loved to watch the antics of his grandchildren.

He will be greatly missed.

Harold Rosen, creator of satellite that helped reshape life in Southern California, dies at 90. Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times Reprinted with permission.

At a moment in the Cold War when it seemed the Soviet Union was eclipsing America in space, a young engineer at Hughes Aircraft was hatching an audacious plan to permanently surpass the communists.

What Harold Rosen imagined by the late 1950s was a lightweight satellite that could transmit telephone calls and video images around the world, providing connectivity between nations that at the time was only a farsighted dream.

By 1963, Rosen had succeeded in upending the world of science and engineering, overseeing the creation of the world’s first geosynchronous communications satellite and laying the foundation of a future multi-billion dollar industry that would be dominated by California.

Rosen died Monday at his home in Santa Monica at age 90. His death was confirmed by his wife, Deborah Castleman.

Of all the technological breakthroughs made in Los Angeles during the Cold War — the first supersonic jet fighter, the Apollo moon ship, stealth aircraft, the space shuttle, the Blackbird spy plane, the intercontinental ballistic missile system and much else — the creation of a communications satellite has had the largest and most enduring cultural, social and economic impact.

Rosen’s accomplishments in the early 1960s with the first satellite, which he dubbed Syncom, would hardly be his last act. In the decades to come, Rosen presided as the de facto chief scientist at Hughes Aircraft’s space and communications group in El Segundo, helping design the Hughes Satellite 376 and the Hughes Satellite 601, two of the most successful commercial spacecraft programs in history.

“Harold was the brilliant mind behind many of the developments that made Hughes so successful,” said Steve Dorfman, who was a president of the space group. “Harold was the go-to guy when new ideas were required or problems needed to be solved.”

For all his focused drive on engineering, Rosen had broad interests. Dorfman recalled that after he and Rosen were dispatched to deal with a technical crisis, they boarded a company jet to return home and, with a bloody mary at his side, Rosen quickly dove into a New York Times crossword puzzle he brought along.

Rosen had an innate ability to leap beyond conventional wisdom. In recent years he harbored serious doubts about the claims of global warming, particularly the severity of the problem and the proposed solution of limiting greenhouse gas emissions. He believed any real climate change crisis in the future could be contained with straightforward climate engineering or more elaborate space-based systems.

It was the knack for thinking outside the box that was essential to his vision for communications satellites. The Soviet Union had launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, in 1957. But all it could do was broadcast a simple beep. What Rosen wanted was a telephone switching station in space, one that could route thousands of telephone calls at a time when undersea copper cables carried only small numbers of calls.

The top American communications experts doubted that his idea for a satellite 22,000 miles in space would ever work. But Rosen never faltered in his conviction and recruited a team of engineers at Hughes to develop a 78-pound machine that would outflank the best that Ma Bell, the American Telephone and Telegraph Co., could muster. When Syncom was launched, its formal inauguration came in a two-minute telephone call placed by President John F. Kennedy to Nigerian Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

The little Syncom has morphed into communications satellites the size of school buses, weighing more than 13,000 pounds, operating with solar wings the length of a basketball court and running electronics with more power than a typical house wired to the electrical grid. Electronic credit card authorizations, international television signals, email and social media — all the things that define modern connected culture — would not exist in many areas of the world without communications satellites.

Rosen would later win the Charles Stark Draper Prize, considered the Nobel Prize of engineering, which he shared with his rival John Pierce, a Bell Labs expert who in the 1950s had advocated low-Earth-orbit satellites. When he won the Goddard Memorial Trophy from the National Space Club in 2015, the somewhat shy engineer was mobbed by younger engineers and scientists at a reception in Washington, Castleman said.

Rosen continued to consult for the satellite operation, which was later acquired by Boeing, until late last year when a team of Boeing engineers came to Rosen’s house to discuss plans for a new type of high-power amplifier for future satellite.

Castleman, a former satellite engineer at Hughes and deputy assistant secretary of Defense during the Clinton administration, said her husband remained in good health until his death Monday. Rosen had suffered a minor stroke last year. “He was active until the end,” she said.

Rosen was born March 20, 1926, in New Orleans and attended Tulane University. He dithered over where to attend graduate school, but after reading a Life magazine story about beach parties in Southern California he decided on Caltech, where he earned a PhD in engineering.

Rosen is survived by Castleman and two sons, Rocky and Robert. Their mother, Rosetta, died in 1969. He is also survived by a brother, Benjamin Rosen.

John Buterbaugh, Rest In Peace—Andy Ott

John Buterbaugh was born in Chicago 1931 and passed away in his sleep April 26, 2016 after a long struggle with prostate cancer. His wife Sheila had passed away in 2014. John’s brother Gabriel lives in Chicago and has a son and two daughters.

John had a passion for electrical engineering, graduating with a BS EE from the University of Chicago in 1952 and he also attended the UCLA Graduate Studies Program in electrical engineering. John served in the Air Force during the Korean War and completed the Ground Electronics Officer Course in 1953.

Prior to John’s 30-year career at Hughes he worked at Rheem Electronics designing telemetry signal conditioning equipment. At North American Aviation, his tasks included “transistorizing” the airborne radar electronics of that time.

John started at Hughes Aircraft in 1959, before the existence of a Space and Communications Group. He initially specialized in voice and data communications electronic circuit design with an emphasis on micro-miniaturizing techniques. This led to the delivery of a high speed digital modulator for the U.S. Army.

John’s specialty at Hughes Space and Communications was assuring electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) of space hardware. This included the electronics within the spacecraft, scientific instruments carried by the spacecraft, as well as any and all external sources. He performed this function as a Systems Engineer working directly with the spacecraft design, development, and test organizations plus Scientific community for projects that included instruments.

Among the spacecraft programs that he supported that had a heavy concentration of Scientific Instruments were Surveyor, Orbiting Solar Observatory, Pioneer Venus, Magellan and Galileo. These included dozens of different instruments manufactured by many different universities and corporations. John was key during the design and test phase for each of these as well as the Hughes hardware. In addition, John was key to the EMC design of the HS376 series of Hughes commercial programs.

John and Sheila loved the water and boating (Manhattan Beach, Naples, Big Bear Lake). Their ashes will be scattered over the ocean in a private ceremony.

Bud Franklin

The following obituary was passed on from Joe Moore who received it from Jim Thompson.

An old and dear friend of many of us, Bud Franklin passed away last Friday from complications in recovery from hip surgery performed last fall. For the last five years he has been in Houston, Texas with his four daughters, his 11 grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren. During this time period he successfully underwent several surgeries but not without some toll to a man in his eighties. Recovery was difficult after the hip surgery late last year, yet he seemed to rally from the holidays up to mid-January, but then began to weaken progressively with time until last week. He was fortunate to spend time with his large family and to be in the loving care of his daughters and other family members.

Bud had two tours of duty with Hughes. The first was in the late sixties leading the satellite new business activities. He then moved on to VP Space Division, NA Rockwell and later had a two-decade-long entrepreneurial adventure in the Texas oil business. In 1995 Bud returned to Hughes as a consultant in support of the development and sales of the HS 702 satellite product line. Not too long after the Boeing transition he moved on to Aerospace Corp. but remained in contact with many of his former Hughes colleagues. He retired to Texas around 2010.

The funeral service will be held this coming Saturday 2-13-16 at the Bridgepoint Bible Church located at:

Bridgepoint Bible Church

13277 Katy Freeway

Houston, TX 77079

(832) 488-1330

Flowers may be sent to the church or to the home of his daugther Julianne Murphy at:

The Murphy Family

12670 Briar Patch Rd.

Houston, TX 77077


Clinton Lew

May 29, 1930 – January 29, 2016 Rancho Palos Verdes, CA-Clinton Lew, 85, passed away Friday, January 29, 2016 at the Earlwood Care Center following a stroke. He leaves his wife of 61 years, Hawn (Young) Lew; sons, Jeffrey (Allison) and Eric Lew; daughters, Gale Lew and Jodie (Ian) Gray; grandchildren, Ethan and Alyssa Lew and Willie Gray. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he was the youngest son of Quon Sheik and Lai Shee Lew. After graduating from Caltech he went on to work for Hughes Aircraft Company where he became Chief Scientist of Hughes Space and Communications Company. He retired in 1993 after 41 years of service. He spent his later years dabbling with electronics, spending time with his grandchildren and doing daily sudoko and crossword puzzles to keep his mind active. A funeral service will be held Saturday, February 13 at 11am at South Bay Community Church, 2549 W. 190th St., Torrance, with Rev. Albert Hung from Trinity Church of Nazarene officiating. www.fukuimortuary.com (213)626-0441


Published in the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 7, 2016

Roger Clapp Eulogy—Tony Iorillo

Like all of you, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Roger in the last several weeks. I’ve been troubled since I talked to Dottie, and later read his obituary. His 39-year professional career is covered in just a couple of sentences. The reason is that Dottie and the family really don’t know more because Roger couldn’t tell them. He had spent his most productive years working on government programs which are classified to this day. So, I’ve elected to use my allotted time to tell them, and you, as much as I can using information which I just discovered has been released.

I first met Roger in 1962 when I returned to Hughes from school. By this time, Roger was already a distinguished microwave technologist with numerous patents to his credit. He had spent the previous 16 years, through the Korean War and the early Cold War, developing equipment for Hughes products found on most military aircraft, ships, tanks and land installations.

After Sputnik and the start of the “Space Race”, He changed course and was now involved in satellite programs. It was my good fortune to be assigned to his programs, and I had a front row view of his accomplishments. You’ll recall that 1962 was the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and, arguably, the height of the Cold War. Those old enough, remember those grim days, and being urged to build home bomb shelters. You can imagine how anxious the government was to develop intelligence gathering and communications satellites as quickly as possible. We were commissioned to study the possibilities, and Roger spent a few years leading teams of our best engineers developing ideas.

Some ideas matured, and by 1966, we were under contract to build the largest communications satellite our Air Force would have in that decade. It was called TACSAT, and Roger managed the development of its communications payload. The program, whosedescription can be found on the Internet, was successful in every respect.

Another idea matured, and, in 1968, we were under contract for a new series of satellites which are still classified. All I can say is that they were successful in every respect, and Roger was a key member of the management team. We called it our ” Green” program because that was the color of the security badges we wore.

By 1970, Roger was at the peak of his powers. He was 44 years old and he spent most of this decade as manager of our newest and largest satellite program, the “Yellow” program. I know Roger would agree that this was his most rewarding professional performance. To put his work in context. I have to review some history. After Gary Powers’ U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960, Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson relied on a series of photographic satellites for the intelligence they needed to navigate the Cold War and the various non-proliferation agreements which reduced tensions dramatically through the 1960’s.

In 1967, President Johnson said, “We’ve spent 35 or 40 billion dollars on the space program (including Apollo). If nothing else had come of it except the knowledge we’ve gained from space photography, it would be worth ten times the program cost. Because tonight we know how many missiles the enemy has and, it turned out, our guesses were way off. We were doing things we didn’t need to do. We were building things we didn’t need to build. We were harboring fears we didn’t need to harbor.”

You can read about these satellites and the wonderful people involved on the Internet. As valuable as they were, these satellite were fairly primitive by today’s standards. They used old-fashioned film. Flying at 150 miles or so, rolls would be exposed over targets, put into buckets which, when full, were ejected over water with parachutes. Ships and aircraft were waiting to fish them out of the sea. Weather permitting, airplanes could catch them and reel them in.

There had long been a desire to use electronic cameras as you have in your iPhone and to acquire the images as soon as they were taken. A major stumbling block was the lack of adequate communications technology. By 1970, more ideas matured, and we figured out how to do it.

I’ll read again. “The National Reconnaissance Organization (NRO) declassified limited information about its first electro-optical system, that President Ford declared operational in 1977. The system’s camera used charge-coupled device technology, the same basic technology used in today’s digital photography.”

“In association with this declassification the NRO declassified the fact that it operates a relay satellite program, which the Hughes Aircraft Company developed in the 1970’s. The satellite relays data, at the rate of 100 digital television channels, directly to a ground station in the United States.”

The relay satellite was our “Yellow” program. The combined development of the imaging satellite, the relay satellite and the elaborate ground data processing system has been called the “Apollo” program of the 1970s.  President Obama and our troops around the world rely on them today.

Roger managed the relay program from start to finish. It involved thousands of Hughes people, and the satellites were launched on the precise days he had committed to 4 years earlier. He was masterful using all the skills he had accumulated from his years as a microwave engineer, on TACSAT, and on the “Green’ program.

In the process, he mentored me and many others who would relieve him at the end of the decade. Roger, always a consummate gentleman, was admired, respected and liked by all who knew him at Hughes, in the government and throughout the aerospace industry. I am pleased to note the men and women here today from each of these segments. I know I speak for all of them.

I am profoundly grateful that my life’s trajectory merged with his for so long. May he rest in peace.


Roger William Clapp February 15, 1926 – March 1, 2014

This was extracted from the obituary in the LA Times.

Roger William Clapp, the son of Edson and Jean Clapp, was born on February 15, 1926 in Los Angeles, California and passed away on Saturday, March 1, 2014, surrounded by his loving family. Roger, a 55 year resident of Rolling Hills Estate, is survived by Dorothy, the love of his live and wife of 67 years; his four devoted children, Marilyn (David) Kunstler, Marcia (Steven) Block, Norma (Alan) Ankerstar, and Stephen (Man) Clapp; his brother Edson Bruce Clapp: and nine beautiful grandchildren.

Roger was raised in San Diego, California, where he developed a love of the ocean, sky and natural world. He attended Caltech as part of the Navy V-12 program. He was president of his senior class and graduated in 1946 with a B.S. in electrical engineering. After completing his military service, he began his long and distinguished career at Hughes Aircraft Company with a position in engineering development, working on antennas and later microwave technology. He advanced into aerospace, where he became a project manager developing earth-orbiting satellites and accompanying ground processing and support systems. He retired in 1985 as Group Vice President & Manager of the NASA Systems Division, Space & Communications Group of Hughes Aircraft Company.

During retirement, Roger focused on his lifelong interests in traveling, birding, astronomy, photography and woodworking. He loved the ocean and mountains and volunteered for 20 years as a docent at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, educating school children in the wonders of sea life. He carried with him everywhere his awe of the natural world and of God’s presence in natural beauty. He was committed to his church and enjoyed his involvement in many aspects of church life. He was devoted to his grandchildren and took the time to encourage each of them in all their endeavors. We we truly blessed with his unwavering love, kindness, compassion, integrity and wonderful sensor of humor which he shared with all.



Greg Jarvis-Slipping the Surly Bonds of Earth—Andy Ott

Greg Jarvis began working on Leasat in 1978 when the Navy held a competition for the next generation UHF Communications Satellite Constellation to provide worldwide communications capability for their entire fleet. Although Greg was reassigned to work on classified programs during several stops and restarts of the Leasat program caused by shuttle development delays (1980 to 1982), he returned to Leasat once the program was fully restarted. Greg was the Leasat Bus Systems Engineer from early design development to time of his selection to become a Payload Specialist (June of 1984) when both F1 and F2 were undergoing System Integration and Test in the Hughes Hi-bay facilities. Please see other sections of this blog about the Payload Specialist selection process (600 Hughes applicants) and the training that Greg and the other three Hughes Payload Specialists (Bill Butterworth, John Konrad and Steve Cunningham) went through in preparation for their scheduled missions.

NASA originally assigned the Hughes Payload Specialists to fly on Discovery in March 1985 (STS 51-D) and August 1985 (STS 51-I) to launch the third and fourth Leasat Spacecraft. Greg was prime for STS 51-D, Bill was his backup and also went through the required NASA training. In addition to monitoring Leasat F3 deployment from the shuttle, Greg was to conduct experiments in fluid dynamics to illustrate fluid motion in sealed containers and their interaction with spacecraft (in this case Shuttle) maneuvers – the well known but poorly understood fuel slosh phenomena that all spacecraft propulsion systems have to operate within.

BUT, politics trumped technology and Greg was re-assigned to Columbia (STS 61-C), the flight scheduled immediately prior to Challenger. Senator Jake Garn of Utah flew on the Discovery 51-D flight that Greg was originally assigned to in April of 1985 and was witness to all the activities when Leasat F3 failed to activate after shuttle deployment. This included constructing a “flyswatter” from on-board materials and rendezvous with the stranded on-orbit F3 Leasat. The flyswatter was mounted to the shuttle Remote Manipulator Arm and used to “swat” (actually more like a nudge) a lever protruding from the satellite, which was hypothesized to possibly be “hung-up” (very low probability but the only thing that could be done at that time). Unfortunately, as many expected, this did not work.

EVA Installing FlySwatters to Shuttle Remote Manipulator Arm

EVA Installing FlySwatters to Shuttle Remote Manipulator Arm

FlySwatter Ready to Swat Slowly Spinning LEASAT

FlySwatter Ready to Swat Slowly Spinning LEASAT

Congressman Bill Nelson of Florida was assigned to the Challenger flight scheduled for January1986. He had originally requested to be on the Columbia flight that Greg was assigned to (STS 61-C, 12/18/1985) that was scheduled to launch an RCA built spacecraft. NASA felt the Congressman needed more training so they re-assigned him to Challenger to get additional training.

There was a problem discovered in orbit with two Hughes spacecraft that was at the time considered a generic problem that could potentially affect Leasat as well. (Are there any Hughesites that remember what this problem was???). Hughes requested a short delay in the launch of Columbia so they could better analyze the in-orbit problems. Columbia was rescheduled to January 12, 1986 even though it was shortly determined by Hughes that the in-orbit problem was not a constraint to launch Leasat F3. The Columbia delay allowed Congressman Bill Nelson additional training time so Greg was bumped from Columbia onto Challenger. Challenger’s payload consisted of a Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRSS B) built by TRW and the crew included Christa McAuliffe – Teacher In Space.

Challenger was originally scheduled for launch January 22, 1986 but delays in the previous mission (Columbia) caused a delay to January 23. Due to bad weather at Kennedy Space Center and then the Abort Landing Site in Senegal, launch was again scrubbed on January 24 and 25. Then two days before liftoff, due to problems with the shuttle exterior hatch, Greg had to wait another two days. Although forecasts for January 28 predicted an unusually cold morning with temperature of 28 to 30 deg F (31 deg F was the minimum NASA permitted temperature for launch) and the coldest previous shuttle launch was 53 deg F, NASA allowed actual liftoff to occur at 11:38 EST on January 28, 1986. Seventy three seconds after liftoff Challenger disintegrated and the rest is history. One can only wonder; what was going through Greg’s mind as he was going through the emotional turmoil with all of the mission re-assignments and then the delays and scrubs? The Hughes Leasat team also had a very special interest in the “ping-ponging” of Payload Specialists and multiple scrubs due to one of its own being one of them.

Art Jones, who was the Kennedy Space Center launch interface engineer for Leasat burst into the building S1 conference room where the Leasat F4 and F5 Integration and Test Team was conducting their daily system integration coordination meeting with the news that Challenger had blown up. After the initial shock, the meeting dispersed and participants went to different conference rooms to see what happened on television. Emotions ran extremely high; many broke down in tears, including several executives. The conference rooms were filled again when NASA broadcast the memorial from Johnson Space Center 3 days after the disaster; once again many tears, especially when President Reagan said “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them…and… they slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God” and he hugged Greg’s wife Marcia. The Hughes internal Memorial service performed in the patio area between buildings R1 and 366 a few days later was also very much appreciated and emotional.

Greg had finished the course work required for a Masters Degree in Business Management at West Coast University. Greg mailed a handwritten copy of his thesis to the University the day before the launch. The University had planned to award the degree while Challenger was in orbit, making Greg the first person to have his degree conferred while in space. His thesis was titled “In Search of Excellence” and described Hughes Space and Communications Group character, culture and management style. The manuscript was postdated January 29, 1986 and Greg was posthumously awarded the Masters Degree at the spring 1986 commencement Ceremony of West Coast University.

The Challenger Astronauts:  back row left to right El Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, Judy Resnik; front row left to right Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, and Ron McNair.

The Challenger Astronauts: back row left to right El Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, Judy Resnik; front row left to right Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, and Ron McNair.

The following comment was submitted by Steve Dorfman.

Andy, your input is very accurate and well written. It recalls some painful times for me since I was instrumental in arranging for Hughes employees to fly on the Shuttle. It was a good idea but had a terrible outcome. I do believe Greg died doing what he loved doing.

I draw a blank on what Hughes in orbit problems might have led to Shuttle delay. I just don’t recall any such problem. You might consider excluding that part since it isn’t important to the story. The major incident is NASA bumping Greg twice for congressmen. I was the person who had to swallow that pill though I wasn’t given any choice.

The selection process was based on strong system engineering background, not necessarily Leasat though Greg had a Leasat background. It turned out that NASA didn’t really want the Hughes payload specialist to have anything to do with Leasat and hence bumping him to a non-Leasat launch made logic from their standpoint. They viewed the Hughes payload specialist as more Shuttle marketing than Shuttle engineering. I was bitterly disappointed when that became clear.

Your effort to record history is appreciated. I wish we had more SCG people step up and make the effort to contribute.


Space Industry Goes Into ‘State of Shock’ |Los Angeles Times January 29, 1986 Ralph Vartabedian and Michael A. Hiltzik Reprinted With Permission

The aerospace industry went into a “state of shock” Tuesday in the aftermath of the shuttle accident, which was widely seen as a major psychological and technical blow to the ambitious and fast-growing space program, with broad ramifications that were quickly felt in Southern California.

Moreover, a prolonged grounding of the space shuttle program could result in sizable economic losses throughout the military and commercial space industry, which was projected to have combined revenues of $20 billion in 1986, up sharply from $17.9 billion in 1985.

More than two-thirds of the nation’s space-oriented industrial base is concentrated on the West Coast, and the reaction at plants and offices throughout Southern California was particularly painful. Because radios are banned at most aerospace industrial sites, news of the tragedy was spread by word of mouth.

‘Deep Emptiness’ Felt

“I found out about it from two secretaries who were crying,” said Howard Laitin, a chief scientist at a division of Hughes Aircraft. “The feeling was a deep emptiness in the pit of your stomach.”

Two of the seven astronauts killed in the crash Tuesday had close ties to Hughes. Gregory Jarvis was an engineer at Hughes Aircraft’s space and communications division. Ronald McNair was a former scientist at Hughes Aircraft’s Malibu research labs.

George Smith, director of Hughes’ Malibu labs, described McNair as a well trained scientist and a space enthusiast. Albert Wheelon, president of Hughes Space and Communications Group, said of Jarvis: “We lost an outstanding person, a fine American and a good friend.”

Most aerospace executives said it was premature to evaluate the effects of the crash on the space program, but the enormity of the setback left them grasping for words.

Huge Potential Costs

“The industry is in a state of shock,” said Wolfgang Demisch, an aerospace analyst at First Boston Corp. “We won’t know until the pain dulls a little bit how badly we were hurt. But the potential costs are very great.”

Indeed, Wall Street reacted to the accident with a sharp sell-off of shares of aerospace contractors with major roles in the shuttle program.

Morton-Thiokol, the Chicago company that manufactures the shuttle’s solid-fuel rocket boosters, fell the most in heaviest trading. Morton fell $3.875, to $33. The stock was briefly suspended from trading because of an imbalance of orders. Early speculation suggested that a malfunction in the boosters may have set off the explosion.

Also losing ground during the day were shares of Rockwell International, prime contractor for the shuttle orbiter, which fell $1 to close at $34.25; Lockheed, which refurbishes the orbiters after missions, lost $.875 to close at $45.875; and Martin Marietta, which builds the shuttle’s large liquid-fuel tanks, fell $1.125 to close at $33.50.

Experts Disagree on Impact

Financial analysts and space experts disagreed over how great an effect the disaster will have on the U.S. space industry.

“Psychologically, it is particularly significant that they had that teacher on there,” said Sam Pike, director of space policy at the Federation of American Scientists. “The point this mission was supposed to make was that space is a normal place, and it turned around and bit us.”

Pike said the loss of the shuttle fleet for six months will not deal a serious blow to the industry, but a one-year grounding could seriously delay many of the expensive military, commercial and scientific payloads destined for space.

There is currently a glut of communications satellites in orbit, so any delays in launching new satellites will not cause major problems. But the military had planned to launch late this year a KH12 observation satellite, which can be carried only on the shuttle.

Wall Street analysts argued that any fears that the companies faced financial liabilities from the accident are groundless, for NASA specifically indemnifies all manufacturers against liability in the case of in-flight accidents.

But investment specialists said the explosion throws the course of the entire U.S. space program into uncertainty. Among other questions will be whether too much of America’s space program relies on manned vehicles.

“People are going to look at the missions the shuttle is performing and question whether they might not be more efficiently performed by unmanned rockets,” said Howard A. Rubel, aerospace analyst for Cyrus J. Lawrence Inc.

Fifth Shuttle Possible

Because a full schedule of launchings cannot be maintained with only three working spacecraft, “that means we’ll have to build a fourth and maybe a fifth new shuttle,” Alan Benasuli, an aerospace analyst at Drexel Burnham Lambert, suggested.

Under a half-billion-dollar program, Rockwell and its subcontractors already have built a complete set of structural spare parts for the shuttle, including a fuselage, wings and tail assembly. These could be quickly pressed into production.