Earlier this year we lost Mal Meredith, a friend, co-worker, mentor, and former Hughes executive. Those of us who attended his memorial had the opportunity to relate some of our adventures at Hughes with Mal and I heard many interesting episodes that were new to me. With this post I would like to provide everyone a chance to tell their stories about “Working With Mal.” Please use the comments feature of our blog for your inputs.
Mal earned his undergraduate degree in engineering at UCLA in 1956 and worked at Rocketdyne before he joined Hughes in 1960. He was a member of the Surveyor proposal team in 1960 that captured the Surveyor lunar lander program for Hughes. Mal earned a Masters Degree in engineering at UCLA. His thesis, dated May 1962, was entitled “Launch and Midcourse Guidance Requirements for a Lunar Return Vehicle.” The purpose of the unmanned mission was to return a lunar surface sample to the Earth. His thesis examined the Earth atmospheric entry errors resulting from launch and midcourse guidance dispersions. Upon completion of the requirements for his degree he returned to Hughes.
I met Mal at this time due to our mutual interest in lunar trajectories. He convinced me to join the Surveyor project and we worked together in Bill Grayer’s Guidance and Trajectory Department in the Systems Engineering and Analysis Lab under Jim Cloud. Mal was cognizant of all aspects of the Surveyor flight path including midcourse guidance and the terminal descent. Thus he was the ideal choice for heading the Flight Path and Analysis and Command group for the Surveyor flight operations at JPL. There he played a key role in flight operations including the rescue of the Surveyor V mission.
After the Surveyor program ended in 1968 we worked together on a number of proposals. Specifically I remember a proposal for the Viking Mars lander in early 1969. Hughes was to be a subcontractor to Boeing providing the terminal guidance, propulsion and landing gear. However, this proposal was not successful and the contract was awarded to Martin Marietta. I also recall working with Mal on a proposal to the Air Force for a geosynchronous satellite. I’m not sure what organization we were in at this time.
Mal next managed systems engineering for NASA’s OSO-8 program that was launched in July of 1975 and later became the Associate Program Manager. Shortly after the OSO launch Mal joined the Pioneer Venus program as an Associate Program Manager under Steve Dorfman. There he played a key role in the design of both the large and small probes. My systems engineering responsibility on this program was greatly enhanced by Mal’s mentorship. The iconic Pioneer Venus picture was that of Mal peering through the 13-karat diamond window required for the Large Probe infrared radiometer. Mal was awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal for his contributions to the Pioneer Venus program.
Hughes captured the Galileo Probe program, managed by NASA Ames, that was to be carried to Jupiter by the JPL Galileo Orbiter. Many problems arose with the launch plans and NASA decided to separate the Probe and Orbiter missions. NASA Ames was assigned the responsibility for a probe carrier spacecraft that would carry the probe to Jupiter. NASA ARC developed an RFP for this spacecraft and the Hughes proposal team, headed by Mal submitted the winning proposal. Hughes entered into negotiations with ARC for a contract, but shortly thereafter NASA changed their launch plans again and canceled the Probe Carrier program. Following this he spent two years as the Program Manager for the Ku-band radar system.
With the award of the Intelsat VI program to Hughes in 1982 Mal became the Associate Program Manager reporting to Dave Braverman. He later became the Intelsat VI Program Manager and Assistant Division Manager of the Commercial Systems Division. With GM’s purchase of Hughes in 1985 GM expressed an interest in applying aerospace systems engineering techniques to the development of automobiles. Accordingly, with the guidance of Mal Currie, Hughes SCG personnel prepared a presentation for the GM board of directors describing our approach to systems engineering. Mal was part of that team and spoke to the GM Board of Directors on systems engineering management in November 1986.
In 1987 SCG under Tony Iorillo reorganized and Mal became the manager of Systems Engineering and Operations Division. Division 4M combined the System Laboratories, Integration, Test, and Launch Operations, Engineering Mechanics, Reliability, System Safety and Mass Properties. In 1991 he became a Member of the Office of the President reporting to Steve Dorfman. Mal continued in this role until his retirement in October 1992.