Battery A, 1st Missile Battalion, 333rd Artillery
40th Artillery Group (Redstone)
Bad Kreuznach, Germany
Propellant Supply and Handling
Loading: Because of the physical size of the missile, the propellant weights, and structural considerations, the Redstone could only be loaded with propellants while it was in the vertical position. Normally, only one propellant at a time was pumped into the missile. However, somewhere along the line, as a timesaving measure in the event of an actual "war-time launch requirement", the feasibility of simultaneously loading two propellants was demonstrated and carried out. However, the normal propellant loading sequence was alcohol, liquid oxygen, and finally, hydrogen peroxide.
All missile-filling connections were located in one quadrant of the missile circumference, and were approximately the same height above the ground. To provide accessibility to these connections, a lightweight ladder with a platform for the fueling operators was used. This ladder, appropriately called the "fueling ladder", with two vertical standpipes for the alcohol and the liquid oxygen built into it, connected to the vehicle hoses at the bottom and to short hoses to the missile filler valves on its upper end.
Draining: Absent an actual launch, before the missile could be taken down, the propellants first had to be drained. About 1/2-hour per propellant was required. The alcohol was drained back into its tanker transporter. Usually, liquid oxygen was also drained back into the LOX trailers. However, in some few instances, related to critical timesaving, the LOX was dumped directly on the ground. Hydrogen peroxide was drained back into its 78-gallon drum, but was not reusable. Because of potential contamination during its handling, and its high decomposition rate, its concentration was reduced below its usable point, and it was eventually discarded.
Logistics: Since alcohol was easily manufactured and readily storable, no special problems were involved in its shipment and storage. It was normally shipped overseas in ordinary 55-gallon drums aboard cargo ships. The concentration of the alcohol shipped in drums was the highest normally available, 95 percent by volume, although the Redstone missile only required a 75 percent by weight mixture. The 55-gallon drums were sent to 630th Ordnance Company, who pumped it directly into the 3,000-gallon semi-trailers. The pumping equipment contained on the trailers was capable of siphoning the alcohol from the supply drums. As the alcohol was transferred the trailer equipment metered it. As soon as the proper quantity of alcohol was loaded, water was added to dilute it to the proper concentration of 75%-25%. The trailer pump was then used to circulate the alcohol and water until it was thoroughly mixed. The mixture was sampled with a hydrometer to determine the concentration, and either adding alcohol or water made any necessary small adjustments. When Battery A required alcohol, our trailer was driven to Wackernheim, and the fuel was transferred from the Ordnance Company trailers to our tanker.
Preheating: The density of alcohol is inversely proportional to temperature, which means a gallon of alcohol will weigh differently according to its temperature. Variations in alcohol density would have affected missile propulsion system performance by shifting the ideal mixture ratio figure of 1.28 pounds of oxidizer for each pound of fuel. Since the missile propellant pumps provided a certain volume per second, the fuel had to have a minimum temperature of 95 degrees F. at the time of missile firing, so that the proper weight was pumped into the rocket motor each second. The alcohol trailer had electrical heaters to preheat the fuel prior to loading into the missile. For cold weather conditions, an insulation kit was also provided for installation on the tanker. Although the cooling rate of a large quantity of alcohol was rather slow, in the event of a reasonably long standby after alcohol loading, the fuel would have had to been drained back into the tanker, and re-heated to 95 degrees F.
oxygen could not be stored economically for extended periods because its
normal boiling point under standard atmospheric conditions is -297 degrees
F. This meant that LOX had to be produced and stored in close proximity
to Redstone missile operations. Additionally, the transport vehicles,
which carried the LOX, had to be insulated to prevent excessive losses.
The two 9-ton transporters with each Firing Battery provided a total of
36,000 pounds of LOX, 25,000 pounds of which was nominal missile capacity.
The remaining 11,000 pounds was used to cool down the missile tank prior
to loading, and to top off the tank just prior to missile launch. Depending
on wind and weather, LOX reserves could cover a period of time between
LOX filling and actual missile firing of from 2 to 6 hours. LOX losses
occurred in the following magnitudes:
Production: In 40th Artillery Group, field production and supply of LOX was the responsibility of 580th Engineer Company. 580th Engineer Company had the capability to produce 10 tons of liquid oxygen per day from its two portable heavy duty trailer-mounted liquid oxygen plants. The general scheme of production consisted of compression of air, cooling it by refrigeration, and then passing it to an expander valve where it was cooled to liquefaction temperatures by expansion. The liquid air was then passed to a rectification column where separation of oxygen and nitrogen took place by fractional distillation.
Liquid Oxygen Semi-trailer: 9-ton capacity semi-trailers, hauled by 5-ton tractor trucks, were used for transportation of the liquid oxygen between the production plant and the firing site. The Army Corp of Engineers developed this unit. The trailer/tanker included a vacuum insulated container, a transfer system with electrically driven pump, and other accessories. In order to prevent pump cavitation, the liquid container had to be pressurized. This was accomplished by allowing some liquid oxygen to flow into a finned tube coil exposed to the atmosphere, where the liquid evaporated. The resultant gaseous oxygen was fed back into the tank vapor space until the required pressure level was reached. An automatic valve was also included in the system, which permitted pressurization to be remotely controlled for topping of the missile tank from the remote-firing panel.
Loading: At the firing site, two 9-ton trailers were connected to a Y-connection by metallic hoses carried on each vehicle. The outlet of the Y was connected to the fueling ladder standpipe, which was in turn connected to the missile filler valve. As soon as the connections were made the LOX trailer operator started building pressure in the trailer tank. He also opened the tank discharge valve to allow the liquid oxygen to flow by gravity and pressure through the pump, hoses, and missile to commence precooling.
Safety and Handling: With certain precautions implemented, handling of liquid oxygen posed no undue hazards. The vapors were nontoxic and noncombustible. However, they supported combustion of a wide variety of materials at a very rapid rate. Since contact with liquid oxygen could produce rapid freezing of exposed flesh, all the personnel who were part of the LOX operation wore asbestos gloves, and facemasks. All of the equipment had to be maintained free of grease, oils, solvents, and organic material.
Servicer and Loading: Hydrogen peroxide in pure form is a stable chemical, but contamination can cause rapid decomposition. For this reason it was shipped from the manufacturer to the Firing Battery in special 78-gallon aluminum drums to reduce the possibility of contamination through transfer. One 78-gallon drum of hydrogen peroxide was required per missile loading. However, the Firing Battery in a slightly modified 3/4-ton cargo truck carried two drums of hydrogen peroxide to the firing site. At the time of loading, hydrogen peroxide had to be at a temperature of 75 degrees F, +/- 10 degrees. The hydrogen peroxide servicer truck had provisions for either heating or cooling the chemical as required. Locally installed heating pads in the missile maintained temperature during standby periods. Cooling was effected by the proximity of the hydrogen peroxide tank to the LOX tank. Hydrogen peroxide was transferred from the drums to the missile tank by an electrically driven pump. An overflow device carried out filling control with the overflow going into a container. Personnel handling hydrogen peroxide were required to wear protective clothing consisting of boots, flameproof coveralls, face shield, and gloves.
Firing Operations - Missile Preparation and Firing
Occupying the Firing Site
The missile was transported to the firing area in three units on special trailers fitted with removable covers. It is my belief that Battery A always utilized pre-selected and pre-surveyed launch sites for our operations. At the firing site, trucks and equipment were positioned near the launcher, dictated by cable and hose lengths, and to expedite propellant loading. Generally, one side of the area was kept free of equipment so those propellant-loading vehicles could readily be brought into position to load the missile as rapidly as possible.
Our impressive convoy of vehicles, including 4 jeeps for the 3 Officers and the First Sergeant, numbered about 20 in total, its formation determined to a degree by order of use at the firing site. The CO's command and communications jeep was at the head of the convoy. The other jeeps were disbursed throughout the convoy, with one usually at the rear. The line-up of the operations vehicles was as follows: the erector-servicer truck, towing the launcher; the compressor truck, towing the air servicer trailer; and, the ST-80/dry ice truck, towing the power distribution trailer. These were followed by the warhead trailer, hauled by a 5-ton tractor truck; the 2&1/2-ton accessories transport truck, towing the aft unit trailer; a second 2&1/2-ton transport truck towing the generator; and, the thrust unit semi-trailer, hauled by a 5-ton truck. The next vehicles in line were the FC&TT, towing the battery service trailer; the fire truck, towing the water trailer; and, the alcohol semi-trailer, hauled by a 5-ton tractor truck. The two liquid oxygen semi-trailers each hauled by a 5-ton truck; the hydrogen peroxide truck towing the liquid nitrogen trailer; and, the Battery's 5-ton wrecker truck completed the convoy.
Launcher: The first order of business was always to establish the launcher position. At the launch site, the launcher was emplaced over a pre-selected and pre-surveyed location, and the erector-servicer was assembled between the launcher and the truck. The early handling procedures and equipment developed at Redstone Arsenal for the preparation and firing of the missile included the use of a mobile crane. The crane was used to position the missile units for assembly, to raise the missile, and to raise men and equipment up the side of the vertical missile if repairs or adjustments were required. Because the crane was not air transportable, a lightweight erector-servicer was designed to replace the crane. The erector-servicer consisted of a modified 2 1/2-ton truck, an H-frame, an A-frame, and cabling. The set of equipment was carried on the bed of the 2 1/2-ton truck, which also towed the portable launcher. All firing area operations then took place in the vicinity of the launcher.
A launcher position stake was driven into the ground. To facilitate missile assembly, using a lightweight rope, a centerline was established for positioning the erector-servicer and missile unit trailers. The erector-servicer truck towed the launcher directly over the launcher stake, so the erector-servicer could be easily assembled without encountering alignment problems between the launcher and the truck. The wheel and axle assembly was then removed from the launcher. The support pads were seated, and jacks in the launcher legs were used to level the launcher. Three additional stabilizing pads were then emplaced.
Power Equipment: The generator, battery servicing shop and power distribution station was usually emplaced in one area, ahead of the erector-servicer truck. The generator and power distribution station were required for missile firing. The equipment was placed as far from the launcher as the approximately 200-ft cable lengths would permit.
Air Compressor: The air compressor was usually emplaced near the electrical power equipment, as the air hose from the compressor to the valve box was 200-ft long. The air compressor was utilized for missile pressurization just prior to launch.
Fire Control and Test Truck: The FC&TT was placed near the missile, usually parallel to the erector-servicer H-frame and near the launcher. Complete control of the missile was transferred to the remote firing panel once the missile was ready for firing. The FC&TT was then removed a safe distance from the launch area.
The missile unit trailer covers were removed by releasing the covers and raising them a few inches with jacks located at each corner of the trailers. The units were exposed for assembly after the trailers were pulled out from under the covers. Initially, as designed and practiced at Redstone Arsenal and taught by the Redstone School at Fort Sill, the missile body was assembled first by using 2 manually operated hoists suspended from the A-frame. The aft unit trailer was backed into position under the A-frame and hoists. The aft unit was then lifted off its trailer and suspended from the hoists. The trailer was then hauled out of the way. Next, the warhead unit was backed into position for joining with the aft unit to form the body. After the two sections were mated, the hoists were released, and the body unit, now resting on the warhead trailer, was temporarily pulled out of the immediate way.
Soon after its arrival in Germany, Battery A's maintenance officer CWO Robert Frost devised a method of mating the warhead with the aft unit to form the body by using the Battery's 5-ton wrecker truck. This involved the wrecker truck lifting the aft unit off its transport trailer with a special rig consisting of a lifting spreader bar with a three-point cable harness. In this manner, missile body assembly could be carried out away from the launcher and A-frame as a parallel operation, thus saving valuable time in the overall missile assembly process. Mr. Frost also designed a special pushbar attachment for the warhead trailer and its 5-ton tractor truck. This rig allowed the warhead trailer to be pushed into position by the truck for missile body assembly, rather than being backed into position, which allowed for much easier handling and more positive control of the rig by the truck driver. This new and unique time-saving method of assembling the missile body was immediately adapted for use by Battery B, and later both firing batteries of 46th Artillery Group when 46th Group deployed to Germany in 1959.
The thrust unit was then backed into place. Employing the manual hoists, the launcher rotating frame assembly (tilt ring) was attached to the base of the thrust unit. The thrust unit was then picked up off its trailer, using the hoists, and its trailer was driven away. The body unit was then backed into place. The hoists were used to rotate or change position of the thrust unit for perfect alignment with the body unit. The two sections were then joined together with the six explosive bolts. The tilt ring was then attached to the 2 pivot points on the launcher, with the body of the assembled missile now resting on the warhead trailer.
After assembly, the missile was given a horizontal position checkout to assure proper operation of the guidance and propulsion systems. Electrical cables and air lines were usually laid out during missile assembly. As soon as the tilt ring was secured to the launcher, cables and lines were connected to the missile. The electrical cables were plugged into quick- disconnect receptacles located on the bottom of the thrust unit stabilizers. The compressor and generator were then started. The four carbon jet steering vanes were installed at this point.
Carbon jet vane installation was treated as a mission critical task. It was imperative that the vanes could not vibrate loose during those first few critical seconds of engine operation and missile liftoff. Otherwise initial missile steering would be lost. It was also a very daunting task because of the constricted workspace and the heavy weight of the vanes. It was made all the more daunting during night operations in near-blackout conditions when we were only allowed to use right angle "cat's eyes" flashlights to illuminated the immediate work station. Two men were assigned the task. However, only one man at a time could fit in the tight area at the engine exhaust nozzle. The helper would lift the vane to the installer, and then with one arm try to help support it as the installer inserted the vane attachment bolts. Each of four mounting bolts per vane assembly was next tightened to specifications with a torque wrench, and then safety wired. A senior Firing Section NCO, and sometimes Mr. Frost, the GMMAO, then inspected and signed off on the installations.
The missile was given a horizontal checkout to insure proper operation of the propulsion and guidance systems. I cannot remember the precise checkout steps we followed at the FC&TT consoles. For one example however, as lateral computer and later range computer console operator, I would be called on to slew the computer's ball and disc integrator to a known input value to test its operation. In essence we checked out the operation of the range and lateral computers, the control computer, and the onboard tape recorder. We tested the ST-80 by powering up its three gyroscopes, uncaging it and monitoring ST-80 operation as it precessed to its upright stable position.
Five of us in the Firing Section manned the FC&TT for guidance system checkout: four console operators and the test conductor. Captain Pascarella, as Battery CO, and Mr. Frost as GMMAO, would on occasion be in the Van to witness and oversee the progress of the initial checkout tasks. The five-member test team sequentially followed a printed checkout procedure. The test conductor and each of the four console operators had his own copy, however we would only execute a checkout step pertinent to our particular checkout station. The Chief NCO of the Firing Section acted as mission test conductor. In my time that was initially SFC Palmer, then SFC Stacy before he became First Sergeant. As the test conductor would call out the test step, the console operators would execute that step and respond with a "go" or "no go" call. In this manner, absent encountering any anomalies, the missile guidance system was sequentially and methodically checked out.
It was incumbent on a console operator to immediately call out a problem. The test countdown would then be halted, and troubleshooting procedures initiated. First, we would insure that the test step had been executed in the correct manner and sequence. If the anomaly still existed after repeating the checkout step, more detailed troubleshooting would be instituted. We carried a full complement of electrical power and signal schematics for the entire Redstone missile in the FC&TT. Electrical circuits would be checked and followed all the way to a unit or device in question. Firing Battery personnel were trained to troubleshoot to the "black box" level. For example, if the anomaly were traced all the way to the lateral computer, the computer would be removed, and replaced with a spare. The unit in question would then be turned over to 630th Ordnance Company who would carry out more detailed internal checks and repairs.
At the completion of horizontal checkout, the ST-80 was re-caged, the missile was powered down and electrical cable and air hoses were disconnected. Components were checked for proper installation, compartment doors were secured closed, and the instrument compartment was leak checked. During flight, the instrument compartment was pressurized to help prevent electrical arcing in the near-vacuum trajectory. Finally, the drop tank was installed.
Raising the Missile
To raise the missile to its vertical position, the 10-ton winch located on the bed of the erector-servicer truck pulled a cable attached to the top of the A-frame. Two cables were attached from the opposite side of the top of the A-frame to the two removable lifting bolts installed on opposite sides of the nose unit. When the winch was operated, the A-frame rotated on its two pivots located on the truck side of the launcher. The two cables attached to the missile body lifted the missile nose off the warhead trailer, and the tilt ring attached to the aft end of the missile rotated about its pivots on the launcher. Just before the missile center of gravity shifted past the pivots, the hydraulic arresting cylinder yokes engaged the tilt ring. When the missile weight shifted from one side of the pivots to the other, the arresting cylinders hydraulic pressure was bled to allow the missile to slowly rotate to the full vertical position. The cabling was then removed and the tilt ring released from its pivots to allow rotation of the missile on the launcher to the proper firing azimuth.
The H-frame, remaining connected to the erector-servicer truck, was disconnected from the launcher. All cabling was removed from the A-frame, and the A-frame was literally manhandled to an out of the way spot from the launcher. A servicing platform and small one-man elevator were attached to the H-frame. The H-frame was then raised to the near-vertical position by the truck winch. The truck then backed the servicing platform to a position around the missile body section. A man would ascend to the servicing platform via the elevator, to disconnect the A-frame cables from the missile nose and lower them to the ground, and to remove the two lifting bolts from the sides of the nose section. The elevator, operated by an electric hoist, was also used to lift a man and tools to the servicing platform to repair or replace equipment in the guidance compartment, and initially to also replenish dry ice in the drop tank.
Electrical cables were then reconnected to the missile. Valve box air lines and relay box lines were also connected. The four steering rudders were installed. The missile was again powered up. After the three ST-80 gyros were once more up to full operating speed, the ST-80 was again uncaged and allowed to precess to its upright pre-launch reference position. A vertical checkout consisting mainly of power checks and ST-80 operation was conducted.
Simulated flight tests were then conducted by inserting a test pitch program onto the missile tape recorder, using a test paper punched tape read through the FC&TT punched tape reader. Error signals were inserted into the guidance system to simulate deviations from the flight path. The guidance system would produce corrective actions to simulate bring the missile back on track. These signals were displayed and recorded on a strip chart recorder in the FC&TT. The strip chart data would then be analyzed for accuracy and correctness of the missile's command responses.
The actual fire mission data was then inserted into the range and lateral computers, and the program onboard magnetic tape recorder. The specific mission tape was chosen from the tape library kept in the safe inside the FC&TT. Here again, the mission program tapes were pre-punched tapes, however, these were made using Mylar tape for durability and accuracy. The Mylar tape was inserted into the Van tape reader, and its data in punched form transferred to the airborne magnetic tape. The pulses now on the airborne magnetic tape were the missile pitch program for a specific trajectory and a specific range to target.
The final task carried out in the FC&TT before transferring control to the remote-firing box was the warhead fuzing selection and arming. The Battery Commanding Officer Captain Pascarella and the Battery Maintenance Officer Mr. Frost always carried out this step together. Each inserted a key into the warhead arming panel and made the selection for either air burst, indicated by a row of green lights, or ground burst, indicated by a row of red lights. While the ground burst option selection was checked out for operability, in all of my times witnessing this action, I do not recall one instance in which the ground burst was chosen as the actual warhead detonation option. We always rehearsed this step ending with a set of green lights illuminated prior to powering down the FC&TT.
In conducting both horizontal and vertical checkout of the guidance system, time always seemed to be of the essence, however, we were never pressed into taking shortcuts that might endanger the success of the mission. Captain Pascarella's attitude was that we in the FC&TT knew what we were doing, and he could rely on us to carry out our tasks in a professional and timely manner. Actually, it was a point of pride for the five of us in the FC&TT to conduct an error-free guidance system checkout always in the minimum time technically and humanly possible.
Propellant loading was conducted immediately after vertical checkout. The LOX overflow pipe, LOX replenishing pipe, and fueling ladder, however, were installed as soon as the missile was laid. The two hoses from the top of the ladder were connected to the missile fill valves. Alcohol was loaded first. The proper quantity in gallons was preset on the alcohol trailer flow meter and the pump was started. The flow meter turned off the pump when the preset amount of fuel had been transferred. The alcohol trailer was then driven away from the immediate area.
Liquid oxygen was next loaded from the two 9-ton LOX semi-trailers. The correct amount of LOX transferred was indicated by overflow from the overflow standpipe in the missile's LOX tank. The standpipe could be set to the correct level using a height adjustment mechanism. Liquid oxygen density was mainly a function of ambient air pressure. Therefore the standpipe height was adjusted to account for the ambient pressure at the firing site altitude. After completion of LOX transfer, one LOX tanker was positioned for LOX replenishing. This normally took place at the 5-minute mark before launch. Finally, hydrogen peroxide was pumped into the missile from the 78-gallon drum on the 3/4-ton servicer truck until overflow was observed from the missile hydrogen peroxide tank. No further adjustments of quantity were required.
Final Preparation for Firing
The missile was given a final laying to insure that it had not rotated or twisted during propellant loading. The igniter squib and mainstage stick were installed. Control of the missile was then transferred from the FC&TT to the remote-firing panel located in a well-fortified (with sandbags) foxhole about 180 meters from the launcher. The FC&TT was disconnected and driven from the immediate launch area. The missile was then pressurized and LOX replenished. The firing switch on the remote panel was activated, turning on the propulsion system. If ignition was not satisfactory, the propulsion system was either automatically cut off by the ignition system, or if necessary, manually from the remote firing panel.
With successful initial ignition, the hydrogen peroxide was forced into a reaction chamber to create steam for operation of a turbine connected to the propellant pumps. The external drop tank was ejected from the side of the guidance compartment by the firing of two igniter squibs at its attachment points on the missile. The thrust of 78,000 pounds lifted the missile off the launcher and accelerated it towards the target. The missile rose vertically for a few seconds, after which the guidance system automatically pitched the missile on a ballistic path. When the missile attained position and velocity to coast on to the target, the propulsion system was turned off by the guidance system. Within a few seconds of engine shutdown the missile was separated into two units. The body unit was then guided as necessary to insure high impact accuracy.
Of course, thankfully, the Redstone missile was never launched in anger, and thus these final steps never took place in Europe. If they had been, I would most likely not be here writing about it today, forty-five years later. The actual final "launch" step taken by Battery A at the remote-firing panel was to hit the liquid oxygen tank depressurization switch. The LOX vent valve opened, and a large white plume of gaseous oxygen enveloped the launcher area, dramatically visually signifying the end of another successful Redstone launch operation.
We would then commence missile teardown procedures. The additional time required to defuel, lower, disconnect and store the missile on its transporters, pack all equipment, and vacate the firing area was on the order of 3 to 4 hours. The total time of a Redstone missile launch operation, from first occupying the launch site to vacating the site sometimes lasted up to 12 hours or more.
It is my belief that Battery A always utilized pre-selected and pre-surveyed launch sites for our operations, dictated in part by the nature of the guidance system. The library of pitch programming tapes would also seem to confirm this. It was also an indicator that there were in reality a only a select handful of predesignated targets. Each of the four Firing Batteries in Germany had the capability to launch two Redstone missiles in succession, further implying that there were only a total of eight tactical missiles that could have possibly been launched. The standing morbid joke among us at the time was if we survived to launch a second missile, that would signify the end of our days as artillerymen; and, we would then be issued rifles, immediately becoming ill-trained, ill-equipped, and imminently dead infantrymen.