NERVA (Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application) and All I Know About Carbon
The sperm was placed in the egg for future events including putting Consarc Engineering in Scotland on the map in the 1980's and the birth of a successful company producing carbon insulation named Calcarb. The events in the early 80's also got me in the news big time in 1987.
There are many attachments, pictures and sketches linked to this section.
The use of exact dates in this document is to allow the reader that also has access to my file to follow the obscure story in detail. You will not find all the parts of this story in any other historical document no matter how much you search.
In addition to recording this early period of the space race this section of this document is to put all of my knowledge about rockets and carbon-carbon in one place to counter the media of late 1987. "Some U.S. intelligence officials say they believe there is more to Metcalf's biography. They have tracked his long business ties with the Soviet Union and his 1979 marriage to a Soviet woman, Vera. They say she may be KGB. The government file contains such information as the location of moles on her body."
Aerojet and all I know about carbon.
NERVA (Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application) thermodynamic nuclear rocket engine.
The objective was to develop a flight rated engine with 75,000 pounds of thrust. This program began in 1955 when the Air Force initially wanted an engine for missile applications.
In 1958 NASA inherited the Air Force responsibilities. In 1960 Aerojet General Corporation and Westinghouse were given contracts to develop the engine. In the following decade they conducted a series of reactor tests at the Atomic Energy Commission test site in Jackass Flats, Nevada.
In 1960 I worked on a project to make boron/beryllium control rods for this project.
I can not find any historical records but I am reasonably sure that in the same time period the Air Force was working with the AEC and others to build a nuclear engine to be fitted into the B-58 so it be used to extend the time aloft over the north pole.
After the wake up call caused by the launch of "sputnik" in 1957 the US government shifted funding to speed up the nuclear submarine and Polaris missile program. I spent almost three years making beryllium parts for the Polaris rocket.
Nixon cut NASA and especially NERVA future funding dramatically in 1969 in response to a lack of public interest in human space flight and the growing use of robotic space probes. A body in motion tends to stay in motion so a group at Aerojet was assembled to fabricate and heat treat the nozzle skirt extension for the rocket motor to send man to Mars. The attached drawing was copied from the Internet. I have never been able to find or figure out what propellant was going to be used for this engine. Perhaps it was super secret or the fact that it never flew so the information would not have a historical interest. Perhaps one of the readers of this site can fill in the blanks.
In late 1969 and early 1970 I was very busy working with Joe Lona, Sid Smith and Robert Klingerman to complete a project for the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors for holding liquid steel in a container that they were using for continuous casting. At the same time we were attempting to continuous cast stainless steel in a test unit built for Howmet in Dover, NJ.
One of my many failures during the early years at Cragmet was to lock on to a project and forget about sales.
Cragmet's president, Henry Raufer, decided to do some selling in California by attending the American Vacuum Society meeting held in February 1970. He rented a small table in the display hall that was covered with a shocking pink rug. On this rug was some sales literature and a black telephone. A sign read call us collect in Rancocas because we are busy servicing customers. Cragmet received a call from Beckwith Carbon who had severe problems making their carbon heating furnace work. There was a technical challenge for Cragmet in the Beckwith Carbon heating equipment but the company did not have money.
On the 3rd of March 1970 Bob Radtke from Aerojet in Sacramento California called Ron Sharpless who was the West Coast sales manager for Inductotherm at the time with the news that a bidders conference would be held on April 1, 1970. By this time the former manager of West Coast sales for Inductotherm, Jess Cartlidge, was managing Inductotherm Australia.
The memo from Sharpless informing Cragmet about this potential business was received at Cragmet on March 12, 1970. Aerojet wanted a heating oven to heat a carbon nozzle skirt extension to 2800 degrees C. The conical shape was 55 inches at the top, 114 inches at the bottom and 138 inches long. The bids would be issued to those at the conference with a closing date of May 21,1970.
The memo listed that eleven companies had been invited including my old employer, Ajax and our current partner Inductotherm. Sharpless had already been in contact with Cragmet's competition and had insured them that they would be treated the same way as Cragmet during the bidding. Henry Raufer and I used our combined experience in graphite heating and induction equipment and did not tell Inductotherm what we were bidding.
My experience with a very large furnace that I sold and helped design with Joe Lona at Ajax Magnethermic in 1963 and 1964 gave Cragmet a head start in the fight for this business.
The Aerojet requirement gave us a larger technical challenge than the little Beckwith problem and they had NASA money backing them. The problem with the Beckwith furnace was that a graphite cylinder two inches thick and forty inches round had an electrical resistance much too low 3000 cycle system.
It appeared that all the bidders would use a segmented graphite structure since there was no way to sell Union Carbide or others to produce a graphite cylinder eleven foot in diameter for the heating element for this induction furnace.
For the non-technical reader a susceptor is a single turn and shorted secondary of a transformer circuit. In a normal transformer the secondary is not shorted and the output is a voltage that depends on the ratio of the turns between the primary and secondary. Really simple stuff that you use every day.
Our main competitor was a California based company called SuperTemp. In conjunction with Inductotherm they had constructed, for their own use, several large furnaces made with segmented graphite with cheap lampblack between the coil and susceptor for thermal insulation. The main problem with their design was the excessive time to cool down the furnace.
Our only hope to defeat SuperTemp was to find a better way to cool the system down and the preliminary specifications from Aerojet required a fast cool down.
Robert Klingerman was assigned as sales engineer to start planning the project. Bob started the process to make a graphite assembly that would weigh less that included discussions with NASA in Cleveland.
Driving back to San Francisco after the bidder's conference at Aerojet an idea came like a bolt out of the blue. We could construct graphite rings spaced apart that could be installed in the Beckwith furnace to make the existing equipment work. I was really thinking how to do this for the Aerojet furnace and the idea began to crystallize as we drove down the road. Raufer was hungry and pulled off the road for something to eat. This place featured topless dancers but my mind was so busy and I do not remember seeing the ladies. At the end of lunch Raufer named my new susceptor the miniseptor. It was the time when mini-skirts were in mode.
To sell this idea to Aerojet we would have to demonstrate the concept and the Beckwith situation was a perfect solution. The effective resistance of a heating element inside an induction coil must be known to calculate the voltage per electrical turn of the coil. This new concept required tests before Raufer could be sure of the calculations. A simple disclosure of the miniseptor concept was prepared by Raufer's secretary, Marie Raup, for my signature and was dated April 1, 1970. Raufer and Lona signed a handwritten note "read and understood".
There was a brain on Indel Avenue and it was not Henry Rowan. Ted Kennedy was Northrup's right hand man when the use of induction was young. His office was without reference books and files but his mind was clear and he was willing to listen. After thinking about the miniseptor idea he commented that an inductive load it would be fine. He always asked me to go back to Ohm's law for electrical help. He was worried that we might push the current in the joint high enough to make carbon boil away. (Carbon does not melt.)
The task of making sales drawings for both Beckwith and Aerojet was assigned to Sid Smith. Klingerman was assigned the task of designing the graphite rings and supports. Raufer was assigned the task of selling Sanford E. Glick. By the end of June 1970 Raufer had accomplished his selling and Beckwith was asking for prices.
Klingerman came up with several mechanical designs for the rings but Smith shot down each design. Finally Klingerman came up with the idea to use a tapered pin to lock segments together. He asked Smith about the self-locking taper used to attach tools to our milling machine. Sid told him it was Morris taper and agreed that this design would work with gravity working on the side of the design. Sid's name should have been on the patent but had other worries. It was a great loss both technical and personal when Sid died of cancer a little more than a year later.
By mid July it was clear that Cragmet was the sole bidder on the project. The main problem for Cragmet was that the Aerojet had budgeted about $1 million for the furnace supplier. Dumb me as I did many times in Cragmet's early history I worked to the number offered while ignoring costs and reasonable profits.
This open structure required that we use graphite felt as insulation since there was no way to use the usual lamp black. Union Carbide has a monopoly and their prices were sky high. On one of the trips to California I met Pat Sterry from PolyCarbon in North Hollywood. He knew how to make felt but did not have enough furnace capacity. This was another selling point for Beckwith because if the new miniseptor worked it would be the perfect furnace to cure felt and they could make a profit.
On the 14th of July 1970 I signed an agreement to sell the miniseptor to Glick for $10,000 plus some excess graphite cylinders that we planned to use on the Aerojet furnace. That same trip Sterry agreed to supply 100 yards of felt at no costs for the Beckwith project to demonstrate his product to Aerojet. Gragmet job #3088 was released the next day for $10,000.
Quotation # 558-7023-JFM was sent on the 14th of August 1970 with a price set at $902,500 for the base equipment and $35,000 for the tests. The quotation fit Aerojet's stated budget but was full of "weasel" words to assist in obtaining the order while reducing the risks to Cragmet. The document did not commit us to meet the heating rates above 2500 degrees C but did commit us to achieve 2750 degrees C. The black art of using electric furnaces to convert carbon to graphite had been around since 1900 when Acheson produced 200,000 graphite electrodes at Niagara Falls. Temperatures above 2700 degrees C in large furnaces is where"only an Angel dares to tread" so options on final temperature and rates would have increased the selling price to $1,5000,000. Also at that time we were not locked to the miniseptor or the use of felt. I told Royce of Newsday in 1987 that selling was a very old art. "She must show her knees but anything more requires a marriage license."
On the 21st of August 1970 Gragmet was asked to fill out form DD 633 as required by all government contracts. After Aerojet received this document a telegram arrived at Cragmet from H. E. Bohrer setting the beginning of negotiations on Monday the 30th of August 1970.
The team of Raufer, Metcalf and Klingerman allowed the customers to sell themselves on the miniseptor. The technical performance of the equipment was fixed and the final price was agreed at $980,000 including two test runs in Rancocas.
A government auditor needed to review the DD 633 form before he would sign off on the purchase. In a private interview he asked to see the supporting documents. I told him that I had no supporting documents but as treasurer of the company could tell him they were the numbers came from. I then told him the truth. I used the selling price agreed by the parties on the bottom line, provided for 10% profit that he wanted to see and then found a group of numbers that made the math work. I assume this was the first time in his audit experience where he was told the truth but he refused to OK the contract.
A tense meeting was held with the management of Aerojet after the audit. It was determined that the rules allowed Aerojet to ask for an audit of our books in Rancocas by another auditor. The auditor came to Rancocas and filled out a DD 633 for me to sign. As treasurer of Cragmet I had an unusual method of accounting. We were a job company and every person including the president did work on the project at hand. It did not go over great but everyone was asked to fill out a time card. I signed the audit form on the 18th of September 1970. I asked him how he got the numbers and he said he started will the agreed selling price and from our company records worked backwards.
Both Aerojet and Cragmet wanted some assurances that the miniseptor would actually work before the final ink was put on the document to bind the contract. All the materials were in Beckwith's little factory when we arrived early on a Friday morning. The crew consisted of Bob Klingerman and Hank Raufer. I was not there so Klingerman must tell the story: "Raufer and I sewed felt rolls end to end and then rolled them into a free standing cylinder. He sat cross legged on the floor and so much resembled a little old tailor that I accused him of being one in a former life. That's when he evoked the mantra of, "A nine inch stitch saves time," which drove us to completion. This job was done on a Saturday morning. We had no way to move the tank sections to remove the 42" rounds and replace with felt and the miniseptor. I went with Raufer one exit down the freeway to a rental place and rented a fork lift thinking they would deliver it. The delivery truck was not available till much later in the day. We resolved to figure a way. The only practical idea at the time was to drive it up the freeway about two miles. The thought occurred to us that a Chips on a motorcycle would put us in the slammer. We flipped and Raufer lost which made him the designated driver. I ran interference with the flashers on. Since it was doughnut time for Chips, and because it was Saturday Morning with light traffic we made it." We are dating ourselves by remembering a popular TV series that ran in the 70's about a motorcycle cop on the LA freeways.
When I arrived at Beckwith it was time for Glick to push the button for the test run. The 3000 cycle motor generator had the normal hum and the temperature rose at a fantastic rate. He soon agreed that the equipment was suitable for his needs. Raufer took off for home to make the final calculations for the number of turns on the induction coil for the test furnace that would soon be needed to teat the quarter scale unit Aerojet was prepared to order.
We booked the order as job #3086 on the 28th of September 1970 in the amount of $980,000. Before Aerojet agreed to the order we assigned Robert Klingerman as project manager and quality assurance manager. On the 6th of October Klingerman filed the patent application for the miniseptor.
A new buyer, Mr. W. Carey, was assigned to the project for administration of the contract. By the end of October we were having difficulty getting drawings approved and permission to order items that required time to deliver. It was my task to handle communications with Aerojet. The tone and content my letters kept the NASA bureaucrats at bay for a time. We were building a one of a kind facility and changing the design as the furnace was being built.
The simple patent disclosure set the date of the idea but was much too broad to obtain a patent. Items that make the concept unique with claims of what it accomplishes are required. Klingerman worked with our patent attorney and provided the details for a patent application on the 6th of October 1970. The patent would later be issued in the names of Klingerman and Metcalf. Aerojet claimed the rights to this patent under NASA rules so in a letter dated November 11, 1971 I told them to start their legal case right away because Cragmet used its funds and demonstrated the unit at Beckwith before they issued an order.
Tests in the quarter size test were carried out without a hitch as far as the customer was concerned.
Raufer wanted one set of readings of voltage and power factor with the susceptor removed for his technical paper he was going to present at the next meeting of the American Vacuum Society. Without the susceptor to felt drew enough power to become very hot. I should have remembered this twelve years later when the insulation was selected for the Soviet job.
What the customer did not see was the weak point that Kennedy warned us about. As we pushed the temperature above 2750 degrees C the pins exceeded the volatilization temperature of 3652 degrees C. The pins that held this construction together were going fast. Klingerman noted that the supplier had not machined the pins to his specification. The test unit was one-inch rods and the full size unit was three inches. Klingerman made the changes to the design before he was assigned the startup of the Oldsmobile casting project.
On the 15th of December 1970 we informed Aerojet that Manfred Dickersbach had been assigned as assistant to Klingerman and would assume his duties in case of his absence.
The Aerojet design group wanted to control everything including such small items as step treads. In order to prove that the steps were "man rated" the whole staff at Cragmet stood side by side on all of the stair steps for a photograph.
I finally won the argument about drawing approvals in a letter written on the 21st of January 1971 when I told them that the final set of drawings could not be completed on a one of a kind project until we finished it.
On Feb 9, 1971 at 6:02 AM a massive earthquake struck Van Nuys. Just after noon Glick called me in Rancocas with the news that the quake shook the miniseptor from his furnace. He ordered a replacement and I called Weaver right away to machine a new set of graphite parts. On February 10th a new susceptor was on a plane to California. This service was considered normal but I also needed that furnace back in operation so the carbon felt could be heat treated for the Aerojet job. Glick refused to pay the $1500 bill because he said the unit was under warranty. On my next visit to the area I visited his office. His secretary told me that he did not want to see me. I told her that if he did not pay the bill I was going into his office and punch him in the nose. A few minutes later she gave me a check.
On the 17th of February 1971 Aerojet sent us a telegram complaining about the quality of welds and brazing and raising hell because Klingerman and Dickersbach had not been on the job for an extended period. We wrote back telling Aerojet that Joe Lona would be assigned as project manager with Klingerman as his assistant. By this time the design was set.
On the 3rd of March 1971 President Nixon suspended the Davis-Bacon act using his right in a national emergency.
Nixon's proclamation declared, "Construction industry collective bargaining settlements are excessive and show no signs of decelerating." At the same time, he noted that increased unemployment and frequent and longer work stoppages in the construction industry accompanied these rate increases, threatening the basic economic stability of the industry and the nation's economy.
By March of 1971 the Aerojet group knew that the Nixon budget did not contain funds for the Man to Mars project but there was still hope that congress would fund the project.
In late March Aerojet found that their pit was not as wide as the drawings showed. They attempted to blame us because we should have measured the site during the bidder conference. This stupid attempt was easy to put down and easy to solve. We agreed we could install the system two inches to the west by making a simple change in our fabrication before shipment.
In early April 1971 Bob Radtke called me with a MONSTER problem. The method of laying up the nozzle was patterned after normal fiberglass techniques and simply was not going to work. I was already aware of this problem because the technology and production staff had concluded that moving the un-cured part was akin to moving a large sand castle. The technical staff had discussed the fix with me. My bid for the changes was $138,000 and a two month delay in the schedule.
It was time to ship what was built and finish the contract. We designed the cylinder sections to fit on special rail cars but there was a bitter national rail dispute going on at the time. The threat of the strike caused the railroads to position their cars in other area's so we would have to wait until they could move the four special cars to the Mount Holly siding. Aerojet took the attached photograph just before the shipment. You can see how it was build and the four cylinders that were causing the shipping problem.
The Air Force base near our plant was showing off the new C5A transport airplane and the newspaper reported that costs of freight would be less than five cents per ton-mile. Joe Lona made a quick calculation and decided this would be much cheaper than special rail costs and the costs of loading and bracing at the rail siding could be avoided. He visited the base to meet with the top brass armed with the fact that the Aerojet project had a DOD rating. After several telephone calls to Washington the Air Force finally told Lona that the C5A was not yet operational. In the conversations someone told Lona that a DOD rating would allow special permits for truck transport of wide loads because the military could get permits for up to twenty-foot wide loads.
Bill Marino contacted Charles H. Jones at the Bellevue Trucking Company for a quotation to move the equipment to California. Jones was surprised when the DOD rating and the pending railroad strike allowed permits across all the states to be issued for the wide loads. Bellevue was a local rigging outfit but was connected to the Navajo Trucking Company for the interstate permits.
Each state along the proposed route had different rules. Pennsylvania allowed one truck at a time to be escorted by state police. The approved route for the four trucks started at the Walt Whitman Bridge in New Jersey. At a minimum it would take four days would be needed to reach Akron, Ohio. From that point they could travel in 45-mile intervals to the Nebraska border. Nebraska would not issue permits so the convoy had to travel through South Dakota returning to Interstate 80 at Cheyenne, Wyoming. From that point the convoy could join as one group with flag cars for the final leg to Sacramento, California.
The strike started on the 17th of May 1971and ended the next day because the popular president was able to jawbone them in an election year. The pending strike was our excuse to be late and saved us a small fortune.
Aerojet's chief inspector, George Houghton was sent to Rancocas for the final inspection with instructions to delay the shipment until they completed the installation of the gantry crane at the site. If we arrived with equipment to install before this crane was installed they would be subject to a delay charge. George had an interesting history in the space race going back to Goddard.
The first item needed on the job was the long heat exchange assembly. I was determined to get it there with a crew ready to install it before the gantry crane was installed. Lona found a heavy-duty flat bed truck that had been used on the Campbell Soup Company on their research farm that adjoined Inductotherm's property. The truck had a name: "Miss Kim" A note for history: New Jersey lost it's position as the tomato king when scientists engineered a flat tomato that was grown and machine picked in California.
We wanted Miss Kim to deliver the heat exchanger but more importantly to be able to drive the large pieces into the building for unloading under the gantry crane. A pit was in the way so we purchased a one-inch thick plate 8-foot wide by 20 foot long to cover the pit. This plate was loaded on the truck awaiting Houghton's departure.
While we were waiting for the convoy a gentleman arrived at our office from the IRS looking for the companies accountant. The receptionist sent him to my office. He knew that we had been paid progress payments in the amount of 90% of the contract and wanted to know how we were going to calculate the profits for tax. I told him in no uncertain terms that we were not finished and had no idea of the future costs and therefore would continue to show these monies as loans from a customer.
Right or wrong this visit from IRS cemented an idea that I had been working on since I met our new tenant, Dick Hill of Cheston, who was sharing our offices. My idea was to merge so the considerable talents we had in house could become a major player in induction heating. To make happen we would have to give up 10% ownership and become a part of Inductotherm for tax purposes.
After learning from the truckers that a minimum of two weeks would be required to reach California Houghton released the job. As soon as he was gone Lona loaded the truck with the heat exchanger and I took it to my house late that evening. A relay team was organized so the truck could be driven steadily across the country. The team consisted of our shop foreman, Stan Riley, Klingerman and myself.
My wife got up at four o'clock in the morning to fix my breakfast and send me away with baggage and a packed lunch. Stan drove first leg of the long trip was to Cleveland, Ohio. The darn truck had a shimmy at fifty miles per hour, so we stopped to repair it. We could not find the cause, but when it came my turn to drive I found that the problem was solved if the speed was increased to fifty-seven. Klingerman flew to Cleveland where his sister lived. They met us at a turnpike interchange near the airport for the first relay point. She took Stan to the airport for a flight to Des Moines as the next relay point. Bob had a good supply of nuts and fruit to snack on during the drive to the west. We arrived in Des Moines, Iowa very early Saturday morning. The truck had been stopped only for gas during the past twenty-four hours. We were on schedule, so we did not wake our Stan until we arrived at the Holiday Inn where he was staying. I crawled into his warm place in the bed and went to sleep before they left the room.
I flew to Denver late Saturday afternoon and rented a one-way car to Cheyenne, Wyoming. I checked into a Holiday Inn that we had already reserved. There was plenty of time for a steak and a relaxing swim in the pool before the truck arrived. The truck was about two hours behind schedule, so I was relieved when it arrived. The plan was for me to take the short leg across to Salt Lake alone and let the other two sleep. Klingerman decided to stay with the truck, as he was not tired. The reason they were two hours late was because Nebraska is uphill all the way from the east to the western border. At one point they could not believe that they were going uphill because the mirage in the road ahead made them feel that they were going downhill. They could see water flowing toward them in the Platte River. To satisfy themselves and settle an argument, they turned the truck around and drove the other way.
The power and gear ratio on the truck was not made for the trip up the Rockies to the continental divide. It was necessary to put the truck in the lowest gear with fuel wide open to reach five miles per hour. I really let that truck go when we were going downhill to Salt Lake to make up time. We decided it was safe enough to allow one man to drive alone, so when Klingerman went to bed in Salt Lake, I continued on to the next planned stop in Reno, Nevada where Stan was sleeping. The salt flats were a pain in the neck. Cross winds kept me in the middle of the worst shimmy range at full throttle requiring the speed to be reduced to forty miles per hour. After the climb into the mountains we came to the Nevada line. Nevada has a truck inspection station as a roadblock at its borders. This was the first time I realized that a permit to drive a truck must be obtained in every state crossed. The turnpikes were OK and the weigh stations were closed for the weekend across the other states.
The truck was at our hotel in Sacramento, California sixty-one hours after we left Rancocas on the 24th of May 1971. We avoided the penalty and set up additional payments from the contract. Aerojet attempted to stop us at the gate with the fine print of the contract by demanding an insurance paper to allow us on the site. They were asked to call Raufer to get our insurance numbers. He informed them that we did not have insurance on the truck yet. I sold the truck to a local contractor, (Mr. Jackson of PMI Corporation) who had a blanket policy on file with Aerojet. The bill of sale was for one dollar and was legal in every respect. We bought the truck back from the contractor after we provided Aerojet with insurance papers.
After a couple days of meetings we agreed that Aerojet would expand the door opening for Miss Kim and let us use a building with a twenty-ton crane as a staging area. Jackson turned out to be a very nice gentleman. He knew we were short on money and agreed to give us administrative cover and manpower, as we needed it if the local unions balked. He was also very busy building wineries in the Napa Valley and really did not need our business. He introduced us to the Grape Steak eatery just outside the city limits. This place was a grocery store that sold good quality steaks that the customer cooked on charcoal inside the building. There was a salad bar and a jug of red wine that was included it the price.
Bob had work to do setting up test and safety plans with Radtke and Stan had to look over the electrical job and unload two trucks that arrived on the 27th of May.
I flew down to Southern California to meet with Dick Hill to explain the merger agreement I had already worked out with Rowan. The problem remained to sell the others.
The first letter from Cheston with my name on it was the 1st of June 1971.
On the 4th of June two mechanics for our shop departed Rancocas with a one-way rental truck with the graphite and control parts. Behind the truck they were towing my 24-foot camping trailer that we planned to use as an office with creature comforts in the hot season. About half way the trailer hitch broke and they parked the unit. On June 9 I drove about half way up the mountain to meet the convoy. Without a police escort we flashed our lights and blew horns to clear our way to the factory.
By the 10th of June we had installed the power supplies and heat exchanger using Miss Kim to place the loads under the gantry crane. The power hookup was scheduled for Saturday June 12. Early the next week the cylinder sections were set and all cables connected.
If you need to see just what we were doing return to the pictures named Aerojet and Gantry.
The only remaining task was to install the miniseptor and graphite felt. The felt furnished by Sterry was brittle. He used bright rayon felt that contained titanium oxide and during the high firing process it turned to titanium carbide. We were building something that would never be used so it did not matter if we passed the tests. I called Sterry and he agreed to replace the felt if it did not work and in any case give us a fifty- percent discount on the invoice if he did not have to replace it.
This miniseptor was strong enough to climb up the rods. Klingerman's note about the photograph. "This, of course, is the Aerojet picture looking down at the finished hot zone. Note the 42" rounds from the Beckwith Carbon susceptor acting as the triple tripod support. Also don't you just love the basket weave on the bottom heat sink lift courtesy Bob Klingerman and Joe Lona. This work was completed while under the influence of lunch time visits to "The Devil" for pizza with black olives and anchovies washed down by a pitcher. The atmosphere at the bottom on any given afternoon was a blue-green haze of mega farts which would immediately bring tears to the eyes of lesser men."
We scheduled the first test to be completed during the 4th of July holiday. The General Manager would have a mutiny to solve if his crew could not go to the mountains to escape the hot weather so he used safety rules to stop us. Bob tells it as follows: "One of my all time favorite war stories is the Safety Director who employed a motorcycle helmet instead of a hard hat as his version of belt and suspenders. And who can forget this Bozo's attempt to shut us down for the July 4 weekend by accumulating a gig list of safety deficiencies which ("those boys from New Jersey can never fix.") Of course while still in the rough draft form a secretary fed us the list so we could have them fixed before he officially served the indictment on us."
We were winning the war but the contract gave the manager a way out. Using NASA boilerplate rules he declared a "flight emergency" that allowed for payment to contractors during a delay. Klingerman recalls:
"Remember that we had all of shop personnel and engineering and part of the contract amendment was that we all got round trip First Class tickets home. We went home for the weekend. Monday passed; Tuesday passed; Wednesday passed. About Thursday you and I returned to the Sacramento in suit and tie with no 12 man crew covered in graphite. The guard was on the lookout for us and you were immediately ushered into the GM's office. The GM read you the book and said that our actions were unacceptable. He asked you if I was working. You reminded him that for safety reasons a man could not work alone. This effectively broke the back of any and all late penalties since the government declared by contract amendment and we accepted "delay for convenience" and the only way they could return to the original schedule was to write a contract amendment to abrogate the delay and reinstate the original milestones. This could not be done unilaterally and therefore was never done"
The safety crew stopped bugging us but they needed a "what if" plan if something went wrong. I balked at writing the long document but did agree to a four hour question and answer session on eight track tape. Many times over the years I took great pleasure in playing parts of those old tapes. Jo Ann threw them away after our divorce in 1979.
With our three man crew we started the dry out run. The first problem was encountered controlling the slowest heating rate. The stupid specifications read 5 degrees per hour starting at 20 degrees C. The temperature in the metal building was already at 40 degrees C and the 1,500,000 watt power supply could not be automatically controlled below 5000 watts. Aerojet would not permit us to use manual on-off control so we called Ted Kennedy at Inductotherm. He worked out a resistor and a contactor that could be used with the temperature controllers. Frank O'Brien took the required parts from our storeroom and flew to California to retrofit the system.
After several attempts to do the final test runs due to failure in Aerojet's supporting equipment I decided to let everybody go home except Klingerman. Frank O'Brien reluctantly agreed to help me drive our truck back to New Jersey. Just past Elko Nevada we turned north with a plan to go through Yellowstone National Park and then to pick up Interstate 90 across the top tier of states. I had done Interstate 80 before and repeating was not fun. There was no way we could drive through the park in the time allotted so we turned east across Wyoming through some of the most beautiful gorges I have ever seen. Frank was not impressed so he was ready to sleep when we reached Lincoln, Nebraska two days later.
I called Klingerman at his hotel. He told me to get back right away because Aerojet was going to start the tests. Frank did not want to drive alone so I told him he could drive the truck to where the previous group had left my camping trailer that we planned to use as an office. I got up very early and rented a private plane to Denver so I could catch jet to Sacramento. Frank got up later and drove the truck past a weight station without stopping. The cops pulled him over and in addition wanted to know where the permit to do trucking in their state was located.
Klingerman had already hit the first problem in the test. The chamber temperature could not exceed 105 degrees and the air temperature was 125 in the middle of the day.
They were not going to give us an approval so Bob and I went back to Rancocas. I really needed to be home to take care of some family problems and to sort out the problems I caused with the merger into Cragmet.
We returned for another test on August 21. The flanges were getting hotter than allowed. They agreed that if I could keep my hand on the chamber it would pass. That night I used a pin knife to puncture the blisters on my hands.
The final problem was that we stalled out about 100 degrees below the final temperature. We could push the triplers well above their rating of 1500 kW but they would not allow us to exceed the nameplate current rating on their transformers. I finally got them to agree that the sight glass made of Pyrex was giving us a false reading and we had achieved all the parameters.
The only thing that remained was to settle Cragmet's claim for addition funds due to changes that took place during the contract. I placed a California mechanics lien in the amount of $1,146,711 showing $844,762.75 paid and $302,008.35 due.
I signed a sub-contractors release in the Aerojet office on the 28th of October 1971 in consideration for the sum of $1,029,229.00. Just before signing I called Rowan at his home. I told him that Aerojet was offering to settle our claim for an additional $49,229 against our claim for $171,500 made against them on Oct 12th. He had no knowledge on the subject but soon realized I was using the call to get a better offer from Aerojet.
WE HAD ONE PERSON TO THANK. Most Americans voted to return Nixon to power a few days later. His stepping on construction labor saved us a fortune in field costs. This made the railroad workers mad so they struck saving us a bundle on freight costs. Finally he axed the Man to Mars project that saved us from the NASA bureaucrats during the test program. Only Thatcher could give us a larger gift in 1985.
This was not over yet.
In a little less than a year after Aerojet closed down the NERVA project we were given the order to pack up the furnace equipment for storage at JackAss Flats, Nevada. Jack Ass Flats is one of the places the government stores things that they may use in the future, including old World War II planes and the like.
We needed Miss Kim on the West Coast for the tear down job, so I loaded two large Pelton governors for shipment to Ozark, Arkansas to save freight costs. The eight wheels on the rear of the straight truck were overloaded almost two times the weight allowed for highway travel. I was not aware of this until a tire blew and the mechanic could not lift the truck with one jack. He told me the fine would be very large when I stopped at the first weigh station. At the next truck stop I sought the advice of a truck driver. He told me that every weigh station had a road around it and charged me fifty dollars for a map and instructions. Part of the trip was on small back roads where the bridges were marked five tons maximum, with my twenty-ton load.
The ride on to California with the empty truck was a joy for me. One hitchhiker on his way west declined to continue with me because the ride was so uncomfortable. The heavy springs for hauling tomatoes on New Jersey farms were not suited for pleasure trips. The tear down job was completed in two days with the help of two local workers.
My services were required in Japan, so Lona flew to Las Vegas to do the unloading and storage portion of the job. We were not paying our bills on time during that period. He used his credit card to check into a hotel. The charge was not approved, so they locked his baggage in the room until he paid the bill. He had a nice trip to Las Vegas but was broke and without a room to sleep in overnight. We made almost forty thousand dollars on that contract.
In November 1973 a company called LTV moved this equipment to Texas. I was busy in Moscow when Lona designed and sold them a smaller chamber and miniseptor that they used to process the leading edge parts of the shuttle.
We sold the test unit to Dr. Robert Froberg at Pfizer for unspecified heating purposes but were not able to find a customer until the Russians came along in 1983.