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    Apollo 14: One Large Section and Three Smaller Sections of the Q-Ball Cover Removed Just Seconds before the Launch. An amazing offering. A 7" x 6" x 3.5" (overall) curved piece of Styrofoam with a 2" wide band embedded on one side along with three separate wedge-shaped sections of 2.5"-3" wide x 3.5" deep. A handwritten period label is found on each: "Apollo 14/ Q Ball Cover". They are each sealed in a heavy plastic bag from the period and were originally given to an engineer that worked on the Apollo LES and was in the Firing Room for all the launches through Apollo 15. They have been passed down through his family to be offered now in this auction. Rarely seen, first we have offered. Included with the lot is an 8.5" x 11" color glossy print of Apollo 8 before launch showing its Q-Ball at top. Obviously used, fine.

    On an Apollo mission, the "Q-Ball" was an important part of the Launch Escape System (LES). "The nose cone of the LES contained an array of 8 pressure-measuring pitot tubes in a structure known as the "Q-ball". These sensors were connected to the Command Module and Saturn launch vehicle guidance computers, allowing calculation of dynamic pressure (q) during atmospheric flight, and also the angle of attack in the event of an abort." The Q-Ball Styrofoam cover, which was removed a few seconds before launch, protected the pitot tubes from being clogged by debris. The cover was split in half vertically and held together by a 2-inch (51 mm) rubber band. A razor blade was positioned behind the rubber band, pinched between the halves of the cover. A wire cable was connected to the top and bottom of the razor blade and to both halves of the cover. The cable was routed through a pulley on the hammerhead crane at the top of the launch umbilical tower (LUT) down to a tube on the right side of the 360-foot (110 m) level of the LUT. The cable was connected to a cylindrical weight inside a tube. The weight rested on a lever controlled by a pneumatic solenoid valve. When the valve was actuated from the Launch Control Center (LCC), the pneumatic pressure of 600 PSI GN2 (nitrogen gas) rotated the lever down allowing the weight to drop down the tube. The dropping weight pulled the cable, which pulled the blade cutting the rubber band, and the cable pulled the halves of the cover away from the launch vehicle. The apparent overengineering of this safety system was due to the fact that the launch escape system, which depended on the Q-ball data, was armed 5 minutes before launch, so retraction of the Q-ball cover was a life-critical part of a possible pad abort." (Wikipedia).

    The original recipient of these Q-Ball sections worked at Cape Kennedy from mid-1964 until late 1971, first with AMF and later with Boeing and was part of the team that worked on the astronaut escape system designed after the Apollo 1 accident. His work on that project was why he was given the Q-ball cover. He was in the Firing Room for all Apollo tests/ launches thru Apollo 15. He was friends with many of the Apollo astronauts but especially Deke Slayton. From late 1971 to 75 (Apollo 16 and 17 happened after he had left), he opened his own business (Scan Systems Inc.) with another KSC employee based in Cocoa Beach. He closed the business in 1975 and took the job of Chief Engineer with Planning Research Corporation (PRC) at CCAFS working on the Shuttle program, eventually becoming VP of Engineering and Manager of their Cape Canaveral facility. He left PRC in mid-1985 and passed away unexpectedly in spring 1986 from cancer.

    There is a video of the Apollo 15 launch at https://youtu.be/QI53Ed2nS5w which shows, at approximately two minutes in, the Q-Ball cover and its removal just seconds before launch.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2018
    11th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 514

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