Chapter Three


The Sixties

The race into space



1960 - Project Advent


1961 - T-10 Trainer contract


1962 - Rocket "Reaction Control" system for Apollo Service Module


1963 - LEM


1964 - 20th Anniversary celebrated


1965 - 100-lb thrust rocket engines in qualification tests


1966 - First unmanned Apollo mission


1967 - Electronic Doppler Navigation system designed


1968 - Crane Carrier Inc. purchases controlling interest in Marquardt


1969 - Artificial Kidney Dialysis machine developed



            The Fifties went out with a bang.  The Company had earned a 100% dividend for its stockholders, sales were at an all time high of $70 million a year, the Ogden plant was running at capacity building both models of the Bomarc missile ramjets, and the future looked extremely promising.  The Van Nuys facility had undergone extensive improvements in the previous couple of years and was ready to reap the harvest of years of cutting edge experimentation in air breathing technology.  The Company would flourish in the Sixties, but not in Air breathing engines or ramjets as was anticipated.  It would be the decade of space travel and Marquardt would be one of the major players in getting our Astronauts to the Moon and back.


            In the course of investigating space vehicle requirements in 1958, Power Systems’ scientists and engineers uncovered a need for small reaction control engines, which could operate in a pulsing mode.  This discovery evolved from research and development work done in 1958 on a space power unit, which would generate electrical power in space, and could run on rocket fuel.  Feasibility of this engine was demonstrated successfully and in the course of technical discussions with several airframe companies, it was suggested that the engine’s injector technology might have application to a small rocket engine.  Thus, a small rocket engine, capable of operating in a pulsing mode as a reaction control engine for space application, was developed and tested.  These successful tests led to Marquardt receiving several important contracts for these engines.


            Marquardt’s success in the small rocket field was marked by these important factors: the Company saw a need for this type of engine, and through its own research and development programs, successfully developed a pulsing rocket engine with a unique radiation cooled thrust chamber.  These factors, combined with Marquardt’s excellent test facilities, led to the acquisition of several major space oriented contracts in 1960.  General Electric awarded Marquardt a contract for its PAT-C (Position-Attitude-Trajectory Control) system as the orbit control for Project ADVENT, an Army-sponsored advanced communications satellite project.  This was the first of many contracts the Company would receive in space applications for its control systems.  (Note: Roy Marquardt’s second wife was named Patzi, aka: PAT-C)


            Marquardt’s breadwinner remained the Bomarc ramjet and the Ogden plant finished the run of the RJ43-3 Bomarc-A engines and switched production to the RJ43-11 Super Bomarc engine which had just passed military qualification.  The new ramjets would almost double the range of the Bomarc Missile from 250 miles to over 400 miles.  More than 600 RJ-43-3 engines had been delivered on schedule to the Air Force from 1956 to 1960.  The production of the RJ-43-11 was scheduled to continue through August, 1962.


            One result of efforts to achieve new applications for its ramjet engines was a subcontract from North American for the development of the cruise propulsion system for the Army’s NA-273 target missile.  This would be Marquardt’s first effort for the Army, after a long and profitable relationship with both the Navy and Air Force.  The Air Force had continuously supported Marquardt’s applied research program on advanced air-breathing engine technology since 1948, but in 1960 its focus was redirected to support advanced ideas and concepts for use in aerospace applications.  Many ideas for new and novel propulsion systems were generated under this program and promised to give propulsion performances several times that which was then possible.  These new propulsion concepts opened up many possibilities for a wide variety of future space endeavors.  In the past, this program supplied the basis for the development of the Super Bomarc engine, the Hyperjet, and other still classified propulsion concepts.


            One of the ongoing projects was development of a nuclear powered ramjet for Project PLUTO.  This propulsion system was intended to be used on a low-altitude missile of supersonic speed with unlimited range.  Marquardt designed and delivered to the AEC’s Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, various control, structural, and aerodynamic components for LRL’s ToryIIA reactor test program at the Nevada Test Site.  In addition, development of selected flight-type nuclear instrumentation and control components continued, including an ion chamber (neutron detector) designed for service at over 1000 degrees F.  Preliminary design studies on several advanced nuclear systems were undertaken including; a new concept for a reactor system capable of providing economical electric power in small (5,000 to 20.000 kilowatts) electric generating stations, known as the DCDR (Direct Cycle Diphenyl Reactor), and a portable air-cooled reactor (PAR) which has application for remote military installations.  A radiation effects laboratory was constructed at the Van Nuys plant to support the nuclear activities and provide for nuclear environmental testing and the handling of radioactive components and materials.


            The Marquardt Jet Laboratory-Van Nuys was expanded in 1960 to include, four additional test stands, a chemical laboratory equipped to conduct a variety of propellant studies, and an annex which doubled the size of the standards laboratory.  The Saugus Research Field Laboratory expanded its capability to include liquid metal heat transfer studies, cryogenics, materials evaluation and electrostatic propulsion research.  Roy Marquardt’s philosophy of staffing 30 percent of the Company in engineering was paying big dividends in new concepts and programs.  The unfortunate side is that some of the concepts were so far ahead of their time that they were unworkable due to the lack of acceptable materials.  One example is the Marquardt developed Scramjet which was tested to Mach 8 in the 1960’s but was shelved because no guidance system existed that could control it at that speed and composites hadn’t yet been invented.  Forty years later the Scramjet is making a comeback, unfortunately Marquardt won’t be there to see it.


            The big news in 1961 was the awarding of a contract to Marquardt by North American Aviation for the development of reaction control rocket engines for the Project Apollo spacecraft.  Though it wasn’t fully realized at the time, this contract would be the beginning of a long and profitable journey into the aerospace business which continued right up to the day the plant was closed in 2001.  The name Marquardt became known as the reliable reaction control thruster company and would set the standards for the industry.  During the Apollo program 453 engines were flown in space and logged more than 875,000 pulses with the equivalent time of 16 years in space.  Since Apollo there have been even greater numbers of Marquardt engines flown on very expensive military and civilian satellites, the space shuttle, and deep space explorations.  The Marquardt administration and employees can be very proud that they were involved with a product that proved its reliability under fire and never had a Marquardt thruster fail to operate in space.


            Research and Development contracts provided nearly 50% of sales in 1961.  The two largest programs, both for the Air Force, were Pluto, which was concerned with the feasibility of nuclear ramjet engines for low altitude missile propulsion, and the Aerospace Propulsion Program, which was concerned with the feasibility of various systems which might provide continuous propulsion through the atmosphere and out into space.  A large part of this contract work for the Air Force was devoted to the liquid air cycle engine (LACE), an airbreathing rocket which manufactures its own oxidizer by collecting and liquefying atmospheric air, and using hydrogen as a refrigerant and fuel.  Also under analytical and experimental examination was a nuclear version of the liquid air cycle engine (NULACE) resulting from experimental results of tests at speeds never before achieved in airbreathing engine work.


            In the meantime, Marquardt’s other endeavors were paying the bills.  The contract for the development and production of trainer-simulators for the GAM-77 Hound Dog and GAM-72 Quail missiles was increased with production to continue into 1962.  Production continued on inlet controls for the McDonnell F4H Phantom fighter and the North American GAM-77 Hound Dog missile, and ram air turbines for the Ling-Temco-Vought F8U Crusader aircraft.  More than 1200 ram air turbine emergency power units were shipped to the customer from the contract’s beginning in 1953 to the end of 1961.  A new contract was signed for an additional 103 units to be built in 1962.


            A significant decision was made in late 1961 when Marquardt entered into a licensing agreement with the Southern Pacific Company to develop, manufacture and market an electronic railway-crossing signal device.  The agreement represented the Company’s entry into the non-defense industrial market and led to the formation of the Industrial Products Division in Pomona.  These signal devices are now being used by many railroads in the United States and Canada.


            From its start just two years earlier on bi-propellant reaction control system development, Marquardt’s space activities, in 1961, led to the field of reaction control systems for satellites.  The orbital control for ADVENT, which was based on the Marquardt PAT-C (Position Attitude Trajectory Control) system progressed well into the development stage.  Among technical accomplishments for the program, which was contracted from General Electric, was a life cycle test of the rocket engine.  Two continuous runs of 84 and 95 minutes were accomplished, far exceeding the ADVENT duty cycle.


            Tests of a prototype “Resistojet” began in late 1961 for the Air Force, and initial performance levels appeared to be very good.  The “Resistojet” is an electric resistance-heated hydrogen rocket having promising potential for cislunar (near space) missions.  Under NASA sponsorship, ASTRO initiated investigations of the magnetohydrodynamic rocket and studies of flow phenomena in arc-jet engines.  The foregoing, plus electro-magnetic ramjet experiments and ion rocket component research being conducted for the Air Force, all served to firmly establish the Company’s position in the electronic propulsion field.  Classified experiments in bioastronautics were focused on an algae-animal closed ecological system, and deep hypothermia (hibernation) for extended space travel.