A researcher prepares a Centaur 6A second-stage rocket for a series of tests in the Space Power Chambers’ vacuum tank at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Lewis Research Center. Lewis was assigned oversight of the Centaur Program in the fall of 1962. Prior to that, Centaur’s only launch had failed shortly after liftoff. Lewis engineers undertook an expansive effort to quickly resolve Centaur’s problems and prepare it for its planned missions to send Surveyor spacecraft to land on the moon.
For one test program, a complete Centaur vehicle was lowered into the vacuum chamber at the Space Power Chambers to verify that its electronics and electrical systems functioned reliably in a space environment. At the time, electronic malfunctions were one of the most likely causes of failures in space. Studying these systems during long soaks inside the space tank helped the Lewis team calibrate them and facilitate the monitoring of the spacecraft during an actual flight.
The Centaur for the tests was delivered to Cleveland in a C-130 aircraft on September 27, 1963. The rocket was set up in the facility’s high bay where Lewis technicians and General Dynamics consultants updated its flight systems to match the upcoming Atlas-Centaur-4 mission, as seen in this photograph.