Dan Brevik - Recollections

Dan Brevik Recollections
Dan Rivera - Titan II
MOCR Recollections
Apollo Launch Abort Scenarios
Apollo LM Software
s.s.h Hall Of Fame



The following articles were posted to the sci.space.history newsgroup in 2001. They are gathered here in one place for easy research and reading. Thank you very much to Dan for sharing this fascinating glimpse into the experiences of an Apollo design engineer.

The F-1 engine is the largest rocket engine ever constructed. Five of these powered stage 1 of the Saturn-V rocket which launched the lunar Apollo astronauts.

The engine was first used in the unmanned Apollo 4, launched on 9 Nov 1967. Its last flight was in the Saturn V which launched Skylab on 14 May 1973. In between, it took 12 astronauts to walk on the moon.


Recollections of Dan Brevik in Apollo




I have been asked to comment on some topics concerning the F-1 and
will gladly do so. Please let me proceed at my own pace and I promise
I will try and cover all questions.

Actually, I think I will first answer some unasked questions like what was it like working at Rocketdyne in the 50's and especially on The Hill and some human interest stuff like that. I'll get into technical issues when I think the groundwork is laid. This is, after all is said and done, a human story involving real people confronting confusing and sometimes frightening realities. The technical issues are part of the story, but just a part. I'd really like to get you kind of emotionally involved and try to transmit to you what it was like and get you to feel like you were there. I think it's important for an older generation to pass along what things felt like because then the newer generation can relate much more readily. I will feel like I have succeeded if I can just get even one of you to think to yourself, "My God, I understand what they went through. And it could have been me. It could have been me." You understand what I'm getting at? I hope.




 We've recently received a few requests about the whereabouts of Dan
 Brevik. Dan hasn't forgotten about us, but he has been busy with non-
 space tasks recently. With Dan's permission, I'd like to summarize my
 meeting with him last summer.

 Dan introduced himself to sci.space a while back, wanting to talk about
 his work at Rocketdyne. Dan ran a test-stand for rocket engines and
 later did the chemical engineering for the F-1 engine. Almost
 immediately, there was a big happy fun flame fest(*) and Dan took a low
 profile. These days, he lurks in the moderated groups.

(* unrelated to Dan's post. - Ed)

 In a New England Rollcall thread a few months later, Dan identified
 himself as living in the town next to me, so I chimed in, claiming we
 were neighbors. He then asked me if I remembered a particular
 billboard. I looked up toward it and replied "yes". I thought it was a
 wild coincidence that I was sitting under the billboard when he asked
 about it. (The billboard is on top of a building with a bagel
 restaurant where I often have breakfast. Many years ago, it had a
 memorial to the local astronaut. Christa McAuliffe grew up and when to
 college in my town.)

 Knowing we were neighbors, Dan contacted me, inviting me to his house
 to discuss a project. I arrived at his home, accepted a large glass of
 ice tea, and stepped onto his deck, walking through his screen door,
 ripping it from the track. I know how to make a first impression, now I
 have to work on making a good first impression. I took Dan's pencil and
 paper and asked a preliminary question, something like "how did you get
 interested in rockets, anyway?" I then sat back absolutely spellbound
 for the next two and half hours as Dan described what it was like to
 run a rocket-engine test stand and how the F-1 came to be.

 He discussed the technical aspects of engineering a big engine. He gave
 me a homework assignment: take a couple of garden hoses, turn them on
 full blast and point the streams of water toward each other in such a
 way that the two streams impinge and result in a well-dispersed fog.
 Picture doing this with kerosene and liquid oxygen.  Picture doing this
 with millions of pounds of kerosene and liquid oxygen. Dan taught me
 that combustion instability is an acoustic resonance within the engine.
 In everything I've ever read about Apollo, no one else has explained
 just what combustion instability is, and Dan did it in just a few
 sentences. Dan also gave me an understanding of the people-side things.
 I've long been impressed by the NASA management of Apollo, but Dan
 taught me to impressed with much of what Rocketdyne did. Of course,
 there was also a bit of "back stage gossip" and stories about the
 nightlife surrounding Rocketdyne.

 Dan was asking for my help in a project was to fulfill a request from
 the NASA History Office, which is asking for oral histories of the
 people involved with Apollo. He wanted to discuss my helping prepare
 his memoirs. Over the next few days, he and I were working out the
 details in a series of emails. About this time, he and his wife
 received a contract for a different history, a book about a doll
 manufacturer that was active for 40 years or so in the 20th Century.
 That book took requires their full time and attention, suspending his
 Rocketdyne memoirs.

 Dan has recently told me that doll book is in good shape and he should
 be able to return to the Rocketdyne memoirs soon. I've reiterated that
 I'll be happy to help him with the project in any way. I've also told
 him that if he wishes to make the memoir available to a wider audience,
 I'd be happy to help with that, too, even posting it on
 www.scispace.org if that is what he wants.
 Kevin Willoughby         kevinwilloughby@scispace.org.invalid

 "Ours was a world of thrust, mixture ratio and flow
 rates - and damage assessment." -- Dan Brevik

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