Apollo 11 50th Anniversary: How L3Harris Helped Put People on the Moon
At 1:32 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 launched from Pad 39A at what was then called Cape Kennedy in Florida. From that moment until the Command Module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean nine days later, L3Harris equipment was an integral part of the mission that delivered humans to the surface of the moon and returned them safely for the first time.
An L3Harris legacy company called Radiation stood a few dozen miles from the cape after merging with the Harris-Intertype Corporation in 1967. Radiation had important roles on the Apollo program, including providing technology for telemetry – transmitting data from space – on both the Command Module and Lunar Module. The telemetry units provided real-time readings on speed and location of the spacecraft, physical condition of the astronauts, and technical data like fuel flow and position of manual switches. Ground antennas from Radiation tracked the Saturn V rocket during the early moments following liftoff, and other systems included data acquisition and processing and prelaunch testing. Radiation had the most prominent Apollo program role, but other branches of Harris-Intertype also contributed to the mission.
Another L3Harris legacy company, the Radio Corporation of America, was working on equally important Apollo technology. The company provided a variety of electronic systems on the Lunar Module, and a Camden, New Jersey-located branch of RCA, which later became part of L3 Communications Systems, contributed a communications transmitter used by the astronauts on the moon. That is the system that brought the world the words "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this historic mission, contemporary communications materials tell the story of how Radiation and Harris-Intertype paved the way for all the Apollo missions and connected the first men on the moon back to their home on Earth.
Click on the images below with hyperlinks to read the details of each item.
Radiation Details Moon Landing Success to Employees
The Radiation employee publication – "Radiation Ink" – detailed the mission and the important roles that employees played in that success. The September 1969 edition noted that prime contractors Collins Radio Company and Grumman Aerospace Corporation officials lauded Radiation technology for performing flawlessly.
The publication included an article on how moon mission technology will power an upcoming wave of Earth observation satellites, for which L3Harris continues to provide technology today.
Radiation President Shares Praise
Radiation President Joe Boyd shares kudos from the main Apollo contractors with employees.
“To these words, I can only add my own thank you and congratulations for a job well done,” Boyd wrote to the workforce.
The praise came in the form of telegrams from Collins Radio Company and Grumman Aerospace Corporation.
RCA Apollo Program Communications
RCA provided communications for all VHF communications during the Apollo Manned Space Program, ranging from 1963-1972 and servicing Apollo 7 through Apollo 17.
Perhaps the most notable achievement was RCA's development of extravehicular communcations system radio backpack transmitters.
Neil Armstrong and Edward "Buzz" Aldrin carried these backpacks and had the ability to communicate with each other - and the world - once they stepped foot on the moon.
The transmitter relayed some of the most famous words in history when Armstrong said "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
NASA Honors Radiation Employee with Silver Snoopy Award
NASA officials recognized Radiation employee Robert E. Clark with a coveted Silver Snoopy award in 1969 for his work on the Apollo program.
Clark worked on final assembly operations on Apollo telemetry units during the program.
The Silver Snoopy is a prestigious award given by astronauts to employees within NASA or contractors for their support of space exploration. A silver pin of the Snoopy cartoon character that has flown in space is presented to the honoree.
Peanuts cartoonist Charles Shultz was a space program supporter who agreed to let his character be used for the award.
Apollo Communications and Information Handling Equipment
Radiation's parent company Harris-Intertype issued a printed brochure detailing the important roles it played during the Apollo 11 mission. Among the technologies it provided were data acquisition and processing systems and the network of ground antennas around the world that supported the NASA tracking and command network.
While Radiation had the most involvement in Apollo, other branches of Harris-Intertype also took part by providing a Lunar Module simulator, two-way radio systems, and broadcast equipment used to televise the mission.
Apollo 11 Media Kit
As hundreds of journalists arrived in Florida to cover the Apollo 11 mission, Harris-Intertype officials wanted to make sure the reporters made note of the company’s contributions.
They issued a media kit dubbed “Apollo 11 Sidebar News” that featured information, photos that could be cropped and reproduced, and pieces of trivia titled “Space Capsules.”
One of the capsules included this tidbit: “Information on the status of equipment on board the Apollo Command Module and Lunar Module – and the physical conditions of the astronauts – is relayed to Earth via two telemetry systems designed and manufactured by the Electronics Group of Harris-Intertype Corporation. Data from the moon is back here in about 1.3 seconds!”
Visions of Space Exploration
When NASA recognized the 20th anniversary of Apollo 11 in 1989, officials at the company – then being called simply Harris Corporation – crafted a whimsical look ahead to the future of space exploration.
Called “A Space Vision for the Next 100 Years,” the article envisions a colony on the moon, Helium-3 mining to power nuclear-fusion ion-driven propulsion systems, and a trillion-mile journey to the Alpha Centauri star cluster.
But not all the ideas were the stuff of science fiction. The article mentions an orbiting space outpost that reflects the International Space Station and the next generation of space telescopes to succeed Hubble – two of which are well along in development with L3Harris playing prominent roles. And the moon presence is detailed as serving as a launching pad for travel to Mars, a component of NASA’s current deep space exploration strategy.