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William G. Cowdin papers

Overview

Abstract

Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

William G. Cowdin papers, 1961-2014



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William G. Cowdin papers, 1961-2014 | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections

By Mary A. Sego

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Collection Overview

Title: William G. Cowdin papers, 1961-2014Add to your cart.

Primary Creator: Cowdin, William G. (1927-)

Extent: 0.25 Cubic feet. More info below.

Date Acquired: 12/30/2014

Subjects: Aerojet-General Corporation, Aerospace engineering, Armstrong, Neil, 1930-2012, Propulsion systems, Propulsion systems--United States--History--20th century, Test pilots, X-20 (Space glider)

Forms of Material: Black-and-white photographs, Clippings (Information artifacts), Handbooks, Oral histories (Document genres)

Languages: English

Abstract

This collection includes two 8 x 10 photographs taken during a 1961 Dyna-Soar full scale mockup review, Boeing Co., Seattle, 1961. The photos include NASA test pilots and Aerojet project team members; Neil Armstrong, William Dana, James Woods, Henry Gordon, William Knight, and Aerojet program manager and Purdue graduate William Cowdin. Also includes a biographical statement by Cowdin with a description of the pace and culture of the aerospace industry during the 1950s and 1960s, and Gemini and Titan III B propulsion handbooks.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The William G. Cowdin papers (1961-2014; 0.1 cubic feet) document Cowdin’s role as Aerojet program manager for the Dyna-Soar boost rocket engines. This collection includes two 8 x 10 photographs taken during a 1961 Dyna-Soar full scale mockup review, Boeing Co., Seattle, 1961. The photos include NASA test pilots and Aerojet project team including Neil Armstrong, William Dana, James Woods, Henry Gordon, William Knight, and Aerojet program manager and Purdue graduate William Cowdin. Also included is a biographical statement by Cowdin with a description of the pace and culture of the aerospace industry during the 1950s and 1960s, and Gemini and Titan III B propulsion handbooks.

Types of materials include photographs, clippings, biographical statement, handbooks, and an oral history.

Biographical Note

William G. Cowdin graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1952.  While at Purdue, Cowdin participated in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Scabbard and Blade, Arnold Air Society (Air Force) and Chandelle Squadron (Air Force).

After graduation he was hired by Bell Aircraft in Niagara Falls, New York as a rocket test engineer. During this time he worked on the Bell X-1A aircraft propulsion system. The Bell X-1A was a follow on program to the X-1 aircraft with which Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager became the first person to break the sound barrier in 1947. Later Cowdin was assigned his own rocket test cell, testing rocket engines for a missile system named “Rascal.” Rascal was a missile system to be carried by a B-29 aircraft with a range of 100 miles and guided using a TV display.

In 1955, while still employed as a rocket test engineer at Bell Aircraft, Cowdin was recruited by Aerojet-General Corporation and hired. Here he was first placed in charge of the Titan ICBM rocket test program. Later he was selected as the Program Manager for the boost rocket engine for the Gemini suborbital vehicle with Gus Grissom commanding the first flight.

During this time the Air Force had been conducting studies for future Space activities. One study was for the Dyna-Soar (Dynamic Soaring) program. In Cowdin’s words, “Studies envisioned a two manned space aircraft which would be boosted into space, complete a mission and return to earth skipping off the earth’s atmosphere similar to a rock thrown and skipping over water to gain range. Energy management using this skipping maneuver would permit the Dyna-Soar vehicle to land at any large air base in the world. Early in the 1960s Dyna-Soar contracts were given to the Boeing Company as the system integrator, the Martin Company for the boost vehicle based upon a man rated Titan ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile), and the contractors for other sub-systems. I was selected as the Program Manager to man-rate the rocket engines for the Titan boost vehicle. Dyna-Soar efforts climaxed in 1962, when the full range mockup with all the contractors and Air Force personnel convening at the Boeing Co. in Seattle, WA.”

In 1971 Cowdin enrolled at Southwestern University School of Law, and in 1975 he completed his Juris Doctor degree.

Subject/Index Terms

Aerojet-General Corporation
Aerospace engineering
Armstrong, Neil, 1930-2012
Propulsion systems
Propulsion systems--United States--History--20th century
Test pilots
X-20 (Space glider)

Administrative Information

Repository: Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections

Alternate Extent Statement: 1 mss box

Access Restrictions: Collection is open for research

Use Restrictions: Purdue University

Acquisition Source: Donated by William G. Cowdin, December 30, 2014

Acquisition Method: Rita Baines, director of development Aero Astro, refered Mr. Cowdin to ASC.

Related Materials:

Interview with William Cowdin, November 11, 2015.  Purdue Libraries Oral History Program

Neil A. Armstrong papers:

https://apps.lib.purdue.edu/archon/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=149&q=armstrong

Preferred Citation: MSA 310, William G. Cowdin papers, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

Processing Information: All materials have been housed in polyester sleeves, acid-free folders, and acid-free boxes.

Other URL: http://collections.lib.purdue.edu/fa/pdf/msa310_cowdin_w.pdf


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