IBM and UNIVAC in the Apollo Program

IBM and UNIVAC in the Apollo Program

Summary: IBM and UNIVAC were the key system integrators for the Apollo program. IBM provided broad computer support on a number of fronts including guidance systems on the Saturn V vehicle itself, whereas UNIVAC's computers were critical to the Deep Space Tracking Network (DSTN) required for upstream and downstream telemetry to and from the spacecraft.Read more about IBM and UNIVAC in the Apollo program in Tech Broiler.


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  • The Real-Time Computer Complex (RTCC) was an IBM computing and data processing system at NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. It collected, processed and sent to Mission Control the information needed to direct every phase of an Apollo/Saturn mission. It computed what the space vehicle was doing and compared that with what it should be doing. RTCC worked in real-time -- so fast, there was virtually no time between receiving and solving a computing problem. IBM 7094-11 computers were used in the RTCC during NASA's Gemini program and on the first three Apollo/Saturn missions. Later, IBM System/360 Model 75J mainframes, plus peripheral storage and processing equipment, were employed. Two computers were used during a mission: one was primary; the other operated identically but as standby. (Photo courtesy IBM)

    ?Read more about IBM and UNIVAC in the Apollo program in Tech Broiler.

  • IBM Employees working at Kennedy Space Center on the Saturn V.

  • These IBM employees are working at Mission control on Apollo 11.

Topics: CXO, IBM


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Radio Telescope

    ... is at Parkes not Perth
  • RE: DSTN Station at Perth, Australia (IBM and UNIVAC in the Apollo Program)

    Perth (West Coast) has a dish that was very important to the mission, but it was definitely the Parkes dish(East Coast)that was the subject of the movie "The Dish".
    Why Knot
  • Univac 1230 at Goddard

    I worked at Goddard as an employee of CSC from 1974 to 1978, and worked on the telemetry systems for the shuttle Approach and Landing Test and Orbital Flight Test projects (as a computer programmer). The telemetry systems ran on the Univac 1230 computer. Several years later, a friend and co-worker from that time gave me a circuit board from a decommissioned 1230. I can't remember if he said it was a flip-flop circuit or a one-shot. Can anyone help me identify it? The following is printed on the connector: A-2333-6 7003700 00. I can provide a photo (I'd post it here if I knew how).

  • One of the spinoffs ...

    was the streamlined Job Entry Subsystem for the OS/360 operating system for IBM 360/370 mainframes. The spooling tasks (reading card decks containing Job Control Language statements and embedded data decks, queueing job control information until jobs could be run, adding job control logs and output print/punch files to the output queues and writing them out) designed into the original OS performed very poorly when scaled up to large number of jobs with large numbers of steps and files. NASA and IBM personnel at the Houston Space Center, in support of the Apollo program, developed a "wrap around" system called HASP, for Houston Asynchronous Spooling Program, to read job decks faster, impose less overhead on job and step starting and stopping, and write output files more quickly. As per government (and in those days, IBM) policy, it was made available for free to all IBM-360 installations, and a large percentage of them used it, even while the space program was still in progress.

    Later, when the OS became a program product, HASP was rewritten to become a part of the OS itself. But the error and status messages it produced continued, for many years, to be given message lookup numbers beginning with "$HASP" due to programmer inertia!