Update: Message from Dad
I promised to ask my father about his involvement. Here's his reply:
Stand back - you pushed an ancient button....
The Launch Guidance System computer was attached to a complex GE radar system
built in Syracuse NY, The system used transceivers (receivers and
transmitters) riding on the rocket being guided. The GE Radar did Direct
Tracking of the position of the rocket in spherical coordinates (Range:
distance: Elevation: angle; and azimuth: angle). To provide redundancy and
further accuracy, it also had a doppler radar system (a relative of the radar
used by highway control to catch speeders) that measured speed in three axes,
rather than position in three axes. These measurements were transmitted to our
computer, which translated these six measurements into deduced actual position
and speed along its trajectory, and then computed what steering commands to
send up to the missile. This steered the Launching rocket (mostly an Atlas
Missile) with a payload on top, into an earth orbit.
In the case of the Ranger launches being discussed in this article, the
combination being launched was an Atlas Missile with an Agena spacecraft
sitting on top. When the Atlas has inserted the assembly into earth orbit, it
detached and fell into the ocean, and the Agena injected the remaining
assembly into a moon orbit, with the Ranger spacecraft on its top. the Ranger
Spacecraft then does all of the stuff described in the article.
Atlas Agena combination was used for many different missions, with our ground
guidance system guiding the first approximately five minutes it took to inject
into earth orbit, and then sending the agena a set of precise data about where
it was going how fast in what direction. Based on that baseline data, the
Inertial Guidance system in the Agena could initiate its job of further guidance.
We also guided Thor Missiles as Launch vehicles (for Gemini, for example). In
addition to Agena Spacecraft we later carried Centaur spacecraft on top.
For some Gemini launches we launched a Thor with the Gemini manned spacecraft
on top, and then switched over to launch an Atlas Agena to rendezvous with the
Gemini 90 minutes later.
For other launches, that we didn't guide, we did "Range Safety" by tracking
the launch to assure that it was going where it should, and keeping a range
safety officer apprised of how it was doing. We never caused a failure or
even delayed a launch. Being transistorized, we were more reliable than all
those vacuum tubes around us.