Lyle Bjorn (1916 – 1983) came from a pioneering family which homesteaded in Wyoming. That spirit of adventure carried into his love for flying. As a high school teenager, Lyle designed and built a glider which he tested off ski jumps. This was just the beginning of his pioneering work that transcended from airplanes to rockets.
After working in aircraft design and analysis, Lyle became a test engineer before working on missiles and rockets. After working in missile development, he worked in missile testing where he tested Navaho and Hound Dog missiles before being assigned to the Saturn/Apollo Project. His career spanned the space program from its infancy to manned lunar landings.
As Manager of Testing and Operations on Stage II of the Saturn V Rocket, Lyle led a team of 400 engineers and technicians. His overall responsibility was to prepare SII for launch. This included completion of test procedures and the prelaunch checklist which his team developed. Over 1,000 parameters were measured and analyzed with data collected on strip charts and engineering calculations made by slide rule. Computers were just emerging and were not available as an engineering tool. Key issues centered on storage of liquid oxygen and hydrogen and the reliability of five 80,000 RPM turbo pumps which were critical to the rocket’s thrust. Lyle was in the Launch Control Center and gave the OK that SII was ready.
Even though Lyle made significant contributions to the success of the U.S. Space program, perhaps his greatest legacy was his ability to uplift and enrich the lives of those who knew him. That quality is still felt today.