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C. Bruce Brooks papers

1947-2006
 Collection
Accession: 2782

Abstract

C. Bruce Brooks (1931-2016) was a chemical engineer and program manager for Thiokol Chemical Corporation (later Morton-Thiokol) from 1958 until his retirement in 1995. Thiokol is a leader in aerospace research, design, manufacturing, and testing of solid propellant rocket motors. This small collection of Brooks' papers provides valuable information about the development of solid rocket motors and early space flight. Of particular interest are trial materials related to the 1984 loss of two communications satellites, the Westar VI and the Palapa B-2. Brooks was program manager for designing and manufacturing the STAR 48 motors used in the satellites. The collection has been arranged into six series: Space programs publications and reports; Solid rocket motors (SRM) files; McDonnell Douglas Corporation v. Thiokol Corporation files; Newsletters, magazines, and technical papers; Company histories and personal papers; and Additional work papers.

Dates

  • 1947-2006

Creator

Extent

2 Linear Feet

Biographical Note

C. Bruce Brooks (1931-2016) was a chemical engineer and program manager for Thiokol Chemical Corporation (later Morton-Thiokol) from 1958 until his retirement in 1995. Thiokol is a leader in aerospace research, design, manufacturing, and testing of solid propellant rocket motors.

Curtis C. Brooks was born in Danville, Illinois, to Veral Peck Brooks (1901-1986) and Rev. Charles L. Brooks (1899-1973). He received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 1954 and his Master's in Business Administration degree from the University of Delaware in 1965.

Brooks worked at Procter & Gamble before being drafted into the Army Signal Corps in 1954; he was posted to Tappahannock, Virginia. He returned to work at Procter & Gamble in Dallas, Texas, until 1958.

He worked at the Thiokol Corporation's Elkton, Maryland, plant for thirty-seven years. He was particularly engaged in producing solid-fuel rocket motors during the early years of manned space exploration.

Historical Note

The Thiokol Chemical Corporation was a United States company that initially produced synthetic rubber and related chemicals, but later expanded into producing solid rocket fuel, rocket motors, and propulsion systems. Their motors were used in high-profile projects such as the Hermes A-2 rocket and the space shuttle Challenger.

In 1926, chemists Joseph Cecil Patrick (1892-1965) of Jefferson City, Missouri, and the Russian-born Nathan Mnookin (1901-1955) tried to invent an inexpensive antifreeze. Their experiments involving ethylene dichloride and sodium polysulfide created a gummy substance that exhibited a horrible odor. The substance clogged the sink in the lab, and none of the solvents used to remove it were successful. Patrick and Mnookin accidentally invented synthetic rubber, which they named "Thiokol" after the Greek words for sulfur (theion) and glue (kolla). After several more years of experimentation, including finding a method to cheaply mass-produce the product, Patrick and Mnookin founded the Thiokol Chemical Corporation on December 5, 1929. In 1938, Thiokol established its company headquarters in Trenton, New Jersey.

At the start of the Second World War, Thiokol failed to capitalize on the wartime rubber shortage and only produced rubber hoses for specialized use. During the late 1940s, company vice president and general manager John W. Crosby (?-1992) began discussions with scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology regarding the use of Thiokol rubber. For years, the institute purchased Thiokol's polymer and found it was the best solid rocket fuel when mixed with other chemicals. As a result, Thiokol Corp. entered into contracts with the military, which in turn agreed to finance a laboratory and facility for rocket production. Solid rocket fuel soon began to replace its liquid counterpart, and, in 1948, Thiokol commenced production of rocket engines and propulsion systems at a new plant in Elkton, Maryland. Between 1948 and 1958, Thiokol's sales grew from $1.1 million to $190 million.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Thiokol continued experiments in solid propellant rocket motors, including high-profile projects such as the Hermes A-2 rocket and a surface-to-surface guided missile system. However, aerospace contracts from the government were undependable, and Thiokol began producing specialty chemicals, fibers, and off-road vehicles to ensure continual profits. In 1982, salt and chemical manufacturer Morton-Norwich purchased Thiokol out of necessity to repel other takeover bids and increase their significance in the growing defense industry. Shortly after, Morton-Thiokol won the contract to produce the rocket boosters for the space shuttle Challenger. The company was found responsible for the shuttle's January 28, 1986 explosion that killed its seven passengers. Safety concerns and defects in the company's products resulted in Morton spinning off its Thiokol division on July 1, 1989, creating the Ogden, Utah-based Thiokol Corporation.

On May 5, 1998, Thiokol changed its name to Cordant Technologies to better serve its three major component companies: Thiokol Propulsion; Howmet International, which cast products for aerospace and commercial purposes; and Huck International, a manufacturer of aerospace and transportation fasteners. The American aerospace, defense, and sporting goods company, Alliant Techsystems (ATK), purchased Thiokol on April 23, 2001, thus controlling most of the United States' solid rocket fuel industry. On February 9, 2015, ATK spun off its sporting goods group as Vista Outdoor and merged its aerospace and defense groups into ATK Orbital Inc.

Scope and Contents

This small collection of Brooks' papers provides valuable information about the development of solid rocket motors and early space flight. Of particular interest are trial materials related to the 1984 loss of two communications satellites, the Westar VI and the Palapa B-2. Brooks was program manager for designing and manufacturing the STAR 48 motors used in the satellites.

The collection has been arranged into six series: Space programs publications and reports; Solid rocket motors (SRM) files; McDonnell Douglas Corporation v. Thiokol Corporation files; Newsletters, magazines, and technical papers; Company histories and personal papers; and Additional work papers.

The Space programs publications and reports series mainly contains official NASA and U.S. government publications detailing the data and flight descriptions related to Project Mercury, which was the first human spaceflight program of the United States. Thiokol designed and manufactured retro rockets for Project Mercury. Other reports include one for the X-20 Dyna-Soar, a Boeing/U.S. Air Force program to develop a spaceplane that could be used for various military missions; Project Apollo-Saturn, the first human moon landing; and the Space Shuttle Challenger official failure report. There is a Satellite Business Systems launch press kit and guides about the Magellan robotic space probe.

The Solid rocket motor (SRM) files document Thiokol's STAR rocket motors, a family of solid-propellant rocket motors used in space propulsion and launch vehicle stages. The files include several presentation outlines from STAR Motor Users Meetings from 1984 to 1986 and STAR rocket motors product catalogs. There is also a technical paper about the development of solid rocket motors, which was presented at a conference in 1972.

The McDonnell Douglas Corporation v. Thiokol Corporation files relate to the court case filed by McDonnell Douglas against Thiokol for breach of the warranty in which Brooks was among the leading witnesses for Thiokol. The materials include Brooks' deposition testimony transcripts, correspondence between Brooks and Thiokol lawyer Larry Kaplan, evidence exhibit lists, opening statements, and the final judgment. It also includes the satellite failure reports and Brooks' comments on the specification drawing for the STAR 48 motor.

The Newsletters, magazines, and technical papers series consists of company and employee newsletters between 1970 and 2006. These were primarily contained within a three-ring binder and have been removed from the binder for preservation purposes. Additionally, there are four volumes of technical papers from the Thiokol Elkton Division from 1987 and 1991 to 1993.

The Company histories and personal papers series contains several company history papers or booklets, including one by employees E.S. Sutton and John M. McDermott. There is a retirement gag gift of cartoons where the text has been altered to be about Brooks and Thiokol, as well as a card to Brooks from management congratulating him on thirty-five years of service. There is also a ceremony program and invitation marking the occaision of Thiokol Corporation Elkton Division's designation as a Historic Aerospace Site.

The Additional work papers series includes guides, U.S. Air Force projects, and communications satellite documents. The guides include Thiokol's "Standard Handbook of Rocket Engineering, volume II" and their "Program Management Course" materials. There are some unit conversion tables. There is a source selection explanation and a scope of work change proposal. There is a GPS satellite team graphic and a perigee kick motor (PKM) performance data for the Aussat B1 communications satellite.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
C. Bruce Brooks papers
Status:
Author:
Laurie Sather
Date:
2022
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400