HALL OF FAME
E-Mail: Museum Director
Mr. William A. McCool
Father Of Real Time Missile
Flight Safety Data Processing
Mr. William A. McCool was born on June 17, 1915 in
Hagerstown, MD. He grew up there and graduated from Hagerstown High School. He
then earned both a bachelor's and master's degree in electrical engineering
from the University of Maryland.
In 1959 McCool was hired by the Flight Simulation
Laboratory at White Sands to head the Simulation Theory Branch. Under his
direction, the branch's team worked on advanced mathematical and computer
programming techniques to speed up the processing and presentation of
real-time information during missile flights.
Not only was McCool the manager of this work, he
personally got involved and developed new techniques for the processing and
analysis of missile flight data. In 1961, he was awarded the Army Research and
Development Award for his work in this area.
In 1963, McCool's team successfully developed and
demonstrated a rea1-time digital computer system to support Pershing firings
from Ft. Bliss to White Sands. Part of the system's ability was to provide
"instantaneous impact prediction" (IIP) for the flights.
When there are problems with a missile while it is in
flight over the range, the IIP allows the range safety officer to bring it
down before the IIP reaches the missile range boundary on his control display.
On a flight from Ft. Wingate or Utah, the IIP gives the safety officer the
wherewithal to avoid debris dropping on any populated areas.
The system developed for the Pershing flights, was then
used on later launches from Utah and northern New Mexico.
With this success, McCool's organization was directed
to develop real-time computing and display support for the Athena program with
launches from Green River, Utah. Several other real-time computing
accomplishments were developed for the Athena under McCool's guidance. One
achievement was the ability to control the Athena reentry missile by sending
actual guidance commands to the vehicle during its flight. Another was the
capability to send position data to radars, optical and telemetry sites
situated around the missile range to accurately point them to detect and track
incoming reentry vehicles.
Not only was McCool a theoretician and technician, he
was also a distinguished manager who inspired folks by his dedication. Another
item McCool was cited for was his management in developing a time-sharing
capability for the range's computers. During the 1960s and 1970s, computers
were very large, were relatively scarce compared to today, and were needed for
many functions. McCool was responsible for developing the capability for these
computers to be linked together so that many tasks could be accomplished
simultaneously without interrupting batch processing which in turn
significantly increased their efficiency.
McCool retired from White Sands in 1973 and lived in EI
Mr. McCool died in late 2003.