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Small Huntsville firm helped make history for the Saturn V

BAE Systems, then Sander's Associates, made the first computerized pre-check system for the Saturn V.

Posted: Jul 18, 2019 6:13 PM
Updated: Jul 19, 2019 10:21 PM

The checklist to launch the Apollo mission had to have been a mile long

A small Huntsville firm helped troubleshoot by stopping potential dangers before they started. The team of less than a dozen played a role in getting man to the moon.

"When catastrophe happens, you want to try to avoid that at all costs, and innovation is really a way to burn down that risk and reduce those early onsets of complication," said Perry Bowden, who works for BAE Systems.

Perry Bowden is the director of business development for BAE Systems. In 1969, the company was called Sanders Associates with only a team of 11.

Bowden said they created the first automated computerized system for pre-launch checks. This helped engineers of Saturn V and Apollo make sure all their computer systems were ready for launch missions.

Bowden said back then, everyone was just doing their job and they had no idea they'd be making history.

"It takes those folks to get inside a room and not be scared to ask the hard questions," said Bowden.

Years later, Sanders Associates was sold to Lockheed and is now a part of BAE Systems.

Looking into the future of the space race, Bowden says they continue to make strides. Since the Apollo mission, BAE has become the world's second-largest defense contractor working with the Marine Corp, NASA and businesses in Huntsville.

Bowden says to continue to grow, you must be willing to think about the unknown.

"Find ways to take that technology and just move it in every direction that is conceivably possible," he said.

When we asked Bowden how he felt knowing his company can help get man to the moon again, he told WAAY 31 he's just thankful for where they are today.

"Thankful that we continue to bring on the smart engineers and people that are not scared to take a chance on technology," he said.

As far as the next mission to the moon, Bowden says he hopes BAE will be a part of that. We'll just have to wait and see if they are called to do another task.

BAE told WAAY 31 it plans to expand in Huntsville next year. The company is looking to create more than 250 jobs in tech, engineering and science.

Check out more of our Apollo 11 50th anniversary stories here. To watch our Apollo 11 specials, click here and here.

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