White Sands Missile Range Hall of Fame

William McCool
Father of Real Time Data Processing
Served 1959 – 1973
Inducted 1999

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 Paso.

Mr. McCool died in late 2003.