Apollo 6 - Flight - Orbit


Due to the less than nominal launch, the CSM and S-IVB were inserted into a 93.49-nautical-mile (173.14 km) by 194.44-nautical-mile (360.10 km) parking orbit, instead of the planned 100-nautical-mile (190 km) circular orbit. Then, after the standard two parking orbits to check out the vehicle's readiness for Trans Lunar Injection, the S-IVB failed to restart.

It was decided to use the Service Module engine to raise the spacecraft into a high orbit, as had been done in Apollo 4, in order to complete some of the mission objectives. It burned for 442 seconds (longer than it would ever fire on a nominal lunar mission) to get to the planned 11,989-nautical-mile (22,204 km) apogee. There was now however, not enough fuel to speed up the atmospheric reentry and the spacecraft only entered the atmosphere at a speed of 33,000 feet per second (10,000 m/s) instead of the planned 37,000 feet per second (11,000 m/s) of a lunar return. However, this had been demonstrated on Apollo 4.

Ten hours after launch, it landed 43 nautical miles (80 km) from the planned touchdown point in the North Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii, and was lifted on board the USS Okinawa.

The S-IVB's orbit decayed three weeks later, and it reentered the atmosphere on April 25, 1968.

Although Apollo 6 did not reach full translunar velocities in either direction, it was considered successful enough to fly astronauts on the next Saturn V, which in addition was tasked to send them to the Moon (lunar orbit) instead of the previously-planned Earth orbit for Apollo 8 the following December. Instead, the next flight, Apollo 7, which did not use a Saturn V, was used to first test the manned capability of Apollo, doing so in Earth orbit.

Read more about this topic:  Apollo 6, Flight

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