Saturn C-3

The Saturn C-3 was the third rocket in the Saturn C series studied from 1959 to 1962. The design was for a three-stage launch vehicle that could launch 45,000 kg (100,000 lb) to low Earth orbit and send 18,000 kg (39,000 lb) to the Moon via Trans-Lunar Injection.

President Kennedy's proposal on May 25, 1961 of an explicit manned lunar landing goal spurred NASA to concretize its launch vehicle requirements for a lunar landing. An ad hoc committee chaired by William Fleming (Office of Space Flight Programs, NASA Headquarters) conducted a six-weeks study of the requirements for a lunar landing. Judging the direct ascent approach to be the most feasible, they concentrated their attention accordingly, and proposed circumlunar flights in late 1965 using the Saturn C-3 launch vehicle.

In early June 1961, Bruce Lundin, deputy director of the Lewis Research Center, led a week-long study of six different rendezvous possibilities. The alternatives included earth-orbital rendezvous, lunar-orbital rendezvous, earth and lunar rendezvous, and rendezvous on the lunar surface, employing Saturn C-1s, C-3s, and Nova designs. Lundin's committee concluded that rendezvous enjoyed distinct advantages over direct ascent and recommended an earth-orbital rendezvous using two or three Saturn C-3s.

NASA announced on September 7, 1961 that the government-owned Michoud Ordnance Plant near New Orleans, LA, would be the site for fabrication and assembly of the Saturn C-3 first stage as well as larger vehicles in the Saturn program. Finalists were two government-owned plants in St. Louis and New Orleans. The height of the factory roof at Michoud meant that an 8 x F-1 engined launch vehicle (Nova class, Saturn C-8) could not be built; 4 or 5 engines would have to be the maximum.

This decision ended consideration of a Nova class launch vehicle for Direct Ascent to the Moon or as heavy-lift companion with the Saturn C-3 for Earth Orbit Rendezvous.

Read more about Saturn C-3:  Earth Orbit Rendezvous, Lunar Orbit Rendezvous, Variants and Derivatives, See Also, References

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