Saturn (rocket Family) - Project Apollo

Project Apollo

The challenge that President John F. Kennedy put to NASA in May 1961 to put an astronaut on the Moon by the end of the decade put a sudden new urgency on the Saturn program. That year saw a flurry of activity as different means of reaching the Moon were evaluated.

Both the Nova and Saturn rockets were evaluated for the mission, which shared a similar design and could share some parts. However, it was judged that the Saturn would be easier to get into production, since many of the components were designed to be air-transportable. Nova would require new factories for all the major stages, and there were serious concerns that they could not be completed in time. Saturn required only one new factory, for the largest of the proposed lower stages, and was selected primarily for that reason.

The Saturn C-5, (later given the name Saturn V), the most powerful of the Silverstein Committee's configurations, was selected as the most suitable design. At the time the mission mode had not been selected, so they chose the most powerful booster design in order to ensure that there would be ample power. Selection of the lunar orbit rendezvous method reduced the launch weight requirements below those of the Nova, into the C-5's range.

At this point, however, all three stages existed only on paper, and it was realized that it was very likely that the actual lunar spacecraft would be developed and ready for testing long before the booster. NASA therefore decided to also continue development of the C-1 (later Saturn I) as a test vehicle, since its lower stage was based on existing technology (Redstone and Jupiter tankage) and its upper stage was already in development. This would provide valuable testing for the S-IV as well as a launch platform for capsules and other components in low earth orbit.

The members of the Saturn family that were actually built, were:

  • Saturn I - ten rockets flown: five development flights, and five launches of boilerplate Apollo spacecraft and Pegasus micrometeroid satellites.
  • Saturn IB - nine launches; a refined version of the Saturn I with a more powerful first stage (designated the S-IB) and using the Saturn V's S-IVB as a second stage. These carried the first Apollo flight crew, plus three Skylab and one Apollo-Soyuz crews, into Earth orbit.
  • Saturn V - 13 launches; the Moon rocket that sent Apollo astronauts to the Moon, and carried the Skylab space station into orbit.

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