When the United States made the decision in 1961 to undertake a manned lunar landing effort as the focal point of a broad new space exploration program, there was no rocket in the country even approaching the needed capability. There was a sort of “test bed” in the making, a multi-engine vehicle now known as Saturn I. It had never flown. And it was much too small to offer any real hope of sending a trio to the moon, except possibly through as many as a half dozen separate launchings from earth and the perfection of rendezvous and docking techniques, which had never been tried.
That was the situation that brought about the announcement on Jan. 10, 1962, that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration would develop a new rocket, much larger than any previously attempted. It would be based on the F-l rocket engine, the development of which had been underway since 1958, and the hydrogen-fueled J-2 engine, upon which work had begun in 1960.
The Saturn V, then, is the first large vehicle in the U. S. space program to be conceived and developed for a specific purpose. The lunar landing task dictated the make-up of the vehicle, but it was not developed solely for that mission. As President Kennedy pointed out when he issued his space challenge to the Congress on May 25, 1961, the overall objective is for “this Nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.” He said of the lunar landing project: “No single space project in this period will be more exciting, or more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space: and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish…”
The Saturn V program is the biggest rocket effort undertaken in this country. Its total cost, including the production of 15 vehicles between now and early 1970, will be above $7 billion.
NASA formally assigned the task of developing the Saturn V to the Marshall Space Flight Center on Jan. 25, 1962. Launch responsibility was committed to the Kennedy Space Center. (The Manned Spacecraft Center, the third center in manned space flight, is responsible for spacecraft development, crew training, and inflight control.)
Marshall Center rocket designers conceived the Saturn V in 1961 and early 1962. They decided that
a three-stage vehicle would best serve the immediate needs for a lunar landing mission and would serve well as a general purpose space exploration vehicle.
One of the more important decisions made early in the program called for the fullest possible use of components and techniques proven in the Saturn I program. As a result, the Saturn V third stage (S-IVB) was patterned after the Saturn I second stage (S-IV). And the Saturn V instrument unit is an outgrowth of the one used on Saturn I. In these areas, maximum use of designs and facilities already available was incorporated to save time and costs.
Many other components were necessary, including altogether new first and second stages (S-IC and S-II). The F-l and J-2 engines were already under development, although much work remained to be done. The guidance system was to be an improvement on that of the Saturn I.
Saturn V, including the Apollo spacecraft, is 364 feet tall. Fully loaded, the vehicle will weigh some
6.1 million pounds.
The 300,000-pound first stage is 33 feet in diameter and 138 feet long. It is powered by five F-l engines generating 7.5 million pounds thrust. The booster will burn 203,000 gallons of RP-1 (refined kerosene) and 331,000 gallons of liquid oxygen (LOX) in 2.5 minutes.
Saturn V’s second stage is powered by five J-2 engines that generate a total thrust of a million pounds. The 33-foot diameter stage weighs 95,000 pounds empty and more than a million pounds loaded. It burns some 260,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and
83.0 gallons of liquid oxygen during a typical 6- minute flight.
Third stage of the vehicle is 21 feet and 8 inches in diameter and 58 feet and 7 inches long. An interstage adapter connects the larger diameter second stage to the smaller upper stage. Empty weight of the stage is 34,000 pounds and the fueled weight is
262.0 pounds. A single J-2 engine developing up to 225,000 pounds of thrust powers the stage. Typical burn time is 2.75 minutes for the first burn and
5.2 minutes to a translunar injection.
The vehicle instrument unit sits atop the third stage. The unit, which weighs some 4,500 pounds, contains the electronic gear that controls engine ignition and cutoff, steering, and all other commands necessary for the Saturn V mission. Diameter of the instrument unit is 21 feet and 8 inches, and height is 3 feet.
Directly above the instrument unit in the Apollo
configuration is the Apollo spacecraft. It consists of the lunar module, the service module, the command module, and the launch escape system. Total height of the package is about 80 feet.