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Saturn V Rocket

The Saturn Family of Rockets

The United States launched 32 Saturn rockets between 1961 and 1975. The Saturn family of rockets included the Saturn I (10 launches), Saturn IB (9 launches), the three-stage Saturn V (12 launches), and the two-stage Saturn V (1 launch). Although some flights experienced significant problems, no Saturn rocket failed catastrophically in flight.

Saturn rockets were used in support of the Apollo lunar missions, the launch of the Skylab space station, Ferrying crews to and from Skylab, and to launch the American half of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.

Saturn V Flights

Saturn 5 Rocket Saturn 5 with Skylab

Saturn Flights

Thirteen Saturn V rockets flew between November, 1967 and May, 1973. Included were two unmanned test flights, ten manned Apollo missions, and the launch of Skylab.

Saturn V Mission Table
Launch
Vehicle
NameLaunch
Date
PayloadMission
SA-501 Apollo 4 9NOV1967 CSM-017 First test flight of Saturn V.
SA-502 Apollo 6 4APR1968 CM-020, SM-014 Test flight.
SA-503 Apollo 8 21DEC1968 CSM-103 Lunar orbit.
SA-504 Apollo 9 3MAR1969 CSM-104 Gumdrop, LM-3 Spider First manned test of Lunar Module.
SA-505 Apollo 1018MAY1969 CSM-106 Charlie Brown, LM-4 Snoopy Tested LM in Lunar orbit.
SA-506 Apollo 1116JUL1969 CSM-107 Columbia, LM-5 Eagle Lunar landing.
SA-507 Apollo 1214NOV1969 CSM-108 Yankee Clipper, LM-6 Intrepid Lunar landing.
SA-508 Apollo 1311APR1970 CSM-109 Odyssey, LM-7 Aquarius Aborted Lunar landing attempt.
SA-509 Apollo 1431JAN1971 CSM-110 Kitty Hawk, LM-8 Antares Lunar landing.
SA-510 Apollo 1526JUL1971 CSM-112 Endeavour, LM-10 Falcon Lunar landing.
SA-511 Apollo 1616APR1972 CSM-113 Casper, LM-11 Orion Lunar landing.
SA-512 Apollo 177DEC1972 CSM-114 America, LM-12 Challenger Lunar landing.
SA-513 Skylab 114MAY1973 Skylab orbital workshop Launch of space station.

Saturn V Major Components

Saturn 5 Rocket.

Saturn V Stages

The Saturn V rocket consisted of three propulsion stages, the S-IC first stage, the S-II second stage, and the S-IVB third stage. An instrument unit, located above the S-IVB, provided guidance and control for the rocket.

Mouse over listed items to see their location. Click for more information.


Saturn SI-C Rocket Stage

S-IC Stage

The Saturn V first stage, known as the S-IC stage, was built by the Boeing company. The stage was powered by five F-1 engines. The four outboard engines were hydraulically gimbaled. Propellants were RP-1 and liquid oxygen.

Four fairings, located near the base of the rocket, help smooth airflow over the outboard F-1 engines. Each fairing also covered a pair of solid-fueled retrorockets. The retrorockets were fired after main engine cutoff and assisted in separating the spent S-1C stage from the rest of the stack.

Photos of S-IC Stage

Saturn V S-IC Stage on display at the United States Space and Rocket Center. (Photos: Richard Kruse, 2008)

Saturn 5 SI-C Stage F-1 Engines Saturn 5 SI-C Stage F-1 Engines Saturn 5 SI-C Stage F-1 Engines Saturn 5 SI-C Stage F-1 Engines Saturn 5 SI-C Stage F-1 Engines Saturn 5 SI-C Stage F-1 Engines Saturn 5 SI-C Stage Fi1 Side Saturn 5 SI-C Stage Fin Saturn 5 SI-C Stage Tank Saturn 5 SI-C Stage Tank Saturn 5 SI-C Stage Tank Saturn 5 SI-C Stage Support Saturn 5 SI-C Stage Support Saturn 5 SI-C Stage Forward Access Saturn 5 SI-C Stage Forward Access Saturn 5 SI-C Stage Intertank Access Closeup Saturn 5 SI-C Stage Intertank Access Closeup

Saturn V S-IC on display at the Kennedy Space Center. (Photos: Kevin Reynolds, 2000)

Saturn S1C f-1 Saturn S1C f-1 side view Saturn S1C f-1 cluster Saturn S1C tank Saturn S1C aft view Saturn S1C f-1 aft view

Saturn Rocket interstage

S-IC / S-II Interstage

The interstage was a cylindrical structure mounted between the S-IC and S-II stages.

Eight solid fueled ullage motors, located around the perimeter of the interstage, fired after first stage separation. Thrust from the ullage motors forced propellants to settle in their tanks, ensuring pressure in the propellant feed lines. The motors fired for approximately four seconds.

Early flights included eight ullage motors. The number was reduced on later missions.

Around thirty seconds after first stage separation, explosive charges would be fired, separating the interstage section from the second stage.

Photo of an S-IC / S-II Interstage

What appears to be a Saturn V Interstage being used as a building at the United States Space and Rocket Center. (Photos: Richard Kruse, 2008)

S-II interstage photo

Saturn S-II Rocket Stage

S-II Stage

The Saturn S-II stage was manufactured by North American's Space Division. The stage was powered by five J-2 engines. The four outboard engines were hydraulically gimbaled.

A single propellant tank was divided into two compartments by a common bulkhead. The upper compartment would contain liquid hydrogen, while the lower compartment was for liquid oxygen.

The S-II stage fired for around six minutes.

Photos of S-II Stage

Saturn S-II Stage on display at the United States Space and Rocket Center. (Photos: Richard Kruse, 2008)

Saturn 5 S-II Stage J-2 Engines Saturn 5 S-II Stage J-2 Engines Saturn 5 S-II Stage Saturn 5 S-II Stage J-2 Engines Saturn 5 S-II Stage J-2 Engines Saturn 5 S-II Stage J-2 Engines Saturn 5 S-II Stage Saturn 5 S-II Stage Forward Saturn 5 S-II Stage Support Saturn 5 S-II Stage Support Saturn 5 S-II Stage Forward Saturn 5 S-II Stage 'United States' Saturn 5 S-II Stage 'United States' Saturn 5 S-II Stage Side Saturn 5 S-II Stage Fuel Line

Saturn V S-II on display at the Kennedy Space Center. (Photos: Kevin Reynolds, 2000)

Saturn II J-2 cluster Saturn II J-2 cluster bottom view Saturn II side Saturn II J-2 closeup Saturn II thrust structure Saturn II thrust structure detail Saturn II thrust structure components Saturn II front tank

Saturn S-II / S-IVB interstage

S-IVB aft Interstage

Shaped like a truncated cone, the S-IVB aft interstage connected the S-II stage with the S-IVB stage.

The interstage included four retrorockets. The forward firing, solid fueled rockets helped ensure a clean separation between the S-IVB and the S-II.

Photo of S-IVB aft Interstage

What appears to be an S-IVB aft Interstage being used as a building at the United States Space and Rocket Center. (Photos: Richard Kruse, 2008)

S-IVB interstage photo

Saturn IV-B Rocket Stage

S-IVB Stage

Developed by McDonnell Douglas, the S-IVB served as third stage for Saturn V rockets. Fueled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, the S-IVB was powered by a single, restartable, J-2 engine.

A single propellant tank was divided into two compartments by a common bulkhead. The upper compartment would contain liquid hydrogen, while the lower compartment was for liquid oxygen.

Two solid propellant rocket motors, mounted to the aft skirt, were fired during separation of the second and third stages. Thrust from the motors helped to settle fuel and oxidizer in the main propellant tanks, insuring a safe start for the J-2 engine.

On Lunar flights, the S-IVB stage would conduct two burns. First, to put the stage and Apollo spacecraft into a parking orbit. After a period of system checks, the S-IVB would be started a second time. Called a trans-lunar insertion burn, this firing sent the stack on its way to the Moon.

Auxiliary Propulsion System (APS)

The APS provided attitude control and ullage control for the third stage. The system included two pods, mounted 180 degrees apart on the aft skirt assembly. Each pod included three attitude control engines and a single ullage engine. Each pod included tanks for fuel, oxidizer, and high pressure helium.

The attitude control engines provide pitch, roll, and yaw control for the stage. The ullage engines would fire after the first J-2 engine burn to minimize unwanted propellant movement within the tanks. Later, the ullage engines would be used to settle the fuel and oxidizer prior to restarting the main engine.

S-IVB Stage Photos

Saturn S-IVB Stage on display at the United States Space and Rocket Center. (Photos: Richard Kruse, 2008)

Saturn 5 S-IVB J-2 Engine 1 Saturn 5 S-IVB J-2 Engine 2 Saturn 5 S-IVB J-2 Engine 3 Saturn 5 S-IVB J-2 Engine 4 Saturn 5 S-IVB J-2 Engine 5 Saturn 5 S-IVB Stage 'USA' Saturn 5 S-IVB Stage Saturn 5 S-IVB Stage Saturn 5 S-IVB Stage 'USA' Saturn 5 S-IVB Stage Aft Saturn 5 S-IVB Stage Forward

Saturn 5 S-IVB stage on display at the Kennedy Space Center. (Photos: Kevin Reynolds, 2000)

Saturn SIVB J-2 aft Saturn SIVB J-2 side Saturn SIVB J-2 back side Saturn SIVB front side Saturn SIVB H2 fuel tank
 

Saturn 5 Instrument Unit

Saturn Instrument Unit

Designed by NASA and built by IBM, the instrument unit (IU) was located between the S-IVB third stage and the SLA

Electronics and electrical equipment located within the IU provided guidance, tracking, and communication services for the rocket. Critical components were mounted on cold plates for cooling. An Environmental Control System (ECS) circulated liquid coolant through the cold plates.

On the ground, IU power was supplied by external sources via an umbilical connection. Shortly before launch, power would switch to internal batteries. Four 28v, 350 amp-hour, batteries were included.

The IU structure became a load bearing part of the rocket and supported the weight of the Apollo spacecraft above.

Instrument Unit Photos

Saturn V Instrument Unit on display at the United States Space and Rocket Center. (Photos: Richard Kruse, 2008)

Saturn 5 Instrument Unit 1 Saturn 5 Instrument Unit 2 Saturn 5 Instrument Unit 3 Saturn 5 Instrument Unit 4

Saturn V Instrument Unit on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center. (Photos: Richard Kruse, 2009)

Saturn 5 Instrument Unit at Udvar Hazy Saturn 5 Instrument Unit at Udvar Hazy
 

Saturn apacecraft launch adaptor

Spacecraft Lunar Module Adaptor (SLA)

The spacecraft lunar module adaptor, or SLA, was a tapered section connecting the Instrument Unit with the base of the Apollo service module. The SLA enclosed and protected the lunar module during launch.

Saturn SLA Photos

Saturn V SLA on display at the Kennedy Space Center. (Photos: Kevin Reynolds, 2000)

Saturn 5 SLA at Kennedy Space Center Saturn 5 SLA at Kennedy Space Center

Saturn SI-C Rocket Stage

Apollo Spacecraft

Apollo CSM and LM Illustration
Apollo CSM and LM

Apollo Command and Service Modules

The Apollo command and service module, or CSM, was launched on top of the spacecraft lunar module adaptor. The boost protective cover protected the command module during launch.

More information about the Apollo command module.

Apollo Lunar Modules

The Apollo lunar module, or LM, was stored within the spacecraft lunar module adaptor during launch.

More information about the Apollo lunar module.


Apollo BPC and LES

Boost Protective Cover and Launch Escape System

Located at the very top of the stack, the launch escape system, or LES, contained a solid rocket motor designed to pull the command module away from the rocket in event of a series emergency on the pad or during early phases of the launch.

A boost protective cover, or BPC, protected the Apollo command module during launch.

A smaller rocket motor is used to pull the LES and BPC away from the command module during normal flights. This occurs shortly after second stage ignition.

Apollo Launch Escape System (LES) and Boost protective Cover (BPC)Photos

Apollo BPC and LES on display at the United States Space and Rocket Center. (Photos: Richard Kruse, 2008)

Apollo LES and BPC Apollo LES and BPC

Saturn V at Space Center Houston

Saturn V rocket on display at Space Center Houston (Photos: Kevin Barrett, 2009)

Saturn 5 first stage at Houston Saturn 5 Rocket at Houston Saturn 5 J-2 engines Saturn 5 J-2 engines Saturn S-IC at Houston Saturn 5 Rocket at Houston S-IVB J-2 Engine Saturn 5 Rocket at Houston Saturn 5 Rocket at Houston Saturn 5 SLA at Houston S-IVB J-2 Engine S-IC F-1 engines S-IC F-1 engines Saturn 5 building at Houston

Saturn V Replica

Full size Saturn V replica at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. (Photos: Kevin Reynolds, 2001)

Saturn 5 overview Saturn 5 looking up S-II Stage Mockup S-IC Mockup S-1C base F-1 bottom F-1 mockup F-1 rocket mockup

Saturn Rockets Illustration


Size Comparison of Saturn Rockets
VersionFirst
Flight
1Saturn 1 Block 1 (SA-1) 1961Drawing of Saturn Rockets
2Saturn 1 Block 1 (SA-4) 1963
3Saturn 1 Block 2 (SA-5) 1964
4Saturn 1 Block 2 (SA-6) 1964
5Saturn 1B Apollo (SA-201) 1966
6Saturn 1B S-IVB (SA-203) 1966
7Saturn 1B (SA-204) 1968
8Saturn V Apollo (SA-501) 1967
9Saturn V Skylab (SA-513) 1973

References

Roger E. Bilstein, Stages to Saturn - A Technological History of the Apollo/Saturn Launch Vehicles, NASA SP-4206. 1980.

David S. Akens, Saturn - Illustrated Chronology, NASA MSFC MHR-5. 1971.

Charles D. Benson and William Barnaby Faherty, Moonport: - A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations, NASA SP-4204. 1978.

Saturn V News Reference, NASA. 1967.

Creative Commons License Images by Richard Kruse are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Additional Material About Saturn Rockets


Stages to Saturn

Stages to Saturn
A Technological History of the Apollo/Saturn Launch Vehicles
By Roger Bilstein.

Apollo Lunar Module book

Saturn 1/1B
The Complete Manufacturing and Test Records
By Alan Lawrie

Apollo Lunar Module book

The Saturn V F-1 Engine
Powering Apollo into History
By Anthony Young.

Apollo Lunar Module book

Spacecraft Films Wave 1 Megapack
(Apollo 11 / Apollo 8 / The Mighty Saturns / Project Gemini)

Apollo Lunar Module book

The Mighty Saturns
Saturn I and IB
Spacecraft Films.

Saturn 5 Model Kits


4D Saturn 5

4D Vision Saturn V Cutaway Model Spacecraft
by Daron Toys.

Estes flying model rocket Saturn 5

Saturn V Flying Model Rocket Kit
1/100th Scale Model By Estes.

Saturn 5 model kit

Rocket Hero Saturn V Rocket
1:144 Scale Model by Revell.

Airfix Saturn 5 Model

Apollo Saturn V Rocket Model Kit
1:144 scale model by Airfix.

Dragon Saturn 5 Model

Skylab Saturn 5 Model
1:400 scale model by Dragon.