From Out of the Blue

The first Saturn rocket, S-1, was launched unpiloted from Cape Canaveral in Florida, on October 27, 1961. (Cape Canaveral was later renamed the John F. Kennedy Space Center in December 1963.) The Saturn S-1 was 162 feet (49 m) tall and weighed 460 tons (471,000 kg) when fully loaded with its payload of water. It supported a cluster of eight engines, nicknamed "Cluster's Last Stand." The outer four were gimbaled for guidance. The rocket generated 1.5 million pounds (6,700 kn) of thrust. Intended to verify the structure and aerodynamics of the vehicle, the launch was a complete success. During its eight-minute flight, S-1 reached an altitude of 85 miles (137 km), splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean 214 miles (344 km) downrange. Out from the blue sky and into the blackness of space, humankind extended its first tendril of cutting-edge technology toward planetary exploration. The Saturn design concept was approved; however, it was soon realized that greater power was needed. Engines capable of 1.5 million pounds (6,700 kn) of thrust each would be necessary to place a man on the Moon.

Von Braun and his team began work on the Saturn V, a gigantic three-stage version of the original S-1. The first stage consisted of a cluster of five engines called F-1 engines, the largest liquid-fuel rock et engines ever designed. The F-1 contained a high-speed fuel pump capable of delivering liquid oxygen and kerosene fuel at an astonishing rate of three tons (2.7 mt) per second. Cumulatively, this first stage yielded more than 7.5 million pounds (33,500 kn) of thrust. Generating more than 200,000 pounds (890 kn) of thrust each, the new J-2 engine powered the two upper stages, burning highly volatile liquid hydrogen, which required a storage temperature of -423° Fahrenheit (-253° C). In terms of mission success, it was the unsurpassed power and efficiency of the extremely cold liquid hydrogen that made it possible to launch a man to the Moon. The final design of the Saturn Vwas 281 feet (86 m) tall and 33 feet (10 m) in diameter, with the Apollo command module adding another 82 feet (25 m) to the top. It was a far greater beast than the rockets von Braun had first developed back at Kummersdorf and greater still than the first liquid-fueled device fired by American physicist Robert Goddard (1882-1945) back in 1926, which stood only 10 feet (3 m) tall.

The first test launch for the Saturn V occurred on November 9,

1967, and the roar of the engines rose to an earsplitting 120 decibels. There was no question as to whether the rocket lifted off, but whether Florida had sunk. The flight and its stages were a complete success, as was the recovery of the service module after it reentered Earth's atmosphere and splashed down intact, 26 miles (42 km) from the target landing zone.

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