Prelaunch Activities

Flight hardware for Saturn Apollo launch vehicle SA-512, ultimately destined for Apollo 17, began arriving at the Kennedy Space Center in October 1970, with the arrival of the S-II second stage. The S-IVB third stage arrived at KSC on 21 December 1970, while the S-IC first stage arrived on 11 May 1972 and the S-IU instrument unit the following month. The Command and Service Modules (CSM) arrived at KSC in March 1972 and were placed in the altitude chamber in the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building (MSOB) to begin both manned and unmanned systems tests. The Lunar Module arrived from Grumman in June and was placed in a separate altitude chamber to undergo its own series of tests, both manned and unmanned. Assembly of the Saturn V's S-IC first stage on Mobile Launcher 3 inside the VAB began on 15 May. Assembly of the stack continued with the S-II second stage, then the S-IVB third stage and finally the Instrument Unit, and was completed on 27 June.

The Lunar Roving Vehicle, LRV-3, arrived at KSC on 2 June 1972 and, after inspection in the MSOB, began its scheduled tests and mission simulations with Cernan and Schmitt that summer. Several changes had been implemented on this rover. An electrical cable had been installed to connect the new Surface Electrical Properties experiment to the LRV Signal Processing Unit (SPU) navigation computer to provide vehicle location data to the SEP. New fender extension stops were installed on all fenders, an index ring was added to the azimuth alignment dial on the Low-Gain Antenna, and there was a minor change to the aft pallet latch.

In July, the LM and CSM were removed from their test chambers. The landing gear was installed on the LM and a deployment test of the LRV from the LM was conducted on 10 August. LRV-3 was installed for flight on the descent stage of the LM on 13 August. The LM was encapsulated in the tapered Spacecraft Lunar Module Adapter (SLA) and the CSM assembled to the SLA the following week. On 24 August, the assembled spacecraft were moved to the VAB and mated to the launch vehicle stack. The topping off ceremony consisted of securing the Launch Escape System to the Command Module. Rollout of the space vehicle from the VAB to Pad 39A took place on 28 August and the first "plugs in'' test and Flight Readiness Test were conducted in October. These were followed by the Countdown Demonstration Test, in two phases. The first involved fueling the Saturn V and taking the countdown to 8.9 seconds - just prior to ignition - fully fueled. Then the launch vehicle was drained of its fuel, and a second test conducted with the prime crew aboard and simulated fueling of the Saturn V.

This magnificent launch vehicle, the largest and most powerful rocket in the world, and one so inherently complex, was made up of millions of parts. It was one of the greatest engineering achievements of the twentieth century - a monument to the indomitable will of man to achieve the near-impossible goal of reaching the Moon. SA-512 was the last Saturn V that would launch astronauts on that epic journey. The ground support team continued to monitor and run systems checks on the Saturn and CSM through November and the countdown for launch began at 08:30 EST on 30 November 1972. The launch of Apollo 17 was scheduled a few days

Apollo 17 was the only manned lunar mission launched at night due to the timing of the trans-lunar injection burn and the location of the Taurus-Littrow landing site. The launch was visible hundreds of kilometers away. (NASA)

later, on 6 December. Three days before launch, the LRV's batteries were installed in the vehicle, the battery monitor cable and equipment hooked up and the batteries load tested, as had been done on Apollo 15 and 16. The batteries were once more monitored up to eighteen hours before launch.

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