Space Launch Report . . . Saturn Vehicle History
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NASA studied many Saturn booster concepts, but the agency only developed three during the 1960s. They were Saturn 1, Saturn 1B, and Saturn 5.

Saturn 1B 

SA-202, the second Saturn 1B (NASA) 

NASA ordered twelve complete Saturn 1B launch vehicles and parts of two others. Only nine were launched, however, and only seven actually put payloads into earth orbit. Five Saturn 1Bs supported project Apollo, three orbited Skylab crews, and one final Saturn boosted the Apollo/Soyuz Test Project mission.  

Saturn 1B Genesis 

NASA-MSFC conceived Saturn 1B (called Saturn C-1B at the time) in 1962, soon after it let contracts for the Saturn C-4 moon rocket. 

By September 1961, it had become apparent that both the F-1 and J-2 engine development programs were making rapid progress at Rocketdyne. During that month, NASA selected North American Aviation (NAA) to build the S-II stage for the Saturn C-3, which, at the time, was expected to be the Project Apollo moon rocket. Two F-1 engines would power the C-3 first stage, providing a total of 3,000,000 pounds of thrust. The Douglas S-IV, powered by six RL-10 LOX/LH2 engines of 15,000 pounds thrust each, would serve as the third stage. Four all-new LOX/LH2 J-2 engines would power the S-II stage. Each J-2 would provide 200,000 pounds of thrust.  

When NASA awarded the S-II contract, it told NAA to expect the design to change considerably in coming months. MSFC designers were already conceiving an all-new Saturn, the C-4, with an all-new third stage named S-IVB that would be powered by a single J-2 engine. This meant that the S-IV stage would be orphaned; only used by Saturn 1. 

In December 1961, NASA tapped Douglas to build S-IVB stages for Saturn C-4. At the same time, it selected Boeing to build the new first stage, called S-1B at the time. One month later, NASA added a fifth engine to the moon rocket's first and second stages, creating Saturn C-5.  

Soon, it became apparent that S-IVB could be tested atop an uprated Saturn 1 stage one or two years before Saturn C-5 was ready to fly. In July 1962, shortly after it choose the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous method for project Apollo, NASA announced that it would develop Saturn C-1B to test the S-IVB stage. The new rocket would be able to put 32,000 pounds into low earth orbit. It would be used to test manned Apollo spacecraft and Lunar Modules in earth orbit. It was also planned for use in a manned "Apollo B" circumlunar mission in 1966 or 1967.  

In October 1963, soon after Rocketdyne told NASA it could upgrade the Saturn 1B H-1 engines to 200,000 pounds of thrust, the agency cancelled four planned manned Saturn 1 Apollo missions. Now, Saturn 1B would launch the manned missions beginning in 1966, a year later than previously planned. The Saturn 1B program was accelerated to follow an "all-up" testing philosophy wherein all launches, including the very first, would use all flight stages and would carry flight-rated Apollo command and service modules.  

One reason mentioned for canceling Saturn 1 was that the now less-powerful booster would not be able to launch Apollo command/service modules (CSM) and Lunar Modules (LM) together, violating the new "all-up" philosophy. As it would turn out, however, Saturn 1B would never launch CSM and LM at the same time.  

The circumlunar mission plan also fell out of favor during 1963, apparently because too much added weight was required to equip a 200-series S-IVB for restarts. By early 1964, NASA planning called for two Saturn 1B suborbital launches with boilerplate Apollos in late 1965 followed by two unmanned orbital missions with boilerplate or flight-worthy Apollos and three to four manned earth orbital Apollo flights in 1967-68.  

s1b7-9-5-6s.jpg (25947 bytes)S-IB Stage Nos. 7,9,5, and 6 at Michoud in 1967.

Design and Construction 

S-IVB grew from 220 inches to 259 inches in diameter to match the S-1B stage diameter. At the same time, it shrank from 748 to 700 inches in length. The stage consisted of an almost spherical LOX tank topped by a cylindrical LH2 tank. Like S-IV, the S-IVB tanks shared a common bulkhead. A conical thrust structure transferred engine force to the outer tank walls. Stringer-type forward and aft skirts completed the stage. Douglas also manufactured a cylindrical aft S-IVB interstage for Saturn 1B and a truncated conical aft S-IVB interstage for Saturn V.  

Chrysler was contracted to build 12 S-1B stages at Michoud. The new stages weighed somewhat less than the S-1 Block 2 stage and were powered by H-1 engines uprated to 200,000 pounds of thrust each. Much of the weight savings came from an improved fin design, with eight swept-back fins replacing Saturn 1's four large and four small blockish fins. Eliminating the LH2 vent lines mounted on S-1 also saved weight. 

Chrysler began assembling the first S-1B stage, S-1B-1 in late 1963. Douglas began construction of a new S-IVB Vehicle Assembly and Checkout Building at Huntington Beach. The building had multiple vertical assembly towers where tanks, skirts, and thrust structures assembled at Huntington Beach would be mated with tank domes built at Santa Monica. Another vertical Assembly and Checkout Building (A45) was built at Sacramento. There, stages would be painted and checked before moving to one of two new test stands for full-scale engine testing. 

Testing: From Battleship to Launch Pad 

The first S-IVB stage was the S-IVB-S "Battleship" built using heavy gauge stainless steel. Douglas completed this stage in mid-1964. In September of that year, S-IVB-S was test fired for the first time at SACTO.  

In December 1964, NASA asked Douglas to halt assembly of the S-IVB-T "All Systems Test" stage because it had fallen behind schedule. Instead, the S-IVB-T tanks were used to build the planned S-IVB-F "Facilities Checkout" stage. This stage, which did not have a J-2 engine, would be used to test launch facility equipment at Cape Canaveral and KSC. Douglas shipped S-IVB-F to Sacramento for testing in March 1965 and to Cape Canaveral for tests in May 1965. There, it would be used to checkout LC34 beginning in August. In 1966, it moved to the new LC39 for mating to the SA-500F vehicle. It would also later be used to check out LC37B. 

Douglas also delivered the S-IVB-D "Dynamic" test stage to MSFC in 1965. There, it was mated to a first stage, possibly a purpose-built S-1B-D test stage, for dynamic testing in a test tower. During dynamic testing, flight-type forces were imposed on the entire vehicle. MSFC completed these tests in November or December of 1965.  

In the mean time, Chrysler and Douglas completed the first Saturn 1B flight stages. S-1B-1 was acceptance test fired at MSFC in mid-1965, then moved by barge to Cape Canaveral where it was mated with S-IVB-F at LC34 in August. S-IVB-201 began testing at SACTO in May, 1965. In late September, the stage was flown to Cape Canaveral where, on October 1, it was mated to S-1B-1 on LC34. S-IU-201 joined the stack on October 25 to create SA-201. On the next day, crews erected the Spacecraft Launch Adapter (SLA) and Apollo spacecraft 009.  

As envisioned, the first S-IVB flight stage, first Apollo spacecraft, and first Saturn 1B were nearly ready to fly "all up" two years before the first Saturn V.  

Saturn 1B/Centaur 

Even as it prepared to fly the first Saturn 1B, events were threatening the future of this potentially versatile launch vehicle. NASA had begun to study Saturn 1B/Centaur designs in 1964 for post-Apollo missions. The three-stage rocket would have been used for a proposed Voyager Mars landing mission in 1971, for advanced Mariner planetary missions, and for launching geosynchronous weather and communication satellites. The detailed design called for the 120 inch diameter Centaur stage to be totally enclosed by a 260 inch diameter, 57-foot-long shroud that would also have enclosed the payload. Saturn 1B/Centaur would have been able to propel 33,500 pounds to low earth orbit, 13,400 pounds to geosynchronous transfer orbit, or 7,000 pounds to earth escape velocity. 

Saturn 1B and 1B-Centaur (on right)  

NASA also planned to continue building post-Apollo Saturn 1B vehicles in support of various manned and unmanned missions, including a manned earth orbiting space station that was called, at various times, Manned Orbiting Research Laboratory (MORL), Apollo-X, and AES.  

In mid-1965, NASA planned to request funds for the first of 18 post-Apollo Saturn 1Bs for AES and 6 Saturn 1B/Centaurs for planetary exploration. Funding would be needed in the FY66 budget because there was an 18-20 month lead-time for S-1B stages at Michoud where the last Apollo S-1B stage was scheduled for completion in late 1967.  

NASA faced unprecedented budget pressure in 1965, however, when the U.S. stumbled into Vietnam.  The Vietnam "police action" quickly turned into a full-blown, stalemated war, blowing a multi-billion dollar hole in the U.S. Federal budget.    

Money for Saturn 1B/Centaur disappeared.  NASA lost what would have been its workhorse booster. In November 1965, NASA, citing Voyager weight growth as one reason, cancelled Saturn 1B/Centaur. Mars Voyager was pushed back two years to 1973. NASA planned to use a single Saturn V to launch both Voyager spacecraft, an orbiter and a lander, together, but this increased Mars Voyager costs so much that two months later the program was cancelled.  

In mid-1965, Congress also scaled back funding for the Apollo Applications programs. NASA still hoped to launch 6-12 Saturn 1B vehicles per year after 1968 to support of the post-Apollo manned space program, but funds had only been appropriated for 12 Saturn 1Bs for the Apollo program. Chrysler would finish production in 1968, and funding would be needed before the end of 1966 to keep the production line from shutting down.  

Saturn 1B versus Titan 3C 

The U.S. Air Force Titan 3C program took flight during 1965, adding more pressure to Saturn 1B. The Air Force claimed that each Titan 3C launch would only cost $9 million, compared to $18 million for Saturn 1B. This was an apples-and-oranges comparison, however, because Saturn 1B was a man-rated booster with more payload capability. Saturn launch costs could, conceivably, be reduced for unmanned missions.  

In addition, as time would show, Saturn was more robust than Titan, with built-in abort capabilities that Titan lacked. NASA excluded Titan from its long-range mission planning in May 1965. Its judgment seemed validated when two Titan 3C missions failed by year's end. 

Titan would not go away during the McNamara era, however, and the Air Force would continue to press Congress to force NASA to use its booster. 

Saturn 1B Apollo Missions 

SA-201 (NASA) 

SA-201 lifted off from SLC34 on 2/26/1966. NASA called the successful 39 minute suborbital mission Apollo-Saturn (AS) 201. The S-IVB J-2 engine and the Apollo Service Module (SM) engine both worked on this, their first flight. Saturn's S-IVB stage released the Apollo spacecraft into an Earth facing orientation near the 488 kilometer apogee.  Apollo's SM engine then performed two burns to push the spacecraft back into the atmosphere at a peak velocity of 8,537 meters per second in order to test the Command Module (CM) heat shield.  The CM splashed down 8,472 km downrange, east of Ascension Island.  

Problems with CSM-011 delayed the next planned Saturn 1B mission, which used booster SA-202, so SA-203 was launch first. SA-203, flying the AS-203 mission, was an extended orbital test of the S-IVB stage. An aerodynamic shroud topped off the SLA in place of a CSM.  

Crews stacked SA-203 on refurbished LC37B beginning in April. By June, SA-203 was joined by SA-202, standing on nearby LC34, and, several miles to the north, SA-500F, the Saturn V facilities checkout vehicle, standing on LC39A. SA-203 lifted off on July 5 and performed a perfect four-orbit mission in a 185 x 189 km orbit.  

The AS-202 mission, another successful suborbital flight, finally took place on August 25. This time, the CSM apogee was 1,143 km and the spacecraft nearly completed one orbit before it splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.  

NASA declared Apollo-Saturn 1B ready for manned flight. At LC34, SA-204 was prepared for the first manned Apollo mission, which was to be called AS-204. CSM-012 was stacked and tested. On January 27, 1967, however, a flash fire in the capsule during the final countdown demonstration test killed astronauts Grissom, White, and Chaffee.  After the accident, the mission was unofficially renamed "Apollo 1".  

The disaster halted Apollo manned flights for 21 months and stunted the Saturn 1B program. The SA-204 vehicle was destacked and stored.  So was the SA-206 vehicle, which had been stacked on LC37B only four days before the fire in preparation for its AS-206 mission to orbit LM-1.  After the fire, NASA reassigned the rockets.  SA-206 returned to storage while SA-204 was eventually restacked on LC37B, where it stood for months waiting for delayed LM-1. The rocket did not fly until January 22, 1968, when it boosted LM-1 into orbit beneath another aerodynamically-shrouded SLA on the Apollo 5 mission. SA-204 injected LM-1 into an initial 222 x 163 km orbit. The LM descent engine fired for the first time, followed by the ascent engine. After the ascent burn, LM-1 was left in a 961 x 172 km orbit. The entire mission was complete after four orbits.  

Before SA-204 flew, the first "all-up" Saturn V soared on the successful Apollo 4 mission. The second Saturn V flew several weeks after SA-204 on the unmanned Apollo 6 mission.  

SA-205 boosts Apollo 7 (NASA) 

SA-205 finally carried the first manned Apollo 7 mission aloft from LC34 on 10/11/1968. Onlookers did not know at the time that SA-205 would be the last Saturn launched from Cape Canaveral.  

The rocket boosted CSM-101 into a 140 x 183 mi orbit. Astronauts Walter Schirra, Don Eisele, and Walter Cunningham orbited the earth in Apollo 7 163 times during a 10 day 20 hour mission before landing near Bermuda in the Atlantic.  

Saturn Production Halted 

Two months before Apollo 7, NASA cancelled production of both Saturn 1B and Saturn V. The agency had managed to get funding to start four more Saturn 1B rockets the previous year for the Apollo Applications program, but now it ordered Chrysler to halt production of the SA-213 and SA-214 first stages and it cancelled SA-215 and SA-216 outright.  

The tanks and engines of SA-213/4 had been completed, but the stages had not yet been clustered at Michoud. The hardware was stored in the hope that funding might reappear in 1969. The S-1 and S-IVB stages for SA-207 through SA-212 were also put into long-term storage at Michoud and at Douglas. Months before the first manned lunar landing, thousands of Chrysler and Douglas workers began to receive pink slips.  

After the budget cuts, Apollo Applications was expected to use five of the seven completed Saturn 1B boosters. The first launch in 1972 would orbit a "wet" workshop. Three subsequent boosters would carry crews to the workshop for stays of up to 56 days. A final Saturn 1B would be unmanned. It would orbit the Apollo Telescope Mount, which would dock with and be mated to the workshop. 

By mid-1969, Apollo Applications had become a "dry" workshop that would be launched by Saturn V SA-514. S-IVB-212, the second stage of SA-212, was assigned for conversion from a flight stage to a dry workshop.  

After the Apollo 7 mission, Launch Complexes 34 and 37 were put on standby status, in anticipation of use during the Apollo Applications program. Less than seven years had passed since the first Saturn 1 launch. No one knew it at the time, but the pads had seen their last Saturn launch. NASA eventually decided to launch the Saturn 1B Apollo Applications missions, now called Skylab, from LC39. Pads 34 and 37B, which had cost tens of millions to build but had only hosted 15 launches altogether, were mothballed on November 19, 1971 and scrapped beginning in April 1972.  

The SA-213 and SA-214 booster stages were eventually assembled and, in 1970, shipped to MSFC for long-term storage along with the SA-212 booster. In the mid-1970s, NASA stripped the H-1 engines from the three boosters for reassignment to the Delta program. The rest of the hardware was subsequently scrapped.


Saturn 1B Apollo Test Summary 


Design: S-1B powered by 8x188,000 lb thrust Rocketdyne H-1 engines. Built by Chrysler at Michoud Assembly Facility. S-1B had eight swept-back fins and circular aft thrust structure. Live S-IVB stage powered by 1x200,000 lb thrust Rocketdyne LOX/LH2 J-2 engine mounted on conical thrust structure. S-IVB and interstage built by Douglas Aircraft. 

S-IVB Test Stages: 

S-IVB-S: Battleship static test article with heavier gauge stainless steel tanks. Used for early tests of propellant and propulsion systems at Sacramento Test Operations (SACTO). Assembly completed mid 1964. Static testing began September 1964 at SACTO test stand.  

S-IVB-T: Flight-weight "all systems" static test article with aluminum tanks. Cancelled while in production December 1964. Tanks converted to "F" facilities check out stage (see below). Would have been used to test propellant and propulsion systems.  

S-IVB-D: Dynamic test article used for structural tests at MSFC, possibly stacked as an entire dynamic test vehicle with an S-1B-D stage. Assembly probably completed in 1964. At MSFC in 1965.  

S-IVB-F: Facilities test article without J-2 engine used to check out LC34 and LC37B at Cape Canaveral in 1965 and LC39 at KSC in late 1965 to 1966. Assembly completed early 1965. Delivered to Sacramento for testing March 1965, then to Cape in May 1965. Converted for SA-500F tests Fall 1965. 

Flight Tests:  

SA-201: (S-1B-1/S-IVB-201/S-IU-201) Launched 2/26/1966 with CSM-009 from Canaveral LC34 on suborbital AS-201 mission. S-1B-1 delivered to Cape August 1965. S-IVB-201 delivered September 1965. S-IU-201 delivered October 1965. S-IVB-201 acceptance tests at SACTO began May 1965. 

SA-203: (S-1B-3/S-IVB-203/S-IU-203) Launched 7/5/1966 from Canaveral LC37B on S-IVB AS-203 orbital test mission. All stages delivered to Cape April 1966. 

SA-202: (S-1B-2/S-IVB-202/S-IU-202) Launched 8/25/1966 from Canaveral LC34 with CSM-011 on suborbital AS-202 test mission. S-1B-2 and S-IU-202 delivered Cape February 1966. S-IVB-202 delivered Cape January 1966.  

SA-204: (S-1B-4/S-IVB-204/S-IU-204) Launched 1/22/1968 from Canaveral LC37B on Apollo 5 orbital mission with LM-1. All stages delivered to Cape August 1966. SA-204 had been stacked on LC34 with CSM-012 for manned AS-204 mission, but CM fire killed crew (Grissom, White, Chaffee) 1/27/1967. Never-flown AS-204 subsequently, and unofficially, renamed Apollo 1 to honor astronauts. SA-204 stood on LC37B for months waiting for delayed LM-1.  

SA-205: (S-1B-5/S-IVB-205/S-IU-205) Launched 10/11/1968 from Canaveral LC 34 with CSM-101 on manned Apollo 7 orbital mission. First manned Saturn flight and first manned Apollo mission. S-1B-5 delivered to Cape March 1968. S-IVB-205 and S-IU-205 delivered April 1968.  


Post-Apollo Missions 

KSC-75P-0006SA-210 Stacked in VAB for ASTP Mission (NASA) 

SA-206 though SA-210, the Saturn 1B vehicles for Skylab and ASTP, were pulled from storage beginning in 1971. They were refurbished and retested for flight in succession before being shipped to KSC. A new "milkstool" launch platform was built on one of the Saturn V mobile launch platforms for Saturn 1B. The milkstool allowed the Saturn V mobile launch tower gantry arms to reach Saturn 1B’s CSM, SLA, and S-IVB stages without modification.


KSC-75PC-0332SA-210 on "Milkstool" before ASTP mission (NASA) 

SA-209 served as a backup launch vehicle during the manned Skylab missions and, later, as a backup to the SA-210 ASTP booster. SA-210, the last Saturn, launched CSM-111 on the ASTP mission from KSC LC39B on July 15, 1975, SA-210.  

SA-209 was put on display at the KSC Visitor’s Center, where it can still be seen today. The SA-211 first stage was displayed at MSFC for several years before being erected at the Alabama Visitors Center with a dummy S-IVB and Apollo payload. S-IVB-211 is believed to be at the Huntsville museum. S-1B-212, 213, and 214, the last Saturn stages to be completed, were scrapped at MSFC during the 1970s or early 1980s. 

Without a Saturn booster, NASA was forced to develop an entirely new launcher, Titan 3E/Centaur, for the Viking and Voyager missions during the 1970s. Today, NASA is paying Russia to launch much of the International Space Station on Proton boosters. Proton, a Saturn 1B contemporary with almost identical performance, has flown more than 265 times over the years. Today, the rocket is in demand as a commercial launcher.  


Saturn 1B Post-Apollo Flight Summary  


SA-206: (S-1B-6/S-IVB-206/S-IU-206) Launched 5/25/1973 from KSC LC39B with CSM-116 on Skylab-2 orbital mission. Stages originally manufactured in 1966, delivered KSC December 1966, erected on LC37B on January 23, 1967 for AS-206 mission with LM-1, then destacked after AS-204 fire resulted in LM-1 reassignment to SA-204.  Returned to Michoud (S-1B-6), Huntington Beach (S-IVB-6) and Huntsville (S-IU-6) during March/April 1967 for storage.  Refurbished and tested in 1971-72. S-IU-206 delivered KSC June 1971. S-1B and S-IVB delivered August 1972.  

SA-207: (S-1B-7/S-IVB-207/S-IU-207) Launched 7/23/1973 from KSC LC39B with CSM-117 on Skylab-3 orbital mission. Stages originally manufactured in 1966 and stored, then refurbished and tested in 1971-72. S-IU-207 delivered KSC August 1971. S-1B and S-IVB delivered March and June 1973, respectively. 

SA-208: (S-1B-8/S-IVB-208/S-IU-208) Launched 11/16/1973 from KSC LC39B with CSM-118 on Skylab-4 orbital mission. Stages originally manufactured in 1966-67 and stored, then refurbished and tested in 1971-72. S-IU-208 delivered KSC November 1971. S-1B and S-IVB delivered June and May 1973, respectively. 

SA-210: (S-1B-10/S-IVB-210/S-IU-210) Launched 7/15/1975 from KSC LC39B with CSM-111 on ASTP orbital mission. Stages originally manufactured in 1967 and stored, then refurbished and tested in 1971-72. S-IU-210 delivered KSC November 1972. S-1B delivered April 1974. S-IVB delivered May 1974. 


Saturn 1B Hardware Not Flown 


SA-209: (S-1B-9/S-IVB-209/S-IU-209) Stacked on MLP ready to fly as Skylab backup with CSM-119 during Skylab manned missions. Stages originally manufactured in 1967 and stored, then refurbished and tested in 1971-72. S-IU-209 delivered KSC January 1972. S-1B delivered August 1973. S-IVB delivered June 1973. Also served as ASTP backup. [SA-209 now on display at KSC Visitor's Center] 

SA-211: (S-1B-11/S-IVB-211/S-IU-211) Flight not assigned. Hardware completed in 1967 and stored. In 1975, S-1B-11 was at MAF, S-IVB-211 was at KSC, and S-IU-211 was at MSFC. [S-1B-11 now displayed vertically at Alabama Welcome Center with dummy or test S-IV stage and dummy or test Apollo hardware. S-IVB-211believed to be displayed at U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.] 

SA-212: (S-1B-12/S-IVB-212/S-IU-212) Flight not assigned. Hardware completed in 1967 and stored at MAF. Shipped to MSFC in 1970. S-IVB-212/S-IU-212 subsequently pulled and refurbished as Skylab station in 1971-72. [S-1B-12 disposition uncertain, but presumed scrapped at MSFC in late 1970s.] 

SA-213: (S-1B-13) Flight not assigned. S-1B-13 tanks were built and engines procured, but NASA halted clustering in August 1968. Stage later assembled and shipped to MSFC in 1970. Hardware later scrapped. S-IVB never ordered.  

SA-214: (S-1B-14) Flight not assigned. S-1B-14 tanks were built and engines procured, but NASA halted clustering in August 1968. Stage later assembled and shipped to MSFC in 1970. Hardware later scrapped. S-IVB never ordered. 

SA-215: (S-1B-15) Cancelled by NASA in August 1968 just before initial procurement would have begun. 

SA-216: (S-1B-16) Cancelled by NASA in August 1968 just before initial procurement would have begun. 


Last update December 6, 2012