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Saturn Booster Artifacts

Seven nearly-complete Saturn launch vehicles still exist. These are the last examples of the powerful machines that launched the Apollo lunar landing missions, surely humankind's most enduring 20th century achievement. 


Saturn V at Johnson Space Center, March 2003 (Click on photo for larger image)

Best known are the three Saturn V vehicles displayed horizontally in Florida, Alabama, and Texas. Only the Texas display represents a complete flight vehicle. Less well known are the three Saturn I and two Saturn IB rockets on display. Three of these once-famous "cluster boosters" are displayed vertically in Alabama, while the first stage of a fourth is horizontally displayed.  The only complete Saturn I/IB flight article is displayed horizontally in Florida. 

Only one Saturn V, at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, has a complete set of flight-ready hardware. Its first and third stages (S-1C-14 and S-IVB-513) had been assigned to the cancelled Apollo 18 mission. Its second stage (S-II-15) came from the SA-515 Skylab backup booster.

Apollo 18's second stage (S-II-14) is displayed with the restored Saturn V at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Saturn V Visitors Center in Florida. The KSC Saturn V also has the S-1C-T All Systems Test first stage, known as "T-Bird" - the very first S-1C assembled by MSFC beginning in 1963, and the S-IVB-514 third stage. The third stage was assigned to Apollo 19 when that mission was cancelled. 


S-1C-T "T-Bird" stage at KSC Saturn V Center

During the 1996-97 restoration of the KSC Saturn V, the National Air and Space Museum, "owner" of all of the surplus Saturn hardware, discovered the true origin of the KSC Saturn-V's S-IVB. It had long been thought to be the S-IVB-500F/200F third stage from the SA-500F Facilities Integration Vehicle that was stacked in the VAB and rolled out to pad 39A on May 25, 1966 in a test of the new launch complex. 

All three stages of the Saturn V displayed at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama are dynamic test stages used in test firings at nearby Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). This vehicle's S-II-F/D-500F second stage, originally part of the SA-500F vehicle, was modified for use in dynamic tests after the stage built for that purpose (S-II-S/D) was destroyed in a 1966 test stand accident. 


Saturn V at Huntsville (Click on photo for larger image)


S-II-F/D-500F facilities/dynamic test stage (left) at MSFC contrasts with S-II-14 flight stage at KSC.
Five LOX/LH2 J-2 Engines Powered S-II Stage (Click Images for Enlargements)

The last Saturn V first stage (S-1C-15), assigned to the backup Skylab booster, is displayed at Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans. One Saturn V third stage (S-IVB-515), refurbished as a backup Skylab station, is at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C .

s1c15as.jpg (24320 bytes)
S-1C-15 at Michoud on a foggy day in January, 2013.


S-IVB-500D dynamic test stage in Huntsville. Douglas Aircraft built S-IVB-200 single-start
version for Saturn IB and S-IVB-500 dual-start version for Saturn V. 

Less well known are three Saturn 1 and two Saturn 1B displays. Four of these are in Alabama, near their Huntsville Redstone Arsenal birthplace. A Saturn C-1 displayed in the Block 1 configuration stands in a rocket park on the grounds of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

SA-D at MSFC
Saturn C-1 Block 1 at MSFC (NASA) (Click on Photo for Enlargement)

This display is SA-D, the first Saturn C-1 dynamic test stage that was erected in the new 204 foot tall dynamic test stand at Marshall in June 1961. In the dynamic test stand, SA-D was subjected to the stresses and vibrations of a simulated flight.

Another Block I Saturn I booster, thought to be static booster test stage "SA-T", is on horizontal display within the Marshall Space Flight Center grounds adjacent to the original east static test tower.


SA-T at MSFC Static Test Tower in 2005 (Click for Enlargements)
SA-T Details Page

SA-T assembly was completed in January 1960. Between March 1960 and November 1962, SA-T performed 31 static test firings. SA-T was repeatedly modified between test runs to simulate the first four Saturn C-1 Block 1 boosters, which performed four suborbital flights (SA-1, SA-2, SA-3, and SA-4) with dummy upper stages from Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 34 in 1961-1963. In its final tests, SA-T was equipped with the 188,000 pound thrust H-1 engines that were used on Saturn C-1 Block II vehicles SA-5 through SA-10.

An oft-photographed Saturn C-1, displayed in Block II form with an S-IV second stage and a boilerplate Apollo spacecraft, stands at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. This is most likely SA-D5, the second dynamic test vehicle completed in 1962 to test Block II hardware. The displayed S-IV stage is probably S-IVD/F, the dynamic/facilities S-IV test stage built in 1962 and the only known surviving example of the Douglas S-IV stage. The SA-D5 vehicle was used for two sets of dynamic tests at MSFC in 1962-63. In between these tests, SA-D5 was shipped to Cape Canaveral for facility checkout of brand new Launch Complex 37B. Later, the SA-D5 first stage was reconfigured for use in the SA-200D Saturn IB dynamic test vehicle in January 1965. 


Block II Saturn C-1 at Huntsville (Click on Photo for Enlargement)

Saturn C-1 Block II vehicles performed six orbital flights (SA-5 to SA-10) during 1964-1965 from Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 37B. The final five, which carried Apollo boilerplate spacecraft, looked much like this display. None, however, used a paint scheme exactly like the Saturn 1 on display at Huntsville. 

The Alabama Saturn 1B stands at the Alabama Welcome Center near Ardmore, Alabama just south of the Tennessee state line on Interstate 65, about 30 minutes north of Huntsville. This display appears to consist of the S-1B-211 first stage from the never-flown SA-211 launch vehicle topped by a dummy or static test S-IVB stage of unknown origin topped by boilerplate Apollo hardware. 

For several years, this launcher was displayed, shorn of H-1 engines reassigned to NASA's Delta rocket fleet, on its side on the grounds of MSFC.  The actual flight-rated S-IVB-211 stage may have been with the booster at the time. 


SA-211 at MSFC in 1977 (Enterprise passing)( NASA)

In 1979, the SA-211 first stage was fitted with spare engines (including one inboard engine incorrectly positioned in an outboard position) and moved to the Welcome Center. There it was erected to stand vertically, becoming the world's tallest assembled rocket display. This interesting display is marred by an inverted S-IVB dummy stage (possibly the S-IVB battleship stage) with a substantially incorrect paint scheme, by the absence of an instrument unit (IU) atop the S-IVB stage, and by the imposition of a ladder to reach aircraft warning lights at the top of the launch escape tower. Over the years, the engine bells and base of SA-211 have been defaced with graffiti and covered by a substantial layer of bird droppings.


SA-211 at the Alabama Welcome Center in 2002 (Click for enlargement) 
SA-211 Details Page

S-IVB-211, the SA-211 second stage, was shorn of its J-2 engine and towed to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville where it was outfitted with a mockup Skylab section. There it remains today.  NASA quality inspection stamps from 1971 can still be found on avionics boxes at the base of this stage.


S-IVB-211 at U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL

SA-209, the backup manned launcher for the Skylab program, rests on its side at the KSC Visitors Center. Its Apollo command module and its spacecraft launch adapter are from the SA-500F Saturn V Facilities Integration Vehicle. Its service module is a mockup built in 1993 to replace the badly decayed SA-500F service module. 


SA-209 (Saturn 1B) at KSC Visitors Center circa 1998 (Click on photo for larger image)

All of these historic launch vehicles were displayed outdoors for decades. The KSC Saturn V was restored and moved into a purpose-built display building in 1997. The JSC and Huntsville Saturn Vs were undergoing restoration during 2005 and were subsequently moved into new indoor display facilities.  The remaining outdoor displays are still subject to accelerated deterioration, and several have suffered visible damage. Hurricane Katrina subjected the Michoud S-IC stage to winds in excess of 100 mph, for example. The long-term survival of these unique artifacts is far from certain.

For more Saturn artifact images, go to the Saturn Artifact Details page.

For a full accounting of Saturn 1, 1B, and V test and flight hardware, visit the Space Launch Report Saturn Vehicle History pages.

Page Updated January 10, 2013, 2012