Tag Archives: Apollo Program

13 April 1970, 03:07:53 UTC, T+55:54:53

Damage to Apollo 13's Service Module, photographed just after separation. (NASA)
Damage to Apollo 13’s Service Module, photographed just after separation 17 April 1970. (NASA Apollo 13 Image Library AS13-59-8500)

13 April 1970: At 10:07:53 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (mission elapsed time 55:54:53), while Apollo 13 and its crew, James A. Lovell, Jr., John L. Swigert and Fred W. Haise, were approximately 200,000 miles (322,000 kilometers) from Earth enroute to a landing at the Fra Mauro Highlands on The Moon, an internal explosion destroyed the Number 2 oxygen tank¹ in the spacecraft’s Service Module. The Number 1 tank was also damaged. Two of three fuel cells that supplied electrical power to the spacecraft failed.

Jack Swigert radioed Mission Control: “I believe we’ve had a problem here.” ²

Mission Control: “This is Houston. Say again, please.

Jim Lovell: “Houston, we’ve had a problem. Main B Bus undervolt.

With oxygen supplies depleted and power failing, the lunar landing mission had to be aborted, and the three-man crew evacuated the Command Module and took shelter in the Lunar Module.

This was a life-threatening event.

The story of Apollo 13 and its crew and their journey home is well known. The 1995 Ron Howard/Universal Pictures film, “Apollo 13,” takes some artistic license, but is generally accurate and realistic.

Mission Controller Gene Kranz is known for his statement, "Failure is not an option.) NASA Apollo 13 Image Library Image S70-35139)
Flight Director Gene Kranz (right of center, with his back to the camera) in Mission Control, Houston, Texas, a few minutes before the accident. (NASA Apollo 13 Image Library Image AP13-S70-35139)

Five years before Apollo 13 was launched, an engineering decision had been made to increase the spacecraft electrical system from 28 volts to 65 volts. This required that every electrical component on the vehicle had to be changed to accommodate the increased power. The after-accident investigation found that the team that designed the cooling fans for the oxygen tanks was never informed of the change.

During the actual flight, the wiring inside the tank heated to approximately 1,000 °F. (538 °C.), and in the pressurized pure oxygen, the insulation caught fire. The tank, originally installed on Apollo 10, had been dropped when it was removed for modification. It was repaired and later used on Apollo 13, however, it had been weakened by the damage. The extreme pressure caused by the heat of the burning electrical wiring in the containment caused the tank to rupture.

The damaged Service Module after being jettisoned from the Command Module, photographed from the Lunar Module. The Moon is visible between the two. (NASA)

¹ Serial number 10024X-TA0009

² The official mission transcript attributes this statement to Jim Lovell, however, in Lovell’s recollection, it was made by Swigert.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 April 1970, 19:13:00.65 UTC, Range Zero + 000:00:00.65

Apollo 13 (AS-508) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, 19:13:00 UTC, 11 April 1970. (NASA)
Apollo 13 (AS-508) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, 19:13:00 UTC, 11 April 1970. (NASA)

11 April 1970: At 2:13:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Apollo 13 was launched from Launch Complex 39A at  the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. This mission was planned to be the third manned lunar landing. The destination was the Fra Mauro Highlands. In command was Captain James A. Lovell, Jr., United States Navy. The Command Module Pilot was John L. “Jack” Swigert, Jr. (who was originally scheduled as the backup CSM pilot, but had replaced Lieutenant Commander T. Kenneth Mattingly II, USN, just three days before launch). and the Lunar Module Pilot was Fred W. Haise, Jr., A NASA astronaut (formerly a U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, test pilot and instructor).

Apollo 13 flight crew, left to right: James A. Lovell, Jr., John L. Swigert, Jr., Fred W. Haise, Jr. (NASA)

The crew change had been made because it was believed that Ken Mattingly had been exposed to measles and NASA administrators did not want to risk that he might become ill during the flight.

The F-1 engines of the S-IC first stage shut down at 2 minutes, 43.6 seconds. After being jettisoned, the first stage continued on a ballistic trajectory and fell into the Atlantic Ocean at 000:09:52.64, 355.3 nautical miles (408.9 statute miles/658.0 kilometers) from the launch site.

At T + 000:05:30.64, while accelerating toward Earth orbit, the center J-2 engine on the Saturn S-II second stage shut down 2 minutes, 12.36 seconds early, which required the other four engines to increase their burn by 34.53 seconds, and the S-IVB third stage engine had to burn 9 seconds seconds longer than planned to achieve the necessary velocity for orbital insertion. The second stage traveled 2,452.6 nautical miles (2,822.4 statute miles/4,542.2 kilometers) before hitting the Atlantic’s surface at T + 20 minutes, 58.1 seconds.

Following the Trans Lunar Injection maneuver, Apollo 13’s S-IVB third stage was intentionally crashed into the lunar surface. The impact took place at 00:09:41 UTC, 15 April. The stage was traveling at 5,600 miles per hour (9,012 kilometers per hour). The energy at impact was equivalent to the explosion 7.7 tons of TNT.

The Apollo 13 mission did not go as planned. An explosion inside the service module was a very near disaster, and the lunar landing had to be aborted. Returning the three astronauts safely to Earth became the primary task.

Damage to Apollo 13’s Service Module, photographed just after separation. (NASA)

The Saturn V rocket was a three-stage, liquid-fueled heavy launch vehicle. Fully assembled with the Apollo Command and Service Module, it stood 363 feet (110.642 meters) tall. The first and second stages were 33 feet (10.058 meters) in diameter. Fully loaded and fueled the rocket weighed 6,200,000 pounds (2,948,350 kilograms). It could lift a payload of 260,000 pounds (117,934 kilograms) to Low Earth Orbit.

Apollo 13/Saturn V (AS-508) during rollout, 16 December 1969. (NASA 69-HC-1269)

The first stage was designated S-IC. It was designed to lift the entire rocket to an altitude of 220,000 feet (67,056 meters) and accelerate to a speed of more than 5,100 miles per hour (8,280 kilometers per hour). The S-IC stage was built by Boeing at the Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, Louisiana. It was 138 feet (42.062 meters) tall and had an empty weight of 290,000 pounds (131,542 kilograms). Fully fueled with 203,400 gallons (770,000 liters) of RP-1 and 318,065 gallons (1,204,000 liters) of liquid oxygen, the stage weighed 5,100,000 pounds (2,131,322 kilograms). It was propelled by five Rocketdyne F-1 engines, producing 1,522,000 pounds of thrust, each, for a total of 7,610,000 pounds of thrust at Sea Level. These engines were ignited seven seconds prior to lift off and the outer four burned for 168 seconds. The center engine was shut down after 142 seconds to reduce the rate of acceleration. The F-1 engines were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation at Canoga Park, California.

Saturn V first stage Rocketdyne F-1 engines running, producing 7.5 million pounds of thrust. Ice falls from the rocket. The hold-down arms have not yet been released. (NASA)

The S-II second stage was built by North American Aviation at Seal Beach, California. It was 81 feet, 7 inches (24.87 meters) tall and had the same diameter as the first stage. The second stage weighed 80,000 pounds (36,000 kilograms) empty and 1,060,000 pounds loaded. The propellant for the S-II was liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The stage was powered by five Rocketdyne J-2 engines, also built at Canoga Park. Each engine produced 232,250 pounds of thrust, and combined, 1,161,250 pounds of thrust.

The Saturn V third stage was designated S-IVB. It was built by McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Company at Huntington Beach, California. The S-IVB was 58 feet, 7 inches (17.86 meters) tall with a diameter of 21 feet, 8 inches (6.604 meters). It had a dry weight of 23,000 pounds (10,000 kilograms) and fully fueled weighed 262,000 pounds. The third stage had one J-2 engine and also used liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for propellant. The S-IVB would place the Command and Service Module into Low Earth Orbit, then, when all was ready, the J-2 would be restarted for the Trans Lunar Injection.

Eighteen Saturn V rockets were built. They were the most powerful machines ever built by man.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 March 1969, 16:00:00 UTC, T Plus 000:00:00.26

Apollo 9 launches from Pad 39A, at 11:00:00 a.m., EST, 3 March 1969. (NASA)
Apollo 9 Saturn V (AS-504) launches from Pad 39A, at 11:00:00 a.m., EST, 3 March 1969. (NASA)

3 March 1969: At 11:00:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (16:00:00 UTC), Apollo 9 Saturn V (AS-504), the second manned Saturn V rocket, is launched from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Aboard are astronauts Colonel James Alton McDivitt, U.S. Air Force, the Spacecraft Commander; Colonel David Randolph Scott, U.S. Air Force, Command Module Pilot; and Mr. Russell Louis Schweickart (formerly an Air Force pilot), Lunar Module Pilot. McDivitt and Scott were on their second space flight. Rusty Schweickert was on his first.

The 10-day Earth orbital mission is used to test docking-undocking with the lunar module, and to certify the LM as flight-worthy. This was necessary before the program could proceed to the next phase: The Moon.

The flight crew of Apollo 9, James A. McDivitt, David R. Scott and Russell L. Schweickart. SA-504 is in the background. (NASA)
The flight crew of Apollo 9, James A. McDivitt, David R. Scott and Russell L. Schweickart. AS-504 is in the background. (NASA)

The Apollo Command/Service Module was built by the Space and Information Systems Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Downey, California.

The SPS engine was an AJ10-137, built by Aerojet General Corporation of Azusa, California. It burned a hypergolic fuel combination of Aerozine 50 and nitrogen tetraoxide, producing 20,500 pounds of thrust (91.19 kilonewtons). It was designed for a 750 second burn, or 50 restarts during a flight.

Astronaut David R. Scott stands in the open hatch of the Apollo Command Module “Gumdrop” in Earth Orbit, 6 March 1969. (Russell L. Schweickart/NASA)

The Apollo Lunar Module was built by Grumman Aerospace Corporation to carry two astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface, and return. There was a descent stage and ascent stage. The LM was intended only for operation in the vacuum of space, and was expended after use.

Three-view drawing of the Lunar Module with dimensions. (NASA)

The LM was 23 feet, 1 inches (7.036 meters) high with a maximum landing gear spread of 31 feet (9.449 meters). It weighed 33,500 pounds (15,195 kilograms). The spacecraft was designed to support the crew for 48 hours, though in later missions, this was extended to 75 hours.

The Descent Stage was powered by a single TRW LM Descent Engine. The LMDE used hypergoloc fuel and was throttleable. It produced from 1,050 pounds of thrust (4.67 kilonewtons) to 10,125 pounds (45.04 kilonewtons). The Ascent Stage was powered by a Bell Aerospace Lunar Module Ascent Engine. This also used hypergolic fuels. It produced 3,500 pounds of thrust (15.57 kilonewtons).

Apollo 9 Lunar Module “Spider” (Apollo LM-3) in Earth orbit, 7 March 1969. (Dave Scott/NASA)

The Saturn V rocket was a three-stage, liquid-fueled heavy launch vehicle. Fully assembled with the Apollo Command and Service Module, it stood 363 feet (110.642 meters) tall. The first and second stages were 33 feet (10.058 meters) in diameter. Fully loaded and fueled the rocket weighed 6,200,000 pounds (2,948,350 kilograms). It could lift a payload of 260,000 pounds (117,934 kilograms) to Low Earth Orbit.

The first stage was designated S-IC. It was designed to lift the entire rocket to an altitude of 220,000 feet (67,056 meters) and accelerate to a speed of more than 5,100 miles per hour (8,280 kilometers per hour). The S-IC stage was built by Boeing at the Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, Louisiana. It was 138 feet (42.062 meters) tall and had an empty weight of 290,000 pounds (131,542 kilograms). Fully fueled with 203,400 gallons (770,000 liters) of RP-1 and 318,065 gallons (1,204,000 liters) of liquid oxygen, the stage weighed 5,100,000 pounds (2,131,322 kilograms). It was propelled by five Rocketdyne F-1 engines, producing 1,522,000 pounds of thrust (6770.19 kilonewtons), each, for a total of 7,610,000 pounds of thrust at Sea Level (33,850.97 kilonewtons). These engines were ignited seven seconds prior to lift off and the outer four burned for 168 seconds. The center engine was shut down after 142 seconds to reduce the rate of acceleration. The F-1 engines were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation at Canoga Park, California.

The S-II second stage was built by North American Aviation at Seal Beach, California. It was 81 feet, 7 inches (24.87 meters) tall and had the same diameter as the first stage. The second stage weighed 80,000 pounds (36,000 kilograms) empty and 1,060,000 pounds loaded. The propellant for the S-II was liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The stage was powered by five Rocketdyne J-2 engines, also built at Canoga Park. Each engine produced 232,250 pounds of thrust (1,022.01 kilonewtons), and combined, 1,161,250 pounds of thrust (717.28 kilonewtons).

The Saturn V third stage was designated S-IVB. It was built by McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Company at Huntington Beach, California. The S-IVB was 58 feet, 7 inches (17.86 meters) tall with a diameter of 21 feet, 8 inches (6.604 meters). It had a dry weight of 23,000 pounds (10,000 kilograms) and fully fueled weighed 262,000 pounds. The third stage had one J-2 engine and also used liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for propellant. The S-IVB would place the Command and Service Module into Low Earth Orbit, then, when all was ready, the J-2 would be restarted for the Trans Lunar Injection.

Eighteen Saturn V rockets were built. They were the most powerful machines ever built by man.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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26 February 1966, 16:12:01 UTC, T plus 00:00:00.37

Apollo-Saturn IB AS-201 launch from Pad 34, Kennedy Space Center, 26 February 1966. (NASA)

26 February 1966: AS-201, a Saturn IB launch vehicle, carried the first complete Block 1 Apollo Command and Service Module on a 37 minute, 19.7 second unmanned suborbital test flight. Liftoff was at 11:12:01 a.m., EST, from Launch Complex 34 at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

saturn-ib-config
Department of Special Collections, M. Louis Salmon Library, University of Alabama, via heroicrelics.org

This flight was a demonstration of the combined Apollo Command Module and the Service Module. The second production Apollo capsule, CM-009, and the first production service module, SM-009, were launched by the first Saturn IB, SA-201.

The Apollo capsule reached a maximum altitude of 305.8 miles (492.1 kilometers) and landed near Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean, 5,267 miles (8,477 kilometers) from Cape Canaveral. (S. 8.18°, W 11.15°) Total duration of the flight was 37 minutes, 19.7 seconds.

The Apollo spacecraft was recovered by USS Boxer (LPH- 4).

The flight was successful, though several problems occurred. These were identified and corrected on the following production vehicles.

The Apollo command module of AS-201 was Spacecraft 009. It was a Block I capsule. The Apollo was a conical space capsule designed and built by North American Aviation to carry a crew of three on space missions of two weeks or longer.

The Saturn IB consisted of an S-IB first stage and an S-IVB second stage. The S-IB was built by Chrysler Corporation Space Division at the New Orleans Michoud Assembly Facility. It was powered by eight Rocketdyne H-1 engines, burning RP-1 and liquid oxygen. Eight Redstone rocket fuel tanks containing the RP-1 fuel surrounded a Jupiter rocket tank containing the liquid oxygen. The S-IB stage is 80 feet, 2 inches (24.435 meters) long, with a diameter of 21 feet, 5 inches (6.528 meters). The empty weight of this stage was 85,000 pounds (38,555 kilograms). Fully fueled, it weighed 498,099 pounds (225,934 kilograms). Total thrust of the S-IB stage was 1,600,000 pounds (7,117,155 Newtons) and it carried sufficient propellant for 2 minutes, 35 seconds burn time. This would lift the vehicle to an altitude of  37 nautical miles (69 kilometers).

The Douglas Aircraft Company-built S-IVB second stage was assembled at Huntington Beach, California. It was powered by one Rocketdyne J-2 engine, also fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The S-IVB is 60 feet, 1 inch (18.313 meters) long with a diameter of 21 feet, 8 inches (6.604 meters). The second stage had an empty weight of 28,400 pounds (12,882 kilograms) and gross weight was 261,900 pounds (118,796 kilograms). The single engine produced 232,250 pounds of thrust (1,033,100 Newtons) and and its burn time was 7 minutes, 55 seconds.

The AS-201 223 feet, 6 inches (68.123 meters). The total vehicle weight was 1,320,220 pounds (598,842 kilograms). It was capable of launching a 46,000 pound (20,865 kilogram) payload to Earth orbit.

After being recovered, the AS-201 Apollo command module was used for drop tests. It is at the Strategic Air and Space Museum, Ashland, Nebraska.

Apollo Command Module CM-009. (HrAtsuo)
Apollo Command Module CM-009. (HrAtsuo)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 February 1973, 02:33:12 UTC

Skylab in Earth orbit, as seen by the departing Skylab 4 mission crew, 8 February 1974. (NASA)
Skylab in Earth orbit, as seen by the departing Skylab 4 mission crew, 8 February 1974. (NASA)

8 February 1973: At 02:33:12 UTC, the Skylab 4/Apollo command module undocked from the Skylab space station in Earth orbit, after 83 days, 4 hours, 38 minutes, 12 seconds. After several orbits, the Apollo capsule reentered the atmosphere and landed in the Pacific Ocean southwest of San Diego California, at 15:16:53 UTC. The crew was recovered by USS Okinawa (LPH-3), a helicopter carrier. Today, the Apollo capsule is displayed at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

Skylab was an orbital laboratory built from a Saturn S-IVB third stage. It was launched from Cape Canaveral 14 May 1973 as part of a modified Saturn V rocket. The Skylab 4 crew was the third and final group of astronauts to live and the space station. (The mission insignia incorporates the numeral 3.)

Skylab’s orbit gradually decayed and it re-entered the atmosphere near Perth, Australia, 11 July 1979.

The Skylab 4 mission crew, left to right, Mission Commander Gerald P. Carr, Mission Scientist Edward G. Gibson and Pilot William R. Pogue. Pogue and Carr had joined NASA during the Apollo Program and were scheduled for Apollo 19, which was cancelled. This was the only space flight for these three astronauts. (NASA)
The Skylab 4 mission crew, left to right, Mission Commander Gerald P. Carr, Mission Scientist Edward G. Gibson and Pilot William R. Pogue. Pogue and Carr had joined NASA during the Apollo Program and were scheduled for Apollo 19, which was cancelled. This was the only space flight for these three astronauts. (NASA)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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