22 January 1968: At 22:48:00.86 UTC (5:48:08 a.m., Eastern Standard Time) a Saturn IB rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 37B at the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, Cape Kennedy, Florida, carrying LM-1, an unmanned Apollo Program lunar lander, into a low-Earth orbit.
The purpose of the Apollo 5 mission was to test the Grumman-built Lunar Module in actual space flight conditions. Engines for both the descent and ascent stages had to be started in space, and be capable of restarts. Although the mission had some difficulties as a result of programming errors, it was successful and a second test flight with LM-2 was unecessary and was cancelled. LM-1’s orbit quickly decayed and it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and was destroyed.
AS-204 (also referred to as SA-204¹) had originally been the scheduled launch vehicle for the Apollo 1 manned orbital flight.
When a fire in the command module killed astronauts Virgil I. (“Gus”) Grissom, Edward H. White and Roger B. Chaffee, 27 January 1967, the rocket was undamaged. It was moved from Launch Complex 39 and reassembled at LC 37B for use as the launch vehicle for Apollo 5.
The Saturn IB was a two-stage, liquid-fueled, heavy launch vehicle. It consisted of a S-IB first stage and S-IVB second stage.
The S-IB first stage was built by the Chrysler Corporation Space Division at the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, Louisiana. It was powered by eight Rocketdyne H-1 engines, burning RP-1 and liquid oxygen. Eight Redstone rocket fuel tanks, with 4 containing the RP-1 fuel, and 4 filled with liquid oxygen, surrounded a Jupiter rocket fuel tank containing liquid oxygen. Total thrust of the S-IB stage was 1,666,460 pounds (7,417.783 kilonewtons) and it carried sufficient propellant for a maximum 4 minutes, 22.57 seconds of burn. The first stage of AS-204 was S-IB-4.
AS-204 reached Mach 1 at T + 0:59.8, passing 24,574 feet (7,490.16 meters). First stage separation occurred at T + 02:23.6, at an altitude of 194,228 feet (59,200.69 meters), with the vehicle accelerating through 7,563 feet per second (2,305.2 meters per second).
The McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co. S-IVB stage was built at Huntington Beach, California. It was powered by one Rocketdyne J-2 engine, fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The J-2 produced 229,714 pounds of thrust (1,021.819 kilonewtons), at high thrust, and 198,047 pounds (880.957 kilonewtons) at low thrust). The second stage carried enough fuel for 7 minutes, 49.50 seconds burn at high thrust. The AS-204 S-IVB engine cut off occurred at T + 09:53 at 536,166 feet (163,423.4 meters) with the vehicle travelling 25,659 feet per second (7,819.95 meters per second). Orbital insertion occurred at T + 00:10:03 at an altitude of 88 nautical miles (163 kilometers) with a velocity of 25,684 feet per second (7,828.48 meters per second). The orbit was elliptical with an apogee of 120 nautical miles (222 kilometers) and perigee of 88 nautical miles (163 kilometers). The orbital period was 88.39 minutes.
The Lunar Module separated from the S-IVB stage at T + 00:53:55.24. It was the allowed to cold-soak for about 3 hours. At T + 03:59.46, the LM’s descent engine was fired but aborted by the guidance computer after 4.0 seconds. A little over 3 hours later, at T + 06:10:42, the descent engine was fired a second time, and burned until T + 06:13:14.7.
The ascent engine fired at 06:12:14.7 while the descent and ascent stages were still joined. The engine burned 60.0 seconds. It was fired a second time at T + 07:44:13.
With the tests completed, the orbits of the separated LM stages were allowed to decay and re-enter the atmosphere.
The Saturn IB rocket stood 141 feet, 6 inches (43.13 meters) without payload. In the Apollo 5 configuration, the entire vehicle was 180 feet, 10.6 inches (55.133 meters) tall. It had a maximum diameter of 22.8 feet (6.949 meters), and the span across the first stage guide fins was 40.7 feet (12.405 meters). Its empty weight was 159,000 pounds (72,122 kilograms) and at liftoff, it weighed 1,296,000 pounds (587,856 kilograms). It was capable of launching a 46,000 pound (20,865 kilogram) payload to Earth orbit.
¹ One explanation, although unverified by TDiA, is that the AS-xxx designation applied to the launch vehicle and space vehicle, or “full stack,” while the SA-xxx designation applied to only the launch vehicle.
© 2018, Bryan R. Swopesby