Tag Archives: Douglas Missile & Space Division

26 February 1966, 16:12:01.37 UTC (T plus 0.37)

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

26 February 1966: AS-201, the first Apollo/Saturn IB, was launched, carrying the first complete Block 1 Apollo Command and Service Module on an unmanned suborbital test flight. The launch took place at Launch Complex 34, Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, Cape Kennedy, Florida.

An illustration of an Apollo/Saturn IB space vehicle, with approximate dimensions. (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-201.¹ (When combined, the capsule and service module are referred to as the CSM.)

The command to ignite the eight H-1 first stage engines was sent from the Mission Control Room at T-3.038 (16:11:56.962 UTC).² The engines ignited at T-2.45 and began to build thrust. First motion occurred at T+0.11.

Liftoff ³ was at 16:12:01.37 UTC, T+0.37. AS-201 climbed vertically for 11.2 seconds before beginning a pitch and roll maneuver which carried the space vehicle to its planned trajectory. Control of the mission was shifted from the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station to Mission Control at the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas. Flight Director Glynn S. Lunney was now in charge.

AS-201 reached Mach 1 at T+65.7. The vehicle experienced its maximum dynamic pressure (max q) at T+77.7.

Maximum acceleration was reached at T+141.5, just as the first stage engines were shut down.

The S-IB first stage inner engines cutoff (IECO) occurred at T+141.5, and outer engine cutoff (OECO), at T+146.9. The vehicle had reached an altitude of 31.4 nautical miles (36.1 statute miles/58.2 kilometers) and was 33.9 nautical miles (39.0 statute miles/62.8 kilometers) downrange. It was traveling at 7,499.66 feet per second (5,113.4 miles per hour/8,229.2 kilometers per hour). The first stage was jettisoned.

Apollo/Saturn IB AS-201 first stage separation. (NASA)

The S-IVB second stage engine ignition occurred at T+149.3. The Launch Escape System (LES) was jettisoned at T+172.6. The vehicle continued to accelerate until its J-2 engine cut off at T+602.9. The vehicle had now reached an altitude of 141.2 nautical miles (162.5 statute miles/261.5 kilometers) and was 857.9 nautical miles (987.3 statute miles/1,588.8 kilometers) downrange, traveling 22,769.23 feet per second (15,524.5 miles per hour/24,984.2 kilometers per hour). The S-IVB and Command and Service Module separated at T+844.9.

The Apollo CSM reached a maximum altitude (apogee) of 265.7 nautical miles (305.8 miles/492.1 kilometers) at T+1020.0. As it began to descend, the Service Module’s Service Propulsion Subsystem (SPS) was tested. The SPS was powered by a non-throttleable, restartable, AJ10-137 rocket engine, built by Aerojet General Corporation of Azusa, California. This engine was fueled by Aerozine 50, a hypergolic 50:50 mixture of Unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) and nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4). It produced 20,500 pounds of thrust (91.19 kilonewtons) in vacuum. It was designed for a 750 second burn, or 50 restarts during a flight. The first burn was from T+1211.2 –1395.2 (184 seconds), and the second, from T+1410.7–1420.7 (10 seconds). The engine did not operate exactly as planned during the flight. Thrust was erratic, possibly as a result of helium ingestion into the engine oxidizer feed line.

CM/SM separation occurred at T+1455.0, at an altitude of 138.9 nautical miles (159.8 statute miles/257.2 kilometers) and 3,660 nautical miles (4,211 statute miles/6,778 kilometers) down range. The command module was now traveling at a speed of  25968 fps (17,705 miles per hour/28,494 kilometers per hour). During reentry, the maximum deceleration was 14.3 gs. The Apollo capsule landed near Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean, 4,577 nautical miles (5,267 statute miles/8,477 kilometers) from Cape Canaveral, and about 45 miles from the primary recovery ship. (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), a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, and taken to Norfolk, Virginia.

Mission AS-201 was successful, though several problems occurred during the flight. These were identified and corrected on the following production vehicles.

Apollo/Saturn IB AS-201 at Launch Complex 34, 4 February 1966. (NASA S-66-21307)

Apollo/Saturn IB AS-201 was approximately 223 feet, 4 inches (68.072 meters) tall. The total vehicle weight was 1,320,220 pounds (598,842 kilograms).

The Apollo command module of AS-201 was Spacecraft 009 (CM-009), a Block I capsule. (Various crew equipment had not been installed for this test flight.) The Apollo was a conical space capsule designed and built by North American Aviation’s Space and Information Systems Division in Downey, California, to carry a crew of three astronauts on space missions of two weeks or longer. The capsule had a length of 11 feet, 1.5 inches (3.3909 meters) and maximum diameter of 12 feet, 10 inches (3.9116 meters). The service module, also built by North American Aviation, was 12 feet, 11 inches (3.937 meters) long and 12 feet, 10 inches (3.9116 meters) in diameter.

Construction of CM-009 began in 1963. It was accepted 20 October 1965 and shipped to the Kennedy Space Center, arriving at the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building (MSOB) on 25 October. The CSM was stacked on the vehicle 26 December 1965. The Launch Escape System was added 24 January 1966.

Between the CSM and the Saturn IB was the Spacecraft-Lunar Module Adapter (SLA) structure, also built by NAA. This conical section had a length of 28 feet, 0 inches (8.5344 meters) and tapered from a diameter of 12 feet, 10 inches (3.9116 meters) to 21 feet, 8 inches (6.604 meters). No Lunar Module was carried on this flight.

Saturn IB SA-201 at Launch Complex 34. The launch vehicle consists of an S-IB first stage, S-IVB second stage, and an Instrumentation Unit. (NASA 65-H-2067)

The Saturn IB two-stage launch vehicle was numbered SA-201. It consisted of an S-IB first stage, an S-IVB second stage, an Instrumentation Unit, and various fairings and adapters. It was capable of launching a 46,000 pound (20,865 kilogram) payload to Earth orbit.

The Saturn IB SA-201 S-IB first stage is lifted onto Launch Pad 34, 19 August 1965. Several of the stage’s eight stabilizing fins are not present during this maneuver. (NASA KSC-65C-5347)

The S-IB first stage was built by Chrysler Corporation Space Division at the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, Louisiana. The S-IB was 80 feet, 2 inches (24.435 meters) long, with a diameter of 21 feet, 5.0 inches (6.528 meters). The empty weight of this stage was 92,500 pounds (41,957 kilograms). Eight Redstone rocket fuel tanks containing the RP-1 fuel (a highly-refined kerosene) surrounded a Jupiter rocket tank containing the liquid oxygen oxidizer (LOX). It had a propellant capacity of 880,500 pounds (399,388 kilograms). The stage had eight stabilizing fins.

The S-IB was powered by eight Rocketdyne H-1 engines. The H-1s were built by the North American Aviation Rocketdyne Division, Canoga Park, California. Total thrust of the S-IB stage was 1,666,460 pounds (7,417.783 kilonewtons) at Sea Level,⁴ and it carried sufficient propellant for a maximum 4 minutes, 22.57 seconds of burn. This could lift the vehicle to an altitude of 37 nautical miles (69 kilometers).

A Saturn IB S-IVB second stage with its Rocketdyne J-2 engine and adapter section. (This S-IVB was part of Saturn IB SA-206.) (NASA 67-HC-26)

The S-IVB second stage was assembled at the Douglas Aircraft Company Missile & Space Division, Huntington Beach, California. The S-IVB was 61 feet, 4.555 inches (18.708497 meters) long, with a maximum diameter of 21 feet, 8.0 inches (6.604 meters). The second stage had an empty weight of 23,400 pounds (10,614 kilograms), and fuel capacity of 228,500 pounds (103,646 kilograms).

It was powered by a single Rocketdyne J-2 engine, fueled by liquid hydrogen (LH2) and LOX. 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 Instrumentation Unit, containing the Saturn’s guidance systems and attached to the top of the S-IVB stage, was designed by NASA’s Manned Space Flight Center (MSFC), and built by IBM at the Space Systems Center, Huntsville, Alabama. It was 3 feet, 0 inches (0.9 meters) tall with a diameter of 22 feet, 0 inches (6.7056 meters).

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 at the Strategic Air and Space Museum, Ashland, Nebraska. (HrAtsuo)

¹ NASA vehicle designations can sometimes be confusing. In this case, “AS-201” designates the all-up Apollo/Saturn IB Space Vehicle, number 201, including the first and second stages, the instrument package, lunar module adapter, service module, command module CM-009, and Launch Escape System (LES). “Spacecraft SC-009” refers to the LES, the CSM and the SLA. The “Saturn IB SA-201,” refers to just the two-stage launch vehicle, number 201: the S-IB first stage, S-IVB second stage, and the Instrumentation Unit. It does not include the payload.

² Range Zero, T-0 (“tee minus zero”), is the last full second before liftoff. This is the time reference for all mission events. In this case, T-0 was 16:12:01.000 UTC (11:12:01 a.m., Eastern Standard Time).

³ Lift off is defined as the instant of Instrumentation Unit umbilical disconnect. This is distinct from “First Motion.”

⁴ The total thrust the the eight H-1 engines of the S-IB first stage was only slightly more than that of just one of the five Rocketdyne F-1 engines of the Saturn V’s S-IC first stage booster.

© 2024, Bryan R. Swopes

16 February 1965, 14:37:03 UTC

Pegasus A/SA-9 (AS-103) liftoff, 16 February 1965, 14:37:03 UTC (NASA KSC 65-19630)

16 February 1965: At 9:37:03 a.m., Eastern Standard Time (14:37:03 UTC), Pegasus A (later redesignated Pegasus I), a satellite designed to detect meteoroid impacts in Earth orbit, is launched from Launch Complex 37B at the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, Cape Kennedy, Florida, aboard a Saturn I Block II launch vehicle. The satellite is enclosed in a boiler plate Apollo Command and Service Module.

The all-up vehicle is designated AS-103. The combined first and second stage launch vehicle is designated SA-9. It consisted of an S-I first stage (S-I-9) and S-IV second stage (S-IV-9). The boilerplate Apollo CSM is identified as BP-16.

The three Pegasus satellites were the only ones to use a Saturn launch vehicle. Pegasus A was the largest satellite launched up to that date, with a mass of 1,451.5 kilograms (3,200 pounds).

This was the eighth flight of a Saturn I rocket, and the fourth for a Saturn IV second stage.

AS-103 lifted off from a 47 foot × 47 foot (14.33 × 14.33 meters) square metal pedestal. At the center of the pedestal was a 32-foot diameter dodecagon-shaped opening for the rocket engines’ exhaust. A twin-sloped flame deflector under the pedestal was coated with a concrete-like heat-resistant material to minimize damage to the deflector.

The trajectory of AS-103. (NASA Press Kit 65-38)

At T+8 seconds, AS-103 began a roll and pitch maneuver, taking it to a flight azimuth of 105°. The roll maneuver ended 15 seconds later. The Saturn I reached Mach 1 at T+54 seconds, and the maximum dynamic pressure (max Q) at T+66. The pitch program was completed at T+138. At T+140.22, the four inboard H-1 engines were cut off (IECO), and the outer engines, 5.34 seconds later (OECO).  At this time, AS-103 had reached an altitude of 55 miles (89 kilometers), and was 44 miles (77 kilometers) downrange. It was traveling at 6,000 miles per hour (9,656 kilometers per hour).

The Saturn I first stage was jettisoned. Four solid fuel retro rockets were to slow the first stage, but one malfunctioned shortly after ignition. The first stage impacted the ocean surface at T+718.95, 961.29 kilometers (597.32 miles) down range. (N. 25.8155, W. 71.3491)

At T+148.12, the command to start the six RL10 engines of the second stage was sent. The two stages had separated by 10.95 meters (35.93 feet) at engine ignition. (the minimum requirement was 3 meters/9.8 feet.) Ten seconds later, the Launch Escape System was jettisoned.

After about 8 minutes, at T+631.659, the S-IV-9 engines were cut off and the vehicle was inserted into orbit 1,200 miles, (1,931 kilometers) downrange, with a velocity of 8,091.1 meters per second (29,128 kilometers per hour/18,099 miles per hour).

At T+813, the Command and Service Module was separated, and at T+863.4, the Pegasus wings began to deploy. This took 39.6 seconds. These panels had an overall span of 96 feet (29.261 meters) and width of 14 feet (4.267 meters). They carried 208 detector panels. Each panel was 3 feet, 4 inches × 1 foot, 8 inches × 1 inch (1.016 x 0.508 x 0.0254 meters).

A 50-second video of this evolution can be seen on YouTube at:

Pegasus I stabilized in a 430.00  × 523.00 kilometer (267.19 × 329.33 miles) elliptical orbit with a period of 94.10 minutes. As residual fuel (approximately 700 pounds) from the S-IV second stage, which remained attached to the satellite, vented, Pegasus began to tumble.

Pegasus I had about eighty times the detecting area than the Explorer I satellite, which had been launched 31 January 1958. By late May 1965, more than 70 meteoroid hits had been detected.

NASA issued a contract to build three Pegasus satellites, two for flight and third as a backup, to the Fairchild Stratos Corporation in February 1963. (Fairchild Hiller Corporation after 1964.) Final assembly took place at the Aircraft-Missiles Division, Hagerstown, Maryland. (In fact, all three were launched.) Pegasus A was transported by aircraft and arrived at Cape Kennedy Air Force Station on 20 December 1964.

“In this photograph, the Pegasus, meteoroid detection satellite is installed in its specially modified Apollo service module atop the S-IV stage (second stage) of a Saturn I vehicle for the SA-9 mission at Cape Kennedy. Personnel in the service structure moved the boilerplate Apollo command module into place to cap the vehicle. The command and service modules, visible here, were jettisoned into orbit to free the Pegasus for wing deployment. The SA-9 was launched on February 16, 1965.”

When stored inside the boiler plate command and service module, the satellite was 17 feet, 4 inches (5.283 meters) long, 7 feet, 0 inches (2.134 meters) wide, and 9.5 inches (24.13 centimeters) deep.

Pegasus I was deactivated 29 August 1968. Its orbit decayed and it reentered the Earth’s atmosphere 17 September 1978. BP-16, the boilerplate Apollo CSM, remained in orbit until 10 July 1985.


AS-103 consisted of a Saturn I Block II first stage, S-I-9; a S-IV second stage, S-IV-9; a boilerplate Apollo Command and Service Module, BP-16; with a Launch Escape System tower. It had a height of approximately 57.3 meters (187.99 feet). It weighed 1,110,941 pounds (503,914 kilograms) at First Motion, including 878,179 pounds (398,335 kilograms) of propellant.

S-I-9 was the last Saturn S-I first stage to be built at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. (SA-8, SA-10, and the following Saturn first stage boosters were produced by the Chrysler Corporation Space Division at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana.) The Block II variant was modified for use by the United States Air Force to launch it’s proposed X-20 Dyna-Soar manned orbital vehicle. The most visible modification are the very large fins for enhanced stability, along with four smaller stub fins. These fins extended radially 9 feet (2.7 meters) from the thrust structure, and each had a surface area of 121 square feet (11.24 square meters). S-I-9 was barged to the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, arriving there 30 October 1964.

Saturn I Block II first stage. 1. TV Camera, 2. Movie Camera, 3. Hydrogen Chill-Down Duct, 4. Cable Tunnel, 5. Four Turbine Exhaust Ducts, 6. Four Stub Fins, 7. Eight H-1 Engines, 8. Four Fins, 9. Heat Shield, 10. Firewall, 11. Anti-Slosh Baffles, 12. One 105-inch (2.667 meters) Diameter LOX Tank, 12. Anti-Slosh Baffles Eight 70-inch (1.778 meters) diameter Tanks, 13. Instrument Compartment (typical F-1 & F-2), 14. Four Retro-Rockets. (NASA MSFC-9801761)

S-I-9 was 80.3 feet (20.275 meters) long and 21.4 feet (6.523 meters) in diameter. Eight Redstone 5 feet, 10 inch (1.778 meters) diameter rocket fuel tanks, with four containing the RP-1 fuel, and four filled with liquid oxygen, surrounded a 8 feet, 9 inch (2.667 meter) diameter Jupiter rocket fuel tank containing liquid oxygen. The stage was powered by eight uprated Rocketdyne H-1 engines. The eight engines produced 1,500,000 pounds of thrust (6,672 kilonewtons) at Sea Level.

The Saturn S-IV-9 second stage was built by the Douglas Aircraft Company’s Missile & Space Division, Huntington, Beach, California. It was 41.5 feet (12.65 meters) long and 18.5 feet (5.64 meters) in diameter and had an empty weight of about 14,000 pounds (6,350 kilograms). It carried 100,386 pounds (45,534 kilograms) of propellant. The stage was powered by six Pratt & Whitney RL10A-3 rocket engines. The six engines produced 88,976 pounds of thrust (395.785 kilonewtons). The stage was coated with a special heat resistant paint developed by the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago. The S-IV stage was transported by aircraft and arrived at the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station 23 October 1964.

Pegasus Deployment Sequence (NASA)

“Fairchild technicians check out the extended Pegasus meteoroid detection surface. The Pegasus was developed by Fairchild Stratos Corporation, Hagerstown, Maryland, for NASA through the Marshall Space Flight Center. After being placed into orbit around the Earth, the satellite unfolded a series of giant panels to form a pair of wings measuring 96 feet across.” (NASA)

NASA considered the Saturn S-I series to be remarkably successful. Up to this time, new rockets failed at a rate of 50% during two to three dozen tests.

© 2024, Bryan R. Swopes