Tag Archives: Rocketdyne J-2

9 November 1967, 12:00:01.263 UTC, T plus 0.263

Apollo 4 Saturn V (AS-501) on the launch pad at sunset, the evening before launch, 8 November 1967. (NASA)
Apollo 4 Saturn V (AS-501) on the launch pad at sunset, the evening before launch, 8 November 1967. (NASA)

9 November 1967: The first flight of a Saturn V took place when the unmanned Apollo 4/Saturn V (AS-501) was launched from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. The rocket lifted off at 12:00:01.263 UTC.

AS-501 consisted of the first Saturn V launch vehicle, SA-501, with Apollo Spacecraft 017 (a Block I vehicle with Block II upgrades), and included the Launch Escape Tower, Command Module, Service Module, Lunar Module Adapter, and Lunar Module Test Article LTA-10R).

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, 0.15 inches (110.64621 meters) tall, from the tip of the escape tower to the bottom of the F-1 engines. The first and second stages were 33 feet, 1.2 inches (10.089 meters) in diameter. Fully loaded and fueled the rocket weighed 6,200,000 pounds (2,948,350 kilograms).¹ 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, each, for a total of 7,610,000 pounds of thrust at Sea Level.² 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.

A Rocketdyne F-1 engine is being installed on a Saturn S-IC first stage. (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.³

The Saturn V third stage was designated S-IVB. It was built by Douglas Aircraft 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.⁴ 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.

Apollo 4 Saturn V AS-501 lifts off at 12:00:01 UTC, 9 November 1967. (NASA)
Apollo 4 Saturn V (AS-501) lifts off at 12:00:01 UTC, 9 November 1967. (NASA)

¹ The AS-501 total vehicle mass at First Motion was 6,137,868 pounds (2,784,090 kilograms).

²  Post-flight analysis gave the total thrust of AS-501’s S-IC stage as 7,728,734.5 pounds of thrust (34,379.1 kilonewtons).

³ Post-flight analysis gave the total thrust of AS-501’s S-II stage as 1,086,396 pounds of thrust (4,832.5 kilonewtons).

⁴ Post-flight analysis gave the total thrust of AS-501’s S-IVB stage as 222,384 pounds of thrust (989.2 kilonewtons) during the first burn; 224,001 pounds (996.4 kilonewtons) during the second burn.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 October 1968, 15:02:45 UTC, T plus 000:00:00.36

Apollo 7 Saturn 1B (AS-205) lifts off from Launch Complex 34 at the Kennedy Space Center, 15:02:45 UTC, 11 October 1968. (NASA)
Apollo 7 Saturn 1B (AS-205) lifts off from Launch Complex 34, Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, 15:02:45 UTC, 11 October 1968. (NASA)

11 October 1968: at 15:02:45 UTC, Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo spacecraft, was launched aboard a Saturn IB rocket from Launch Complex 34, Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, Cape Kennedy, Florida.

The flight crew were Captain Walter M. (“Wally”) Schirra, United States Navy, the mission commander, on his third space flight; Major Donn F. Eisele, U.S. Air Force, the Command Module Pilot, on his first space flight; and Major R. Walter Cunningham, U.S. Marine Corps, Lunar Module Pilot, also on his first space flight.

The flight crew of Apollo 7, left to right: Donn Eisele, USAF, Capain Walter M. ("Wally") Schirra, USN, and Major R. Walter Cunningham, USMC. (NASA)
The flight crew of Apollo 7, left to right: Major Donn F. Eisele, USAF, Captain Walter M. (“Wally”) Schirra, USN, and Major R. Walter Cunningham, USMCR. (NASA) 

The mission was designed to test the Apollo spacecraft and its systems. A primary goal was the test of the Service Propulsion System (SPS), which included a restartable Aerojet AJ10-137 rocket engine which would place an Apollo Command and Service Module into and out of lunar orbit on upcoming missions.

The SPS engine was built by Aerojet General Corporation, Azusa, California. It burned a hypergolic fuel combination of Aerozine 50 (a variant of hydrazine) and nitrogen tetraoxide, producing 20,500 pounds of thrust. It was designed for a 750 second duration, or 50 restarts during a flight. This engine was fired eight times and operated perfectly.

The duration of the flight of Apollo 7 was 10 days, 20 hours, 9 minutes, 3 seconds, during which it orbited the Earth 163 times. The spacecraft splashed down 22 October 1968, approximately 230 miles (370 kilometers) south south west of Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean, 8 miles (13 kilometers) from the recovery ship, the aircraft carrier USS Essex (CVS-9).

The Apollo command module 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. Apollo 7 (CSM-101) was the first Block II capsule, which had been extensively redesigned following the Apollo 1 fire which had resulted in the deaths of three astronauts. The Block II capsule was 10 feet, 7 inches (3.226 meters) tall and 12 feet, 10 inches (3.912 meters) in diameter. It weighed 12,250 pounds (5,557 kilograms). There was 218 cubic feet (6.17 cubic meters) of livable space inside.

Apollo 7/Saturn IB AS-205.at Launch Complex 34.(NASA)

The Saturn IB consisted of an S-IB first stage and an S-IVB second stage. The S-IB was built by Chrysler. 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. Total thrust of the S-IB stage was 1,600,000 pounds and it carried sufficient propellant for 150 seconds of burn. This would lift the vehicle to an altitude of 37 nautical miles (69 kilometers).

The Douglas-built S-IVB stage was powered by one Rocketdyne J-2 engine, fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The single engine produced 200,000 pounds of thrust and had enough fuel for 480 seconds of burn.

The Saturn IB rocket stood 141 feet, 6 inches (43.13 meters) without payload. It was capable of launching a 46,000 pound (20,865 kilogram) payload to Earth orbit.

Apollo 7 Saturn 1B AS-205 in flight above Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, 11 October 1968. (NASA)
Apollo 7 Saturn 1B AS-205 in flight above Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, 11 October 1968. (NASA)
Apollo 7 at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). (NASA)
Staging. Apollo 7 Saturn IB first stage separation. (NASA)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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26 July 1971, 13:34:00.6 UTC, T plus 00:00:00.6

Apollo 15 (AS-510) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 13:34:00.6 UTC, 26 July 1971. (NASA)

26 July 1971: At 9:34:00.6 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time (13:34:00.6 UTC), the Apollo 15/Saturn V (AS-510) lifted off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. The three-man flight crew were Colonel David Randolph Scott, United States Air Force, Mission Commander, on his third space flight; Major Alfred Merrill Worden, USAF, Command Module Pilot, on his first mission; and Lieutenant Colonel James Benson Irwin, USAF, Lunar Module Pilot, also on his first space mission.

Their destination was was Hadley Rille, Mare Imbrium, The Moon.

The flight crew of Apollo 15, left to right, Colonel David R. Scott, Major Alfred M. Worden and Lieutenant Colonel James B. Irwin. (NASA)

At first stage ignition, the Apollo 15/Saturn V launch vehicle (AS-510) had a total weight of 6,494,415 pounds (2,945,817 kilograms). The five Rocketdyne F-1 engines of the S-IC first stage produced 7,558,000 pounds of thrust (33,619.66 kilonewtons).

After the first stage engines shut down, the S-IC stage was jettisoned. The five Rocketdyne J-2 engines of the S-II second stage received the Engine Start Command at T + 161.95 seconds. They produced 1,169,662 pounds of thrust (5,202.92 kilonewtons), and were themselves shut down at T + 549.06 seconds. The second stage was jettisoned and the single J-2 of the S-IVB third stage started at T + 553.2 and shut down at T + 694.7 seconds. The S-IVB engine produced 202,965 pounds of thrust (902.83 kilonewtons) during its First Burn.

Apollo 15 entered a parking orbit 11 minutes, 44 seconds after launch. The nearly-circular 105.3 × 106.4 miles (169.5 × 171.3 kilometers) orbit had a period of 1 hour, 27.84 minutes.

This 1966 illustration depicts the J-2 engine of the S-IVB third stage firing to send the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon. (NASA)

The Trans Lunar Injection maneuver (TLI) began at mission elapsed time 02:50:03. The total vehicle mass at the S-IVB’s Second Burn ignition was 307,661 pounds (139,552 kilograms). The J-2 engine produced 203,111 pounds of thrust (903.48 kilonewtons. The engine shut down at T + 02:55:53.7.

Endeavour docked with Falcon to extrack from S-IVB adapter fairing. (NASA)

Once on the way to The Moon, the Command and Service Module Endeavour separated from the S-IVB third stage, reversed its relative position and then extracted the Lunar Module Falcon from the stage adaptor fairing. The S-IVB third stage was then released, continuing its own journey. It impacted the lunar surface at mission elapsed time 79:24:41.55, traveling 5,764 miles per hour (9,277 kilometers per hour).

This was the fifth manned lunar landing mission (though Apollo 13 did not land).

On this flight, NASA was sending a powered wheeled transport vehicle, the Lunar Roving Vehicle, or LRV. This would allow the astronauts on the moon’s surface to travel farther from the landing point, spend less time getting where they were going, and with less physical exertion. They would also be able to return to their space craft with more geologic samples. The emphasis on this flight was to conduct a meaningful scientific examination of the surface. The astronauts had received extensive training in this regard.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 July 1969, 16:16:16 UTC, T + 02:44:16.2

This 1966 illustration depicts the J-2 engine of the S-IVB third stage firing to send the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon. (NASA)
This 1966 illustration depicts the J-2 engine of the S-IVB third stage firing to send the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon. (NASA)

16 July 1969: At 16:16:16 UTC, T+02:44:16.2, the Apollo 11 S-IVB third stage engine reignited for the Trans Lunar Injection maneuver.

One of the necessary features of the Rocketdyne J-2 engine was its ability to restart a second time. The third stage was first used to place the Apollo 11 spacecraft into Earth orbit and was then shutdown. When the mission was ready to proceed toward the Moon, the J-2 was re-started. Using liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for propellant, Apollo 11′s S-IVB burned for 5 minutes, 41.01 seconds, with the spacecraft reaching a maximum 1.45 Gs just before engine cut off. The engine was shut down at T+02:50:03.03. Trans Lunar Injection was at 16:22:13 UTC.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 May 1973, 17:30:00 UTC, T plus 000:00:00.22

SA 513/Skylab 1 (SL-1) launch from LC 39A, 17:30:00 UTC, 14 May 1973. (NASA)

14 May 1973: At 12:30:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, America’s first orbital space station, Skylab, was launched by a Saturn V Launch Vehicle, SA-513, from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. First motion was detected at T + 000:00:00.22.

After first stage separation, the S-IC/S-II interstage connector failed to separate from the second stage. because of this, orbital insertion occurred at T + 000:09:59.0; 0.64 seconds later than planned, and 0.6 meters per second faster than predicted. The S-II stage followed the Skylab into Earth orbit. Skylab’s orbit was almost perfectly circular, with an apogee of 234.2 nautical miles (433.7 kilometers), and perigee of 233.0 nautical miles (431.5 kilometers). The orbital period was 93.23 minutes, with a velocity of 17,111 miles per hour (27,537 kilometers per hour).

Skylab was unmanned at launch. Three 3-man crews were carried to the station aboard Apollo command/service modules launched by the smaller Saturn IB rocket.

Skylab’s mission was to demonstrate that humans could live and work in orbit for extended periods of time, and that they could also perform useful work and research. The first crew had to make repairs in orbit to extend a damaged solar array and to use a spare solar panel as a shade to prevent sunlight from overheating the station. This was the first orbital repair mission. Astronauts occupied Skylab for 171 days, 13 hours and conducted over 300 scientific projects.

Cutaway illustration of Skylab. (NASA)
Cutaway illustration of Skylab. (NASA)

The Skylab was built from an empty Saturn V third stage, S-IVB number 213, modified by McDonnell Douglas. The launch vehicle consisted of the first two stages of a Saturn V rocket, an S-IC first stage and an S-II second stage.

The total vehicle weight at engine ignition was 6,297,336 pounds (2,856,424 kilograms). Post-launch analysis determined that the five Rocketdyne F-1 engines of SA-513’s S-IC first stage generated 7,551,000 pounds of thrust (33,588.52 kilonewtons) at Sea Level.

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 (8,200 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 33 feet (10.058 meters) in diameter. Its empty weight was 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).

The S-IC 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, Inc., 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, and combined, 1,161,250 pounds of thrust.

The unmanned space station’s orbit decayed and it reentered on 11 July 1979. It broke up and parts landed in the Indian Ocean and near Perth, Australia.

Skylab in Earth orbit over the Amazon River Valley, 28 July 1973. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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