Tag Archives: Saturn V

12 September 1962

President John F. Kennedy at Rice University Stadium, Houston, Texas, 12 September 1962. (Cecil Stoughton, White House/John F. Kennedy Library)

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. . . .”

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Thirty-Fifth President of the United States of America, in a speech at Rice University, Houston, Texas, 12 September 1962.

And so, 2,500 days later. . .

Apollo 11/Saturn V launches from Pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 13:32:00.06 UTC, 16 July 1969. Destination: Mare Tranquillitatis, The Moon. (NASA)

© 2018, 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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16 July 1969, 13:34:42.30 UTC, T + 2:42.30

Apollo 11 S-1C first stage separation at 2 minutes, 41 seconds, altitude 42 miles, speed 6,164 mph, has burned 4,700,000 pounds of propellant. (NASA)
Apollo 11 S-1C first stage separation at 2 minutes, 41 seconds, altitude 42 miles (67.6 kilometers), speed 6,164 mph (9,920 kph), has burned 4,700,000 pounds (2,131,884 kilograms) of propellant. (NASA)

16 July 1969: At 13:34:42.30 UTC, 2 minutes, 42.30 seconds after launch, the S-IC first stage of the Apollo 11/Saturn V has burned out and is jettisoned. Apollo 11 has reached an altitude of 42 miles (68 kilometers) and a speed of 6,164 miles per hour (9,920 kilometers per hour). The five Rocketdyne F-1 engines have burned 4,700,000 pounds (2,132,000 kilograms) of liquid oxygen and RP-1 propellant.

After separation, the S-IC first stage continued upward on a ballistic trajectory to approximately 68 miles (109.4 kilometers) altitude, reaching its apex at T+4:29.1, then fell back to Earth. It landed in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 350 miles (563.3 kilometers) downrange.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 July 1969, 13:34:30 UTC, T + 2:30

Apollo 11 gains altitude while the first stage Rocketdyne F-1 engines increase thrust. (NASA)
Apollo 11 gains altitude while the first stage Rocketdyne F-1 engines increase thrust. (NASA)

16 July 1969: Apollo 11/Saturn V AS-506 accelerates with all five Rocketdyne F-1 engines burning. As the rocket climbs through thinner atmosphere, the engines become more efficient and the total thrust for the S-IC first stage increases from 7,648,000 pounds of thrust to 9,180,000 pounds of thrust at about T+1:23.0.

In order to limit acceleration, a pre-planned signal to cut off the center engine is sent at T+2:15.2 (Center Engine Cut-Off, “CECO”). As the first stage burns fuel at a rate of 13 tons per second, the rapidly deceasing weight of the Saturn V and the increasing efficiency of the F-1 engines could cause the limits of vehicle acceleration to be exceeded.

LV acceleration vs. time

By T+2:30, the Saturn V has reached an altitude of 39 miles (62.8 kilometers) and is 55 miles (88.5 kilometers) downrange.

This photograph was taken by a 70mm telescopic camera aboard a USAF/Boeing EC-135N A/RIA (Apollo Range Instrumentation Aircraft) serial number 60-374. The airplane is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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