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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Iconic Spacecraft: Saturn V

Image result for saturn v rocketThe Saturn V was, and remains to date, the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever built, and still holds the record for the heaviest payload ever taken to low Earth orbit, which weighed a massive 118000 kilograms. This was the rocket which was used to launch all the Apollo missions and was launched 13 times, with no accidents. It was a three-stage liquid-fuel rocket which was used for between 1966 and 1973 by NASA. It was also used to launch SkyLab, the first American space station. (Right): A Saturn V lifting off.
 
Image result for saturn v rocketThe Saturn V was the largest and most powerful production model of the Saturn family. It was developed by Werner von Braun and Arthur Rudolph at the Marshall Space Flight Centre. Several contractors were involved in the production of this massive rocket, some of them including Boeing, IBM, North American Aviation and Douglas Aircraft Company. The whole project had a budget of an amazing 6 billion dollars in 1964-73 dollars, which in today's money would be more than 40 billion dollars. (Left): A comparison of the Saturn V next to the Statue of Liberty and the Space Shuttle.
 
Image result for saturn v rocketThe Saturn V was the biggest and most powerful production launch vehicle every produced, and, with the Apollo Module on top, stood over 111 metres tall, which is 58 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty and 48 feet taller than Big Ben. In comparison, the Mercury-Redstone rocket used on the first American manned mission, was only 11 feet longer than the third section of the Saturn V, and delivered less thrust than the failsafe rocket on top of the Apollo Module. The Saturn V employed two new extremely powerful J-2 and F-1 rocket engines, which were so powerful that, when tested, broke the windows of nearby houses. (Left): The Saturn V being transported atop the crawler transporter.
 
The Saturn V was a three-stage rocket, as mentioned earlier. Each stage of the rocket took it to a higher altitude, and when it ran out of fuel, was discarded. The first stage of the Saturn V was built by Boeing, and weighed a massive 2200 tonnes fully loaded. Most of this weight was the liquid propellant which was used to complete the first 67 km of the rocket's journey. It consisted of five Rocketdyne F-1 rocket engines which would remain activated for the 168 seconds it would take the rocket to reach the 67 km mark. (Right): The first stage of the Saturn V being lifted into a vertical position.
 
The second stage was similar to the first in almost every way, although it had five J-2 engines, compared to the first stage's F-1 engines. It weighed over 408000 kg, with over 90% being the liquid hydrogen and oxygen required to fuel the massive rocket engines attached to it. (Left): The second stage of the Saturn V being lifted into position at the Mississippi Test Facility. 
 
The third and last stage had much less fuel than the other stages by weight, and consisted of only a single J-2 rocket engine which could be started twice. Fully loaded, this stage weight 119000 kg, with 19000 kg being the liquid fuel. The rocket engine was to be used twice during the mission in a 2.5 minute and 6 minute burst during flight respectively. Unlike the other two stages, which were transported by ship, the third stage was small enough to be transported by a large transport plane. The Instrument Unit, designed by IBM, sat on top of the third stage, and controlled all the aspects of the rocket from just before liftoff till the third stage was discarded. (Right): The Instrument Unit which sat upon the third stage.
 
The Saturn V was assembled at the Vehicle Assembly Building and transported to the launch site on the crawler transporter, a huge moving platform used by NASA to transport all manner of launch vehicles to the launch pad.
 
The Saturn V was, is, and probably will remain, the largest, heaviest and most powerful launch vehicle ever constructed.
 
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