Saturn V   Page 2(2)

Saturn V - Apollo   flight configuration

Apollo 8 on pad 39-A at twilight. December 17, 1968
credit to NASA
Scanning credit to Kipp Teague

Saturn V as a three stage launcher

The Saturn V is a three stage launch vehicle. It has been primairily designed for moon landing missions. It is capable of sending a payload of about 50 metric Tons on a trajecory to the Moon.

The first stage is a rather classic design. It contains separate tanks for the RP-1 fuel and the liquid oxygen. The five large F-1 engines, of which the outer four are gimballed for steering, are mounted on a cross-beam like thrust structure. The thrust structure distributes the thrust uniformerly across the first stage's outer wall. The propellant tanks are load bearing structures and are interconnected with the thrust structure by corrugated interconnecting rings.

The second stage, which runs on liquid hydrogen and oxygen, was the most advanced stage of the Saturn V stack at that time. Five J-2 engines, of which the outer four are gimballed for steering, are mounted on a conical shaped thrust structure. The development of the S-II stage didn't go without problems. Because of very tight weight constraints, together with the high requirements on thermal insulation, many new construction techniques had to be developed.

The third stage also runs on liquid hydrogen and oxygen. It is equipped with the same thrust engine as used for the second stage. The third stage was a product of the Saturn I development program. This stage had to be upgraded though, to make a re-ignition in space of the J-2 engine possible. The mission objective of this third stage was two fold:

  1. to bring the Apollo payload into an Earth parking orbit and
  2. to boost the payload into a trajectory to the Moon.
The upgrade was necessary for recreating the proper temperature and pressure conditions of the cryogenic thrust engines and propellant tanks in space prior to ignition.

The launch weight of a Saturn V Apollo came to 2900 Tons.
Without fuel its weight was 230 Tons.
The five first stage F-1 engines delivered a total thrust of about 3700 Tons.
The total weight of the Apollo spacecraft (orbiter + moon lander) came to 45 Tons.

Saturn V - Apollo in detail

Saturn V - Skylab   flight configuration

Skylab on launch pad 39-A at the moment of ignition. May 14, 1973
credit to NASA
Scanning credit to Kipp Teague

Saturn V as a two stage launcher

As a two stage launcher, the Saturn V is able to bring about 90 metric Tons into a 500 km high orbit. This configuration has been used once, its mission was to insert a 90 metric Tons heavy workshop, named Skylab, into a 433 km high circular orbit with an inclination of 50 degrees.
Skylab's construction was based on a refitted S-IVB stage. It contained a two floors workshop, an airlock, a multiple docking adapter and a solar telescope. The fully equipped station was able to hold a three men crew for over 200 days. The Skylab Program was meant to be a coping stone of the Apollo Program. Therefore it was decided that this Skylab mission would be the last flight of a Saturn V. Its serial number was SA-513. The two remaining flight ready Saturn V launchers (SA-514 and SA-515) were decommissioned and can be found as exhibition items at the Johnson Space Center (Houston, Texas) and at the Kennedy Space Center (Florida).

The launch weight of the Saturn V Skylab stack came to 2870 Tons.
The total weight of Skylab was around 100 Tons.

Saturn V - Skylab in detail

Gallery of Saturn Launch Vehicles
Saturn IB Launch Vehicles

Saturn V Launch Vehicles

Apollo Program Launch Vehicles

Skylab program Launch Vehicles

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project
Launch Vehicles


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Copyright 2006 by Sander Panhuyzen
Comments and questions are welcome. All pictures and drawings contained on and through these pages are the author's, unless otherwise noted. No unauthorized reproduction without permission.