Saturn Illustrated Chronology - Part 1
April 1957 through December 1960
In April 1957 the scientific organization directed by Dr.
Wernher von Braun began studies which led to Saturn, America's first rocket
developed for space investigation. The team at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama,
hoped to design launch vehicles that could carry 20,000 to 40,000 pound
payloads for orbital missions or 6,000 to 12,000 pound payloads for escape
missions. High-thrust booster stages were essential.
In December 1957 the von Braun group, then working with the
Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA), proposed a program to the Department
of Defense (DOD).1 At that time the United States was considering
an integrated missile and space vehicle development program. Creation of
a booster with 1,500,000 pounds of thrust was the aim of the proposed program.
1. ABMA to DOD, "Proposal: A National Integrated Missile
and Space Vehicle Development Program," Dec. 10, 1957.
||1. Proposed configuration
of a clustered booster.
To secure this much power ABMA first considered clustering
four 380,000 pound thrust Rocketdyne E-1 engines. This initial concept
was discarded because of the time required to complete development of this
type of engine. However, ABMA continued studies to determine if engines
already developed could be used.
On August 15, 1958, the Advanced Research Projects Agency
(ARPA) formally initiated what was to become the Saturn project. The agency,
a separately organized research and development arm of the Department of
Defense, authorized ABMA to conduct a research and development program
at Redstone Arsenal for a 1,500,000 pound thrust vehicle booster. A number
of available rocket engines would be clustered. This design would be tested
by a full-scale static firing by the end of 1959.2
2. ARPA, ARPA Order 14-59, Aug. 15, 1958, p. 1.
||2. Thor-Jupiter engine.
3. Booster tooling.
The liquid oxygen (LOX) and fuel tanks developed for
the Redstone and Jupiter missiles could be modified for use in the proposed
booster. An existing engine, the S-3D, used on both the Thor and Jupiter
missiles, could be modified to produce an increased thrust of 188,000 pounds.
Numerous tools and fixtures developed for the Redstone and Jupiter program
could also be used with comparatively little modification. Thus it was
possible to begin booster development with hardware of proven reliability.
Time for design and development of some important booster components and
tooling could be significantly shortened and cost reduced.
As an immediate step a contract was awarded Rocketdyne Division
of North American Aviation on September 11, 1958, to uprate S-3D, the Thor-Jupiter
engine. After redesign, simplification, and modification, the engine would
be the H-1.
In October 1958 ARPA expanded its program objectives. A multistage
carrier vehicle capable of performing advanced space missions would be
built. The vehicle was tentatively identified as Juno V. ARPA requested
Redstone personnel to study a complete vehicle system so that upper-stage
selection and development could begin, and initiated a study of Atlantic
Missile Range (AMR) launch facilities which could accommodate the launch
vehicle.3 Later, on December 11, 1958, ARPA authorized the Army
Ordnance Missile Command (AOMC) to begin design, modification, and construction
of a captive static test tower and facilities for use in the booster development
program. AOMC was also to determine the design requirements for necessary
3. AOMC, Quarterly Progress Report on ARPA Orders
14-59 and 47-59: for First Quarter CY 1959, Apr. 7, 1959.
4. ARPA, ARPA Order 47-59, Dec. 11, 1958.
||4. Early H-1 Engine
5. Preliminary concept of
Launch Complex 34, Cape Canaveral
While the booster-vehicle program was being formulated and
expanded, development work on the H-1 engine continued. The first full-power
H-1 engine firing occurred in December 1958 at the Rocketdyne facility
in Canoga Park, California.
Concurrently with development of the H-1 engine, studies
were conducted pertaining to the feasibility of a larger single-chamber
rocket engine. On January 9, 1959, Rocketdyne agreed by contract to design
, develop, and test such an engine, designated as the F-1. This engine,
burning LOX and RP-1, a kerosene-type fuel, would generate a very high
thrust, approximately 1,500,000 pounds.
Construction of the ABMA static test stand for large boosters
began January 10, 1959. Meanwhile, Army representatives of the ARPA board
visited AMR to discuss selection of a site for large vehicle launch facilities
at Cape Canaveral, Florida. By February 1959, a contract had been awarded
for construction of the blockhouse at the site (Launch Complex 34). A design
contract was also awarded for a movable structure which would be used to
assemble and service the vehicle on the launch pedestal.
On February 3 an ARPA memorandum officially renamed the large
launch vehicle project Saturn. ARPA representatives presented the proposed
National Vehicle Program to the President and the National Aeronautics
and Space Council on March 2, 1959. Included were the proposed Saturn B
and C vehicle systems.5
5. U.S. Congress, House, Comm. on Science and Astronautics,
Hearing on H. R. 9675, 86th Cong., 2nd Sess., Washington, GPO, 1960,
testimony of Mr. Roy W. Johnson.
6. Saturn B
7. Saturn C
On March 13 ABMA submitted to ARPA the results of the Saturn
System Study. This study indicated that either an Atlas or a Titan could
be used as the second stage of the proposed vehicle.6 During
May ARPA decided that modified Titan hardware could be used for the second
stage and that the third stage could use a slightly modified Centaur vehicle.
6. MSFC, Project Saturn: Development and Funding Plan
FY 1961, July 1, 1960, p. 2. Hereafter cited as MSFC, Saturn D&F
Plan FY 61.
By April 28 the first production H-1 engine (H-1001) had
been delivered on schedule to ABMA. ABMA's first firing test of this engine,
later used in the first test booster, was performed successfully on May
7. Eugene M. Emme, Aeronautics and Astronautics: An
American Chronology of Science and Technology in the Exploration of Space:
1959-1960 (Washington: NASA HHR-3, 1961), p. 109. Hereafter cited as
Emme, Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960.
On July 5, 1959, construction of the Saturn blockhouse for
Launch Complex 34 began at Cape Canaveral. On July 27 when the last Jupiter
airframe was completed, Redstone Arsenal shops began retooling to support
the Saturn project.
Late in July the Director of Defense Research and Engineering
notified the Air Force and ARPA to consider common development of the Saturn
second stage and the booster for the proposed Dyna Soar; requirements for
these stages appeared to be similar. Until review of this , neither agency
was to make a firm commitment for the redesign of existing boosters or
development of new ones. ARPA then ordered cessation of the AOMC in-house
and contractor work relating to the Titan second stage. An exception was
made of some preliminary work not directly connected with the stage diameter.8
8. AOMC, Semiannual Technical Summary Report on ARPA
Orders 14-59 and 47-59 from 1 July-31 December 1959, Feb. 15, 1960,
8. Vehicles using Titan and
9. Atlas Centaur vehicle
(Centaur second stage)
showing a; Atlas stage,
b; second stage, c; payload,
d; electronic and guidance
package, e; liquid hydrogen
tank, f; LOX tank, and h;
Work continued on the Saturn booster stage. While studies
of the proposed Saturn-Dyna Soar combination were in progress, ARPA, on
August 1, authorized ABMA to proceed toward captive firing the Saturn booster
early in 1960.
In September representatives of AOMC, NASA, and the Air Force
presented Saturn, Nova, and Titan C systems to the Booster Evaluation Committee
of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. On the basis of these presentations
ARPA chose Saturn. ARPA then requested that Redstone scientists determine
the Saturn configurations which could best carry NASA payloads.
During October 1959 consideration of Saturn vehicle configurations
continued. On October 29 and 30 ABMA presented a second Saturn System Study
to ARPA and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), proposing
various upper-stage configurations which offered increased payload capability
and growth potential. In December 1959, after evaluation of previous presentations,
NASA and ARPA requested that AOMC prepare an engineering study for a three-stage
Because of its large size and weight, the Saturn booster
could not be transported by air or land. Water transportation appeared
most feasible, and ARPA, on October 23, 1959, authorized AOMC to proceed
with engineering work for dock facilities. These would be located on the
Tennessee River at the southern boundary of Redstone Arsenal. In December
AOMC was further authorized to construct the facilities and to build a
barge to transport the booster to Cape Canaveral.
||10. H-1 engine in alignment
11. Model of blockhouse at
Launch Complex 34
On November 18 NASA assumed technical direction of the Saturn
project pending its formal transfer from ARPA. Administrative direction
was retained by ARPA until March 16, 1960, when transfer of both administrative
and technical direction would become effective.
On December 15 the Saturn Vehicle Evaluation Committee (the
Silverstein Committee) reached a decision on Saturn upper-stage configurations.
This committee, composed of representatives from NASA, ARPA, DOD, and the
Air Force, recommended a long-range development program for a Saturn vehicle
with upper-stage engines burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The
initial vehicle, identified as C-1, was to be a stepping stone to a larger
vehicle, the C-2. A building-block concept was proposed that would yield
a variety of Saturn configurations, each using previously proven developments
as far as possible. These recommendations were accepted by the NASA Administrator.
On December 31, 1959, a ten-vehicle program was established.9
9. MSFC, Saturn D&F Plan FY 61, p. 2.
||12. C-1 and earlier vehicles:
a. Redstone, b. Jupiter-C,
c. Mercury Redstone, d.
Jupiter, e. Juno II, and f.
13. Proposed C-2
The C-1 vehicle configuration included the S-I, the S-IV,
and the S-V stages. The S-I stage would have eight H-1 engines. Fueled
by LOX/RP-1, the engines clustered were expected to produce a total of
1,500,000 pounds of thrust. The S-IV stage was conceived of as a four-engine
liquid oxygen-liquid hydrogen fueled unit capable of producing a total
of 80,000 pounds of thrust. The S-V stage would use two of the same engines
as the S-IV stage and this stage would provide an additional 40,000 pounds
The Saturn project was approved on January 18, 1960, as a
program of the highest national priority (DX rating).
||14. Booster stage (S-I)
15. Second stage (S-IV)
To develop the second stage of Saturn C-1, NASA sought a
contractor. A bidder's conference concerning this S-IV stage was held at
Huntsville, January 26 and 27, 1960. By February 29 twelve companies had
submitted contract proposals.
Redstone Arsenal scientists started to work on the first
stage. By 1960 the formal test program to prove out the clustered booster
concept was well under way. A mockup of the Saturn booster was installed
in the ABMA test stand on January 4, 1960, to check mating of the booster
and stand and to test servicing methods. This mockup was removed from the
test stand and the complete test booster, SA-T, was installed in its place
during February 1960.
16. Third stage (S-V)
17. Moving Saturn test booster
from assembly to test
18. Booster in test stand
During March the executive order transferring the Saturn
program to NASA became effective.10 Later in the month two of
Saturn's eight first stage engines passed an initial static firing test
of approximately eight seconds' duration. This test was identified as number
SAT-01, the first live firing of the Saturn test booster (SA-T). It occurred
on March 28.11 In a second test (SAT-02), on April 6, four engines
were successfully static fired for seven seconds. All eight engines of
the test booster were successfully fired on April 29 in an eight-second
10. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Exec. Order 10870,
Mar. 15, 1960.
11. Emme, Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960,
12. David S. Akens, MSFC Historian, Historical Origins
of Marshall Space Flight Center, Dec. 1960, p. 63.
Meanwhile, NASA reviewed the S-IV proposals received in February.
On April 26 NASA awarded Douglas Aircraft Company a contract to develop
and build the second stage.
On May 17 a second eight-engine static firing of 24 seconds'
duration generated a thrust of 1.3 million pounds. The third successful
eight-engine firing lasted 35 seconds.13
13. ABMA Historical Office, History of Army Ballistic
Missile Agency: 1 January-30 June 1960.
During May NASA announced that Rocketdyne had been selected
to develop the high-thrust J-2 engine. This engine, of the type defined
by the Silverstein Committee in December 1959, would burn liquid hydrogen-liquid
oxygen. It would be used in an advanced Saturn vehicle.
The first ten Saturn flight vehicles would be numbered
from SA-1 to SA-10. SA-10 would be the prototype of the operational Saturn.
On May 26, 1960, assembly of the booster stage for the
first Saturn flight vehicle began in Huntsville.
On July 1, 1960, the Saturn program was formally transferred
to the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC).14 A second
series of static tests had just been successfully completed on the first
stage of Saturn C-1.
14. Morton J. Stoller, Asst. Dir. for Satellite and Sounding
Rocket Programs, NASA, "The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's
Space Flight Program," Sept. 12, 1960, pp. 4-5.
On July 26 NASA signed a supplemental agreement with Douglas
Aircraft Company covering the second stage. Douglas would design, develop,
and fabricate the four-engine S-IV stage.
|19. Booster static firing
20. Model of J-2 engine
||21. Assembly of main LOX
tank for SA-1 booster
|22. Assembly of tanks on
|23. Structural fabrication
|24. Installation of engines
on SA-1 booster
25. Initial configuration of
the S-IV stage
Contracts were also let on August 10, 1960, with Pratt &
Whitney to develop and produce LR-119 engines; the Government would furnish
these engines to the contractors responsible for building the S-IV and
S-V stages of the C-1 vehicle. The LR-119, an uprated LR-115 engine, was
expected to generate 17,500 pounds of thrust.
On August 14, 1960, construction began on the movable
service structure for Launch Complex 34 at Cape Canaveral.
|On August 15 the Air Force requested NASA
assistance in planning the application of Saturn to Dyna Soar. After conferring
with the Air Force, MSFC agreed on October 6 to provide a preliminary study.
||26. Construction of service
tower and pedestal
27. Unveiling bust of
General George C. Marshall
28. Dr. von Braun and
On September 8 the facilities of the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration at Huntsville, Alabama, were dedicated and designated
as the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center. President Eisenhower, Mrs.
George C. Marshall, NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan, and many other
national, state, and local dignitaries participated in the ceremony.
On October 21 NASA awarded to Convair a study contract for
a second upper stage, the S-V. On October 25 NASA selected Convair, General
Electric, and Martin to conduct individual feasibility studies of an advanced
manned spacecraft as part of Project Apollo.15
15. Emme, Aeronautics and Astronautics: 1915-1960,
MSFC started a new series of static firing tests of the test
booster (modified to the SA-1 flight configuration and designated SA-T1)
on December 2, 1960. An eight-engine test lasting two seconds was first.
The next week a test of two engines was conducted in a six-second firing.
The series of booster tests was successfully concluded on December 20,
1960, by a 60-second firing of all eight engines. Fabrication of the tanks
for the booster stage of the second Saturn flight vehicle (SA-2) was completed
during December. Assembly of the booster began immediately.
29. Mr. Glennan, President
Eisenhower, and Dr. von