Saturn Illustrated Chronology - Part 9

January 1968 through April 1968



NASA began 1968 with work in process on the AS-502 launch vehicle, preparatory to the launch that would take place in April. Meanwhile, during the first week in January all AS-503 stages were on dock at KSC.483
    483. MSFC Saturn V Prog. Off., Saturn V Semiannual Prog. Report, Jan.-June 1968, p. 1.
S-IC assembly388 388. S-IC components and
assembly at Michoud

MSFC announced on January 10 that the Center was entering 1968 with firm plans to support as many as six Apollo/Saturn launches during the year. It also announced plans for supporting the goal of a lunar landing by 1970 with static tests of eight Saturn V stages (five S-II's and three S-IC's) during the year at the MTF. While this would be going on, MAF personnel would be applying the finishing touches to the 12th uprated Saturn I booster and forging ahead with the assembly of Saturn V boosters through S-IC-15. Meanwhile, at KSC NASA would attempt to chalk up the 15th consecutive Saturn launch no earlier than January 18 with the flight of the fourth uprated Saturn I. A week later, on January 24, the schedule called for the rollout of the second Apollo/Saturn V to the launch pad. AS-502 would carry several minor modifications that were recommended by MSFC as a result of data provided by the first Apollo/Saturn V, which had flown in November of 1967.
S-IC at Michoud389 389. S-IC flight stage at Michoud

In addition to the previous announcement on January 10, 1968, MSFC also noted that other Saturn vehicles in various phases of preparation included the Apollo/Saturn 206 and another unmanned flight vehicle scheduled to fly after AS-204 in the uprated Saturn I series. S-IB-12, last of the original order, was in final assembly and checkout at Michoud at the start of 1968. Also, S-IVB stages for uprated Saturn I's 205 through 209 were in storage at the Sacramento Test Facility. S-IVB stages 210 through 212 were in various stages of readiness at Huntington Beach and had not yet been static fired. The uprated Saturn I instrument units 205 through 209 were stored in the IBM plant in Huntsville. Saturn V S-IVB stages 504 and 505 were at Sacramento, where post-static checks were underway. The S-IVB-506 was in post-manufacturing checkout at Sacramento and was awaiting a static test. All others were in manufacturing. S-IU-504 had been completed at IBM/Huntsville and S-IU-505 was in post-manufacturing checkout while others were being assembled.484
    484. PAO, "Marshall Star," Vol. 8, No. 16, January 10, 1968.
S-IVB's at SACTO390

390. S-IVB-205, 206 and 207

NASA announced on January 5 that it had exercised the second of three one-year renewal options with the Range Systems Division of Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) to provide computer services for the major contractors operating at the NASA-Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The new $2,704,349 extension of LTV's basic cost-plus-award-fee contract was awarded by MSFC for Michoud. The contract, to continue in force until January 8, 1969, would increase the total value of the LTV's contract to $7,641,584. NASA had originally selected the Dallas based firm in December 1965, to provide computer services at the Michoud installation in New Orleans and at its Computer Operations Office in nearby Slidell, Louisiana.485
    485. Interview with Burch H. Aldridge, Chief, Contracts Office, Michoud Assembly Facility, July 17, 1970.
An indication of NASA's varied activities in the Saturn Program can be gained by a glance at the Saturn V Weekly Report for January 10 as follows: AS-502 flight vehicle (final package) was scheduled for delivery to KSC January 26, 1968; also for the AS-502 flight the final LVDC (flight program tapes) and SLCC (ground tapes) were scheduled for delivery to KSC by February 5, 1968. Status of the AS-503 flight vehicle was as follows: all three stages were in the VAB KSC undergoing inspection and checkout; as for the S-IU-503 for AS-503, adverse weather conditions and mechanical problems with the Super Guppy had delayed the delivery of the IU on-dock KSC from December 29, 1967, to January 4, 1968. Status of the AS-504 flight vehicle was: S-IC-4 stage was in a test cell at Boeing-Michoud undergoing modification incorporation; the stage was scheduled on-dock at KSC April 15, 1968; S-II-4 stage was at the test stand at MTF undergoing modification work prior to LOX/liquid hydrogen tanking test with captive firing scheduled for January 26, 1968, and then was scheduled on-dock KSC March 31, 1968; the S-IVB-504 stage was in the VCL SACTO and was scheduled for transfer into Beta I test stand for deferred post-firing checkout after completion of Korotherm rework, after which the stage was scheduled on dock KSC March 31, 1968; the S-IU-504 instrument unit for AS-504 was in storage at IBM/Huntsville, scheduled on-dock KSC April 15, 1968. Status of AS-505 flight vehicle was: S-IC-5 stage was in storage at Boeing-Michoud, scheduled on-dock KSC June 29, 1968; S-II-5 stage was undergoing shakedown inspection preparations at NAA/SD Seal Beach, prior to on-docking MTF February 9, 1968, and then on-docking KSC June 29, 1968; S-IVB-505 stage was in storage at VCL SACTO, scheduled for on-dock KSC June 29, 1968; and S-IU-505 instrument unit for AS-505 was in component assembly at IBM/Huntsville, scheduled on-dock KSC June 29, 1968.486
    486. Saturn Weekly Report No. 2, January 10, 1968.
S-IC-503 in VAB391

391. First stage for AS-503
in transfer aisle of VAB

NASA announced on January 11 that it would negotiate with CCSD, New Orleans, for assembly and delivery of four additional S-IB stages at a rate of two per year. Earlier, NASA had contracted with Chrysler for production of long-lead-time materials, parts, and components for these stages. Work related to this effort would be performed at New Orleans under direction of MSFC. Chrysler presently was under contract with NASA to furnish 12 Saturn IB flight stages.487
    487. Interview with Altho J. Oberkirch, MSFC Contracts Office, July 17, 1970.
NASA announced also on January 11, 1968, that it would negotiate with McDonnell Douglas, Huntington Beach, California, for assembly and delivery of four additional uprated Saturn I launch vehicle second (S-IVB) stages at a rate of two per year. The negotiations were expected to result in a contract valued in excess of $48 million. Earlier NASA had contracted with Douglas for production of long-lead-time materials, parts, and components for these stages. Work related to this effort would be performed at Huntington Beach under direction of MSFC.488
    488. Interview with W. T. Brown, MSFC Contracts Office, July 17, 1970.
On January 16 NASA announced the award to Rocketdyne Division, North American Rockwell Corporation, of a contract valued at $14,796,400 for engineering support services for H-1 engines. The H-1 engines would be used to power the first stage of the Saturn IB launch vehicles. Under this cost-plus-incentive-fee agreement, Rocketdyne would be responsible for engineering support services for engine manufacturing, testing, delivery, application, reliability, and flight performance evaluation. The major portion of the work would be at Rocketdyne's Canoga Park, California, plant. Minor segments would be performed at MAF, where the H-1 engines would be installed on the Saturn IB's first stage, and at the Kennedy Space Center's launch complex. The contract would cover the period July 1967 through June 1971.489
    489. Interview with T. B. Burton, MSFC Contracts Office, July 20, 1970.
H-1 engine392

392. H-1 engine

NASA announced on January 17 that the Apollo 5 flight, the first test in space of an unmanned lunar module, was being rescheduled for no earlier than Monday, January 22. Reason for the rescheduling was that some launch operations being done for the first time required more time than expected for completion, including the loading of hypergolic propellants aboard the spcecraft. The new schedule would be dependent upon the success of several additional ground tests, including the launch countdown demonstration test, scheduled for completion on January 19.490
    490. MSFC Saturn V Prog. Off., Saturn V Semiannual Prog. Report, Jan.-June 1968.
A mockup of the S-IVB stage to be used as a manned orbital workshop was flown to MSFC on January 17. The full size model arrived from the West Coast aboard the Super Guppy aircraft. The mockup would be used later in the month for a crew station design review. NASA plans called for launching the flight orbital workshop as the second stage of the Saturn IB launch vehicle. Once in space, astronauts would convert the stage's large fuel tank into living and working quarters for a 28-day stay. The orbital workshop mockup had recently been modified by McDonnell Douglas, manufacturer of the Saturn upper stage for MSFC. This was the mockup's second trip to MSFC. The previous spring engineers had used the model at MSFC in its original configuration for design studies.491
    491. William A. Geiger, Daily Log, Transport Branch, Project Logistics Office, MSFC, Jan. 17, 1968.
The Saturn IB (AS-204) launch vehicle and the lunar module it orbited on January 22 performed satisfactorily. This Apollo 5 mission began at 4:48 pm (CST) January 22 when the Saturn lifted off Launch Complex 37 at Cape Kennedy after ground support equipment caused a delay of three hours 50 minutes. The liftoff came at sun-down on a day so clear that both stages were visible to the unaided eye long after stage separation. The S-IB could be seen falling and the S-IVB going on toward orbit when tracking equipment indicated that the second stage was almost 90 miles up and 168 miles downrange. The Saturn hurled the lunar module into space to begin a series of tests of the LM's ascent and descent propulsion systems, the first such test in the vacuum of space.492
    492. MSFC Saturn V Prog. Off., Saturn V Semiannual Prog. Report, Jan.-June 1968.
AS-204 on pad 37393

Launch of AS-204394

393. AS-204, Apollo 5, on pad 37
394. Launch of AS-204 with first
Lunar Module

MSFC announced on January 30 that an orbital workshop engineering mockup simulating the flight vehicle was being readied for an extensive five-day crew station review on February 12-16 at MSFC. During the review, several astronauts were scheduled to "walk through" many tasks on the ground that would later be done in orbit under zero gravity conditions. These tasks would include experiment installation and operation. Lighting tests were being conducted during the week in the orbital workshop mockup by engineers of the MSFC Propulsion and Vehicle Engineering Laboratory. P&VE was the lead laboratory for the development of the workshop.493
    493. PAO Press Release No. 68-18, Jan. 30, 1968.
NASA announced on January 30 that shipment of the second Apollo lunar module and the fifth Saturn IB rocket to KSC would be postponed pending further evaluation of Apollo 5 mission results. Initial evaluation of the first lunar module flight on January 22-23 had indicated that a second unmanned flight, launched by the Saturn IB, might not be required to qualify the spacecraft for flight with men aboard. Further detailed review of flight data and deliberations by a NASA design certification review board in March would determine the final decision. Meanwhile, Lunar Module 2 and the Saturn IB rocket stages would be maintained ready for shipment to KSC on three- and 14-day notices, respectively. Refurbishment of LC-37B would proceed for a second unmanned lunar module flight. The Mission Control Center, Houston, and tracking ships Coastal Sentry Quebec and Rose Knot Victor would maintain the operational capability to support another unmanned lunar module flight.494
    494. PAO Press Release No. 68-20, Jan. 30, 1968.
Saturn I workshop395

395. Simulation of activities
in Saturn I workshop

During January NASA Headquarters affirmed several project name changes. The intermediate Saturn launch vehicle formerly called "uprated Saturn I" was officially designated IB. The ground-outfitted orbital workshop, sometimes called the "dry workshop," would henceforth be known as the Saturn V Workshop. The workshop to be launched by the Saturn IB, formerly referred to as "Orbital Workshop" and "wet workshop," would be officially named Saturn I Workshop.495
    495. Working Paper, A Chronology of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 1968, p. 9.


The S-II second stage for the fifth Apollo/Saturn V mission left Seal Beach, California, on February 2 aboard the USNS Point Barrow en route to the MTF, where the stage would undergo static testing before shipment to KSC. Also on board the ship was an F-1 rocket engine. This combination load saved an estimated $6,000 in transportation charges. The F-1 would be unloaded for inspection at MAF, where the stage would be transferred to a barge for the remainder of the trip to the MTF.496
    496. MSFC Saturn V Prog. Off., Saturn V Semiannual Prog. Report, Jan.-June 1968, pp. 1-20.
Saturn V S-II stage396

396. S-II stage on transporter
at Seal Beach

MSFC announced on February 6 that 12 scientist-astronauts, appointed to the space program six months earlier, would visit the Center on February 12-14. Purpose of the meeting, the first such at MSFC, would be to acquaint the new group with Marshall Center work, including development of the Saturn vehicles. They would also see an engineering mockup of an orbital workshop - a vehicle that would house astronauts for extended stays in space. The astronauts who would visit the Center, all of them with doctoral degrees, would be Robert A. Parker, Brian T. O'Leary and Karl G. Henize, astronomers; John A. Llewellyn, chemist; Joseph P. Allen, Philip K. Chapman, and Anthony W. England, physicists; William B. Lenoir, engineer; F. Story Musgrave, physiologist; and William E. Thornton and Donald L. Holmquest, medical doctors.497
    497. MSFC Press Release No. 68-25, Feb. 6, 1968.
The transfer of AS-502 to Pad A of Launch Complex 39 occurred on February 6 at KSC. However, the scheduled transfer of the Mobile Service Structure (MSS) to the pad was delayed because of high winds. Reschedule was planned for February 9. No structural or water damage was reported on AS-502 because of the trip to the pad.498
    498. MSFC Saturn V Prog. Off., Saturn V Semiannual Prog. Report, Jan.-June 1968, p. 7.
Apollo 6 rollout397

397. Rollout of AS-502, Apollo 6,
from VAB

Also on February 6 NASA announced the negotiation of an additional one-year contract with the Boeing Company for operation of the Saturn V Development Facility at MSFC. The $5,782,750 incentive contract would continue through September 1968. The original award was made in September 1964. The Saturn V Development Facility, often called the "Saturn V breadboard," would electrically simulate the operation of the Saturn V and its ground and electrical support equipment. Each step at the launch site, through liftoff and flight of each stage, could be computer-simulated at the facility.499
    499. Milton E. Buchholz, Contract NAS8-5608 (Schedule 2), Modification MSFC-241, Launch Systems Branch, Contracts Office, MSFC, Feb. 6, 1968.
NASA announced on February 7 that it had added a $3,226,374 supplemental clause to the Boeing Company's Saturn V systems engineering and integration contract. The contract extension would be effective through December 1969. Under this contract Boeing would be responsible for providing NASA with Saturn V propulsion systems pre-flight and post-flight performance analysis for the first 10 Saturn V launch vehicles. Boeing would study all of the propulsion systems data recorded during the vehicles' test firings and launches for a complete analysis of Saturn V propulsion systems performance. All work would be conducted at Boeing facilities at Huntsville. This extension brought the systems engineering and integration portion of Boeing's three-part Saturn V contract to a total of $194,845,024. Meanwhile, under separate agreements, Boeing remained responsible for Saturn V booster production at MAF and for launch support services at KSC.500
    500. Milton E. Buchholz, Contract NAS8-5608 (Schedule 2), Modification MSFC-244, Launch Systems Branch, Contracts Office, MSFC, Feb. 7, 1968.
On February 9 the Mobile Service Structure for AS-502 was transfered to the pad. This was originally scheduled for February 6 but delayed because of high winds.501
    501. MSFC Saturn V Prog. Off., Saturn V Semiannual Prog. Report, Jan.-June 1968, p. 7.
AS-502 on pad 39A398

398. MSS moves back from AS-502

The first full-duration captive rocket firing at MTF in 1968 was successfully completed on Saturday, February 10, ushering in the busiest year to date for the rocket testing center. Space engineers and technicians static-fired the fourth flight version of the Apollo/Saturn V second stage (S-II-4) for its full duration of six minutes. The stage developed an equivalent thrust of more than one million pounds. A North American Rockwell crew conducted the captive firing with the stage mounted in a 200-foot-tall tower. The captive firing was one of a series of special checkouts the stage would go through at the Mississippi proving ground before it would be certified for flight from KSC. NASA engineers and scientists would carefully evaluate approximately 1,000 separate measurements taken from the rocket before a flight worthiness certificate would be issued. MTF was scheduled to test-fire, check, and flight-certify eight more Apollo/Saturn space vehicles in 1968 - four S-II second stages and four S-IC first stages.502
    502. PAO, "Marshall Star," Vol. 8, No. 21, February 14, 1968.
S-II stage at MTF399 399. Saturn V S-II stage being
lifted into A-2 test stand at MTF

By the middle of February NASA had announced that the first Americans on the moon would land in one of five three-by-five-mile landing areas selected by NASA's Apollo Site Selection Board. Each of the areas would satisfy criteria in which astronaut safety was the paramount consideration. The first two sites selected by NASA were in the Sea of Tranquility, the third was in the Central Bay, and the fourth and fifth were in the Ocean of Storms. The sites were selected from eight under study from a choice of 30 original sites. Selection of the five sites permitted scientists and engineers to concentrate on fewer areas in preparing data on the specific sites. The site selection board studied material obtained by unmanned Lunar Orbiters and soft-landing Surveyor spacecraft. Lunar Orbiter returned high resolution photographs of all the sites and Surveyor provided close-up photographs and surface data of the general areas in which they were located. The criteria considered by the board included smoothness of the area, desirability in terms of amount of propellant necessary for the lunar module propulsion systems, lighting as it concerned the best visibility for the astronauts, and the general slope of the landing area.


Mississippi Test Facility began the month of March 1968, with considerable test activity. S-IC-6 arrived at MTF on March 1. It had been assembled nearby at the Michoud Assembly Facility. Upon arrival of the booster at MTF, workmen promptly began preparations for placing it in a test stand for a static firing in late April. In addition, S-II-4 would be placed in a separate test stand, where it would undergo a newly incorporated cryogenic proof pressure test late in March. This test would call for the LH2 tank to be filled with cryogenic propellant and pressurized to simulate maximum flight loads. Meanwhile, also at MTF preparations proceeded for placing a fifth S-II second stage in another test stand on March 7, where it would undergo cryogenic proof pressure tests in April before static testing.503
    503. MSFC Saturn V Prog. Off., Saturn V Semiannual Prog. Report, Jan.-June 1968, pp. 1-33.
S-IC at MTF400 400. Saturn V S-IC stage being
lifted into B-2 test stand at MTF

MSFC announced on March 7 the award of an $11.1 million contract extension until February 28, 1969, to Sperry Rand Corporation for engineering support in applied research, testing, and design at MSFC's Astrionics Laboratory.504
    504. Martin F. Hirsch, Contract NAS8-20055, Engineering Services Division, Purchasing Office, MSFC, March 7, 1968.
Dr. von Braun commented on March 12: "If AS-502 is successful, there will be no need for a third unmanned Saturn V flight."505
    505. Minutes of Combined Staff and Board Meeting, March 12, 1968.
NASA announced on March 12 that Chrysler Corporation had received a contract modification totaling $5,779,884 for ground support and engineering equipment related to the Saturn IB program. The contract, awarded by MSFC, covered services at Huntsville through December 1968. It was a cost-plus-fixed-fee agreement. Chrysler's assignment covered program integration management, test integration and engineering of ground support, operation of the Saturn IB Development (Breadboard) Facility, logistics responsibility, and telemetry systems engineering. As a result of this March 12 contract, Chrysler's contract for ground support and engineering equipment now totaled $14,701,868.506
    506. MSFC Press Release No. 68-41, March 12, 1968.
By the middle of March all three static test stands at the Mississippi Test Facility were filled with Apollo/Saturn V flight stage for the first time. Two of the stands contained second stages for the fourth and fifth Apollo/Saturn V rockets. A third was holding the 7.5 million pound thrust booster that would lift the sixth Apollo/Saturn V off its KSC launch pad.507
    507. MSFC Saturn V Prog. Off., Saturn V Semiannual Prog. Report, Jan.-June 1968, pp. 5-38.
MTF test stand401

401. S-IC B-2 test stand at MTF

MSFC announced on March 18 that more than 100 engineers and scientists would participate in a two-day Saturn I workshop design review board meeting on the following two days at MSFC. The engineers would discuss results of previous workshop reviews including the original engineering design review in May 1967, a documentation study in December, and a week-long crew station review February 12-16 at MSFC. Meeting participants would represent the Manned Spacecraft Center, Kennedy Space Center, NASA Headquarters, and the McDonnell Douglas Corporation, manufacturer of the Saturn S-IVB stage. A workshop mockup had been used at MSFC for earlier design work. Chairman of the design review board was Leland Belew, manager of Marshall's Saturn/Apollo Applications Office.508
    508. MSFC Press Release No. 68-45, March 8, 1968.
On March 19 NASA released the findings of the Investigating Board appointed to examine and report on the June 8, 1967, rupture of a test tank at MSFC in Huntsville which resulted in the deaths of two employees of Brown Engineering Company of Huntsville, a NASA subcontractor. NASA's release said in essence that the rupture of the test tank was apparently caused by pressure which exceeded the tank limits. The tank which ruptured was on loan to MSFC from the McDonnell Douglas Corporation. It was to have been used to test a quick-release manhole cover designed by MSFC for the liquid hydrogen tank of the S-IVB. The board concluded that the tank burst at a pressure between 60 and 67 psig (pounds per square inch gauge). The tank had withstood a pressure of 60 psig in a test conducted on May 24, two weeks before the accident. The investigation disclosed a misunderstanding concerning the tank received from McDonnell Douglas. A blueprint supplied by McDonnell Douglas was interpreted as indicating the tank had been designed to withstand 150 psig. In fact, the tank in the form received at MSFC had a design limit of only 50.7 psig.509
    509. MSFC Press Release No. 68-46, March 19, 1968.
NASA decided during the third week in March that a second unmanned flight of the lunar module would not be necessary. The first manned LM flight would be made later in the year, launched by a Saturn V vehicle. The decision to cancel the repeat flight of an unmanned LM followed a detailed evaluation of the first LM flight, flown on January 22 atop a Saturn IB launch vehicle. Data from a comprehensive examination of the LM's structural and ground test results were also thoroughly analyzed.510
    510. PAO, "Marshall Star," Vol. 8, No. 26, March 20, 1968, p. 1.
Workmen at MTF conducted a cryogenic proof test of the S-II-4 stage on March 23. The purpose of the test was to certify the integrity of the S-II stage's LH2 tank. Evaluation of early data indicated that the test was successful. The stage was put through this important pressure test by a team from NAR, manufacturer of the stage for MSFC. Engineers filled the stage with about 273,000 gallons of super-cold liquid hydrogen (at -423o F) and pressurized the tank five percent above the expected maximum flight pressure. Preliminary readings indicated that the liquid hydrogen tank pressure during the test was 36.18 psig. Instrument calibration checks were conducted to verify the results of the test. Liquid nitrogen was used in the liquid oxygen tank. The tank was filled to approximately 80 percent of capacity with 65,000 gallons of nitrogen and pressurized to normal flight pressure. This was the first cryogenic proof test conducted in the S-II program. All S-II stages scheduled to be used on manned launch vehicles would undergo the cryogenic proof test at MTF to further certify the structural capability of the stage. The S-II-4 stage was the first of the so-called lightweight stages, being about 3,000 pounds lighter than the first three.511
    511. Working Paper, A Chronology of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 1968.
The schedule for launch of the AS-502 vehicle slipped 13 days during March, primarily because of a problem with the A7-64 propellant disconnect. Two days of slippage were attributed to problems with the S-II-2 stage.512
    512. NAR, Saturn S-II Quarterly Progress Report, First Quarter 1968, p. I-1.
On March 28 MSFC decided that "it would be in the best interest" of the space program to transfer S-IC and S-IB stage procurement responsibilities from the Michoud Assembly Facility to Huntsville.513
    513. Letter from O'Conner, March 28, 1968.
The countdown demonstration test for AS-502 (Apollo 6), scheduled to be launched April 4, was completed March 31.514
    514. MSFC Saturn V Prog. Off., Saturn V Semiannual Prog. Report, Jan.-June 1968.
Apollo 6 on pad 39A402

402. AS-502 on pad 39A

By the end of March, 11 S-IVB stages had been delivered to Kennedy Space Center/MSFC, (dynamics stage, S-IVB-500F facility checkout stage, S-IVB-500ST MSFC stage simulator, S-IVB-201 through S-IVB-204, S-IVB-206, and S-IVB-501 through S-IVB-503N).


MSFC began April 1, 1968, with announcement of the following contract awards: $2.1 million contract modification to RCA for continued support of RCA 110A computers for use in checkout and launch of Saturn IB and Saturn V launch vehicles, bringing the total contract value to £12.7 million; and $1.8 million follow-on contract to Sanders Associates, Inc., to provide logistics and engineering support to Saturn V operational display systems at MSFC, bringing the total value of the contract to $3.9 million.515
    515. Royal R. Nolley, Contract 23515 (Procurement Plan), Ground Support Equipment, Contracts Office, MSFC, May 23, 1968.
On April 3 MSFC awarded IBM's Space Guidance Center a $1.3 million contract for spare parts and logistic support of instrument units that guided Saturn IB and Saturn V launch vehicles.516
    516. MSFC Press Release No. 68-63, April 1968.
AS-502 mission profile403 403. Mission profile for AS-502

NASA successfully launched Apollo 6 (AS-502) from KSC's Complex 39A at 7:00 am (EST) on a mission to qualify the Saturn V launch vehicle for manned space flights. Primary objectives were to demonstrate structural and thermal integrity and compatibility of launch vehicle and spacecraft; confirm launch loads and dynamic characteristics; demonstrate S-II/S-IC and S-IVB/S-II stage separations; verify operations of propulsion (including S-IVB restart), guidance and control (optimum injection), and electrical systems; evaluate performance of Emergency Detection System (EDS) in closed-loop configuration; and demonstrate mission support facilities and operations required for launch, mission conduct, and CM recovery.517 The launch vehicle second stage performance was near nominal, but two of the five J-2 engines shut down prematurely, causing the remaining second and third stage engines to burn longer than planned.518 As a result, the spacecraft and third stage entered an elliptical parking orbit with a 223.1-mile (395.1-kilometer) apogee, 107-mile (172.1-kilometer) perigee. When the third stage failed to re-ignite on command after two orbits as planned, NASA switched to an alternate mission, firing the Service Propulsion System (SPS) to place the spacecraft into a trajectory with a 13,823-mile (22,225.4-kilometer) apogee.519 Since insufficient propellant remained after the extended burn, a second SPS burn was not attempted and the CM reentered at 22,376 miles per hour, just under the planned 25,000-mile per hour rate. The spacecraft splashed down 50 miles off target in the Pacific Ocean 9 hours 50 minutes after launch and was recovered in good condition by the USS Okinawa. Preliminary assessment indicated that four of the five objectives were attained, even though the S-IVB restart and guidance control (optimum injection) were not fully successful.520
    517. MSFC Saturn V Prog. Off., Saturn V Semiannual Prog. Report, Jan.-June 1968, p. 11.
    518. McDonnell Douglas, Saturn S-IVB Quarterly Tech. Prog. Report, June 1968, p. 3.
    519. MSFC Saturn V Prog. Off., Saturn V Semiannual Prog. Report, Jan.-June 1968, p. 13.
    520. MSFC Saturn V Prog. Off., Saturn V Semiannual Prog. Report, Jan.-June 1968, p. 15.
Launch of Apollo 6404a

Launch of Apollo 6404b

404a. Launch of Saturn V AS-502
404b. AS-502 climbs to orbit,
as seen from chase-plane

During the second week in April MSFC completed a report containing preliminary results of the Apollo 6 flight. Although the basic source of the difficulties had not yet been determined, scientists and engineers speculated that wires carrying cutoff commands to the malfunctioning engines were interchanged. The first stage had performed as planned and stage thrust was near that predicted during the first portion of flight. The second stage had performed satisfactorily through the first-stage boost, second-stage ignition, and early portion of second-stage powered flight. First indications of anomaly were the decreasing temperatures on the main oxidizer valve and its control line on the fifth engine and steady decrease in the second engine's yaw actuator pressure. The third stage performed satisfactorily through the first burn and orbital coast. Although engine and stage prestart conditions had appeared normal, the engine receiving the start signal and the valves opening properly, the engine did not restart. Initial data suggested that a leak in one of the two propellant lines to the engine's augmented igniter may have caused insufficient or inadequately mixed propellant for the proper start condition. Investigations were continuing on longitudinal oscillation of the vehicle. Guidance and other instrumentation functions, telemetry performance, and onboard TV camera operation were satisfactory. An intensive evaluation of ground systems support during the AS-502 launch indicated no major problem areas, although many areas reported nominal launch damage, typical for such a blast-off. Considerable damage, and not typical, involved both Mobile Launchers (ML) elevators in the Apollo Emergency Ingress/Egress System (PAD & ML). The damage occurred at ignition and/or during liftoff.521
    521. Apollo/Saturn V Ground Systems Evaluation Report, AS-502, John F. Kennedy Space Center, May 23, 1968, pp. 5-21.
A technical review of Saturn launch vehicles, attended by about 140 scientists, engineers, and administers, was held at MSFC on April 20-21. The participants investigated the status and flight schedule of Saturn launch vehicles.522
    522. MSFC Press Release No. 68-72, April 1968.
Saturn IB405 Saturn V406
405. Saturn IB (AS-205)
406. Saturn V (AS-503)

The S-IU-205 instrument unit was loaded aboard the Super Guppy at MSFC on the morning of April 10; however, weather conditions delayed the departure of the Super Guppy from MSFC for KSC until the following morning. The unit arrived at KSC on April 11, and offloading of the stage from the Super Guppy was completed that same morning.523
    523. Saturn IB Notes I-IB-C731-68, April 15, 1968.
By the middle of April AS-205 had been erected on the launch pad at KSC. Also, by the middle of April AS-503 launch vehicle was stacked in the VAB at Kennedy Space Center.524
    524. Saturn V Weekly Report No. 15, April 16, 1968.
Michoud personnel gave an April 22 S-IC program briefing at Michoud to newly appointed Deputy Administrator for NASA, Dr. Thomas O. Paine, along with Dr. von Braun, General O'Conner, and other NASA representatives.525
    525. Saturn V First Stage Annual Prog. Rpt., Fiscal Year 1968, The Boeing Company, July 1, 1968, p. 8.
The 11th Saturn IB booster (S-IB-11) was successfully fired by Chrysler on April 23 at MSFC's Test Laboratory. The 1.6 million-pound-thrust booster was test-fired for a planned 145 seconds. The booster would be returned to the Michoud Assembly Facility the following month for a post-static check. Meanwhile, another booster (S-IB-12) was en route to MSFC by barge for static firing.526
    526. Saturn IB Notes I-IB-3734-68, May 1, 1968.

Stacking AS-205407

Stacking AS-503408

407. Stacking of S-IB-205, pad 34
408. Stacking S-II-503 in VAB

S-IB-211 at MSFC409 409. S-IB-211 is moved to test
stand at MSFC

NASA announced on April 27 that the AS-503 launch vehicle would be manned and that the launch would be scheduled for the fall. The manned flight would occur in the fourth quarter of 1968. The two previous flights of the Saturn V had been unmanned. On the basis of data thus far obtained from the second unmanned flight, on April 4, NASA decided to plan and work toward a manned flight with the third Saturn V vehicle. "However, we will retain the option of flying another unmanned mission if further analysis and ground testing indicates that it is the best course," said Maj. Gen. Samuel C. Phillips, Apollo program director. Before NASA made its decision, NASA and industry engineers worked virtually around the clock to determine the causes, effects, and solutions of several problems experienced in the April 4 flight. These included: premature shutdown of two J-2 engines in the second stage (S-II) of the Saturn V; failure of the third stage J-2 engine to re-ignite in orbit; a longitudinal oscillation or "pogo effect" caused by synchronous vibration of the five F-1 engines in the first stage; and an indication that some material fell away from the area of the spacecraft/lunar module adapter. Information developed by the time of the NASA April 27 announcement indicated that the early shutdown of the two second stage engines began with the failure of a small fuel line in the Number 2 engine ignition system. "We are confident that we know the cause, effects, and solutions involving the J-2 engine failure and the launch vehicle longitudinal vibration problems," said Gen. Phillips. "Analysis and ground testing will continue to achieve an even more complete understanding of all aspects of Saturn V performance and operation."527
    527. Saturn V Weekly Report No. 17, May 2, 1968.
AS-503 mission profile410 410. Mission profile for AS-503

On April 29 NASA awarded a $25.8 million, one-year, cost-plus-fee contract to Bendix Field Engineering Corporation for continued maintenance and operation of the major portion of NASA's Manned Space Flight Network, including 11 facilities of the 14-station unified 8-band network for Apollo. The contract extended the original two-year agreement.528
    528. NASA Release No. 68-82.

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