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NASA model of Saturn-Shuttle configuration
|Function||Manned LEO launch vehicle|
Martin Marietta (External Tank)
Rockwell International (Space Shuttle orbiter)
|Country of origin||United States|
|Height||85 m (281 ft)|
|Diameter||10 m (33 ft)|
|Mass||2,304,000 kg (5,070,000 lb)|
|Payload to LEO||max 60,500 kg (133,400 lb)|
|Launch sites||LC-39, Kennedy Space Center|
|First flight||None, but concept studying began in 1972|
|First stage - S-IC|
|Engines||5 Rocketdyne F-1 or F-1A|
|Thrust||max 34.02 MN (max 7,648,000 lbf)|
|Burn time||212 seconds|
|Second stage Space Shuttle orbiter and External Tank|
|Engines||3 Rocketdyne SSMEs|
|Thrust||6,834.3 kN (1,536,400 lbf) or 1,536,312 lbf (6,833.86 kN)[clarification needed]|
|Burn time||≈ 475 seconds|
The addition of wings (and some form of landing gear) on the S-IC stage would allow the booster to fly back to the Kennedy Space Center, where technicians would then refurbish the booster (by replacing only the five F-1 engines and reusing the tanks and other hardware for later flights).
The Shuttle would handle space station logistics, while Saturn V would launch components. This would have allowed the International Space Station, using a Skylab or Mir configuration with both U.S. and Russian docking ports, to have been lifted with just a handful of launches. The Saturn-Shuttle concept also would have eliminated the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters that ultimately precipitated the Space Shuttle Challenger accident in 1986.
Because the shuttle orbiter would be riding piggyback on the external tank, and the need to prevent damage to the delicate thermal protection tiles, the five-engine variant of the Saturn-Shuttle would require the center engine to be shut down 45 to 50 seconds after launch, while two of the outboard engines would have to be shut down prior to staging. Once the S-IC was jettisoned, the three onboard high-energy Space Shuttle main engines would then propel the orbiter into LEO, shutting down 6.5 minutes after ignition. The external tank would then be jettisoned, as on the actually flown shuttle configuration, and the orbiter would then perform its mission.
But because of the need to keep costs down and to allow President Richard Nixon to approve the shuttle program in 1972, NASA decided to utilize segmented solid rocket boosters similar to those used on the Titan III rocket instead of the S-IC, thus ending the Saturn program after the initial Saturn V order was completed.