Saturn IB

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Saturn IB
Saturn IB launch configurations.jpg
Three launch configurations of the Apollo Saturn IB rocket: no spacecraft (AS-203), Command/Service module (most missions); and Lunar Module (Apollo 5)
Function Apollo spacecraft development;
S-IVB stage development in support of Saturn V;
Skylab crew launcher
Manufacturer Chrysler (S-IB)
Douglas (S-IVB)
Country of origin United States
Height 141.6 ft (43.2 m)
without payload[1]
Diameter 21.67 ft (6.61 m)[1]
Mass 1,300,220 lb (589,770 kg)
without payload[2]
Stages 2
Payload to LEO 46,000 lb (21,000 kg)[3]
Launch history
Status Retired
Launch sites LC-37 & LC-34, Cape Canaveral
LC-39B, Kennedy Space Center
Total launches 9
Successes 9
Failures 0
First flight February 26, 1966
Last flight July 15, 1975
Notable payloads Unmanned Apollo CSM
Unmanned Apollo LM
Manned Apollo CSM
First stage - S-IB
Length 80.17 feet (24.44 m)
Diameter 21.42 feet (6.53 m)
Empty mass 92,500 pounds (42,000 kg)
Gross mass 973,000 pounds (441,000 kg)
Propellant mass 880,500 pounds (399,400 kg)
Engines 8 × H-1
Thrust 1,600,000 lbf (7,100 kN)
Specific impulse 272 seconds (2.67 km/s)
Burn time 150 seconds
Fuel RP-1/LOX
Second stage - S-IVB-200
Length 58.42 feet (17.81 m)
Diameter 21.42 feet (6.53 m)
Empty mass 23,400 pounds (10,600 kg)
Gross mass 251,900 pounds (114,300 kg)
Propellant mass 228,500 pounds (103,600 kg)
Engines 1 Rocketdyne J-2
Thrust 200,000 lbf (890 kN)
Specific impulse 420 seconds (4.1 km/s)
Burn time 480 seconds
Fuel LH2/LOX

The Saturn IB (pronounced "one B", also known as the Uprated Saturn I) was an American launch vehicle commissioned by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for the Apollo program. It replaced the S-IV second stage of the Saturn I with the much more powerful S-IVB, able to launch a partially fueled Apollo Command/Service Module (CSM) or a fully fueled Lunar Module (LM) into low Earth orbit for early flight tests before the larger Saturn V needed for lunar flight was ready.

By sharing the S-IVB upper stage, the Saturn IB and Saturn V provided a common interface to the Apollo spacecraft. The only major difference was that the S-IVB on the Saturn V burned only part of its propellant to achieve Earth orbit, so it could be restarted for translunar injection. The S-IVB on the Saturn IB needed all of its propellant to achieve Earth orbit.

The Saturn IB launched two unmanned CSM suborbital flights, one unmanned LM orbital flight, and the first manned CSM orbital mission (first planned as Apollo 1, later flown as Apollo 7). It also launched one orbital mission, AS-203, without a payload so the S-IVB would have residual liquid hydrogen fuel. This mission supported the design of the restartable version of the S-IVB used in the Saturn V, by observing the behavior of the liquid hydrogen in weightlessness.

In 1973, the year after the Apollo lunar program ended, three Apollo CSM/Saturn IBs ferried crews to the Skylab space station. In 1975, one last Apollo/Saturn IB launched the Apollo portion of the joint US-USSR Apollo Soyuz Test Project (ASTP). A backup Apollo CSM/Saturn IB was assembled and made ready for a Skylab rescue mission but never flown.

The remaining Saturn IBs in NASA's inventory were scrapped after the ASTP mission as no use could be found for them and all heavy lift needs of the US space program could be serviced by the cheaper and more versatile Titan III family.


In 1959, NASA's Silverstein Committee issued recommendations to develop the Saturn class launch vehicles, growing from the C-1. When the Apollo program was started in 1961 with the goal of landing men on the Moon, NASA chose the Saturn I for Earth orbital test missions. However, the Saturn I's payload limit of 20,000 pounds (9,100 kg) would allow testing of only the Command Module with a smaller propulsion module attached, as the Apollo Command/Service Module would have a dry weight of at least 26,300 pounds (11,900 kg), in addition to service propulsion and reaction control fuel. In July 1962, NASA announced selection of the C-5 for the lunar landing mission, and decided to develop another launch vehicle by upgrading the Saturn I, replacing its S-IV second stage with the S-IVB which would also be modified for use as the Saturn V third stage. The S-I first stage would also be upgraded to the S-IB by improving the thrust of its engines and removing some weight. The new Saturn IB, with a payload capability of at least 35,000 pounds (16,000 kg),[4] would replace the Saturn I for Earth orbit testing, allowing the Command/Service Module to be flown with a partial fuel load. It would also allow launching the 32,000-pound (15,000 kg) Lunar Excursion Module separately for unmanned and manned Earth orbital testing, before the Saturn V was ready to be flown. It would also give early development to the third stage.[2]

On May 12, 1966, NASA announced the vehicle's name would be changed to the "Uprated Saturn I", at the same time the "Lunar Excursion Module" was renamed the Lunar Module. However, the "Uprated Saturn I" name was reverted to Saturn IB on December 2, 1967.[2]

By the time it was developed, the Saturn IB payload capability had increased to 41,000 pounds (19,000 kg).[2] By 1973, when it was used to launch three Skylab missions, the first-stage engine had been upgraded further, raising the payload capability to 46,000 pounds (21,000 kg).


Launch vehicle[edit]

Parameter[1] S-IB 1st Stage S-IVB-200 2nd Stage Instrument Unit
Height 80.17 ft (24.44 m) 58.42 ft (17.81 m) 3.00 ft (0.91 m)
Diameter 21.42 ft (6.53 m) 21.67 ft (6.61 m) 21.67 ft (6.61 m)
Structural mass 92,500 lb (42,000 kg) 23,400 lb (10,600 kg) 4,400 lb (2,000 kg)
Propellant RP-1/LOX LH2/LOX N/A
Propellant mass 880,500 lb (399,400 kg) 228,500 lb (103,600 kg) N/A
Engines Eight - H-1 One - J-2 N/A
Thrust 1,600,000 lbf (7,100 kN) sea level 200,000 lbf (890 kN) vacuum N/A
Burn duration 150 s 480 s N/A
Specific impulse 272 s (2.66 kN·s/kg) sea level 420 s (4.12 kN·s/kg) vacuum N/A
Contractor Chrysler Douglas IBM

Payload configurations[edit]

Parameter Command/Service Module Apollo 5 AS-203
Launch Escape System mass 9,200 lb (4,200 kg) N/A N/A
Apollo Command/Service Module mass 36,400 lb (16,500 kg) to
46,000 lb (21,000 kg)
Apollo Lunar Module mass N/A 31,650 lb (14,360 kg) N/A
Spacecraft LM Adapter mass 4,050 lb (1,840 kg) 4,050 lb (1,840 kg) N/A
Nose cone height N/A 8.3 ft (2.5 m) 27.7 ft (8.4 m)
Payload height 81.8 ft (24.9 m) 36.3 ft (11.1 m) N/A
Total space vehicle height 223.4 ft (68.1 m) 177.9 ft (54.2 m) 169.4 ft (51.6 m)

S-IB stage[edit]

Main article: S-IB
Diagram of the S-IB first stage of the Saturn IB rocket

The S-IB stage was built by the Chrysler corporation at the Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans.[5] It was powered by eight H-1 rocket engines burning RP-1 fuel with liquid oxygen (LOX). Eight Redstone tanks (four holding fuel and four holding LOX) were clustered around a Jupiter rocket LOX tank. The four outboard engines were mounted on gimbals, allowing them to be steered to control the rocket. Eight fins surrounding the base thrust structure provided aerodynamic stability and control.

  • Height: 80.17 ft (24.44 m)
  • Diameter: 21.42 ft (6.53 m)
  • Number of fins: 8
  • Finspan: 39.42 ft (12.02 m)
  • Engines: 8 H-1
  • Thrust: 1,600,000 lbf (7,100 kN)
  • Fuel: RP-1 (Refined kerosene) 41,000 US gal (155 m3)
  • Oxidizer: Liquid oxygen (LOX) 66,277 US gal (251 m3) nominal capacity including 1.5% ullage volume (43,284 US gal / 163 m3 in four outer tanks plus 22,993 US gal / 87 m3 in center tank[6])
  • Burn time: 2.5 min
  • Burnout altitude: 37 nmi (69 km)

S-IVB-200 stage[edit]

Main article: S-IVB (rocket stage)
Diagram of the S-IVB second stage of the Saturn IB

The S-IVB was built by the Douglas Aircraft Company at Huntington Beach, California. The S-IVB-200 model was similar to the S-IVB-500 third stage used on the Saturn V, with the exception of the interstage adapter, smaller auxiliary propulsion control modules, and lack of on-orbit engine restart capability. It was powered by a single J-2 engine. The fuel and oxidizer tanks shared a common bulkhead, which saved about ten tons of weight and reduced vehicle length over ten feet.

  • Height: 58.42 ft (17.81 m)
  • Diameter: 21.67 ft (6.61 m)
  • Engine: single J-2
  • Thrust: 200,000 lbf (890 kN)
  • Fuel: Liquid hydrogen (LH2) 64,000 US gal (242 m3)
  • Oxidizer: Liquid oxygen (LOX) 20,000 US gal (76 m3)
  • Burn time: approx. 7 min
  • Burnout altitude (for Saturn IB): orbit

Instrument Unit[edit]

The Instrument Unit which controlled the Saturn IB and Saturn V

IBM built the Instrument Unit at the Space Systems Center in Huntsville, AL. Located at the top of the S-IVB stage, it consisted of a Launch Vehicle Digital Computer (LVDC), an inertial platform, accelerometers, a tracking, telemetry and command system and associated environmental controls. It controlled the entire rocket from just before liftoff until battery depletion. Like other rocket guidance systems, it maintained its state vector (position and velocity estimates) by integrating accelerometer measurements, sent firing and steering commands to the main engines and auxiliary thrusters, and fired the appropriate ordnance and solid rocket motors during staging and payload separation events.

As with other rockets, a completely independent and redundant range safety system could be invoked by ground radio command to terminate thrust and to destroy the vehicle should it malfunction and threaten people or property on the ground. In the Saturn IB and V, the range safety system was permanently disabled by ground command after safely reaching orbit. This was done to ensure that the S-IVB stage would not inadvertently rupture and create a cloud of debris in orbit that could endanger the crew of the Apollo CSM.

Launch sequence events[edit]

Launch event Time (s) Altitude (km) Range (km)
Ignition Command -3.02 . .
First Motion -0.19 . .
Liftoff 0.00 . .
Initiate Pitch Maneuver 10.0 . .
Initiate Roll Maneuver 10.0 . .
End Roll Maneuver 38.0 . .
Mach One 62.18 7.63 .
Max Q 75.5 12.16 .
Freeze Tilt 134.40 . .
Inboard Engine Cutoff 140.65 . .
Outboard Engine Cutoff 144.32 . .
Ullage Rockets Ignition 145.37 . .
S-IB / S-IVB Separation 145.59 . .
S-IVB Ignition 146.97 . .
Ullage Rocket Burnout 148.33 . .
Ullage Rocket Jettison 156.58 . .
Jettison LES 163.28 . .
Start Pitch Over 613.95 . .
S-IVB Cutoff 616.76 . .
Orbit Insertion 626.76 . .
Start S/C Sep Sequence 663.11 . .
Spacecraft Separation 728.31 . .

Saturn IB vehicles and launches[edit]

Saturn IB mounted on the "milkstool" platform

The first five Saturn IB launches for the Apollo program were made from LC-34 and LC-37, Cape Kennedy Air Force Station.

The Saturn IB was used between 1973 and 1975 for three manned Skylab flights, and one Apollo-Soyuz Test Project flight. This final production run did not have alternating black and white S-IB stage tanks, or vertical stripes on the S-IVB aft tank skirt, which were present on the earlier vehicles. Since LC-34 and 37 were inactive by then, these launches utilized Kennedy Space Center's LC-39B.[7] Mobile Launcher Platform No. 1 was modified, adding an elevated platform known as the "milkstool" to accommodate the height differential between the Saturn IB and the much larger Saturn V.[7] This enabled alignment of the Launch Umbillical Tower's access arms to accommodate crew access, fueling, and ground electrical connections for the Apollo spacecraft and S-IVB upper stage. The tower's second stage access arms were modified to service the S-IB first stage.[7]

All Saturn IB launches from AS-201 through ASTP
Mission Spacecraft
Mass (kg)
SA-201 AS-201 20,820 February 26, 1966 Unmanned suborbital test of Block I CSM
(Command/Service Module)
SA-203 AS-203 None July 5, 1966 Unmanned test of unburned LH2 behavior in orbit
to support S-IVB-500 restart design
SA-202 AS-202 25,810 August 25, 1966 Unmanned suborbital test of Block I CSM
SA-204 Apollo 1 20,412 Was to be first manned orbital test of Block I CSM.
Cabin fire killed astronauts and damaged CM during
dress rehearsal for planned February 21, 1967 launch
Apollo 5 14,360 January 22, 1968 Unmanned orbital test of Lunar Module,
used Apollo 1 launch vehicle
SA-205 Apollo 7 16,520 October 11, 1968 Manned orbital test of Block II CSM
SA-206 Skylab 2 19,979 May 25, 1973 Block II CSM ferried first crew to Skylab orbital workshop
SA-207 Skylab 3 20,121 July 28, 1973 Block II CSM ferried second crew to Skylab orbital workshop
SA-208 AS-208 Standby Skylab 3 rescue CSM-119; not needed
Skylab 4 20,847 November 16, 1973 Block II CSM ferried third crew to Skylab orbital workshop
SA-209 AS-209 Standby Skylab 4 and later Apollo-Soyuz rescue CSM-119.
Not needed, currently on display in the KSC rocket garden
Skylab 5 Planned CSM mission to lift Skylab workshop's orbit
to endure until Space Shuttle ready to fly; cancelled.
SA-210 ASTP 16,780 July 15, 1975 Apollo CSM with special docking adapter module,
rendezvoused with Soyuz 19. Last Saturn IB flight.
SA-211 Unused
SA-212 Unused. First stage scrapped.[5]
S-IVB stage converted to Skylab space station.
SA-213 Only first stage built. Unused and scrapped.[5]
SA-214 Only first stage built. Unused and scrapped.[5]

For earlier launches of vehicles in the Saturn I series, see the list in the Saturn I article.

Saturn IB rockets on display[edit]

SA-209 on display at KSC

Currently there are three locations where Saturn IB vehicles (or parts thereof) are on display:


In 1972, the cost of a Saturn IB including launch was US$55,000,000 (equivalent to $315,000,000 in 2016).[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Postlaunch report for mission AS-201 (Apollo spacecraft 009) - (PDF), NASA, May 1966, retrieved March 18, 2011 
  2. ^ a b c d Wade, Mark. "Saturn IB". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved March 17, 2011. 
  3. ^ Hornung, John (2013). Entering the Race to the Moon: Autobiography of an Apollo Rocket Scientist. Williamsburg, Virginia: Jack Be Nimble Publishing. 
  4. ^ Benson, Charles D.; Faherty, William Barnaby (1978). "The Apollo-Saturn IB Space Vehicle". Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations. NASA. Retrieved 3 February 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Saturn IB History". Retrieved 2009-11-01. 
  6. ^ NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center, Skylab Saturn IB Flight Manual (MSFC-MAN-206), 30 September 1972
  7. ^ a b c Reynolds, David West (2006). Kennedy Space Center: Gateway to Space. Richmond Hill, Ontario: Firefly Books Ltd. pp. 154–157. ISBN 978-1-55407-039-8. 
  8. ^ Dooling, Dave (May 6, 1979). "Space and Rocket Plans Summer Celebration". The Huntsville Times. 
  9. ^ Hughes, Bayne (April 6, 2014). "Iconic rocket due for repair". Decatur Daily. Retrieved April 8, 2014. 
  10. ^ "SP-4221 The Space Shuttle Decision- Chapter 6: ECONOMICS AND THE SHUTTLE". NASA. Retrieved 2011-01-15. 

External links[edit]