Wednesday, November 28, 2012

50 Years Ago: Saturn Rocket Testing

Unmanned SA-3 lifts off from Pad 34.

On November 16, 1962,  NASA achieved an important milestone on the path to the Moon when they launched mission SA-3. This unmanned test included the primary mission of launching the SA-1 first stage, which would become the first stage of the Saturn 1 rocket. The second and third stages were dummy stages and included test monitoring sensors. The launch was kept under tight security, as the area had been hit by a tropical depression in September followed by the ongoing Cuban Missile Crisis. As the test reached its successful conclusions, the second and third stages were remotely detonated from mission control, and the first stage crashed into the Atlantic some 270 + miles downrange.

Cutaway diagram of the S-IV stage.

Also on the 16th, a very large package arrived in Alabama. Shipped all the way from Douglas Missile and Space Systems in Santa Monica, California, the S-IV (200) stage of the Saturn rocket arrived at the Huntsville Marshall Space Flight Center. The 23-day journey by barge was made by the first Saturn stage of many more to come. The S-IV stage would become the second stage of the Saturn 1 rocket, and the third stage of the Saturn V. This particular piece would be used in testing at the Center to see how it would react to the stresses of flight.

Barge docks at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

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