Mission SA-5 launches from pad 37B.
Fifty years ago, Americans eagerly awaited the Gemini program which would precede the eventual Moon landings, but progress was also being made on the Apollo program itself. The first launch of the Saturn I block 2 rocket was made on January 29 from launch pad 37B at Cape Kennedy in Florida. This was the first orbital mission for the unmanned test rocket; a second stage, the S-IV, had been added to the previously tested first stage. The first stage also had added eight fins which would greatly aid the stability of the first part of the launch.
Beautiful launch, successful flight.
The Saturn 1 would not be the rocket to carry men to the Moon, but would play an integral role in preparing for the missions. First of all it would become our first heavy-lift vehicle. Second, it would place astronauts and spacecraft into orbit to be tested before sending them on to the Moon. Eventually it would play a part in US-Russian Space Cooperation and the transportation of astronauts to our first space station.
This mission did not include a test capsule, but did include a Jupiter-C nosecone, and placed the navigational instrument package into the second stage where it would normally be. When the second stage entered orbit, it became the largest satellite to ever begin circling the Earth. With this launch, the United states proved it could launch payloads heavier than the Russians, and that the USA had taken the lead in missile technology lifting vehicles.