Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on TwitterSaturn V is the multistage rocket that launched aircrafts for the NASA Apollo and Skylab missions. The three stages of the rocket were developed by various contractors under the leadership of Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun and Arthur Louis Hugo Rudolph.
Among the lead contractors for the monumental project then were Boeing, North American Aviation, Douglas Aircraft Company, and IBM. A series of mergers and acquisitions eventually saw Boeing as the sole owner of all three stages.
Wernher von Braun’s accomplishments can be traced back to World War II where he worked under Adolf Hitler as the brains behind the legendary (and deadly) V2, the mother of all modern rockets. The V2 is known as the world’s first long range combat-ballistic missile.
Although a member of the Nazi Party, Wernher Von Braun was secretly recruited by the US under Operation Paperclip. So yes, the genius responsible for two monumental rockets in the history of mankind, one used for destruction, the other for exploration, is one person.
Like Wernher, Arthur Rudolph belonged to the elite team of German engineers who developed the V2 and eventually brought to the US after the Second World War.
After the successful launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, it became apparent that the Americans were trailing the Russians in the Space Race. This prompted the Americans to tap Wernher’s expertise in developing a rocket that would enable the US to catch up. Wernher then became the first Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center.
Under his leadership, the Americans were able to build the Saturn V. This multistage rocket then played a crucial role in NASA’s rapid-paced advancement in the Space Race during the 1960′s, which climaxed in mankind’s first lunar landing.
The Apollo Missions 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 all relied on the Saturn V to propel them to outer space. Of all these missions, only 2 had partial failures – Apollo 6 and 13. The rest were all successful. Apollo 11 through 17 were all manned missions, so the reliability of the propulsion system was very important.
Based on height, weight, and payload, the Saturn V was the most powerful launch vehicle ever put into regular operation. Its payload capacity was 118,000 kg to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Although its main competitor, the Soviet’s N-1 rocket was known to have a greater liftoff thrust, the Saturn V proved to be more reliable.
Episodes about the moon from Astronomy Cast. Lend us your ears!
Shooting Lasers at the Moon and Losing Contact with Rovers
The Moon Part I