Book Review: Saturn I/IB

Before the Saturn IV rocket, there was the Saturn I and Saturn IB. These helped pave the way to the Moon as shown by Alan Lawrie in his book entitled ‘Saturn I/IB – The Complete Manufacturing and Test Records‘. Though usually hidden in the shine of its illustrious successor, these launch systems were a vital step in proving components, technology and processes.

This book shows the vast difference between a fiction novel and a logistics manual. Let the reader be warned, it has all the elements of an effective, detailed and precise logistics reference. Nearly every sentence is in the past, perfect tense which leaves the text as dry as the Mojave. For example, it lists the developmental steps and usage for every H-1 and J-2 engine in addition to each and every Saturn I and Saturn IB. There are interesting bits such as the engine J-2103 which was built in 1966, was mothballed and had some of its parts eventually used in 2008. Hence, this book makes for a great reference. But, for sitting down in the evening for a pleasant read, this is probably not the best text.

In addition to the details on engines and the rocket, Lawrie expands to supporting elements. This includes; the airplane called the Pregnant Guppy, the barges used to ferry the stages, test stands and fabrication buildings. In an interesting but sombre reflection, he includes many photographs of the sites in their heyday as well as the present. The later show cows wandering by aging test stands as well as debris strewn around destroyed control rooms, a sad state. However, the wonderful colour pictures of nearly every launch, as well as the many black and white shots of rocket stages during their fabrication process should inflame the hope of future space travellers reading this book.

And, an enclosed DVD has some real bonus material. It shows the original vehicle systems information drawings from NASA in a PDF file. As well, for the video aficionados amongst us, the DVD has six NASA quarterly film reports from the Marshal Space Flight Center circa about 1960. These show the construction of some of the sites, tests and some wonderfully splashy launches. Watching these allows the reader to really feel up close and personal to the whole undertaking of the Saturn I and IB programs.

As we know, even though Saturn IV went to the Moon, it got there by standing on some pretty illustrious shoulders. The Saturn I and Saturn IB were two of the supports that helped men wander rilles and dales on the Moon. Their development is well shown in Alan Lawrie’s book the ‘Saturn I/IB – The Complete Manufacturing and Test Records‘.

2 Replies to “Book Review: Saturn I/IB”

  1. Mark, thanks for bringing this book to our attention as Apollo enthusiasts can never find too much information on that program. Please note however that it was the Saturn V that went to the moon, not IV.

  2. Thanks for the correction. It was my error. This book is a follow-on from the author’s previous entitled ‘Saturn-V’. In them are very clear descriptions of stages, together with accurate names!

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