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The Apollo Program

You know it, we all love it: the legendary space program that put man on the Moon. At the time it was considered to be one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by either side during the Space Race. To this day the accomplishment of the Apollo program still stands as one of mankind's greatest achievements. 

Below are a collection of stock+DLC replicas I've built to represent the various rockets, spacecraft, and mission profiles that comprised the Apollo program—from its first test launches in 1961 to the very last flight of Apollo hardware in 1975. Currently this page features all of the Saturn I, Saturn IB, and Saturn V flights minus Apollo 13, Skylab, and ASTP. If I have the time I'd also like to include the Little Joe II and LLRV missions, but we'll just have to see how things pan out.

In the meantime, check out the spoilers below! They contain a bit of info about the launch history of the Apollo program, utilizing screenshots of every rocket and mission I've built so far. Downloads and flight instructions for each individual craft are featured further down the page.

Birth of Apollo and the Saturn Rocket



May 25th, 1961. Newly-elected President John F. Kennedy prepares to make an announcement before Congress as to his ambitions for the United States in the ongoing Space Race. At this point in time the Soviet Union holds a prominent lead over the US in spaceflight. When America announced its intentions to launch the first satellite into orbit, the Soviets expedited their own plans and launched Sputnik. They launched the first animals into orbit, they launched the first probes to the Moon. Before America could even launch its first astronaut the Soviets managed to put Yuri Gagarin into space—and into orbit, no less. America desperately needed to do something big in order to catch up. The President weighed his options and, under the advisement of his cabinet, announced a new directive for the national space effort:


"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project...will be more exciting, or more impressive to mankind, or more important...and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish...” -President John F. Kennedy to Congress, May 25 1961

At the time of his address NASA had only just launched its first astronaut, Alan Shepard, into space. Americans had scarcely scratched the surface when it came to space exploration, and now they had less than a decade to put a man on the Moon. Nonetheless, with this new goal clearly defined NASA commenced with Project Apollo and redirected nearly all of its efforts towards achieving the manned lunar landing. Still, such a gargantuan task would require the development and construction of an equally gargantuan rocket, and this point was not lost on anyone. Neither the US nor the Soviets yet possessed a rocket of this scale. This meant that Moon race would be a contest that the US could start on equal terms, and with great effort, one they could win.


Early concept diagrams of Saturn and Nova rockets from April of 1962

Designs for a series of medium and heavy-lift launch vehicles were already in development at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. A team of rocket scientists led by Wernher Von Braun had been busy drawing up plans for the large Saturn and even larger Nova families of rockets. By 1961 the smallest Saturn rocket, Saturn C-1, had already been approved for further development when NASA shifted its focus to the Moon. NASA figured they could use the Saturn C-1 for early flight testing of Apollo hardware, but they still needed to select the design for their massive Moon rocket. However, before they could do that they needed to settle on a mission mode.


Artist's conception of a direct-ascent Apollo lunar lander

The mission mode would dictate the specific method that Apollo would use to land and return their astronauts from the Moon. By the end of 1961 NASA still had not come to an agreement in this regard, whether it be Earth orbit rendezvous, lunar orbit rendezvous, or direct ascent. NASA generally favored the direct ascent method as it precluded the complex rendezvous and docking maneuvers to be used in the other modes. At the time these techniques had not yet been attempted, and some engineers feared that they may simply be an impossibility. On the other hand, the direct ascent method would also entail a larger spacecraft, requiring the construction of the much larger Nova rockets and new facilities to construct them. All of this would require more time, time that the president's plan did not allow. 


Aerospace engineer John Houbolt—leader of the lunar orbit rendezvous team at NASA—explains the LOR concept in 1962

In the end it was the lunar orbit rendezvous method that was chosen. LOR, in contrast to direct ascent, necessitated the use of two spacecraft separated into dedicated lander and orbiter roles. The two spacecraft would be launched together on a single rocket and flown to the Moon in one piece. On arrival, the conjoined spacecraft was to enter an orbit around the Moon, at which point the crew would then transfer into the lander before separation. The orbiter would remain in orbit, while the lander proceeded with the crew onto the surface. To return from the Moon the lander would then lift off from the surface and rendezvous with the orbiter. The crew could then transfer back into the orbiter, using the vehicle to return home.

Advocates had been impressing upon NASA the weight savings that this approach would offer. Not only would the resultant spacecraft be lighter, but they could also be launched together on a single, smaller Saturn C-5 rocket. The Saturn design even had the added benefit of being designed around existing facilities and infrastructure, meaning it could be built and flown much sooner than Nova. The conjoined spacecraft would also benefit from having specialized lander and orbiter roles, along with redundant life support and propulsion systems. NASA officially settled on this mode in mid-1962 and later awarded aircraft manufacturer Grumman a contract to develop and produce the Lunar Module. North American Aviation had already been contracted to produce the Command and Service Module and quickly set about redesigning the CSM to accommodate the LOR mission profile. Finally, with the path to the Moon chosen, the Saturn C-5 design was officially selected as Apollo's lunar launch vehicle.

At the same time, NASA requested the development of a third rocket to fill the gap between the C-1 and C-5. The Saturn C-1, while powerful, would not possess the lift capacity to haul a full Apollo spacecraft into orbit. For this purpose an uprated Saturn C-1 was commissioned, using larger and more refined first and second stages.

NASA later simplified the nomenclature of their new rockets, giving us the names we're all familiar with today. The Saturn C-1 was renamed to Saturn I, the uprated version became the Saturn IB, and the Saturn C-5 became the Saturn V.



Early Testing Begins


SA-1 - AS-204 (Apollo 1)


By 1963 Kennedy's Moon landing was still quite a ways away. A number of Ranger probes had been launched to photograph the lunar surface but all failed. Project Mercury was set to wrap up in May with the flight of Faith 7 and Project Gemini was still underway. What NASA did have in the meantime was the Saturn I. The rocket had already been procured before the start of Apollo and by 1963 NASA had successfully launched four Block I Saturn I rockets, the first pieces of Apollo rocket hardware to fly. 

The Saturn I was designed as America's first medium-lift launch vehicle, being able to launch just over 9 metric tons into orbit. It was originally conceived as a three-stage rocket consisting of the S-I, S-IV, and SV stages. The first stage, S-I, was powered by eight H-1 rocket engines fed by a cluster of fuel and oxidizer tanks. The central tank was built to the same tank diameter of the earlier Jupiter rocket while the eight outer tanks were Redstone-sized. This was done to allow for quicker and easier fabrication of the stage using existing tooling and facilities. The S-IV second stage would be a large cryogenic stage powered by six RL10 engines and the SV third stage would be a smaller cryogenic stage powered by two RL10's. Development of these upper stages was still underway in 1961. The first stages however were already being completed and shipped to Cape Canaveral for launch testing.


The first Block I launch occurred on October 27, 1961 with SA-1. It was only a test of the first stage with the other two stages being filled with water ballast. At the time it was the most powerful rocket stage ever launched by NASA, and engineers doubted the mission's chances at success. Many feared the rocket would suffer from teething problems and/or explode on the pad, just as many rockets had before it. The Saturn proved them wrong; the massive cluster lifted off and launched without a hitch, reaching an apogee of 136 kilometers. Such success would be indicative of flights to come.


Saturn I was launched twice more in 1962 on SA-2 and SA-3. Both launches were again successful. Their mission profiles were similar to that of SA-1 except with the added objective of releasing the ballast water into the upper atmosphere as a part of Project Highwater.


The final Block I flight, SA-4, occurred on March 28, 1963. The mockup second stage was fitted with extra fairings and ducting to simulate the aerodynamic design of the real stage. The No. 5 engine was also programmed to shut off partway into the flight to imitate an engine failure. This mission was another success. Once the No. 5 engine shut off the rocket managed to compensate for the loss in velocity by burning the remaining engines slightly longer.

The Block I flights came to a close with the delivery of the first functional S-IV stage in late 1963. Engineers had also taken the time to implement upgrades to the S-I stage by lengthening fuel tanks and installing improved H-1 engines. The stage also featured a redesigned base section and was fitted with four large fins. This new stage configuration, along with the S-IV, gave rise to the Block II Saturn I. Thanks to these upgrades the Block II would feature a much greater payload capacity of over 17 metric tons to orbit. President John F. Kennedy marked the upcoming SA-5 launch as the moment when America would surpass the Soviets in lift capacity for the first time since the start of the Space Race. However, he was never able to see it happen before his assassination in November of that year.

Lyndon B. Johnson would dedicate the Apollo program to the late Kennedy during his tenure as president. Just one week after taking office President Johnson issued an executive order to rename NASA's Launch Operations Center in Cape Canaveral. From then on, it would be known as the John F. Kennedy Space Center. Johnson was keen on seeing Apollo through, and, in the years that followed, continually protected the program's budget to ensure its completion before 1970.


The Saturn I missions continued into 1964 with the launch of SA-5 on January 29. The upgraded Block II and its new S-IV stage performed perfectly. The S-IV propelled itself into an eccentric 262-by-785-kilometer orbit, becoming the largest artificial satellite ever launched at the time. 


With both stages proving functional NASA saw fit to install a boilerplate Apollo spacecraft to the Saturn for the first time. The AS-101 flight would verify the launch aerodynamics and structural design of the CSM and its LES tower. The mission began on May 28, 1964 and SA-6 launched without incident until one of the first stage engines shut off due to a turbopump failure almost two minutes into the flight. This caused the rocket to burn slightly longer to compensate, as had been demonstrated on SA-4. The boilerplate CSM was injected into orbit atop the S-IV and continued to transmit data until its batteries ran dry four orbits later. This mission profile was repeated on AS-102, which launched in September later that year.



1965 started with the launch of AS-103 on February 16. It carried another boilerplate CSM, but also carried the first Pegasus micrometeoroid detection satellite, hidden under the BP service module shroud. These satellites featured large folding panel arrays fitted with sensors to detect impacts by micrometeoroids. NASA launched three of these satellites to form a micrometeoroid-sensing constellation through 1965. Each Pegasus used the same ride-sharing configuration with the BP CSMs on AS-104 and AS-105. These flights saw the last use of the Saturn I.


While the Saturn I proved invaluable for the early test flights, it would never get the chance to carry a full production CSM into orbit. For this purpose NASA had already commissioned the creation of a new rocket, the Saturn IB. In place of the Saturn I's S-I and S-IV stages it would use the more powerful S-IB and S-IVB stages. The S-IB stage featured uprated H-1C and H-1D engines, along with redesigned aerodynamic fins and a new interstage section. The S-IVB was another cryogenic stage, much larger than the S-IV and propelled by a single, more powerful J-2 engine. This stage in particular had already been designed and chosen as the third stage of the Saturn V, providing commonality between the two rockets. These changes would give NASA the opportunity to properly test-fly the full CSM/S-IVB stack before the first flight of the Saturn V.

The first unmanned launch of the IB was slated for February of 1966 with AS-201. Its payload was CSM-009, a Block I version CSM. These CSMs were originally designed early in the program when it was assumed Apollo would adopt the direct ascent method, and thus lacked the docking ports and other equipment necessary for orbital rendezvous. While the lunar-capable Block-II CSMs were still being developed, NASA utilized the Block Is for early test missions in Earth orbit. 


AS-201 lifted off out of Cape Canaveral on February 26 after months of delays to perform a nearly perfect Saturn launch. Minor timing and thrust issues were encountered, but the S-IB and S-IVB managed to impart CSM-009 onto a suborbital trajectory with an apogee of over 400 kilometers. Once in space the CSM separated from the S-IVB and demonstrated maneuvers using its RCS system for the first time. It then fired its Service Propulsion System twice to accelerate the CSM towards Earth prior to separation and reentry. The command module encountered minor electrical problems during reentry, first losing steering control then losing measurement instrumentation on the way down. In spite of these issues the CM survived its reentry, certifying the heat shield against high suborbital velocities. The SPS also properly demonstrated its in-flight restart capability but suffered from helium ingestion after an oxidizer feed line break. AS-201 met all its objectives but uncovered problems with the CSM that would need to be addressed before the next flight.


The next flight would logically follow as AS-202, but the payload for that mission, CSM-011, was not ready to fly as of July 1966. The flight was postponed to solve the issues seen on AS-201. AS-203 was ready however, and went ahead with its mission first. 

The 203 mission was a test flight intended to verify design principles involved with the S-IVB and its restart capability. As a part of the Saturn V the S-IVB was designed to be able to restart in orbit; firing first to insert the Apollo spacecraft into orbit and a second time to boost Apollo to the Moon. To achieve this the S-IVB needed to be able to control the position, pressure, and temperature of its propellants while coasting in zero-g. TV cameras were installed inside the S-IVB's fuel tanks to allow the observation of liquid hydrogen during these phases. The J-2 engine on this flight was fitted with a chill down and recirculation system just like it would have on the Saturn V. The S-IVB was also modified with rear-facing LOX vents to fill the role of ullage motors during its time in orbit.


AS-203 launched on July 5, 1966. The S-IVB propelled itself into a circular 188 kilometer orbit at which point the zero-g testing could begin. The stage began to vent residual LOX and gaseous hydrogen aft to slowly accelerate the stage in orbit. This had the effect of settling the propellant at the base of the tank, just as would be necessary for an inflight engine restart. Observers watched the fuel move and interact with various baffles and screens within the tank and found its behavior to be just as expected. The J-2's chill down and recirculation systems were then operated, successfully simulating an engine restart. These tests successfully verified the design behind the S-IVB, confirming that it was possible to restart the stage in orbit. 

A final test raised the pressure differential between the propellant tanks, intending to cause a failure of the common bulkhead. The stage was completely destroyed after completing four orbits in space and the mission was classified as a success.

By August CSM-011 and AS-202 was finally ready to fly. It was planned as a step up from the AS-201 flight. The CSM would be in space twice as long, would perform more SPS firings, and would endure a much longer reentry than had been performed on AS-201. On this mission the CM was to demonstrate a double-skip reentry by using the capsule's lift properties in tandem with RCS to steer it through the atmosphere, providing valuable flight data on the capsule's aerodynamic properties. The S-IVB would also be intentionally destroyed by causing a failure of the common bulkhead, as had been performed on AS-203.


AS-202 lifted off on August 25, 1966. The Saturn IB again encountered minor issues with stage timing and thrust levels, but was still able to loft CSM-011 onto the required high-suborbital trajectory. The CSM separated from the spent S-IVB and began its first SPS burn seconds later, raising its apogee to over 1,100 kilometers. The spacecraft fired its SPS three more times while descending towards Earth, once to further increase velocity and twice more in quick succession to verify the engine's rapid-restart capability. The CM and SM modules then separated ahead of reentry. 


The CM on this flight successfully reached its intended reentry parameters and was able to steer through the atmosphere using RCS. It initially descended to an altitude of 64 kilometers before ascending to 78 kilometers and back down again. Throughout the descent the heat shield endured peak temperatures of 1,500 degrees C while the environment inside capsule never exceeded 21 degrees C. Its parachutes deployed automatically and CM-011 splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean. 

While the launch, flight, and skip reentry were performed adequately, the CM's lift-to-drag ratio was found to be less than expected, bringing the capsule down 380 kilometers short of its target. Still, the performance of the Saturn IB and the CSM readily met expectations. With all mission objectives achieved, NASA human-rated both the Saturn IB and the Apollo spacecraft, deeming them ready to carry astronauts into orbit. The first crewed mission of the Apollo program was given the go-ahead, later scheduled to take place in early 1967 with AS-204.

The prime crew for this first manned Apollo mission had already been selected as of 1966. They were Astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. Gus Grissom was a veteran of Project Mercury and Gemini; he commanded the first crewed Gemini mission on Gemini III and would serve as commander for AS-204. Ed white was another Gemini astronaut, famously becoming the first American to spacewalk on Gemini IV. He would be the senior of the two pilots on this flight. Roger Chaffee was the command pilot, with AS-204 being his first space mission. Sadly, this flight would never come to pass.

On the afternoon of January 27, 1967, the crew of AS-204 boarded their CSM-012 capsule for a "plugs-out" test of the Apollo spacecraft ahead of the scheduled February launch date. It was a test of the CSM's electrical system, carried out to see if the spacecraft would operate on internal power after being detached from its umbilical supply. The astronauts sat in the capsule, fully pressure suited and strapped into their seats while a simulated countdown ran in the background. As a part of the simulated launch procedure the CM hatches were sealed and the capsule's atmosphere was replaced with 100% oxygen at 16.7 psi.

Several hours into the test one of the astronauts noticed a fire growing in the cabin. These flames quickly grew in intensity, engulfing the cabin within seconds. The crew moved to evacuate, but the increasing pressure differential combined with the inward-opening design of the hatch made it impossible to open. The intensifying pressure then ruptured the cabin walls allowing flames to shoot out of the capsule, only subsiding once all oxygen had been consumed. It took five minutes for pad crews to open all three hatches leading into the smoke-filled capsule. By then it was too late; all three astronauts were dead as a result of the fire.

The tragedy came as a terrible shock to the nation. Three men regarded as America's finest were killed in a supposedly non-hazardous preflight test. It seemed that, in their haste to meet the president's deadline, NASA and their subcontractors made fatal decisions in the interest of time rather than safety. 

The ensuing investigation uncovered many design deficiencies in North American Aviation's Block I capsule. Multiple instances of exposed wiring,  coupled with the slew of flammable materials installed in the cabin meant the capsule was just a fire waiting to happen. This flammability was only exacerbated by the cabin's high-pressure pure-oxygen atmosphere. The plug-door design of the inner hatch was also criticized as it made a timely escape difficult, and impossible once the fire took hold. These deficiencies were evidently the result of a hasty development and poor quality control by North American Aviation.

NASA was also to blame, guilty of lax safety procedures and a lack of foresight. They had made the decision to use a pure-oxygen atmosphere in the cabin, given the simplicity and weight savings the approach offered. Even at the time of the test they did not recognize the potential fire hazard that this method posed, despite earlier run-ins with fire in oxygenated environments. This caused them to deem the test non-hazardous, precluding any possible emergency response from occurring. NASA did not even have a specific procedure for dealing with a spacecraft fire on the ground, only equipping pad engineers with fire extinguishers.

Crewed missions were put on hold for 20 months while these safety issues were addressed. While the Block I would still be used for unmanned flights, the Block II was to undergo a substantial redesign in the name of crew safety. 

From then on, the Block II cabin would use a dual-gas—60% oxygen and 40% nitrogen—atmosphere at launch. The cabin pressure at launch was reduced to sea-level, and the hatch was changed to a single-piece outward-opening design that could be opened within five seconds. Flammable materials were replaced, wires were coated with protective insulation, and thorough protocols were implemented to ensure that the spacecraft were properly constructed and maintained. These changes would yield a spacecraft that was far safer than before, paving the way for crewed missions to come. 

The families of the late astronauts approached NASA afterwards, requesting for the title of the first manned Apollo mission to be reserved for the crew of AS-204. NASA obliged, retroactively assigning the mission the name of "Apollo 1" in honor of Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee.



The Saturn V Takes Flight


Apollo 4 - Apollo 11


By 1967 Apollo's end-of-decade deadline was fast approaching. While Apollo was still underway a number of other spaceflight projects at NASA had been successfully carried out, filling in some of the major pieces to the puzzle that was the Moon landing. 

Starting in 1964 NASA managed to capture its first close-up images of the Moon with Ranger 7, continuing into 1965 with Rangers 8 and 9. In 1966 they had achieved their soft lunar landing with Surveyor 1, and were off to a good start on their lunar mapping program with Lunar Orbiter 1 and 2. By the end of 1966 project Gemini had concluded with its last flight, having successfully demonstrating long-duration spaceflight and orbital rendezvous and docking techniques that were necessary to achieve Moon landing. 

NASA was well on its way until 1967, when crewed missions were put on hold after the tragic loss of Apollo 1. With this NASA's plans for a thorough test flight regime of the Apollo spacecraft went out the window. They would have to wait until the introduction of the Block II CSM to conduct their first manned mission, and that was still over a year away. At the same time number of other delays with the Lunar Module and the Saturn V itself threatened to push the landing date even further beyond 1970. With less than three years to go it was clear that NASA had to make bold strides in order to keep their deadline. Thankfully for NASA, these bold strides had already been planned out in anticipation the first flight of the Saturn V.

As early as 1964 George Mueller, an associate administrator at NASA, had introduced a concept known as "all-up" testing to the Apollo program. It had been successfully implemented in the Minuteman and Titan II programs, and he wanted it to be implemented in Apollo to keep it on track. In contrast to the traditional method of testing rockets iteratively with a mix of live and dummy stages, an all-up test called for the rocket to be comprised entirely of live stages and a live payload from the very first launch. The idea was to massively speed up the development process, reducing the number of launches and maximizing the payoff of each flight. In addition, an all-up rocket would better represent dynamic launch conditions by using real hardware, thus providing more accurate data over the course of the flight. 

Mueller pushed his idea and successfully persuaded the heads at NASA, who then adopted his method to test the upcoming Saturn V. The first opportunity came at the end of 1967, when all stages of the Saturn V were finally delivered and ready to launch. 


The Saturn V's first stage was was the S-IC, coming in at 10 meters in diameter and 42 meters tall. It was fueled with RP-1 and powered by five Rocketdyne F-1 engines. Each of these F-1s produced 6,700 kN of thrust, making them the most powerful single rocket engines ever produced. Mounted on the S-IC, they produced a combined 33,500 kN and would burn for 150 seconds to propel the upper stages to an altitude of 60 kilometers and a speed of 2,700m/s.

The S-II was the second stage, a cryogenic stage like the S-IVB but much larger. It used five J-2 engines in its design for a total of 4,500 kN. Like the S-IVB it used a common bulkhead between the fuel and oxidizer tanks, reducing the stage's overall size and weight. At the time it was the most powerful cryogenic stage ever built, with incredible weight-efficiency to boot. It would burn for over six minutes to propel the S-IVB and the Apollo spacecraft up to 188 kilometers at near-orbital velocity.

The S-IVB served as the Saturn V's third stage. As mentioned before, it was a large cryogenic stage powered by a single J-2. It was very similar to the version used on the Saturn IB but featured extra equipment related to its inflight restart capability. This included extra helium pressurant and a pair of special Auxiliary Propulsion System modules which would provide attitude and ullage control while the stage was in orbit. The J-2 included recirculation and chilldown systems to bring the engine to the right temperature prior to reignition.

Each S-IVB was topped with an Instrument Unit, essentially the brains of the Saturn V. The IMU contained all the necessary electronic instrumentation and avionics to guide the Saturn V's three stages into orbit. 

The first all-up test of the Saturn V was originally scheduled for January of 1967, later pushed back to November due to delays with the S-II and the CSM. It would be the first attempted launch of the fully-assembled Saturn V, carrying Block I CSM-017 into orbit. The first two stages would accelerate the S-IVB and CSM to near-orbital velocity, at which point the S-IVB would take over and burn part of its fuel supply to achieve orbital insertion. After spending two revolutions in this parking orbit the S-IVB would perform an inflight restart, simulating the Trans-Lunar Injection maneuver to boost the CSM onto an elliptical orbit with an apogee of 17,400 kilometers. After the simulated TLI, the CSM would then utilize SPS burns to increase velocity prior to reentry. The flight would also carry Lunar Module Test Article 10R, an instrumented dynamic mass simulator that was built to the same general shape, size, and weight of the LM.

The mission would fly as Apollo 4, designated as the fourth test flight under NASA's new numbered mission-naming scheme. It was scheduled for the morning of November 9, 1967.


Apollo 4



The world watched in anticipation as Apollo 4's countdown ticked down to zero. The world's largest, most powerful rocket stood fully assembled on the pad, primed for ignition. In a flash, all five of the Saturn's giant F-1 engines roared to life channeling 35,000 kN of thrust through the platform. The rocket's launch clamps and umbilical connections were released seconds later, and the mighty Saturn V lifted off the pad for the first time. As the rocket ascended it produced far greater amounts of noise and buffeting than expected, rocking buildings and spectators for miles.


The massive rocket continued to climb higher and higher without a problem, continuously accelerating as the S-IC burned through its propellant supply. 135 seconds into the flight the central F-1 was shut down as planned, regulating acceleration and g-load. The outer engines shut down 15 seconds later.


S-IC/S-II separation was then initiated with the S-IC utilizing eight retrorockets to ensure separation. Another eight ullage motors mounted on the interstage ring fired to help settle the S-II's propellants ahead of ignition.


All five J-2s were powered up, successfully starting the S-II stage and accelerating the rocket further .


Thirty seconds after S-IC/S-II separation the heavy interstage ring was jettisoned, followed by the LES seconds later.


A pair of cameras installed on the S-II managed to capture the event on film for further analysis. The camera pods were later ejected, reentering the atmosphere and coming down in the Atlantic for recovery.


S-II would burn for another five and a half minutes, accelerating the stack to near-orbital velocity.


All five J-2s were shut down approximately 520 seconds into the flight. This was followed by S-II/S-IVB separation, aided by another set of retrorockets and ullage motors. The S-IVB's single J-2 then ignited for the first time, burning for another two and a half minutes to reach a parking orbit of 183 by 187 kilometers.


From its parking orbit the S-IVB began to vent gaseous hydrogen aft, imparting slight acceleration to the stage in order to keep its propellants settled in the tanks. The spacecraft spent two orbits in this coasting phase prior to reignition. The stage's second burn would simulate the trans-lunar injection maneuver that would be used to reach the Moon.


Three hours into the flight the aft APS thrusters were fired up, providing additional ullage control as the J-2 started its second ignition sequence. The J-2 then successfully reignited for the first time in orbit. The S-IVB and its CSM were further propelled for another 5 minutes, injecting them into a highly elliptical orbit with an apogee of just over 17,000 kilometers.


CSM-017 was separated from the stack ten minutes later , leaving behind the S-IVB and its LTA-10R.


The S-IVB and LTA-10R would continue on its earthbound trajectory, burning up when it eventually hit the atmosphere.


The CSM then conducted its first SPS burn to raise its apogee to 18,000 kilometers. The spacecraft coasted through apogee, turning its cockpit windows to face the Earth. An onboard camera captured hundreds of images of the planet below during the spacecraft's transit.


Once past apogee and back on the descent another SPS burn was performed to raise the spacecraft's velocity, simulating lunar-return speeds.


The command and service modules were then separated, leaving the CM to perform a double-skip reentry. Throughout the descent braking loads peaked at 4 g's as the capsule's ECS kept the cabin environment below 21 degrees C.


CM-017's drogues and main chutes were deployed, bringing the capsule down just 19 kilometers off-target.

Mueller's all-up method had paid off; the mission was a complete success. Over the course of just one launch NASA had proven that their massive Moon rocket worked. As 1967 drew to a close Apollo seemed much closer to its goal than it had been at the start of the year. The only piece of hardware that had yet to take flight was the Lunar Module itself.

The Lunar Module was arguably the most crucial component of the Apollo program. It was Apollo's lander, and as such needed to be able to ferry astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon and back safely. As a part of the LOR mission profile it also needed to be able to maneuver, rendezvous, and dock with the CSM once in orbit. And above all, it had to be safe, lightweight, and reliable. Such a design was unprecedented at the start of the 1960s. Still, in 1962 eleven companies were invited to submit their proposals for the lander, and in the end the contract to develop and produce the LM was awarded to Grumman. 

Within Grumman design  work for the LM was then undertaken by a group of aerospace engineers led chiefly by Thomas J. Kelly. From the beginning they knew the lander module would be a two-stage design, using a descent stage to initiate and stick the landing, and an ascent stage to lift off from the surface to rendezvous with the command module. The shape of these individual stages however, was the subject of constant redesign.


The final design for the LM featured a highly angular exterior, with the descent stage taking the form of an octagonal prism. It encased four hypergolic propellant tanks along with the Descent Propulsion System at its core. The DPS was a variable-throttle rocket engine, designed to allow fine thrust control during the descent to the surface. Also aiding in the descent was the Doppler radar antenna, mounted at the bottom of the stage to collect data about the lander's altitude and descent rate. For the landing itself the stage was fitted with four landing legs to stabilize and absorb the impact of the landing. The wedge sections located between each tank contained additional tankage for water, helium, and oxygen, as well as scientific equipment for the astronauts to retrieve after landing.

Atop the descent stage sat the ascent stage, essentially a cylindrical crew cabin surrounded by a network of flat skin panels and thermal coverings. This stage was tasked with providing habitation for the crew during their stay on the Moon, simultaneously being capable of achieving lunar orbit, orbital rendezvous, and docking with the CSM. The stage was propelled by the Ascent Propulsion System, another hypergolic rocket engine. It provided a fixed amount of thrust and would carry the astronauts off the surface and initiate their ascent into orbit. For maneuvers in space the ascent stage was installed with four RCS quads similar to the ones seen on the CSM. A set of antennas mounted on the top of the stage provided long and short range communications for each phase of the flight, as well as radar tracking for rendezvous operations.

The first unmanned flight test of the LM was scheduled for mid-1967, but continuous delays relating to part fabrication and engine instability pushed the launch date back several months. The mission was to employ a Saturn IB booster to carry the LM into orbit, whereby tests would be conducted on the flightworthiness of the individual ascent and descent stages, as well as their propulsion systems. This flight would also perform a simulation of the LM's landing abort sequence, in which the ascent stage would be fired while still attached to the descent stage.

LM-1 was eventually delivered to Cape Canaveral in June on 1967, then mounted on its Saturn IB booster in November after months of preflight inspections and repairs. LM-1's glass window panes were later replaced with aluminum plates as a precaution after a window on LM-5 shattered during a pressurization test. Following these minor repairs, LM-1 and its Saturn IB were finally ready to launch as Apollo 5, scheduled to launch at the start of 1968.


Apollo 5



Apollo 5 finally lifted off just before sunset on January 22, 1968. The booster on this flight was SA-204, the Saturn IB originally destined to launch on Apollo 1. Its performance on this occasion was nearly perfect, placing the S-IVB and LM-1 onto an orbit of 163-by-222 kilometers.



The nosecone was jettisoned seconds after S-IVB cutoff, and the SLA panels were unfolded minutes later. Apollo 5 then continued its coast around the Earth.


LM-1 was released from its SLA container after half an orbit, with the LM using its RCS to increase separation from the S-IVB. LM-1 then made attitude adjustments spent three hours in another coast in order to cold-soak its propulsion system.


The plan from here called for two burns of the DPS followed by the simulated abort and burns of the APS. The first 39-second burn was programmed to start at 10% throttle, later increasing to full thrust to mimic the maneuver that would be used to deorbit the LM during the real lunar landings. The second burn was planned to last almost 13 minutes, simulating the LM's final descent through the use of various throttle settings.


Commands were sent up to LM-1 to start the first burn sequence. The DPS lit up for the first time and fired for just four seconds before shutting down prematurely.


A quick examination allowed ground controllers to diagnose the problem. Apparently it was the LM's guidance computer had commanded the abort, having been programmed to do so if it encountered less acceleration than expected. Since the DPS was intentionally running at lower settings for the test, it would take longer to reach the acceleration levels expected by the guidance computer. Planners had neglected to take the LM's programming into account when designing the test.


Ground controllers the pivoted to an alternate mission profile to continue the tests. LM-1's guidance system was shut off and the DPS was fired manually, performing the initial 33-second burn. The second burn started shortly afterward, condensed to just 28 seconds as a part of the alternate mission plan.


The next phase of the test concerned the ascent stage and its APS. Ground controllers successfully commanded the simulated abort, igniting the APS and decoupling the ascent and descent stages. The APS burned for 60 seconds, boosting the ascent stage into a 163-by-961 kilometer orbit.


LM-1's guidance system was switched back on in anticipation of the second APS burn. However, since the guidance computer had been shut off, it had failed to record the changes to LM-1's mass following the DPS burns and the abort sequence. The LM maneuvered as if it was still attached to its fully-fueled descent stage and completely burned through its RCS supply over the course of one hour. To regain attitude control LM-1's RCS system had to be configured to draw from the APS' propellant supply.

LM-1 was then turned to face retrograde and began its second, final burn of the APS. Halfway through the maneuver the RCS system was deactivated, causing the ascent stage to tumble through the rest of the burn. LM-1's ascent stage reentered the atmosphere on January 23, bringing Apollo 5 to a close.

The flight proved satisfactory, despite the major hiccups encountered. The LM's ascent and descent stages, along with their individual propulsion systems were proven to work just as expected. The guidance system also got the chance to demonstrate its programming, even if it wasn't exactly in the manner that mission planners intended. LM-1's performance on this occasion allowed NASA to certify the Lunar Module for crewed testing, deeming the second unmanned test and the flight of LM-2 unnecessary. Instead, it would be the more advanced LM-3 that would go on to participate in Apollo's first manned LM mission.

In the meantime, the second test flight of the Saturn V was already taking shape in the VAB. By February of 1968 the second Saturn V booster had been fully assembled and was being rolled out to the launchpad, having just completed its regime of inspections and vehicle integration tests. 

The mission profile on this flight would be similar to that of Apollo 4, utilizing the Saturn V to launch a CSM into a high elliptical orbit. This time, the S-IVB would perform an extended TLI burn, aiming to inject the CSM onto an orbit with an extremely high apogee of over 500,000 kilometers. From there the CSM would conduct more SPS burns, lowering its apogee down to just 22,000 kilometers before ultimately accelerating to lunar-return speeds before reentry. Additional sensors and instrumentation were fitted to the Saturn V to provide more valuable telemetry during the launch. The spacecraft, CSM-020, would also bear several modifications in order to flight-test upgrades to be instituted on the Block II CSM.

Prelaunch tests on the Saturn V were carried out fairly quickly thanks to experience gained from Apollo 4,  and had wrapped up by the end of March. Apollo 6 was ready to launch, slated for the beginning of April 1968.


Apollo 6



Apollo 6 lifted off out of Cape Canaveral on April 4, 1968. The flight began in nominal fashion with the Saturn V initiating a mild yaw program before clearing the tower. A roll program aligned the rocket to the correct heading, allowing the pitch program to start moving the vehicle downrange.


The launch went smoothly until T+110 seconds when the booster began to experience severe longitudinal oscillations, a phenomenon also known as "pogo". This was caused by thrust fluctuations in the F-1 engines resonating with its feed lines at certain frequencies, creating intense vibrations in the rocket structure. On this flight the pogo oscillation reached peak amplitudes of ±0.6g at around 5.5 hertz. Tracking cameras witnessed several outer skin panels from the SLA section peeling away before the pogo finally subsided at 140 seconds.


Despite the apparent damage caused by the pogo, S-II ignition occurred normally. While the loss of the skin panels was alarming it seemed as though the rocket might have made it through the pogo incident relatively unscathed.


However true condition of the rocket was only made more apparent as the flight went on. Engine #2 on the S-II began to suffer from a loss of thrust starting at 255 seconds, and was shut down altogether by the IMU at 412 seconds. This was followed by the unexpected shutdown of engine #3 mere seconds after. The guidance system of the Saturn V had not been programmed to deal with the loss of two J-2s but did its best to compensate nonetheless. Apollo 6 limped to orbit on decreased thrust, burning the S-II nearly a minute longer than planned.


Even with the extra burn time Apollo 6 was over 100m/s slower than anticipated by S-II cutoff. The guidance computer then enlisted the help of the S-IVB, burning an extra 30 seconds to try and make up for the speed deficiency. By the time of the S-IVB's first shutdown it had managed to inject itself into an eccentric 173-by-360 kilometer orbit.


Despite all the launch troubles and prolonged engine burns Apollo 6 still had enough fuel in the S-IVB to complete the planned TLI maneuver. The stage began to vent excess hydrogen and coasted through two orbits in preparation. But when the command was given to initiate the TLI the J-2 simply failed to restart.


With the S-IVB dead in the water, ground controllers again quickly pivoted to a backup profile to try and salvage the mission. CSM-020 was freed from the S-IVB in order to proceed with its still-functional SPS.


The SPS was then fired for seven minutes to raise the CSM's apogee to over 22,000 kilometers, as had been intended after the planned TLI and subsequent retrograde maneuver. This new plan however left insufficient fuel for the second SPS burn, which had to be abandoned.


CSM-020 still managed to achieve some of its original objectives, providing flight data on the CSM's systems and Block II upgrades during its time in space. Instruments also measured cabin radiation levels as the spacecraft transited through apogee, monitoring the shielding effect of the CM's hull from within the Van Allen belts.


Reentry occurred at 10 km/s, a slight reduction from the 11 km/s achieved during Apollo 4.


All parachutes deployed normally, bringing Apollo 6 down safely 90 kilometers short of the target zone. It was picked up six hours later by the USS Okinawa.

Apollo 6 ended with the safe recovery of the CM, but this was only in spite of the launch troubles encountered by the Saturn V. The severe pogo that occurred early on would have been intolerable to any crew had they been aboard. Worse, it had caused enough to cause damage to effectively cripple the rocket's upper stages. If the same conditions had appeared on a manned flight it would have surely led to a launch abort.

The pogo was a known issue with the S-IC, but was believed to have been solved by the time of the launch. An investigation was organized and carried out by a group of over 1,000 engineers to try and quell the oscillations before the next Saturn V flight. They found that they could 'detune' the F-1 engines by filling prevalve cavities on the LOX feed lines with helium gas prior to ignition. In effect, this would alter the frequency of the vibrations that the engine produced in flight, preventing resonance with the propellant feed lines.

The failure of the three J-2 engines was found to be caused mainly by a weakness in their flexible fuel lines, allowing them to crack open under the stress of the pogo. Engine #2 on the S-II had evidently suffered from a lack of fuel, resulting in its eventual shutdown. The failure of the S-IVB's J-2 to restart was also caused by a crack in its fuel line, but initially only resulted in a minor loss of thrust during the first burn. The leak of cryogenic fuel however had frozen nearby hydraulic lines, preventing the J-2's reignition once in orbit. In response, the flexible fuel lines were augmented to strengthen them against vibrations on all future missions.

While engine #2 on the S-II was shut down due to a lack of fuel, engine #3's shutdown was found to be caused by a simple wiring error. Wires leading into engines 2 and 3 had been crossed at some point, causing the propellant cutoff command to be sent to both engines. The S-II stage installed on the next Saturn V was taken down, undergoing a comprehensive investigation to ensure its flightworthiness ahead of its next mission.

The loss of the SLA skin panels on the other hand was determined not to have been caused by the pogo, instead being caused by a manufacturing defect in the SLA's honeycomb structure. Moisture which had been trapped inside each cell structures caused an increase of internal pressure as the SLA experienced aerodynamic heating during the launch. Eventually the dynamic launch pressures caused the skin above the cell to blow apart starting at a faulty seam in the skin. For future flights holes were drilled in the SLA in order to relieve internal pressure during a launch. A layer of cork was also included on later flights to help with temperature variations and to absorb moisture.

Following these investigations and subsequent changes made, NASA was confident enough to man-rate the Saturn V for the upcoming Apollo 8 mission.


Apollo 7












Apollo 8


Apollo 8, the first mission to carry men beyond low Earth orbit and to circumnavigate the Moon.  It was also the first manned flight of the Saturn V, launched on December 21, 1968, crewed by astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders. Apollo 8 was originally planned to carry a Lunar Module into medium Earth orbit. However due to setbacks with the LM hardware Apollo 8 was re-planned as an ambitious lunar circumnavigation and reconnaissance flight, using only the Command and Service Module. In place of the LM it carried the LTA-B, a ballast mass meant to represent the LM in the S-IVB. 

Apollo 8 arrived at the Moon on December 24, inserting itself into orbit with an eight-minute SPS burn on the far side of the Moon.  For the first time in history humans were able to view the Moon's surface up close. The crew studied the surface as they orbited, surveying surface features and potential landing zones for future missions. After a few orbits they were able to catch a view of the distant Earth rising over the lunar horizon. The astronauts scrambled to take photographs of the phenomena, called Earthrise, capturing an inspiring view of the planet we call home.  The lunar flight program was capped with a live television broadcast in which each crew member gave remarks on their mission and impressions of the Moon. Each crew member then read aloud passages from the book of Genesis, before wishing the people of Earth a good night and a Merry Christmas. Trans-Earth Injection was performed on the 25th and Apollo 8 splashed down safely on the 27th. 








Apollo 9


Apollo 9 was the first test flight of the full Saturn V/Apollo system, utilizing both the Command and Lunar Modules in orbit. Astronauts would demonstrate CSM/LM docking and undocking, LM extraction from the S-IVB, intravehicular crew transfer, EVA capability, LM flight, and rendezvous operations. As the mission involved two separate spacecraft in flight callsigns were required to differentiate them. NASA allowed the crew to designate their spacecraft. The CSM was named Gumdrop and the LM became Spider, each name inspired by the spacecraft's appearance. They would be piloted by astronauts James McDivitt, David Scott,  and Russell Schweickart for the busy 10-day mission in low Earth orbit. 


Apollo 9 was launched into LEO just past noon on March 3, 1969. The first two stages actually underperformed on this flight, but this deficiency was made up for by the S-IVB.


Three hours after achieving orbit the CSM was decoupled from the stack. CM Pilot David Scott maneuvered the spacecraft during this phase, turning it around to dock with the LM. A successful docking was attained, and an hour later the LM was successfully extracted from the S-IVB. This was the first time the transposition, docking, and extraction maneuver had been performed, proving that the complex maneuver was possible.


With the two spacecraft locked together Apollo 9 demonstrated its maneuverability, pitching and yawing with the CSM's RCS thrusters. A short SPS burn proved that the conjoined spacecraft was stable and maneuverable.


The S-IVB was later re-ignited, consuming the rest of its fuel and sending it on an escape trajectory. This moment was captured on video by the crew. By March 5 the astronauts entered the LM by way of the internal docking tunnel, another first for human spaceflight. They used the LM's descent engine to maneuver the stack, proving that it could be used in an emergency.


On March 6 a spacewalk was planned to demonstrate extravehicular crew transfer from the LM to the CSM, an important emergency procedure used in the event of a docking tunnel failure. Russel Schweickart stepped out onto the LM's porch, held in place by a pair of foot restraints dubbed the "golden slippers". He also wore a PLSS backpack, the first and only test of the system in space.


David Scott stood up out of the CM hatch, ready to help Schweickart if needed.  Schweickart had been suffering from bouts of nausea earlier but became well enough in time for this critical EVA. He moved around with ease using external handrails and retrieved experiments left outside the LM. The external transfer was not completed but both astronauts felt that it was perfectly doable if necessary.


On March 7 the crew prepared to separate the LM from the CSM. Scott would stay in the CSM while Schweickart and McDivitt would pilot the LM. The plan for this segment of the mission was to test fly the LM, achieving hundreds of kilometers of separation before rendezvousing and returning to the CSM in the ascent stage. Spider's landing struts were unfolded and the lander undocked, flying freely with crew for the first time.


Spider moved into a higher orbit to test its Descent Propulsion System. It was fired at varying throttle settings over the next few hours. Spider eventually achieved a separation distance of 185km from Gumdrop, at which point its orbit was lowered in order to catch up.


The descent stage was jettisoned ahead of rendezvous, leaving it in orbit to reenter at a later date. 


Spider eventually made its way back to Gumdrop utilizing the LM's rendezvous systems and proving their efficacy. Spider was spun around each axis, allowing Scott to check for damage before docking.


With this maneuver complete Spider was guided in and re-docked with Gumdrop. Schweickart and McDivitt transferred back into the CSM for the last time. 


Spider was later jettisoned, having fulfilled its purpose to the mission. As a final test of the LM, Spider's ascent engine was fired to depletion, putting the stage into a high elliptical orbit. With the most important objectives completed, the remaining  days were used to show that the Command Module could perform for the full mission duration. The crew spent their time conducting a final series of tests before returning to Earth on March 13th. 

Apollo 9 was deemed a highly successful flight, with all main objectives being met and many aspects even exceeding expectations. Such success and optimism paved the way for the upcoming Apollo 10 and Apollo 11 missions.


Apollo 10


Apollo 10 was the final mission before the projected landing of Apollo 11. On the previous flight the astronauts of Apollo 9 thoroughly tested the Command and Lunar modules, proving that they were up to the task. However there were still a few unknowns left, such as the performance of the LM's landing radar. More information was also needed to map the Moon's irregular gravitational field in order to calibrate the descent guidance system. For this mission astronauts Tom Stafford, Gene Cernan, and John Young would pilot their Command Module Charlie Brown and Lunar Module Snoopy on a full-scale rehearsal of the landing, exercising nearly every component, maneuver, and procedure involved minus the final descent. Just as Apollo 9 had paved the way for Apollo 10, it was now Apollo 10's job to pave the way down for Apollo 11.


Apollo 10 was inserted into orbit on May 18, 1969. After a few orbits the S-IVB relit and boosted Apollo on a lunar trajectory. 


They arrived in lunar space on the 21st, becoming just the second crew to visit the Moon. A circularization burn placed them in an orbit roughly 100km over the surface.


On the 22nd Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan entered their Lunar Module Snoopy and undocked from Charlie Brown. John Young, left in the CM, observed Snoopy as it drifted away and began its descent.


Snoopy's Descent Propulsion System was fired, lowering the lander's periapsis to within 14km of the surface.  This maneuver simulated the initial lunar descent and would bring the LM and its crew over the proposed landing site for Apollo 11, and closer to the Moon than any man had ever gone.


At the low point of their orbit the astronauts could view the Sea of Tranquility up close. 


They took pictures and identified surface features as they passed by. Stafford judged that, given the lighting conditions and the shape of the terrain, a smooth landing could be made in the proposed landing zone.


They tested the LM's landing radar for the first time, now in the environment that it was designed for. It worked perfectly, just as expected.


Having grazed the surface Snoopy performed another maneuver using its DPS, boosting itself into a higher eccentric orbit with a "phasing burn". The plan was to raise Snoopy's apoapsis to nearly 400km, allowing Charlie Brown to overtake it in preparation for the next procedure. Stafford and Cernan spent the next hours waiting for the second low pass.


Snoopy's orbit again took it low over the lunar surface, and the crew prepared to jettison the descent stage to be left in orbit. The next maneuver would test the ascent stage, simulating lunar ascent and rendezvous. However as they prepared Snoopy began to pitch and yaw violently, much to the surprise of the crew. Stafford jettisoned the descent module as Cernan used the RCS to boost forward.


Fearing a Gimbal Lock, Stafford and Cernan managed to manually diagnose and regain control of the situation just in time, averting disaster. The astronauts had apparently taken Snoopy out of abort mode, and it was trying to locate the CSM at an inopportune moment. If the ascent module had spun any longer it could have lost orientation and crashed into the Moon.


Having regained their marbles the astronauts managed to conduct the burn on time. This maneuver was meant to simulate lunar ascent conditions through altitude and fuel level, but was pointed retrograde in order to reduce the orbit's eccentricity. Snoopy's apoapsis was lowered, bringing it towards an encounter with Charlie Brown.


Snoopy's rendezvous radar was able to acquire Charlie Brown shortly after the burn, and measured the distance as they steadily closed in. 



Stafford guided Snoopy in for the final docking. He noted that the ascent module was somewhat difficult to maneuver but kept it under control. Stafford and Young worked together to bring the modules together.


The docking was successful; Snoopy and Charlie Brown were finally reunited after hours in orbit. Stafford and Cernan rejoined Young to settle back into the Command Module.


With the astronauts safely delivered back into the CSM, Snoopy was finally jettisoned into lunar orbit for the last phase of its flight. Mission Control piloted Snoopy remotely, reigniting its engine and sending it into solar orbit. It was not tracked in the years thereafter, but is still believed to be the last surviving ascent module of those flown into space. Apollo 10 departed from the Moon on the 24th, later splashing down safely in the Pacific on May 26, 1969.

Apollo 10 had flown their course, clearing some of the last unknowns on the road to the surface. They proved to NASA and to the world that the next mission, Apollo 11, held all the tools and resources necessary to stick the landing.  


Apollo 11


Apollo 11, the mission that landed men on the Moon. The mission began on July 16, 1969 carrying crew members Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong. They piloted the CSM Columbia to the Moon, carrying the LM Eagle in tow. Once in lunar orbit Neil and Buzz transferred into the lander before undocking from the CSM and beginning their descent. The ride would prove troublesome as the astronauts were soon harried by a series of guidance computer alarms. Neil later took manual control of the landing to avoid boulders and craters, landing the LM with apparently only seconds to spare. 

Having landed safely on the Moon, Neil and Buzz then made preparations for the EVA. Neil disembarked first, triggering a TV camera to beam video of his progress back to Earth. He clambered down the ladder, stopping at the foot of the LM to observe the surface before him. After a brief moment he stepped out, becoming the first man in history to set foot on the Moon. He was joined by Buzz 20 minutes later. The mission program called for an EVA lasting just over two hours before the astronauts had to return to the LM. In that time they erected an American flag, took soil samples and photographs, and deployed small science experiments on the surface.  Once time was up they climbed back into the LM and rode Eagle back to orbit with its Ascent Stage. They rendezvoused with Columbia in orbit and docked to reunite with Collins in the CSM. The Ascent Module was then decoupled, and Columbia departed the from the Moon. Apollo 11 splashed down safely on July 24, just west of Hawaii. 






























Follow-up Missions and the End of Apollo


Apollo 12 - Apollo 17



Apollo 12


Apollo 12 was the second Moon landing of the Apollo program. With the Moon landing secured by Apollo 11, following missions were given more time to plan and develop. Apollo 12, crewed by astonauts Pete Conrad, Richard F. Gordon and Alan Bean, would demonstrate a precision landing in the vicinity of the Surveyor 3 probe. There they were to retrieve parts of the probe to bring them back to Earth along with their Moon samples. They would also deploy the first example of the Apollo Lunar Experiments Package (ALSEP) on the surface.


Apollo 12 launched on November 14, 1969 during heavy overcast and straight into rainy skies. Early on in the flight The Saturn V was struck twice by lightning, disrupting the CSM's fuel cells and attitude indicators. The booster itself continued flying normally but the power loss in the CSM made it difficult to diagnose the malfunction. Mission Control EECOM John Aaron recognized the failure patterns and suggested for the astronauts to "Try SCE to Aux". This switched the CSM's Signal Conditioning Equipment to the backup power supply, bringing telemetry and instrumentation back online. From there the crew were able to restart the fuel cells and continue the flight. John Aaron's obscure suggestion had just saved the Apollo 12 mission.


There were still concerns that the lightning strikes had damaged other vital components but investigations by the crew found no problems with the spacecraft. The mission continued, and Apollo 12 arrived at the Moon on the 18th with Pete Conrad and Alan Bean departing in the LM hours later. Richard Gordon stayed in orbit aboard CSM Yankee Clipper.


Conrad and Bean piloted the LM Intrepid as Gordon maneuvered away in Yankee Clipper. A short DPS burn initiated Intrepid's descent to the surface. The DPS was then reignited for the final powered descent, aiming for a landing near Surveyor 3's landing site, an area dubbed Surveyor crater.


The LM pitched forward in the final phases of its landing, allowing the pilots a view of the landscape below. The surface appeared exactly as it had in the simulations, meaning they were right on course. Conrad took manual control for the final touchdown, bringing Intrepid down for a pinpoint landing right next to the targeted crater.


The landing was an incredible success. Intrepid stood just outside the rim of the crater, a mere 164 meters from the Surveyor probe itself. Conrad disembarked first, followed by Bean shortly after. They were now the third and fourth men to set foot on the Moon.


As moonmen their first orders of business were to collect contingecy samples and to deploy equipment for signal transmission. Conrad erected the large S-band antenna while Bean deployed a special color TV camera, the first such example to be brought to the Moon. While mounting it to its tripod Bean accidentally pointed the camera directly into the sun, rendering it unusable. The TV broadcast ceased shortly thereafter.


The next task was to deploy the ALSEP. These were a range of science experiments carried on Apollo 12 onwards to be deployed manually on the surface. They were connected by wire to a central station and powered by a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator. The plutonium fuel for the RTG was carried in a secure cask which could protect the fuel in the event of an inflight abort, preventing environmental contamination. Extracting the fuel from the cask proved difficult on this mission, as the astronauts had to resort to using a hammer to dislodge the fuel.


Conrad and Bean finished setting up the ALSEP, collecting photos and a lunar core sample before retreating back into Intrepid. The astronauts ate and rested ahead of the next EVA.


The second EVA occurred on the 20th, bringing Conrad and Bean on a wide circuitous traverse of the surrounding moonscape. They would walk over 1.5 kilometers total, surveying the nearby craters Head, Bench, and Halo to collect variuos rock and core samples.


Their circuit eventually brought them back to Surveyor crater, and towards Surveyor 3 itself. The rendezvous was an important task and the astronauts proceeded carefully, fearing unstable terrain.


Conrad and Bean approached the probe cautiously, staying uphill from it in case it toppled or slid further down the slope. Up close they could see that Surveyor was covered in a fine layer of Moon dust. Sections facing the LM appeared slightly cleaner as the landing had apparently sandblasted some portions of dust away.


The astronauts collected photos and used bolt cutters to sever pieces of Surveyor 3 to be brought home. Among these were its TV camera and surface sampler arm. Conrad and Bean completed their second EVA and boarded Intrepid once again. The astronauts then made preparations for their departure from the surface.


Intrepid's ascent stage lifted off after spending 31 hours on the Moon.


Intrepid reunited with Yankee Clipper in orbit, and the two were docked shortly after. Conrad and Bean rejoined Gordon, who had been conducting a photographic survey of the Moon during their surface trip. The ascent stage was jettisoned and commanded to impact the Moon to provide data for the ALSEP seismometer. An SPS burn put the Apollo 12 on a return trajectory towards Earth, and the crew splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean on November 24, 1969.


Apollo 14


Apollo 14 was the third Moon landing, taking place after the "successful failure" of Apollo 13. Since Apollo 13 never reached their landing in the Fra Mauro region, the site was reassigned to Apollo 14 for a second attempt. The flight would bring astronauts Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa, and Edgar Mitchell to the Moon to perform a detailed scientific exploration of these highlands and the nearby Cone crater. This mission was equipped with the newly devised Modular Equipment Transporter, (MET) which would hopefully aid the astronauts on their grand traverse.


Apollo 14 was launched towards the Moon on January 31, 1971. The launch was delayed some 40 minutes due to weather; NASA was not keen on a repeat of Apollo 12. The flight was nominal, but trouble soon appeared as the docking mechanism failed to latch when the probe was inserted. Pilot Stuart Roosa tried to dock several times over two hours but the ports refused to connect. Mission Control suggested that they retract the docking probe to trigger the latching mechanism through contact alone. This fix worked, and Apollo 14 was able extract its LM and continue on its way. The S-IVB was again diverted to collide with the Moon, providing more data for Apollo 12's seismometer.


Apollo 14 arrived at the Moon on February 4. A series of SPS burns circularized the spacecraft's orbit, then lowered its periapsis to just 17km over the Fra Mauro region. Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell transferred into their LM Antares, and set off for the surface leaving Roosa in the CSM Kitty Hawk.


A problem soon popped up after separation. A faulty switch was sending errant abort signals to the guidance computer. If the computer recieved this signal after the DPS was fired it would trigger an automatic abort sequence, separating the ascent and descent stages. Software engineers quickly assembled a workaround under intense pressure to save the mission. They came up with a set of instructions that, when entered into the LM's DSKY keyboard, would trick the computer into believing that the abort had already taken place, thus bypassing the errant signal. These instructions were radioed to the astronauts who then manually keyed them into the computer with just minutes to spare. Antares then initiated its descent without any problems.


Another issue appeared when Antares' landing radar failed to acquire the Moon's surface at the required altitude. Without the radar signal Apollo 14 would be flying in the dark, lacking crucial information about the lander's altitude and descent speed. Mission control asked the astronauts to cycle the radar breakers. They did so, and the radar came back online.


The guidance computer was now being fed all the necessary information to make a precision landing. Shepard guided Antares down, successfully touching down in Fra Mauro on February 5. In spite of all the problems encountered during the descent Apollo 14 was able to achieve the most precise manned landing to date, only 27 meters away from the targeted site.


The first EVA began five hours after landing, delayed by brief problems with communications. Shepard and Mitchell descended from Antares, now the fifth and sixth humans to reach the surface.


Their EVA began much like Apollo 12's with the offloading and deployment of equipment from the LM. The S-band antenna was erected and the color TV camera was deployed successfully for the first time, carefully aimed away from the sun.


Lunar surface activities were now able to be televised live and in color, showing audiences the planting of the US flag, offloading of the MET and ALSEP deployment. Shepard and Mitchell collected an initial set of rock samples and photographs from the landing site before heading back into Antares to rest after the nearly five-hour EVA.


The second EVA was to be the longest and most important traverse of the mission. Their destination was Cone crater, a particularly deep crater situated 1.5 kilometers east and 300 meters uphill from the landing site. Ejecta from this crater would hopefully contain samples from deep within the Fra Mauro formation, which itself is believed to be ejecta from the Mare Imbrium Event. The samples would provide key stratigraphic insight and allow scientists to date the ancient event. Shepard and Mitchell set out for the crater on the 6th, accompanied by their MET. It was essentially a small two-wheeled handcart that could be pulled along, carrying all their tools, equipment, and samples during the long trek to the crater and back.


This journey would prove to be much more difficult than anticipated. The hilly terrain of the Fra Mauro confused navigation efforts, obscuring key landmarks and warping the astronauts' perception of their progress. The constant uphill climb coupled with the need to tow the MET only made things worse. Shepard and Mitchell resorted to carrying the MET through rougher sections of terrain, only becoming more exhausted as time went on.


The astronauts eventually stopped on a boulder-strewn slope, thoroughly exhausted at this point. They saw no point in prolonging their journey which had already exceeded the allotted time. They were instructed to collect samples from where they were then retreat to the LM.


Later analysis showed that the two astronauts had come surprisingly close to the rim of Cone crater, only 20 meters away. The journey back to Antares was relatively quiet, tempered by the failure to reach the rim.


Having returned to the LM Shepard performed one last stunt in full view of the TV camera. He produced the head of a six iron golf club and attached it to the end of his sample tool. He then set up at a pair of golf balls he'd been carrying for this event.


He swung his makeshift club and watched the golf balls fly into the distance. Mitchell then used his lunar scoop tool, throwing it like a javelin in the direction of Shepard's swing. They all landed 20-30 meters away from the Shepard's tee.


In all the crew of Apollo 14 collected 43 kilograms of rocks and soil during their two EVAs. Among these was the largest Moon sample yet, a 9kg rock dubbed "Big Bertha". This rock was later determined to contain a meteorite that had originated from Earth, making it the oldest Earth rock ever discovered.


Antares departed the Moon later on the 6th and rendezvoused with Kitty Hawk in orbit. They docked successfully on the first try, in spite of the issues that had been encountered early on in the mission. Apollo 14 returned to Earth aboard Kitty Hawk on February 9, 1971.

It was a ultimately a successful Moon mission, restoring NASA's and the public's faith in the Apollo hardware. However, the mission also had its faults, the most obvious of which was the failure to reach Cone crater. Some scientists also criticized the crew's performance, citing the relative lack of samples, photographs, and documentation from the areas they were sent to study. Astronauts could not be left to trudge across the Moon on foot, and with little regard for their geologic duties. Thankfully, solutions to these issues were already in the works. The next phase of Apollo, the J-missions, were being prepared to undertake the most extensive and in-depth explorations of the Moon yet.


Apollo 17


Apollo 17 was the final mission of the Apollo program, and the last manned expedition beyond Earth orbit since 1972.  Astronauts Gene Cernan, Harrison Schmitt, and Ronald Evans were launched into orbit just past midnight on December 7, 1972, eventually reaching the Moon on the 10th. Cernan and Schmitt then piloted their Lunar Module Challenger down to the surface, touching down in the Taurus-Littrow valley. Evans remained in orbit aboard CSM America.

The astronauts conducted three EVAs over the course of their three-day stay in Taurus-Littrow. The region was of particular interest for geology, due to its proximity to the ancient highlands and relatively young volcanic areas. Harrison Schmitt's discretion as a professional geologist played a key role in the study of this region. The crew rode their LRV on several survey expeditions covering almost 19 miles over the course of the mission. All the while Evans conducted his own scientific studies from orbit, using experiments mounted on the CSM itself. In all the crew of Apollo 17 were able to conduct the longest and most extensive scientific study of the Moon out of all the Apollo missions. The crew returned to Earth on December 19, 1972, bringing the Apollo program to a close. 

























Skylab 1-4, ASTP


(coming eventually)


Required flags:  

drive folder: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/12eV6W7RbosDmtB08Sp_0X-cJnIBsDEz0?usp=sharing

zip: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RILAPVRDlsn9ptDrGnIGzTsrpWvztouB/view?usp=sharing

All crafts* built in stock KSP v1.11.2, both DLCs Required

*SA-2 and SA-3 built in KSP v1.12.2

Saturn I:

SA-1: 600 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/pj5vru5x704rlo5/Saturn I SA-1.craft?dl=0

SA-2: 609 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/w7e9majhr3w26hp/Saturn I SA-2.craft?dl=0

SA-3: 671 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/8djx8x1zx8vrwr1/Saturn I SA-3.craft?dl=0

SA-4: 809 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/xl2r3nd8rau6pyn/Saturn I SA-4.craft?dl=0

SA-5: 1399 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/61umgn0p8swlwgz/Saturn I SA-5.craft?dl=0

AS-101: 1584 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/eer70uqyz085dih/Saturn I AS-101.craft?dl=0

AS-102: 1661 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/9ngjhxk8vh4fe59/Saturn I AS-102.craft?dl=0

AS-103: 2188 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/a7516r3dauowujj/Saturn I AS-103.craft?dl=0

AS-104: 2193 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/qxwekn35wch8hlx/Saturn I AS-104.craft?dl=0

AS-105: 2177 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/76ucg6t087vo6ng/Saturn I AS-105.craft?dl=0

Saturn IB:

AS-201/202: 1748 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/oc1035zkkie4hy0/Saturn IB AS-202.craft?dl=0

AS-203: 1096 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/cfi3sacpqkeaibz/Saturn IB AS-203.craft?dl=0

Apollo 5: 2306 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/g6wam6tob2m7ry2/Saturn IB Apollo 5.craft?dl=0

Apollo 7: 1987 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/nwmb7dgiqd9ou26/Saturn IB Apollo 7.craft?dl=0

Saturn V:

Apollo 4: 3473 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/s8gqqqrfw3ck682/Saturn V Apollo 4.craft?dl=0

Apollo 6: 3458 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/g0mr9dmy4iv4gl8/Saturn V Apollo 6.craft?dl=0

Apollo 8: 3283 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/canhabj57onopkb/Saturn V Apollo 8.craft?dl=0

Apollo 9: 4384 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/4g65tn3obbik4lo/Saturn V Apollo 9.craft?dl=0

Apollo 10: 4424 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/twt3oeqdkohei5p/Saturn V Apollo 10.craft?dl=0

Apollo 11: 4563 parts


Apollo 12: 4582 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/pdc5dbim126dz1o/Saturn V Apollo 12.craft?dl=0

Apollo 14: 4647 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/o2f2affam55pveo/Saturn V Apollo 14.craft?dl=0

Apollo 15: 4880 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/561woxslixlwry2/Saturn V Apollo 15.craft?dl=0

Apollo 16: 4919 parts

https://www.dropbox.com/s/nor79yyp9lg0oi5/Saturn V Apollo 16.craft?dl=0

Apollo 17: 4895 parts



Saturn I/Saturn IB/Saturn V + CSM
Spacebar (Stage): Start Automatic Flight Sequencer
1: Toggle CSM RCS / Extend Antennas / Reset Robotic Parts
7: Decouple CSM Docking Port
8: Disengage CSM Umbilical
9: Deploy CSM Flotation Bags
0: Decouple from LES Post-Abort
Backspace (Abort): Activate Launch Escape System
LM (Apollo 5, 9-14) LM (Apollo 15-17) LRV (Apollo 15-17)
1: Reset Robotic Parts 1: Reset Robotic Parts 1:
2: Toggle LM RCS 2: Toggle LM RCS 2:
3: Deploy LM MESA 3: Deploy LM MESA 3:
4: LM Commander EVA 4: LM Commander EVA 4:
5: LM Pilot EVA 5: LM Pilot EVA 5:
6: LM Pre-Ascent Prep. 6: LM Pre-Ascent Prep. 6:
7: Deploy S-Band Antenna 7: Deploy LRV 7:
8: Decouple Antenna from LM 8: Deploy LRV Equipment 8
9: Deploy Antenna Legs 9: Decouple LRV Equipment (Fore) 9: Engage Equipment Latch (Fore)
0: Deploy Antenna Dish

0: Decouple LRV Equipment (Aft)

0: Engage Equipment Latch (Aft)
    W/A/S/D: Driving / Steering
G: Extend Landing Struts G: Extend Landing Struts B: Brakes
U: Rendezvous Lights U: Rendezvous Lights  


All instructions are written in the Imgur albums linked below

Saturn I / Saturn IB + CSM flight: https://imgur.com/a/x6wtIhc

Saturn V + CSM flight: https://imgur.com/a/YcXfzfn

LM landing, ascent + reentry and splashdown (Apollo 9-14):  https://imgur.com/a/IdjBSY2

LM landing, LRV assembly, ascent, reentry and splashdown (Apollo 15-17): https://imgur.com/a/CuWz84P

Craft Info

Started development of this monstrosity back in December of last year, mainly because I wanted to build a high-fidelity replica of the Lunar Module to stack up next to my Soviet LK lander. Well you can't have an LM without a CSM and S-IVB, and if you have those you might as well build the entire rest of the Saturn V, right? And while you're at it, why not slap on an LRV and try to do one of those J-missions? That'd be pretty cool. Anyways, after months of trial, error, explosions, and lazing around I finally managed to put together a Saturn V that didn't explode by, would you believe, adding more struts. After the first successful test flight I managed to find the motivation to complete the design, and it took shape pretty quickly after that. I was also gonna put together a video but at this point it's pretty clear that it'll take a bit longer than usual to create. I don't wanna sit on the craft files while I make the video though so I'm posting them here just to get them out there. In the meantime, stay tuned, and thanks for reading!


Edited by tehmattguy
Added Saturn I downloads + screenshots
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  • 2 weeks later...

More Lunar Modules, cause why not. The neat thing about making a craft entirely out of flags is that you can basically repaint the entire thing on the fly. Especially useful when you're obsessed with recreating the LM and its ever-changing exterior. Anyways, here's today's offering: LM-3 Spider and LM-4 Snoopy.


Spider (left) and Snoopy (right)

These LMs bear many visual distinctions which set them apart from later productions. Most notable are the Ascent Stages which were mostly clad in silvery aluminum skin panels. These panels were replaced with lighter chromic acid anodized panels starting with LM-5, giving the Ascent Stage its final beige-ish look. The Descent Stages also lacked RCS plume deflectors (also introduced on LM-5), instead the outer layers were painted with varying amounts of black Pyromark paint for thermal protection.  LM-3 featured a unique semicircular paint job on the front two faces whereas LM-4 showed a much more aggressive application, with nearly the entire stage being painted black. 

While they carried much of the necessary equipment and instrumentation their construction made them too heavy to carry out a safe lunar landing. As Grumman worked out techniques to lighten the lander these prototypes were utilized for orbital test flights in the months prior to Apollo 11. Spider flew on Apollo 9 and was tested in LEO, demonstrating the functionality of equipment and maneuvers to be used during the landing. Snoopy was brought to the Moon on Apollo 10 for a full mission dress rehearsal, testing every component and procedure just short of landing. 

More info, screenshots, and downloads have been added to the main post. 

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Why is there no control for "Set SCE To AUX" ?

jk, it looks really cool ! :)

Will the flag parts override any other flags (like from other mods), or do they have unique names?

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6 hours ago, Blaarkies said:


Why is there no control for "Set SCE To AUX" ?


you joke but I was gonna add a "stir the oxygen tanks" button If I ever get around to Apollo 13. 

Also with the flags I think it would be a problem only if you already had flags with the exact same name in the folder. Seems unlikely but if it does become a problem you could always rename them. 

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Impressive work right there, wow, I'm amazed, Very well done.

Really great craft, and the presentation on here is 10/10 as well.

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Posted (edited)

Added more Apollo missions, this time featuring Apollo 12 and 14. The two (successful) H-type missions.


Apollo 12's LM-6 Intrepid (left) and Apollo 14's LM-8 Antares (right)

These were the missions planned directly after Apollo 11, distinguished by their precision landings and increased mission scope. In terms of Lunar Modules they were very similar to Eagle but the ascent stages featured the finalized beige and black panel scheme. The descent stage of Intrepid featured less black paint on Quad 1 whereas Antares' looked mostly gold from the front. They also carried some of the first full examples of the Apollo Lunar Scientific Experiments Package (ALSEP), along with a plutonium-fueled RTG.


Apollo 12 was the first H-mission, and the first pinpoint landing of Apollo, famously touching down just a stone's throw from the Surveyor 3 probe. It was the first time a crew had rendezvoused with a previously launched space probe, and the only instance of it occurring on another planetary body. Of course all of this means a true recreation of Apollo 12 requires a Surveyor probe, and a crater small enough to pose them in. Recreating the probe itself was a lot of fun, though trying to get the landers close enough to pose for screenshots took copious amounts if infinite fuel and quicksaving. I wound up leapfrogging the landers into a bunch of locations trying to find a small crater to stage this screenshot. Well worth it, in the end.


Apollo 14 was the last H-mission, which brought space veteran Alan Shepard back to the forefront of space exploration. The crew were tasked with a grand traverse to sample Cone crater, accompanied by the newly-designed Modular Equipment Transporter. It was basically a small towable handcart which was supposed to help carry the astronaut's equipment on their journey. Recreating this small piece of equipment turned out to be a fun little novelty. It uses transparent flags to allow your kerbals to pull it along. I wound up towing it a few hundred meters away from the LM trying to recreate some scenes from Apollo 14, made for quite the experience. Really makes you feel like Alan Shepard!

More info, screenshots, and downloads have been added to the main post.

Edited by tehmattguy
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Posted (edited)

That cart is equal parts incredibly impressive and adorable, the kerbal towing it makes for a really funny scene.

Your Apollo replicas must be the most high-fidelity replications out there, even most mods don't come with the kind of detail you've given to each mission; and I don't think anyone's actually replicated the Apollo 14 cart before so hats off to you.

Edited by Yukon0009
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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Yukon0009 said:

That cart is equal parts incredibly impressive and adorable, the kerbal towing it makes for a really funny scene.

Your Apollo replicas must be the most high-fidelity replications out there, even most mods don't come with the kind of detail you've given to each mission; and I don't think anyone's actually replicated the Apollo 14 cart before so hats off to you.

These replicas are a lot of fun to make, I'm just glad you guys could get a kick out of them as well. And thank you! :)

2 hours ago, Spaceman.Spiff said:

@tehmattguyHow did you do the cart??? 
It’s really cute!

Thanks! It uses lots of tiny parts, and most importantly tiny flags. There are a few flags placed at the front of the cart that act as a handle for the kerbals to push around. They're made invisible using a custom transparent flag texture.


Edited by tehmattguy
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  • 1 month later...

Still on that Apollo train, this time I've added a bunch of the early test missions including the initial set of Saturn IB and Block I CSM flights. I've also reformatted the main page to include more of the early flight history of the Apollo program along with additional context for each mission. However these written sections are still very much a work in progress so... don't read them too hard or anything.

Anyways, first up we've got the initial five Saturn IB missions, AS-201 through Apollo 7


From left to right: AS-201, AS-203, AS-202, Apollo 5, and Apollo 7


AS-201 and AS-202 were the first two unmanned flights of the Saturn IB as well as the Block I CSM, which was a basically prototype version of the Apollo spacecraft.  They were designed before NASA had decided upon Apollo's lunar orbital rendezvous mission mode and thus lacked the docking ports necessary for the LOR mission. While the lunar-capable Block II CSMs were still being developed the Block Is would be utilized in early test flights, gathering flight data which would be used to influence the design of their successors.


AS-203 on the other hand was an investigative flight looking into the flight dynamics of the S-IVB, specifically the behavior of its liquid hydrogen fuel whilst in orbit. This mission involved no CSM and the S-IVB was instead topped with a smaller nosecone assembly.


Apollo 5 utilized the Saturn IB to launch the very first Lunar Module, LM-1, into orbit.  It was primarily an orbital test on the performance of the lander's ascent and descent stages as well as their individual propulsion systems. LM-1 didn't include the landing legs and used aluminum plates in place of the glass windows; a precautionary measure after one of the windows on LM-5 shattered in a pressurization test.


The last Saturn IB flight (until Skylab) was Apollo 7, the first crewed mission of the Apollo program and the first orbital test flight of the Block II CSM. The S-IVB on this flight included a docking target to allow the crew to practice the transposition and docking maneuver meant to be used in future missions. This flight also saw the last use of the hinged SLA panels after one petal failed to maintain the right angle after opening. On subsequent flights these panels were modified to be ejected following CSM separation.

Up next I have four more Saturn V missions, starting with Apollo 4 and 6.


These were the first two launches of the Saturn V. Apollo 4 is famous for being the virtually perfect first launch of the Saturn V.  On the other hand, Apollo 6 encountered so much trouble during its ascent that the fact that it even made it into orbit is nothing short of a miracle.


Both of these flights carried their own Block I CSM, each modified slightly to represent features and upgrades that were being implemented on the Block IIs. As a stand-in for the Lunar Module these flights also carried Lunar Module Test Articles, or LTAs. These were launch masses designed to represent the general size, weight, shape, and dynamic properties of the real LM during a launch.


The final two missions I have to share today are Apollo 15 and 16. They were the first two J-type Apollo missions, characterized by their greatly expanded mission duration and scope, and greater focus on lunar science. In addition to their LRVs and ALSEPs each mission carried a unique scientific payload for use on the Moon.  On Apollo 15 I've included the Lunar Laser Ranging Retroreflector (LRRR) and on Apollo 16 I've added its Far UV Camera (FUVC).


The CSMs on these missions included a scientific instrument module, or SIM bay, installed on the service module. As their name suggests they held an array of scientific instruments as well as cameras to allow for detailed observation of the Moon from orbit. Included on these particular missions were a pair of boom-mounted spectrometers and small deployable subsatellites that would be released into lunar orbit. 

More info, screenshots, and downloads have been added to the main post.

(P.S. I'm still collecting some screenshots and info for some of the later missions but please bear with me as they'll be filled out soon enough. In the meantime, thank you for your patience and thanks for reading!) 

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My god, these are incredible! I've seen a lot of Apollo replicas in my time, but none as photo-realistic as this. :0.0:


Edited by Dman979
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Well planned and carefully implemented crafts, nicelly documented.

Congrats, dude.

I wish my punny MacPotato could handle crafts bigger than 1k parts, but I'm saving this one to be enjoyed when my workstation is ready to be fired up!

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  • 3 weeks later...

These are incredible pieces of work. Really appreciate all the attention to detail on each craft.  All your research has really paid off and major props for your explanations giving the summary and highlights of each mission.  Seriously fantastic, words don't do it all justice. This game takes one's interest in space to a whole different level where it's tangible to be able to launch and move around the missions you only read about


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  • 1 month later...

Thank you, everyone, for your continued interest and support in this project! I'm back once again with what else but even more Apollo missions. Today's update concerns the Saturn I and all ten Saturn I-launched missions from SA-1 to AS-105. These were the very first rocket launches performed during the Apollo program.


As its name suggests the Saturn I was the very first member of the Saturn rocket family. It was the smallest Saturn by design, but was designed to be larger and more capable than any other American rocket before it. It was originally envisioned as a three-stage vehicle consisting of a conventional yet powerful first stage with highly efficient cryogenic upper stages. The first stage in particular would utilize a unique clustered tank design, being comprised of nine propellant tanks derived from earlier Redstone and Jupiter tankage. This was done to speed up the development and production of the new stage. Altogether the new rocket was projected to feature a payload capacity of 9,100 kg to LEO, ideally completing development and entering service for the US Army by 1963. After being approved for development by ARPA in 1958 the Saturn I was later transferred to the newly-formed NASA for use in its civilian space exploration programs. It soon found its role in support of Apollo.


Just months after its adoption into the Apollo program the Saturn I had its first launch in 1961 as SA-1, short for Saturn-Apollo 1. It was an early developmental test flight of the Block I version of the rocket, which only featured a live S-I first stage with dummy second and third stages. This version was utilized to test the first stage while the upper stages were still under development. The prototype rocket performed perfectly during its first launch attempt, a nice change of pace for the American space effort.


Two more Block Is were launched in 1962 as SA-2 and SA-3. They both performed very similar missions to SA-1 but also featured an additional objective pertaining to an experiment called Project Highwater. Once the rockets reached their apex explosive charges in the second and third stages were detonated, with both flights releasing 86 metric tons of ballast water into the high atmosphere. Each release created an artificial cloud which expanded rapidly, growing to several kilometers across in seconds.


The last Block I flight occurred in 1963 with SA-4. The exterior of the dummy second stage was modified, incorporating ullage motor casings, fuel vent ducts, and external beams to mimic the aerodynamic shape of the real stage. The rocket was also programmed to shut off its No. 5 engine partway into the flight, testing the rocket against a simulated engine failure.


SA-5 launched at the start of 1964 and was the first flight of the upgraded Block II version of the Saturn I. For this mission the rocket would finally fly with two live stages, utilizing a lengthened and upgraded S-I along with the S-IV as its second stage. The upgrades to the first stage and the inclusion of its cryogenic second stage greatly boosted the rocket's payload capacity to 17,000 kg to LEO. It carried a ballasted nosecone as its payload and was the first orbital flight of the Apollo program.


The next two flights of the Saturn I were used to test Apollo hardware, carrying boilerplate Apollo CSMs along with their LES's, testing the launch dynamics of both components in flight. The missions also used a new mission-naming scheme, starting with SA-6 being designated 'AS-101'. 

AS-101 and AS-102 both launched in 1964, each successfully carrying their boilerplate CSMs into orbit. Both flights performed similar missions but AS-101 tested the LES' normal tower jettison motors while AS-102 tested the LES' backup separation method, using its powerful escape motors to jettison itself from the rocket.


The last three flights of the Saturn I all occurred in 1965, each carrying their own BP CSM and LES. However unlike the previous two flights they also carried large Pegasus micrometeoroid-detection satellites, folded up and stored within the BP Service Module shroud. After reaching orbit the spacecraft would jettison its BP Command and Service Modules, allowing the Pegasus to unfold its large sensor arrays. For years after deployment all three Pegasus satellites measured the frequency and intensity of micrometeoroid impacts from within Earth orbit, continuously returning valuable data in support of the Apollo program.

The Saturn I was then retired following AS-105, succeeded soon afterwards by its more powerful younger brother, the Saturn IB. 

More info, screenshots, and downloads have been added to the main post.

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7 hours ago, Kapitalizing Every Word said:

What an increible amount of work this is amazing 
how did you do the interstage fairings? is that from the DLC? 
I would love to fly the rockets sadly my computer can't handle 4000 pieces :/

Thank you!

The interstage sections on my crafts are usually just fairings or rings made out of lots of radiator panels and flag parts. For a simpler solution the Making History DLC includes a bunch of structural tube parts which should work well for this purpose. There's also a way to make interstage rings out of one-sided fairings that involves craft file editing. I haven't actually tried it myself but it looks pretty interesting: 



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