Saturday, January 18, 2014

Retro Saturday: Saturn: Launch Complex 34

Click the arrow to watch the video on YouTube.

It's Retro Saturday, so we'll turn you over to Dr. Kurt Debus who will tell you all about Launch Complex 34 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Saturn: Launch Complex 34 was released in 1962. If you listen closely, Debus uses terms that were reflective of the time.

The Saturn 1 is referred to as the “C-1”. Ever wonder why the Moon rocket was called “Saturn 5” and what happened to all the other rockets inbetween?

“C-1” is your clue.

The Saturn program began in the late 1950s, when Debus and Dr. Wernher von Braun were still with the Army Ballistic Missile Agency. Envisioned as a heavy-lift vehicle, Saturn struggled to find a bureaucratic home as the Army exited the rocket launching business.

A 1959 government commission formally titled the Saturn Vehicle Evaluation Committee, but known informally as the Silverstein Committee after chair Abe Silverstein, looked at various directions the newly-born National Aeronautics and Space Administration could take with the Saturn program. Eight different configurations were studied:

Saturn A

  • A-1 - Saturn lower stage, Titan second stage, and Centaur third stage (von Braun's original concept)
  • A-2 - Saturn lower stage, proposed clustered Jupiter second stage, and Centaur third stage

Saturn B

  • B-1 - Saturn lower stage, proposed clustered Titan second stage, proposed S-IV third stage and Centaur fourth stage

Saturn C

  • C-1 - Saturn lower stage, proposed S-IV second stage
  • C-2 - Saturn lower stage, proposed S-II second stage, proposed S-IV third stage
  • C-3, C-4, and C-5 - all based on different variations of a new lower stage using F-1 engines, variations of proposed S-II second stages, and proposed S-IV third stages.

The “A” relied heavily on existing technology, while at the other end of the scale the “C” group relied on liquid hydrogen as a fuel and multiple stages.

The C-1 was selected as the first launch vehicle for the Saturn program. After President John F. Kennedy proposed the Moon program on May 25, 1961, the C-5 was chosen as it was the most potentially powerful vehicle in the group.

The “C” was eventually dropped. This explains why there were no Saturns 2 through 4.

In the film, you'll hear Dr. Debus refer to NASA as “the N-A-S-A” or “the NAY-suh.” NASA's predecessor was the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. That acronym was commonly pronounced “N-A-C-A,” which explains why Debus referred to NASA as “N-A-S-A.” But pronouncing NASA as a word seems to have been coming into vogue, which is why he switched between both versions.

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