The Saturn V Rocket Explained

The Saturn V Rocket Explained

September 18, 2018 By alberto

    When the American space program achieved a moon landing on July 20th, 2969, the Apollo 11 spacecraft was launched by a powerful rocket called the Saturn V.   The Saturn V rocket was used to launch all the Apollo spacecraft on lunar missions.  It stood 363 feet (110 meters) high and had three stages, each of which fell away when it ran out of fuel.   To put that into perspective, that’s about as tall as a 36 story building.

    How the Saturn V Rocket Worked

    Click the image below to see a larger, more legible version.

    Saturn V Rocket Explained (infographic)

    Source: Incredible Everything, by Stephen Biestys/Richard Platt

    From the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, here’s a look at the First Stage.  The first stage was the height of a 10 story building.  When it was filled with fuel, it made up half the weight of the rocket.  Six moving vans could easily fit inside its cavernous tanks.

    Note the guy holding up a banana for scale*.  It was huge (the rocket, not the banana).

    Image of the first stage of the Saturn V rocket at Kennedy Space Center, in Florida


    The Saturn V that launched the Skylab space station only had two stages. The Saturn V rockets used for the Apollo missions had three stages.

    Each stage would burn its engines until it was out of fuel and would then separate from the rocket. The engines on the next stage would fire, and the rocket would continue into space.

    The first stage had the most powerful engines, since it had the challenging task of lifting the fully fueled rocket off the ground. The first stage lifted the rocket to an altitude of about 68 kilometers (42 miles). The second stage carried it from there almost into orbit. The third stage placed the Apollo spacecraft into Earth orbit and pushed it toward the moon. The first two stages fell into the ocean after separation. The third stage either stayed in space or hit the moon.  (Source:  NASA)

    The Saturn V rocket during rollout for Apollo 10

    The Saturn V rocket during rollout for Apollo 1

    A total of 13 Saturn V rockets were launched from 1967 until 1973.   One of the rockets is displayed at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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    (* There isn’t a guy holding a banana.)