Saturn V

In July 1969, humans first set foot on the moon as part of NASA's Apollo 11 mission. The rocket that had taken them there was the Saturn V. So successful was it that the same rocket design would be used on all future Apollo missions, the last of which (Apollo 17) took place in December 1972. Saturn V would also be employed to launch the USA's first space station, Skylab, in 1973,

Saturn V

Record titles: Largest rocket, Most powerful rocket by lift capacity (ever)

The largest rocket, Saturn V stood 110.6 m (363 ft) tall – similar to the height of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, UK – and weighed as much as 2,965 tonnes (6.5 million lb) when fully fuelled. It had a lift-off thrust of 33,803 kN (7.6 million lbf), and could boost 118,000 kg (260,145 lb) of payload to low-Earth orbit in around 12 min – the most powerful rocket by lift capacity (ever). Its development was led by German engineer Wernher von Braun, who had designed the Jupiter-C rocket that took the USA’s first satellite into orbit in 1958. Work began in 1961, but the first Saturn V wasn’t launched until 9 Nov 1967, as part of the Apollo 4 mission. Today, the cost of the project would be around $73 billion (£51 billion).

The first stage of the Saturn V launch was powered by five Rocketdyne F-1s – the Most powerful single-chamber liquid-fuelled rocket engine. Each had a thrust of 6,770 kN (1.52 million lbf). Lasting some 2 minutes 30 seconds, this initial stage required 203,400 US gallons (770,000 litres) of kerosene fuel and 318,000 US gallons (1,204,000 litres) of liquid oxygen. By comparison, it takes 861 US gallons (3,272 litres) of fuel to get a Boeing 747 off the ground.

Saturn V
Saturn V up close

Did You Know?

Despite its size, Saturn V wasn’t the Most powerful rocket ever. That record goes to the former USSR’s N1 booster, with a lift-off thrust of around 40,000 kN (9.89 million lbf). It launched on 21 February 1969, but never flew successfully. By contrast, the Falcon Heavy, launched on 6 February 2018 by SpaceX (USA), had a lift-off thrust of 22,819 kN (5.13 million lbf). It could take a payload of some 64 tonnes (141,096 lb) into low-Earth orbit.