The Saturn IB (pronounced "one B”) was requested by NASA as an interim launch test vehicle for the Apollo program. Assembled, this 2-stage rocket was almost 142 feet tall, approximately 22 feet in diameter, weighed about 590,000 lbs. at lift off and could carry a payload of 41,000 lbs., which closely approximated the weight of a partially fueled Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM) or a fully fueled Lunar Module (LM)

Saturn 1B

Apollo Saturn 1B

Saturn 1B
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, Saturn IB with boilerplate. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC archives

The Saturn IB (pronounced “one B”) was requested by NASA as an interim launch test vehicle for the Apollo program. Assembled, this 2-stage rocket was almost 142 feet tall, approximately 22 feet in diameter, weighed about 590,000 lbs. at lift off and could carry a payload of 41,000 lbs., which closely approximated the weight of a partially fueled Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM) or a fully fueled Lunar Module (LM) into earth orbit. The 1B was needed for early lunar simulated flight tests before completion of the larger Saturn V. It was powered by eight rocket engines burning a refined version of kerosene fuel (also known as RP-1) with liquid oxygen (LOX). The booster of the 1B consisted of eight Redstone tanks (four holding RP-1 and four holding LOX) that were clustered around a Jupiter (a sub member of the Redstone rocket family) rocket LOX tank. Four of the outboard engines were mounted on gimbals which provided a thrust vectoring method able to steer the rocket during lift off. Another distinguishing feature of the 1B was the eight fins surrounding the base booster that provided aerodynamic stability and control.

To replicate lunar orbital testing, the Saturn 1B shared the same S-IVB upper stage design that would be used on the Saturn V during the Apollo launch program. The only significant issue between the what the Saturn 1B could do vs. the full-size Saturn V was that the S-IVB on the Saturn V burned only part of its propellant to achieve earth orbit. This was necessary so that it could be restarted for trans-lunar injection and the S-IVB on the Saturn IB needed all of its propellant to achieve earth orbit.

Saturn 1B
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, Saturn IB with boilerplate. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC archives

To monitor all test parameters of the 1B test program, a Launch Vehicle Digital Computer (LVDC) was developed and placed between the booster and S-1VB. This data computer controlled the entire rocket from just before liftoff until the battery system died. It included accelerometers, tracking telemetry, a mission command system and environmental controls. Guidance of the 1B was like other systems in that it used a “state vector” system that monitors position and velocity over time. This system also provided appropriate engine commands to the main and auxiliary thrusters and was also responsible for initiating the firing of the appropriate ordnance and solid rocket motors during staging and payload separation tests.

The first five Saturn IB test launches for the Apollo program were conducted at the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station (changed to Cape Canaveral in 1973). In total, the Saturn IB launched two unmanned CSM suborbital flights, one unmanned LM orbital flight and the first manned CSM orbital mission. It also launched one orbital mission without a payload the remaining liquid hydrogen in the S-IVB could be observed in a weightlessness environment. After the end of the Apollo program, three additional Saturn 1B missions were flown that sent crews to the Skylab space station and one more to the joint US-USSR Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. 

Estes Saturn 1B

Saturn 1B

Also released In 1967, the 1:70 scale, 37 inch tall Saturn IB [#K-29] was considered a large model in its day. Like the Gemini-Titan, this kit put rocketeers building and flying skills to the test. Made with traditional materials like balsa and cardboard, the Saturn IB contained no plastic parts. A four engine cluster was required to lift the 9.86 ounce Saturn IB into the air, along with a 12 volt car battery and launch control system. Two 24 inch parachutes on the main body and one 12 inch chute on the command escape structure lowered both sections safely back down to earth. This version of the Saturn IB was discontinued in 1970.

A refined Saturn IB made a brief come-back from 1975 through 1980. Still a 1:70th scale, skill level 5 kit, the Saturn IB [#1229] was made from a combination of molded plastic and die-cut balsa parts to create a highly detailed model. This version included authentic USA/NASA decor, stabilizer fin assembly, quick-release engine mounts and still featured a four engine cluster for really dramatic lift offs. Gone in 1981, the Saturn IB was not again seen until the early 90s. 

Back in 1991 with a third face-lift,  the 1:100 scale, skill level 4 Saturn IB [#2048] stood over 26 inches tall and weighed just over 5 ounces. This kit included high-relief plastic body wraps, plastic tank shroud, Apollo capsule and engine display nozzles. It also featured a special sub-assembly painting procedure. Powered on one D12-5 engine, this Saturn IB was able to reach heights of 425 feet. The 1:100 Saturn IB was last made in 1994 and is not currently available today.

Saturn 1B
Saturn 1B

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