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  Mercury - Gemini - Apollo
  Apollo 4: Debugging a live Saturn V on the pad

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Author Topic:   Apollo 4: Debugging a live Saturn V on the pad
Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27940
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-17-2013 12:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Brennan Moore eulogizes his grandfather by sharing a story from William E. Moore's Apollo 4 memoirs:
We finally stopped and left our van to walk up and into the second level of the Mobile Launcher Base. About this time, it came to my mind that during one of our training sessions we were told that one of the fully fueled prototype [S-II] rocket stages had been exploded out in the desert. The results showed that all buildings better be at least three miles from the launch pads — which they are. We were now within 25 feet of this 363ft tall bomb that sounded like its giant fuse had been lit, and we were soon going to get much closer.

fredtrav
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Posts: 978
From: Birmingham AL USA
Registered: Aug 2010

posted 10-17-2013 03:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you for sharing that with us Robert

p51
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Posts: 843
From: Olympia, WA, USA
Registered: Sep 2011

posted 10-17-2013 04:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does anyone know more about the explosion referenced?

I've read the paper NASA put out on what a pad explosion of a Saturn V would have been like, I always assumed the 3 miles was an engineering estimate, not based on observations of a real-life incident...

mach3valkyrie
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Posts: 232
From: Albany, Oregon USA
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 10-17-2013 04:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mach3valkyrie   Click Here to Email mach3valkyrie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I never heard of an intentional explosion of an S-II stage in the desert. One blew up in the test stand at one time. I agree, more information would be most welcome.

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27940
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-17-2013 04:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In 2002, the historian at Dryden Flight Research Center recounted the purposeful explosion of an S-II stage. I recall him mentioning that flying over the area today, you can still see the blast pattern it left behind.

Two years later, having been unsuccessful in my own search for records of this test, I posed the question here: Which Saturn second stage (S-II) was imploded?, to which Alan Lawrie gave a summary of the accidental explosions, but had no record of such a test.

Over a decade ago, I was told there was film of the explosion, but my attempts of finding it were unsuccessful.

ZANL188
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Posts: 1
From: Valdosta, GA, USA
Registered: Mar 2013

posted 10-17-2013 07:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ZANL188   Click Here to Email ZANL188     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I understood the reference "blast" used inconjunction with LC39 design was an actual Atlas Centaur launch failure.

Footage available on YouTube.

Headshot
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From: Streamwood, IL USA
Registered: Feb 2012

posted 10-18-2013 08:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This makes sense as the first stage of the Atlas used propellants similar to those in the Saturn V first stage and the Centaur's LH2/LOX combo mirrored the Saturn's second stage.

That 5th Atlas-Centaur flight on 2 March 1965 resulted in the largest pad explosion that ever occurred at the Cape when the Atlas' fuel pre-valves accidentally shut a second after liftoff, causing the booster to fall back onto LC-36A.

I believe the damage to Pad 36A was so extensive that Atlas-Centaur testing and operations had to be halted until Pad 36B, then under construction, was completed.

It would have been easy "rocket science" to extrapolate the effects and damage from that exploding Atlas-Centaur to those of a Saturn V exploding on the pad.

p51
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Posts: 843
From: Olympia, WA, USA
Registered: Sep 2011

posted 10-18-2013 10:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
...but my attempts of finding it were unsuccessful.
I think this says a lot. You hear this kind of thing in military history circles all the time, 'someone' tells 'someone else' something, then after a while there's such a long chain, you accept that it's true but the info must be buried somewhere.

The fact that Robert -of all people- can't find this speaks volumes on whether it really happened or not. We're not talking about something small or unlikely to be documented. The fact that nobody can apparently find records of a test explosion of this type would strongly suggest to me that it likely didn't happen.

All times are CT (US)

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