Space History Today: First Successful Saturn V Launch

Forty-five years ago today — November 9, 1967 — NASA launched the unmanned Apollo 4 mission from the Kennedy Space Center.

(Apollo 4 launch. NASA image.)

Also known as Apollo-Saturn 501, Apollo 4 was the first test flight of the complete Saturn V rocket, carrying a full-up Command and Service Module. The mission was designed to test

  • launch vehicle and spacecraft compatibility
  • the vehicle’s structural integrity under launch loads
  • heat shield and thermal systems
  • stage separation and reentry operations
  • and other factors, including mission support facilities and operations

It wouldn’t be long after Apollo 4 before crews were launching on operational Apollo missions.

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