THIS DAY IN HISTORY: Saturn 1B Rocket Launches From Florida’s Space Coast In 1966

By  //  February 26, 2019

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unpiloted, suborbital flight lasted only 37 minutes

The first flight of the Saturn 1B rocket (AS-201) launched today in 1966 to test propulsion and Apollo Command and Service Module systems. (NASA Image)

February 26, 1966 – The first flight of the Saturn 1B rocket (AS-201) launched today in 1966 to test propulsion and Apollo Command and Service Module systems.

The unpiloted, suborbital flight lasted only 37 minutes but it wasn’t without its challenges.

Following stage separation, a break in the Apollo Service Module’s oxidizer line allowed helium to mix in to the engine and caused it to fire improperly after 80 seconds. And a short circuit in the Command Module resulted in the loss of heat shield evaluation data during reentry.

Engineers addressed these problems and corrected them for future Saturn flights.

A total of nine Saturn 1B rockets flew during the Apollo program, setting the stage for the mighty Saturn V that would take us to the Moon.

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