Author Topic: Saturn V Launch vs. Shuttle Launch: Any Eyewitness Accounts  (Read 13556 times)

Offline Proponent

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I've seen a Shuttle launch but not that of a Saturn V.  I'd imagine the Saturn was the more impressive of the two, with its lower thrust-to-weight ratio and cleaner, less particulate (though less bright) exhaust.  But I'd be curious to hear what anyone who has witnessed both might have to say....

Offline mike robel

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Saturn V wins for majestic climb out, the sustained noise, and the deep rumble in your chest that also manages to vibrate your fillings.

Offline Hoonte

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« Last Edit: 05/07/2009 08:01 pm by Chris Bergin »
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Offline SpaceCat

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Well, I'll contribute a little cut from my memoirs.  In this case I was talking about Apollo 13----

Plenty of people- from key insiders, to reporters, to average spectators- have tried over the years to describe a Saturn V launch in words. None have ever quite done it justice. It's one of those things you have to see- and FEEL- for yourself; and that's an opportunity lost to history now. When I saw the first of many Shuttle launches in later years, what impressed me was that once the SRB's light- it's 'outta here.' A Saturn took its time- seeming to barely move while billowing all that fire- seemed to take FOREVER to clear the tower- seconds during which your mind and heart are on the edge wondering if the whole thing could fall back into those flames- and that's when, if you're close enough- the SOUND arrives. It's like continuous thunder- and when you think it can't get any louder it does. I remember the vibration seeming to pass into my bones- and the metal roof of that van like a sledge hammer. The bird rises, the flames spew and the thunder continues- rising in pitch as it climbs, finally dissipating into a sound like a billion sheets of heavy paper being torn lengthwise for a whole minute. I remember grinning when I heard that...... I knew THAT sound. It was the same noise those little Estes model rockets I flew as a kid made- magnified ten million times.


Online Blackstar

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An important point to remember is that the Saturn V moved slow, so the noise lasted longer.

Anybody know how long it took each one to clear the tower?

Offline dwmzmm

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An important point to remember is that the Saturn V moved slow, so the noise lasted longer.

Anybody know how long it took each one to clear the tower?

Well, replaying that video several posts up, I'm showing about eight seconds......
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Offline Proponent

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What about the intensity of the flame?  When I saw a Shuttle launch in person, one of the two things that struck me as being really different from what I'd seen on TV was its brightness (the other thing being the sound, of course, which one feels at least as much as one hears).  Even in daylight, I recall finding parts of the exhaust plume almost to bright to look at.

I'd have thought that the Saturn, lacking SRBs and their voluminous output of incandescent particles, would have had less brilliant exhaust.
« Last Edit: 05/07/2009 09:31 am by Proponent »

Offline Proponent

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Compare these [Saturn V, Shuttle, Titan IV] to say Delta/Minuteman/Minotaur launches, and all the rest seem much more similar, more of an objective experience, and though the sounds were different for each, they all fit more of a category.

I agree.  When I visited the Cape to see the Shuttle, I also happened to catch a Delta II launch.  You can extrapolate from watching a launch on TV to the experience of watching a Delta II.  You can't for a vehicle like the Shuttle; it's an experience on an entirely different plane.

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What about the intensity of the flame?  When I saw a Shuttle launch in person, one of the two things that struck me as being really different from what I'd seen on TV was its brightness (the other thing being the sound, of course, which one feels at least as much as one hears).  Even in daylight, I recall finding parts of the exhaust plume almost to bright to look at.

I saw three shuttle night launches, either from the press site or (I think) the Banana River tracking site.  This was as close as anybody other than safety personnel can get. 

In all three cases the plume was as you said, almost too bright to look at.  However, I dimly remember that in two of the cases the shuttle was not as loud as I expected.  Local atmospherics--wind, temp and humidity--all affect the sound.  Other people I talked to said the same thing, that there had been shuttle launches that they considered very loud, and others that were not that loud.

I still think that a major factor for the Saturn V was how slowly it climbed.  It might have produced more noise than a shuttle, or not, but it spent more time closer to the witnesses.

Offline Jim

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I wear sunglasses  for night launches. 

Offline William Barton

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Re: Saturn V Launch vs. Shuttle Launch: Any Eyewitness Accounts
« Reply #10 on: 05/07/2009 07:31 pm »
Well, I'll contribute a little cut from my memoirs.  In this case I was talking about Apollo 13----

Plenty of people- from key insiders, to reporters, to average spectators- have tried over the years to describe a Saturn V launch in words. None have ever quite done it justice. It's one of those things you have to see- and FEEL- for yourself; and that's an opportunity lost to history now. When I saw the first of many Shuttle launches in later years, what impressed me was that once the SRB's light- it's 'outta here.' A Saturn took its time- seeming to barely move while billowing all that fire- seemed to take FOREVER to clear the tower- seconds during which your mind and heart are on the edge wondering if the whole thing could fall back into those flames- and that's when, if you're close enough- the SOUND arrives. It's like continuous thunder- and when you think it can't get any louder it does. I remember the vibration seeming to pass into my bones- and the metal roof of that van like a sledge hammer. The bird rises, the flames spew and the thunder continues- rising in pitch as it climbs, finally dissipating into a sound like a billion sheets of heavy paper being torn lengthwise for a whole minute. I remember grinning when I heard that...... I knew THAT sound. It was the same noise those little Estes model rockets I flew as a kid made- magnified ten million times.



Someone, I forget who (one of the Shuttle astronauts, in a TV interview) said, "When those solids light, you know you're going somewhere." I never managed to get to a Saturn V launch (young and too poor to travel any way but by thumb), but when I watched STS-1 from the press site, I was surprised how quick it went up. I was expecting something more like Saturn seen on TV. Older reporters at the time told me they remembered Saturn being more "visceral."

Offline Lawntonlookirs

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Re: Saturn V Launch vs. Shuttle Launch: Any Eyewitness Accounts
« Reply #11 on: 05/07/2009 07:42 pm »
What I can remember about the Saturn V was the size.  I never saw a launch live, but it was very slow on lift off, taking, as mentioned above, about 8 or 9 seconds to clear the tower.  It took for ever to start to pick up speed.  I heard, and may someone can varify, that after each launch of the Saturn V, it took a lot of time to repair the launch tower because of the heat from the rocket engines.

When the shuttle came along, the first thing remember was that how was that ever going to fly.  Everyone at that time was used to seeing a rocket that was of a pyramid, or cylinder shape that pointed straight up.  The shuttle looked lopsided and off balance.  When I saw the first launch, you could see the SSME start and the shuttle did not move.  Then all of a sudden the SRB ignite and it was surprising how quickly it darted from the launch pad a cleared the tower.  In the video above, you can see that the shuttle is starting to rotate in about the same time it takes the Saturn V to clear the tower.
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Offline DerekL

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Re: Saturn V Launch vs. Shuttle Launch: Any Eyewitness Accounts
« Reply #12 on: 05/08/2009 06:10 am »
Then all of a sudden the SRB ignite and it was surprising how quickly it darted from the launch pad a cleared the tower.

Watching the launch of STS-1, my dad commented "damm, that would out drag a Chevy too..."

Offline mike robel

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Re: Saturn V Launch vs. Shuttle Launch: Any Eyewitness Accounts
« Reply #13 on: 05/08/2009 11:59 am »
When we didn't go to the river or another site (like the space center causeway) to view a launch, we would watch the Saturn V clear the tower on TV and then go outside.  By the time we got outside, it was only high enough to clear the trees and houses blocking Line of Site to the vehicle.

I tried that once at home after I moved back to Merritt Island and the shuttle was halfway gone by the time I got out the door.

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