What were the early design concepts for the Apollo program?

In summary: I thought it was interesting that they included a section on "propulsion system summary". It seems they were unsure about how the whole thing was going to work. In summary, these early plans show a more advanced spacecraft design than the final version, which incorporated features like a para-sail landing system and a space-lab.
  • #1
Janus
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
3,723
1,833
In the TIL thread, I posted a link which had a number of imaged of an early proposal for the Apollo program.

I thought I'd use them to do a few renders of what it might have looked like, and point out some of the major differences from the final version.

First, what the craft in fully assembled configuration

Apollo_old_full.png


The plans where a bit shy on some of the cosmetic details, so a took some poetic license with that.
What immediately jumps out at you is that the whole Command module/service Module assembly was meant to descend to the Lunar surface. They hadn't come up with the separate lander and Lunar orbit rendezvous scheme at this stage yet.
Another thing to note is the plans showed no means for the crew to reach the Lunar surface, so took the liberty of adding a ladder. The only problem with this is that the designs included an airlock for the Command Module which exited through the nose. I'm not sure how they would have handled getting from airlock to Service Module ladder.

Another notable feature is that the Service Module incorporated hinged radiator panels and stored radar dishes the would deploy at some point. This GIF shows how this would work. The doors covering the radar dish compartments would close again after deployment.
apollo_old.gif


Though there were two dishes, only one is visible here.

Landing on the Moon used a fixed J2 rocket engine and four thrusters mounted on gimbals. The four smaller thrusters were pressure fed from a Helium tank.
In these images the lander legs are in the default extended position. On landing, hydraulic struts would compress causing the legs to splay out further.

The SM/CM would leave the Moon initially by a solid fuel booster pack ( as shown here attached to the bottom of the SM) and four gimballed thrusters.
Apollo_old_2.png


which would then detach, revealing another set of solid fuel boosters:

Apollo_old_3.png


Here is the whole system expanded and labeled:

apollo_expld.png
 
  • Like
  • Love
Likes Drakkith, 2milehi, DrClaude and 3 others
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
  • #3
dlgoff said:
Beautiful work @Janus.
Thanks.
 
  • #4
That is beautiful.

How was re-entry supposed to work?
 
  • #5
Vanadium 50 said:
That is beautiful.

How was re-entry supposed to work?
The same way it was finally done: The command module separates, turns around and reenters heat shield first. One difference was that it was equipped with a para-sail rather than parachutes.
 
  • Like
Likes Vanadium 50
  • #6
The plans also included a sheet for a "space-lab". I'm not sure exactly what its purpose was.
Anyway, here's what it might have looked like docked to the CM/SM pair.
SPACE_LAB.png

The solar panels would be folded over the end during launch. The arms they were mounted on could rotate on the lab's axis, and the panels rotated on the ends of the arms in order to keep them oriented to the Sun.
 
  • Like
Likes dlgoff

Related to What were the early design concepts for the Apollo program?

1. What was the main goal of the Apollo program?

The main goal of the Apollo program was to land humans on the moon and bring them back safely to Earth.

2. How were the early design concepts for the Apollo program developed?

The early design concepts for the Apollo program were developed through a series of studies and tests conducted by NASA engineers and scientists. They also drew inspiration from previous space missions, such as the Mercury and Gemini programs.

3. What were some key design features of the Apollo spacecraft?

The Apollo spacecraft consisted of three main components: the Command Module, the Service Module, and the Lunar Module. The Command Module housed the crew and the controls for the spacecraft, while the Service Module provided propulsion and support systems. The Lunar Module was designed to land on the moon and then return to the Command Module for the journey back to Earth.

4. How did the Apollo program overcome technical challenges?

The Apollo program faced many technical challenges, such as developing a powerful enough rocket to reach the moon and designing a spacecraft that could withstand the extreme conditions of space. To overcome these challenges, NASA utilized advanced technologies and conducted extensive testing and simulations to ensure the safety and success of the mission.

5. What were some of the major accomplishments of the Apollo program?

The Apollo program achieved many significant accomplishments, including the first human landing on the moon with the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Other major accomplishments include the first spacewalk by an American astronaut, the first lunar rover exploration, and the successful recovery of all Apollo astronauts. The program also greatly advanced our understanding of space travel and paved the way for future missions and discoveries.

Similar threads

  • Aerospace Engineering
Replies
3
Views
1K
  • Aerospace Engineering
Replies
2
Views
7K
  • Aerospace Engineering
Replies
2
Views
2K
  • Classical Physics
Replies
10
Views
2K
  • Aerospace Engineering
Replies
3
Views
2K
  • Sticky
  • Aerospace Engineering
2
Replies
48
Views
61K
  • Aerospace Engineering
Replies
2
Views
2K
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
2
Replies
48
Views
12K
  • Aerospace Engineering
Replies
2
Views
3K
  • General Engineering
Replies
15
Views
5K
Back
Top