Re: SPACE: Beyond Apollo

From: Michael S. Lorrey (
Date: Sun Apr 02 2000 - 20:49:41 MDT

Spike Jones wrote:
> >
> >
> > > Though I agree GNR will help make CAtS better, if we just took that old
> > > Saturn V design, which, if I'm right, is now unpatented, we could be making
> > > disposable launch vehicles that could put huge cargoes in orbit NOW! We'd
> > > be using a proven technology.
> Ja, however we dont have that design any more. It is folklore in the
> space industry which I have been trying to confirm or overturn for
> years. According to the legend, after the end of the Saturn V production
> run, the drawing package was not only not preserved, it was intentionally
> destroyed, so we couldn't build one now even if we wanted to. A reliable
> source has told me that at least part of the package still exists in the
> archives at Johnson, but he could not confirm that it was all there.
> Another source claims that the drawing package was not fully up to date
> ever; that skilled craftsmen knew how to make certain parts and that
> these tricks were never entered into the drawings back in the go-go
> rush of the 1960s, altho this latter part strains the imagination. That
> sure wouldnt fly today.

I've found that while the device drawings would be to spec and as made,
its the manufacturing drawings that would frequently not be updated with
the little quirks and workarounds that people on the manufacturing floor
come up with to either do their jobs better, faster, or to work around a
manufacturing defect that was not forseen in 2d drawings. Till my father
came to work at Ruger, engineering by word of mouth on the manufacturing
floor, without documentation, tended to be the regular MO.

> The conspiracy theorist hold that the Saturn V drawings were destroyed
> in order to prevent the Saturn V from being considered a competitor
> for the space shuttle.

This argument has been made by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven. I've
also heard that the drawings were destroyed because the Administration
was afraid of, or had been told by, the Russians that they were going to
claim that the Saturn V was to be regarded as another ICBM design.

> I suspect a more likely explanation is that no one awarded a contract
> to preserve the drawings and so North American Rockwell, et. al. didnt.
> Anybody know? spike

The only engineering departments I have dealt with were rather small to
middlin, so I can't presume to understand the scope of storing the
engineering drawings for the most complex machine ever built to that
date, however I don't know of any engineers that would not keep archives
of all of their prior work, even if just on microfilm, although I
understand that Lockheed used to regularly destroy many drawings of
classified programs as a security measure, which perplexed the USAF to
no end.

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