Monday, July 18, 2022



IF YOU EVER WANTED to know all about the Saturn I/IB launch rocket, you can find the information in this book.

Mat Irvine: Written by Dr David Baker, a world authority on astronautics and rocket development, this book has just about every fact about the said launcher that you could possible want, particularly model makers who need those ‘definitive details’. 

There aren’t that many models available for the Saturn I, but there is the long-running 1:144 Airfix kit, one in 1:200 from AMT as part of its Man in Space set, and resin update kits from RealSpace Models. There are also several flying scale models from companies such as Estes, and the 1:72 Apollo Saturn IB from Dragon.

Book sections
The book is split into four main sections. These run chronologically, Sections 3 and 4 being on the Saturn I/IB itself. But, as David Baker points out in the Introduction, you can’t really have the Saturn I without knowing how its development was preceded by the earlier projects. So we start with the genesis of missiles and therefore rocket engines, back as far as Tsiolkovsky and Goddard, then Wernher von Braun and the pre-World War II VfR (Verein fur Raumschiffahrt – Society for Space Travel) in Germany. Then of course the V-2, its transportation across the Atkantic Ocean, and development into the Redstone rocket. Next came the Jupiter. From Jupiter the obvious jump is to Saturn, via the planned (but never built) Juno III, IV and V projects. 

Building from scratch?
The book is illustrated with a large number of diagrams and photos, many in colour. There are enough details on the Saturn I/IB that you feel you could build one from scratch! New engines had to be developed, the H-1 for the first stage, and the new SIVB stage that would be the second stage of the Saturn IB and the third stage of the Saturn V. 

The first Saturn I flight was in October 1961, and the last, a Saturn IB, lifted off with the American Apollo-Soyuz crew in July 1975.  The book covers every flight, and the appendixes look in more detail at von Braun and the astronauts that flew on Saturn IB:  Apollo 7, Skylabs 2, 3 and 4 and the final ASTP (Apollo-Soyuz Test Project).

So a book full of science and technicalities, but it is also a good read, following the politics of the era, what could have happened, but didn’t, and what eventually did. 

A disclosure here is that I’ve known David Baker for many years. We are both Fellows of the BIS (British Interplanetary Society) and are collaborating on a new book that mixes projects that could have been, from their technicalities (David) and then creating them as models (me). I’ve had nothing to do with this Saturn I/IB book, but can recommend it throughly.

Scale stats
Title: Saturn I/IB NASA’s First Apollo Launch Vehicle
Author: David Baker
Pages: 384
Publisher: Crécy

The colour book (below) is fully illustrated throughout, and includes many rare and unusual images.

The newer Airfix Saturn IB (below) which has the correct Apollo stage, together with the book cover, and a spread that shows Apollo 7 lifting off.

Other spreads (below) cover the history of this important space launcher.