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I watched a history of the Saturn V on Amazon last night. Unfortunately, frustratingly little of it was about the technical details of it, which is mostly what interests me. The only good bit was an explanation of the pogoing problem, the rest was just the usual stuff seen on every "failure is not an option" Apollo documentary.

Reminds me of the locomotive buffs who are interested in every detail of markings on the locomotives, their routes, schedules, and paint colors. Whereas there's very little about the engineering evolution of those locomotives. Sigh.

For example, I'm interested in the transition between trial-and-error seat of the pants engineering and mathematically based engineering.

I took several courses in computational fluid dynamics while in graduate school from a professor who had begun his academic career in the late 50s. He had worked for the Army on ICBM re-entry vehicle dynamics, worked for JPL planning space missions, etc. In class he sometimes spoke about this transition. As I remember it, we were discussing the issues surrounding the design of the injector plate for the Saturn V F-1 engines. These famously took more than 1000 iterations before the designers arrived at a combination of baffles that damped standing waves within the combustion chamber. The professor, who had helped with this work, said something like (forgive me, this is as close as I can remember what he said), "You have to understand, we didn't try this 1000 times because we wanted to try it 1000 times. We had the mathematics to try to explore the workings of this combustion chamber. But we didn't have the computing power to experiment with our mathematical models! Now I can take advantage of many powerful, commercial solvers and have them run many times, tweaking initial conditions, and evaluate the results with statistics. Then, all we could do was sit around and do some very crude math and come up with another baffle configuration and try again until it worked. Because it HAD to work."

> For example, I'm interested in the transition between trial-and-error seat of the pants engineering and mathematically based engineering.

It is difficult to know how best to document this kind of thing, the people who know about it probably don't want to write books or create their own websites.

My grandfather was responsible for part of the engineering side of the early British radar equipment, Wikipedia only really describes the scientific experiments that led up to it. I have plenty of stuff that I could add that he told me when teaching me electronics when I was a kid, but I would expect it to get deleted if I can't point at an external source.

The early British radar used during WWII was some amazing fetes of engineering and mathematics. Some of the beginnings of Operations Research.


Please write it anyway. It's important history. Just be straightforward about how you came by this information.

Heck, I'd like to read it as well!

I know some things about the air war in WW2 told to me by my father (B17 navigator) that I've never seen in any history. I write about them once in a while on the internet.

For example, the air crews would squat on their flak jackets instead of wearing them, for the simple reason that the trajectory of the flak shrapnel was mostly upwards.

Post the extra stuff to your blog, then cite that blog on Wikipedia.

Then you'll just need to get a newspaper to write an article on it, so you can have an 'authoritative' citation. /s

Paging Steele...


Thesis covers an earlier time frame than you want (up to 1800), but is this the kind of analysis you are after?

Would pull in development of precision machining, and various improvements in steel making I imagine. The paper below has a time line and details of 'start ups' involved in UK.


In twentieth century various people tried to adapt the steam turbine to rail use with varying success. Marine turbines dominated ship engines then for larger ships.

I think a carefully worded question on a UK railway forum might yield some results. I can just about remember steam locomotives clinging on in the early 60s (my mother hated them - put your washing out and watch the soot land...)


Has a time line of the companies involved in some of that.

Thank you! Saved for later reading.

Try the book: "Stages to Saturn" by Roger E. Bilstein: https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4206/sp4206.htm

I second this recommendation. This is an excellent book about the Saturn V system. I also highly recommend Jonathan H. Ward's two excellent books, "Rocket Ranch: The Nuts and Bolts of the Apollo Moon Program at Kennedy Space Center" and "Countdown to a Moon Launch: Preparing Apollo for Its Historic Journey". These two books give a history aimed at the engineer, or the "rivet counters". It's full of interesting little details. For example, did you know that one of the firing rooms at the Cape was exclusively used for project management purposes? One huge wall of the room was used for maintaining a Gantt chart of the entire Apollo program all the way until Apollo Soyuz.

Ward goes into excellent detail on the support facilities used for engineering tests, what the engineering tests consisted of, how they were conducted, etc. Even (sad) details on how 39A was immediately reconfigured for STS operations after Apollo Soyuz.

Very interesting day-by-day history of Apollo, archived by NASA: https://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/SP-4204/contents....

Makes for a very long, but interesting read for those who are NASA and history buffs.

'Apollo: Race To The Moon', Murray and Cox, is a great popular history that describes a pretty broad swath of the engineering (and management) efforts behind Apollo, including several nice sections on the Saturn V and the F-1 engine in particular.

People who tend to have such interests I guess don't end up making or producing documentaries. I've found oral histories the best, when some old people have been interviewed with the interviewer getting out of the way so to speak. Don't have the list here so might misremember the names but Robert Brulle, Stanley Hooker and Doron Aurbach for example have interesting life stories.

You might read Walt Vincenti's book on this, "What Engineers Know and How They Know It: Analytical Studies from Aeronautical History" Excellent read. https://www.amazon.ca/What-Engineers-Know-How-They/dp/080184...

"How Apollo Flew to the Moon" (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Apollo-Springer-Praxis-Books-Explor...) is pretty exhaustive on the technical details.

Assuming you already have the "Haynes manual" for the Saturn V: http://a.co/53REsWD

Technical as all get-out.

I must thank everyone who replied with wonderful references. I had no idea I'd get such great responses! I look forward to many pleasant sessions perusing this material.

It's probably hard to get that information 50-60 years after the fact.

Are there documentary crews at SpaceX right now?

I'll add to the list of recommendations "V-2" by Dornberger.


Although Dornberger was not an engineer, the book does go through many technical difficulties and how they were resolved. The V2 is, of course, a direct ancestor of the Saturn V, and the solutions to those difficulties are present in the SV as well.

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