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The S-IVB (sometimes S4b, always pronounced "ess four bee") was built by the Douglas Aircraft Company and served as the third stage on the Saturn V and second stage on the Saturn IB. It had one J-2 engine. For lunar missions it was fired twice: first for the orbit insertion after second stage cutoff, and then for translunar injection (TLI).


The S-IVB evolved from the upper stage of the Saturn I rocket, the S-IV, and was the first stage of the Saturn V to be designed. The S-IV used a cluster of six engines but used the same fuels as the S-IVB — liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. It was also originally meant to be the fourth stage of a planned rocket called the C-4, hence the name S-IV.

Eleven companies submitted proposals for being the lead contractor on the stage by the deadline of 29 February 1960. NASA administrator T. Keith Glennan decided on 19 April that Douglas Aircraft Company would be awarded the contract. Convair had come a close second but Glennan did not want to monopolize the liquid hydrogen fueled rocket market as Convair was already building the Centaur rocket stage.

In the end the Marshall Space Flight Centermarker decided to use the C-5 rocket (later called the Saturn V), which had three stages and would be topped with an uprated S-IV called the S-IVB which instead of using a cluster of engines would have a single J-2 engine. Douglas was awarded the contract for the S-IVB because of the similarities between it and the S-IV. At the same time it was decided to create the C-IB rocket (Saturn IB) that would also use the S-IVB as its second stage and could be used for testing the Apollo spacecraft in Earth orbit.

Douglas built two distinct versions of the S-IVB, the 200 series and the 500 series. The 200 series was used by the Saturn IB and differed from the 500 in the fact that it did not have a flared interstage and had less helium pressurization on board as it would not be restarted. (On the 500 series, the interstage needed to flare out to match the larger diameter of the lower stages of the Saturn V.) The 200 series also had three solid rockets for separating the S-IVB stage from the S-IB stage during launch, rather than the two on the 500 series, and lacked the linear APS thrusters that the 500 series required for ullage operations prior to restarting the J2 engine.

Cutaway drawing of the Saturn V S-IVB

The S-IVB carried 73,280 liters (19,359 U.S. gallons) of LOX, massing 87,200 kg (192,243 lbs). It carried 252,750 liters (66,770 U.S. gallons) of LH2, massing 18,000 kg (39,683 lbs).[35864]

An S-IVB provided the hull for Skylab, the United States'marker first space station.

During Apollo 13, Apollo 14, Apollo 15, Apollo 16 and Apollo 17, the S-IVB was crashed into the Moon in order to perform seismic measurement used for characterizing the lunar core.

The proposed Earth Departure Stage (EDS) and the second stage of the Ares I rocket will bear some of the characteristics of the S-IVB stage, as both will have an uprated J-2 engine (J-2X series), with the former performing the same functions as that of the Series 500 version of the stage (placing the payload into orbit, and later firing the spacecraft into trans-lunar space).

Stages built

Three versions of the SIV/SIVB

200 Series
Serial number Use Launch date Current location
S-IVB-S "Battleship" static test stage
S-IVB-F Test stage for the facilities
S-IVB-D "Dynamic" test stage delivered to Marshall Space Flight Centermarker in 1965 U.S.marker Space & Rocket Centermarker, Huntsvillemarker, Alabamamarker
S-IVB-T Cancelled December 1964
S-IVB-201 AS-201 February 26, 1966
S-IVB-202 AS-202 August 25, 1966
S-IVB-203 AS-203 July 5, 1966
S-IVB-204 Apollo 5 January 22, 1968
S-IVB-205 Apollo 7 October 11, 1968
S-IVB-206 Skylab 2 May 25, 1973
S-IVB-207 Skylab 3 July 28, 1973
S-IVB-208 Skylab 4 November 16, 1973
S-IVB-209 Skylab rescue vehicle Kennedy Space Centermarker
S-IVB-210 Apollo Soyuz Test Project July 15, 1975
S-IVB-211 Unused U.S.marker Space & Rocket Centermarker, Huntsvillemarker, Alabamamarker
S-IVB-212 Converted to Skylab May 14, 1973
500 Series
Serial number Use Launch date Current location
S-IVB-501 Apollo 4 November 9, 1967
S-IVB-502 Apollo 6 April 4, 1968
S-IVB-503 Destroyed during testing
S-IVB-503N Apollo 8 December 21, 1968 Solar orbit
S-IVB-504 Apollo 9 March 3, 1969 Solar orbit
S-IVB-505 Apollo 10 May 18, 1969 Solar orbit
S-IVB-506 Apollo 11 July 16, 1969 Solar orbit
S-IVB-507 Apollo 12 November 14, 1969 Solar orbit; Believed to have been discovered as an asteroid in 2002 and given the designation J002E3
S-IVB-508 Apollo 13 April 11, 1970 Lunar surface*
S-IVB-509 Apollo 14 January 31, 1971 Lunar surface*
S-IVB-510 Apollo 15 July 26, 1971 Lunar surface*
S-IVB-511 Apollo 16 April 16, 1972 Lunar surface*
S-IVB-512 Apollo 17 December 7, 1972 Lunar surface*
S-IVB-513 Apollo 18 (cancelled) N/A Johnson Space Centermarker
S-IVB-514 Unused Kennedy Space Centermarker
S-IVB-515 Converted for use as backup Skylab National Air and Space Museummarker
(* See List of artificial objects on the Moon for location.)

See also


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