Rocketdyne H-1 Rocket Engine

From the Earth to the Moon

The Rocketdyne H-1 rocket engine was a classic design and an integral part of the Saturn booster program. Built by the Rocketdyne Division of Rockwell International, the contract for the first H-1 was awarded on Sept. 11, 1958. The first mainstage testing took place before the end of the year — Dec. 31, 1958. By the next summer, the first prototype engine and first full duration firing had taken place.

The testing and design was complete by 1960 with the delivery of the first flight ready engine on Jan. 27. In April, the first eight-engine cluster test with the H-1 was conducted.

The next milestone in the program came on Oct. 27, 1961, with the first successful launch of a Saturn booster, the SA-1. Refinements continued until the engine was rated for 205,000 pounds of thrust in 1966. Shortly thereafter, the 15 Saturn booster launch became the first manned Apollo mission — Apollo 7 — on Oct. 11, 1968, which used the full Saturn V package.

The S-1B stage worked on its own to lift crews of all three Skylab missions to orbit. The S-1B employed a cluster of eight H-1 engines to provide 1.64 million pounds of thrust.

While the H-1 is large compared to the other engines at the Arkansas Air Museum, it is nothing compared to the gigantic main engines of the Saturn V main booster.