Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Saturn Instrument Unit

"The Saturn V Instrument Unit is a ring-shaped structure fitted to the top of the Saturn V rocket's third stage (S-IVB) and the Saturn IB's second stage (S-IVB). It was immediately below the SLA (Spacecraft/Lunar Module Adapter) panels that contain the Lunar Module. The Instrument Unit contains the guidance system for the Saturn V rocket. Some of the electronics contained within the Instrument Unit are a digital computer, analog flight control computer, emergency detection system, inertial guidance platform, control accelerometers and control rate gyros. The instrument unit (IU) for Saturn V was designed by NASA at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and was developed from the Saturn I IU. NASA's contractor to construct the Saturn V Instrument Unit was International Business Machines (IBM)." - Wiki

This giant ring represents an avionics and guidance component of the Saturn V rocket system. What a fascinating and robust system this must have been. Many of the components, particularly the computers and electronics, can now be made far smaller. The computers could fit on a single chip, for example. Perhaps some other parts can't be made much smaller. What was the purpose of the "platform air supply" I wonder...

These are a bunch of images, ripped from the internet without proper credit. Welcome to the future of web 2.0... One nice image shows one IU being loaded (or unloaded) from either a Pregnant Guppy, or perhaps even a Super Guppy aircraft (the latter with a cargo bay of 111 ft x 25 ft x 25 ft.) Imagine the cost of transporting such small parts on such a large plane! Perhaps there was more than one IU in that payload.

Now there is nothing wrong with modern computers, they make so many things possible for the average person, too many to list. But all the same, there is something to be said for computers that one can step into.

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