On Oct. 27, 1961, NASA launched the first test flight of its new Saturn I space launch vehicle.
The Saturn I was the United States' first heavy-lift rocket designed to launch big payloads beyond low Earth orbit. This was also the first test flight of any rocket in the Saturn family of rockets, which includes the Saturn V that was used to launch astronauts to the moon during the Apollo program.
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The Saturn I was enormous compared to every rocket that came before it. It was almost three times as tall as the Jupiter-C rocket, which launched the first American satellite into orbit in 1958. It also produced more than 10 times the amount of thrust that the Jupiter-C rocket could.
The liquid-powered rocket launched on its maiden voyage from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Despite a one-hour weather day, the flight was nearly perfect. It reached an altitude of 85 miles and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean 15 minutes later.
The only thing that went wrong was that its engines cut off 1.6 seconds early, but that wasn't a huge deal. Scientists figured out that this happened because there was too much liquid oxygen in the rocket and not enough propellant.
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