Apollo (spacecraft)

Complete Apollo spacecraft stack: Launch Escape System, Command Module, Service Module, Lunar Module, and Spacecraft LM Adapter
The Apollo 17 CSM seen in lunar orbit from the ascent stage of the Lunar Module

The Apollo spacecraft was composed of three parts designed to accomplish the American Apollo program's goal of landing astronauts on the Moon by the end of the 1960s and returning them safely to Earth. The expendable (single-use) spacecraft consisted of a combined Command/Service Module (CSM) and a Lunar Module (LM). Two additional components complemented the spacecraft stack for space vehicle assembly: a Spacecraft Lunar Module Adapter (SLA) designed to shield the LM from the aerodynamic stress of launch and to connect the CSM to the Saturn launch vehicle; and a Launch Escape System (LES) to carry the crew in the Command Module safely away from the launch vehicle in the event of a launch emergency.

The design was based on the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous approach: two docked spacecraft were sent to the Moon and went into lunar orbit. While the LM separated and landed, the CSM remained in orbit. After the lunar excursion, the two craft rendezvoused and docked in lunar orbit, and the CSM returned the crew to Earth. The Command Module was the only part of the space vehicle that returned with the crew to the Earth's surface.

The LES was jettisoned during launch upon reaching the point where it was no longer needed, and the SLA remained attached to the launch vehicle's upper stage. Two unmanned CSM's, one unmanned LM and one manned CSM were carried into space by Saturn IB launch vehicles for low Earth orbit Apollo missions. Larger Saturn Vs launched two unmanned CSM's on high Earth orbit test flights, the CSM on one manned lunar mission, the complete spacecraft on one manned low Earth orbit mission and eight manned lunar missions. After conclusion of the Apollo program, four CSM's were launched on Saturn IBs for three Skylab Earth orbital missions and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.

Command/Service Module

The major part of the Apollo spacecraft was a three-man vehicle designed for Earth orbital, translunar, and lunar orbital flight, and return to Earth. This consisted of a command module supported by a service module, built by North American Aviation (later North American Rockwell).

Command Module (CM)

Apollo Command Module and its position on top of Saturn V

The Command Module was the control center for the Apollo spacecraft and living quarters for the three crewmen. It contained the pressurized main crew cabin, crew couches, control and instrument panel, Primary Guidance, Navigation and Control System, communications systems, environmental control system, batteries, heat shield, reaction control system to provide attitude control, forward docking hatch, side hatch, five windows, and a parachute recovery system. It was the only part of the Apollo/Saturn space vehicle that returned to Earth intact.

Service Module (SM)

Apollo Service Module

The Service Module was unpressurized and contained a main service propulsion engine and hypergolic propellant to enter and leave lunar orbit, a reaction control system to provide attitude control and translational capability, fuel cells with hydrogen and oxygen reactants, radiators to dump waste heat into space, and a high gain antenna. The oxygen was also used for breathing, and the fuel cells produced water for drinking and environmental control. On Apollo 15, 16 and 17 it also carried a scientific instrument package, with a mapping camera and a small sub-satellite to study the Moon.

A major portion of the Service Module was taken up by propellant and the main rocket engine. Capable of multiple restarts, this engine placed the Apollo spacecraft into and out of lunar orbit, and was used for mid-course corrections between the Earth and the Moon.

The Service Module remained attached to the Command Module throughout the mission. It was jettisoned just prior to reentry into the Earth's atmosphere.

Other Languages