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Published on Apr 20, 2008
Apollo 4 was the first unmanned flight of the Saturn V launch vehicle, the largest launch vehicle ever constructed. It was also the first flight of the S-IC and S-II stages of the rocket.
It was the first launch from Launch Complex 39 specifically built for the Saturn V. As well as being the first launch of the S-IC first stage and S-II second stage, it would also be the first time that the S-IVB third stage had been restarted in Earth orbit and the first time that the Apollo spacecraft had reentered Earth's atmosphere at speeds approaching those of a lunar return trajectory. Because of all these firsts there were 4098 measuring instruments on board the rocket and spacecraft.
This would be the first test of the all-up doctrine. It had been decided in 1963 that instead of testing each component of the rocket separately like had been done by Wernher von Braun in Germany during World War II, the rocket would be tested all at once. This cut down the total number of tests, as needed to accomplish President Kennedy's stated goal of a manned lunar landing before 1970, but it meant that everything had to work properly the first time. Apollo program managers had misgivings about all-up testing but agreed to it with some reluctance since individual component tests would inevitably push the landing mission past the 1970 goal.
There were two main payloads on board. CSM-017 was a production model of the spacecraft that would take the astronauts to the moon. It was a Block I spacecraft meant for testing the systems, and not the Block II spacecraft that would be actually manned. However it did feature some Block II items such as an improved heatshield and a new hatch. The other payload was LTA-10R which was a model of the Lunar Module carried as ballast but with the same mass distribution as the real craft.