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Effects of the Apollo 204 Accident on Schedule and Cost of the Apollo Program


Excerpt from “Apollo 204 Accident: Report of the Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, United States Senate, Report No. 956,” January 30, 1968, p. 8. Source: NASA Historical Reference Collection, NASA History Office, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC.

The Apollo 204 accident and its investigation resulted in substantial changes in the program with resultant impacts on cost and schedules. The principal schedule changes and the cost impact of the accident on the program follow.

Apollo Schedule

The initial Apollo manned flight with the modified Block II spacecraft is scheduled for launch by an uprated Saturn I vehicle during the third or fourth quarter of calendar 1968, some 17 or 18 months after the scheduled launch of Apollo 204 in February 1967. The first unmanned qualification flight of the Saturn V launch vehicle carrying a Block I spacecraft was rescheduled from early 1967 to late 1967 when a highly successful system performance was realized. This flight is to be followed by a third Saturn V unmanned flight in 1968. If the Saturn V launch vehicle is manrated as a result of these flights and the first manned Block II spacecraft mission meets its objectives, subsequent Apollo flights involving command module and lunar module operations in earth orbit in preparation for the lunar landing would be transferred to the Saturn V vehicle rather than utilizing dual uprated Saturn I launches for these practice missions as previously contemplated. However, dual uprated Saturn I missions could be flown as backup missions in the event of Saturn V vehicle qualification delays. A Saturn V vehicle success schedule now projects six manned launches in 1968 and 1969 with the possibility of accomplishing a lunar landing before 1970.

The impact of the Apollo 204 accident has been to reduce the probability of such a landing, not eliminate it. If required for the lunar landing objective, the last six of the original complement of 15 Saturn V vehicles would be launched after 1969.

Apollo Program Cost

Time is a major factor influencing the cost of the Apollo program. In 1966 NASA advised the committee that the total estimated cost of the Apollo program was $22.718 billion assuming that all 12 uprated Saturn I and 15 Saturn V launch vehicles were required for the lunar landing. The comparable estimate provided by NASA during the May 9, 1967 hearing is $23.190 billion, an increase of $472 million. The increase is largely due to the effect of stretching out the Apollo/Saturn V launch schedule. However, early achievement of the lunar landing objective would permit the allocation of unused Apollo hardware and an appropriate share of operational expenses to the Apollo applications program with an offsetting reduction in the cost of the Apollo program.

There was no immediate impact of the accident on the NASA fiscal year 1967 financial plan or the fiscal year 1968 budget request because of offsetting factors such as the suspension of flight schedules and changes in spacecraft production planning, which permitted adjustments within the total NASA budget framework for these years. The overall impact of the Apollo 204 accident, therefore, will appear in future years as is evidenced by the increase in the total runout cost estimate for the Apollo program.



Last Updated
Jun 12, 2024