The unmanned Saturn/Apollo
6 mission was designed as the final qualification of the Saturn
V launch vehicle and Apollo spacecraft for crewed Apollo missions.
The spacecraft consisted of the three-stage Saturn V, the Apollo
Command and Service Module and a boilerplate Lunar Module.
The primary objectives
of the mission were to demonstrate structural and thermal integrity
and compatibility of the launch vehicle and spacecraft, confirm
launch loads and dynamic characteristics and verify stage separations,
propulsion, guidance and control, electrical systems, emergency
detection system and mission support facilities and operations,
including Command Module recovery.
Three major problems
occurred during the mission. The Saturn V structure underwent
a severe pogo oscillation, without damage to the spacecraft structure.
Due to a manufacturing flaw, structural panels were lost from
the Lunar Module adapter. Finally, after the completion of first
stage firing and part way through the second stage burn, two of
the five second stage J-2 engines shut down prematurely. The planned
175-kilometer (108.7-mile) circular Earth orbit was not achieved,
instead, after completion of the third stage burn, the spacecraft
was in a 172.1 x 223.1-kilometer (106.9 x 138.6-mile), 89.8-minute
The Command Module splashed
down 80 kilometers (49.7 miles) off target 10 hours, 22 minutes,
59 seconds after launch and was recovered in good condition.