Over the years, I often heard that we would not be able to build a Saturn V again since its construction plans actually have been destroyed.

Then again, I heard that there are copies on microfiche or something, and that the Smithsonian actually has copies of those.

So, are the construction plans still available or not? By this I mean plans that are detailed enough that you would be able to rebuild the Saturn V if you had all the tooling and infrastructure (which we don't, but that's another matter).

(Sidenote: I know we actually wouldn't want to build it again for a variety of reasons. Interestingly, that linked question doesn't seem to touch the topic of the construction plans.)

  • $\begingroup$ No Kickstarter of GoFundMe in the works? ;-) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 2:57

2 Answers 2


No, the blueprints were not destroyed or lost.

(This is) a claim John Lewis made in his 1996 book, Mining the Sky, that he went looking for the Saturn 5 blueprints a few years ago and concluded, incredibly, they had been "lost."

Paul Shawcross, from NASA's Office of Inspector General, came to the agency's defense in comments published on CCNet -- a scholarly electronic newsletter covering the threat of asteroids and comets. Shawcross said the Saturn 5 blueprints are held at the Marshall Space Flight Center on microfilm.

"The Federal Archives in East Point, Georgia, also has 2,900 cubic feet of Saturn documents," he said. "Rocketdyne has in its archives dozens of volumes from its Knowledge Retention Program. This effort was initiated in the late '60s to document every facet of F 1 and J 2 engine production to assist in any future restart."

Shawcross cautioned that rebuilding a Saturn 5 would require more than good blueprints.

"The problem in recreating the Saturn 5 is not finding the drawings, it is finding vendors who can supply mid-1960's vintage hardware," he wrote, "and the fact that the launch pads and vehicle assembly buildings have been converted to space shuttle use, so you have no place to launch from.

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    $\begingroup$ Some parts of a Saturn V could not be build today in the same way as in the late '60s. The combustion chambers and nozzles of the rocket were made from a lot of small tubes welded to form the walls and the cooling channels. This was very expensive and difficult. Today there is a better method, the chanells are milled into the inner wall made from copper. The electronics of the rocket control computer should be built using parts of the last decade, not parts of more than 50 years ago. The computer would be much lighter and would need much less electrical power. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Uwe Thanks, but that's already covered by the question I've linked. I just wanted to know about the construction plans. $\endgroup$
    – DarkDust
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ Some of the blueprints probably have been destroyed. The Saturn V used commodity parts in places, and the blueprints held by NASA merely say things like "insert Type Whatever vacuum tube here". The actual blueprints for making a Type Whatever vacuum tube would have been held by the manufacturer, and could very well have been lost. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 21:42
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    $\begingroup$ That's addressed in space.stackexchange.com/questions/6281/… $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 9:17
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    $\begingroup$ It would be pointless and needlessly/prohibitively expensive to build another faithful copy of a Saturn V using the same methods, materials, and off-the-shelf parts, as much of it is likely obsolete. Using the original blueprints as a starting point for an updated design of matching specification is another matter - copying design features to incorporate solutions to problems rather than rediscover them, but substitute more modern materials and methods. $\endgroup$
    – Anthony X
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 19:59

I'll add that at least in the case of the Rocketdyne F1 Engine (those five huge engines at the bottom of the Saturn V) there seems to be some instances of either missing or never-existed notes and personal knowledge on a large number of small details on the fabrication process (how to assemble, fit, weld, etc...) that would be helpful to build a new F-1 as discussed in the Curious Droid video Why Can't we Remake the Rocketdyne F1 Engine?, also viewable below.

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    $\begingroup$ Aerojet Rocketdyne is producing a derivative of the F-1 called the F-1B for the SLS. With the re-engineering completed, now we can build an F-1 engine once again. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocketdyne_F- $\endgroup$
    – gwally
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ @gwally Thanks! You're welcome to edit this post and add that if you like. I don't have enough familiarity with the SLS work to explain. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ That link should probably be en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocketdyne_F-1#F-1B_booster $\endgroup$
    – DarkDust
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 18:16

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