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David Hammen gently corrected my erroneous comment on this fine answer to the question: How is the height of a rocket measured? by pointing out the following figure in the Project Apollo Coordinate Systems document.

enter image description here

It shows that the origin of the coordinate system is defined to be 100 inches below the engine gimbal reference plane.

Why was this particular point chosen, instead of, for example, the bottom of the engines? Or the gimbal plane itself?

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For the H-1 engines of Saturn I/IB, it appears that at some point in development, the origin was ...almost... at the bottom of the engines, according to this drawing I found linked from AlternateWars:

enter image description here

That drawing shows "approximation" for the station 0/station 1 reference for the bottom of the engine bell, while another Rocketdyne document has the bottom of the engines at -1.785 inches.

So it appears that the Saturn V coordinate system inherited the definition of its origin as 100 inches below the gimbal reference plane from the smaller rocket.

A page on HeroicRelics seems to be saying that the turbine exhaust aspirator on the outboards extends "past the exit plane" of the engine, possibly explaining the outboards being an inch longer.

Another page on HeroicRelics claims that the 100-inch reference from gimbal to exit plane derives from the Jupiter's S-3D engine, an ancestor of the H-1... but dimensioned drawings on yet another page say the figure for that engine is 98 and a fraction inches.

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  • $\begingroup$ Found linked from alternatewars.com/BBOW/Space_Engines/Rocketdyne_Engines.htm, am trying to run down an original source. $\endgroup$ Commented May 13, 2019 at 23:43
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    $\begingroup$ This document alternatewars.com/BBOW/Space_Engines/H-1C-D_Manual.pdf (also from alternatewars) Figure 1-3 shows the bottom of the engines at -1.785 inches.... $\endgroup$ Commented May 13, 2019 at 23:44
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe it was the "planned" bottom of the engines. $\endgroup$ Commented May 13, 2019 at 23:45
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    $\begingroup$ It's like the Line Which Shall Not Be Named. $\endgroup$ Commented May 13, 2019 at 23:58
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble: I interpret the answer that it was the bottom of the I/IB, and when they designed the V, they tried to keep the coordinate systems consistent. $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 2:09

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