The first stage (S-IC) of the Saturn V rocket was produced at the Michoud Facility in New Orleans. Too large to be transported by railroad or airplane, it was delivered to Kennedy Space Center by barge. The route is straightforward: sail across the Gulf of Mexico, then up the Atlantic coast of Florida.

The third stage (S-IVB) was built in California, but was small enough to be transported inside the Pregnant Guppy aircraft.

However, the second stage (S-II) was built in California (by North American Aviation in Seal Beach) and had to be transported by barge (because it was too large). Considering that California and Florida are on different oceans, what route did the S-II take to get to KSC? Did it pass through the Panama Canal? A map or pictures would be desirable.

  • $\begingroup$ The first stage absolutely did not sail across the Gulf. Those barges travelled the Intracoastal Waterway. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intracoastal_Waterway $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Jun 2, 2021 at 6:08
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn A 3000 mile inland waterway that's been there more than a century, and I'm just now learning of it. That's very cool! $\endgroup$ Jun 2, 2021 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ @WayneConrad it's a big country... :D The ICW is only notable if you live along the coast. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Jun 2, 2021 at 15:03

1 Answer 1


The S-II stages (and actually also the S-IV and S-IVB stages before the Guppy aircraft) were transported by a converted Navy landing ship named the Point Barrow:

Point Barrow

(from: Stages to Saturn, chapter 10)

This was an ocean-going ship that took the stages via the Panama Canal (basically the only option; rounding Cape Horn would take much longer and is more dangerous) up the Gulf of Mexico to Florida. The route via the Panama Canal was a serious risk, as closure of the canal would mean waiting or trying to round the cape, both options seriously jeopardizing the launch schedule. NASA even at one point considered building a giant S-II-sized aircraft to mitigate this risk.

Here is a map of how the various stages traveled over water:


(from: NASA; high-resolution version available)

The trip took 16-days.


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