- Written by webmin
With a payload capacity of 262,000 pounds, the Saturn V is the largest and most powerful launch vehicle ever used by NASA. So then what did NASA use to move it around? As the above photo from BigLorryBlog shows, NASA turned to a legendary 20-year old piece of war surplus.
During World War II, the M26 tank transporter, developed by Knuckey Truck Company, but built by the Pacific Car and Foundry Company, developed a reputation for being able to quickly retrieve damaged equipment from battlefields – up to and including Sherman tanks. Coupled with the M15 trailer, the M26′s 1,040-cu.in. 240hp Hall-Scott Model 440 straight-six engine and its twin 60,000-pound winches could easily handle loads of 100,000 pounds and more.
Of course, the Saturn V weighed just a little bit more than that: 6.7 million pounds, if Wikipedia is to believed. Even the S-IC stage shown in the above photo weighed more than 5 million pounds. Unsurprisingly, NASA didn’t go find any old M26, rather an M26A1, an unarmored, softtop version of the tank transporter introduced late in the war that weighed more than 21,000 pounds less than the armored M26.
Why exactly did NASA choose the so-called “Dragon Wagon” for this duty? Did they make any modifications to the Hall-Scott engine? Did the M26A1 even break a sweat hauling Saturn V stages around Cape Canaveral? So far, our research hasn’t turned up much on this confluence of military might and space exploration hardware, just the below photo of another M26A1 (or possibly the same one) painted white and getting ready to tow Apollo 8′s S-IC stage.
Presumably, the first photo is an earlier photo, from either Apollo 4 or Apollo 6 (the only two launches prior to Apollo 8 to use Saturn V rockets). Anybody know more about these Dragon Wagons that towed around these mighty missiles?
In the meantime, how about some video of a few M26s at the 2010 War and Peace show in England.