The Saturn V was massive. Standing 363 feet (110 meters) tall with a 33-foot (10 m) diameter, it delivered 7.5 million pounds (3.4 million kilograms) of thrust at the moment of launch. This three-stage rocket had five F-1 engines in its first stage, five J-2 engines powering its second stage, and a single J-2 engine on its third stage.
Nova was conceived as both taller and wider than the Saturn V, and almost twice as powerful. Its first stage was powered by eight F-1 engines, each of which could deliver 1.5 million pounds (680,000 kg) of thrust — bringing the rocket’s total power to a whopping 12 million pounds (5.4 million kg) of thrust at launch.
The second stage was powered by four liquid-hydrogen M-1 engines that could produce an additional 4.8 million pounds (2.2 million kg) of thrust. The third and final stage was akin to the Saturn V’s — it had one J-2 engine, whose 200,000 pounds (90,000 kg) of thrust could send a heavy payload to the Moon.
Nevertheless, Nova was poised to make a comeback after Apollo. As they looked ahead, program managers and engineers expected this rocket to be the workhorse that would extend humanity’s reach to the other planets and deep into the solar system after landing on the Moon. Of course, this never happened.
Toward the end of the 1960s, the rising cost of Apollo brought a new emphasis on reusable rockets; rather than develop a larger and more powerful launch vehicle, NASA was instead directed to develop the space shuttle system in the 1970s.