The sign accompanying the Q-ball. It reads
The Saturn's "Q-Ball"
Above is displayed the component that made up the end tip of the
monsterous [sic] Saturn V moon
rocket. Known as the "Q-Ball," this small nose cone tipped the end of
the launch escape
tower of the Apollo spacecraft, and was located more than 36 stories (363
feet) above the base of the rocket.
The Q-ball did more than just create the aerodynamic spike that allowed the
Saturn V to punch through the
Earth's atmosphere during launch. It also contained critical sensors and
instruments to tell the launch vehicle's guidance system where it was going and
how stable it was.
During launch, as the Saturn
V began its climb through the atmosphere, eight small static ports
ringing the side of the Q-ball measured the pressure of the air that built up
at the time of the accelerating rocket. By determining the slight differences
in pressures in each opening, the rocket's guidance system was able to
determine if the tip of the giant rocket was tipping by as little as 1/8 inch.
The flight computer would then send instructions to move the huge first stage
engines firing more than 36 stories below to gimbal a fraction of an inch to
bring the rocket back on course.
Saturn V "Q-Ball" courtesy
of: Smithsonian Institution's National Air &
The Q-ball was more properly part of the Apollo spacecraft than the Saturn V,
and it was present on Apollo spacecraft launched on Saturn I and Saturn IB launch vehicles as