Higher and higher maxQ

At an altitude of about 8 kilometres, the Saturn V attained the speed of sound, or Mach 1, and went supersonic. It was approaching a dangerous region of the ascent. As the stack rose, the atmosphere around it gradually thinned, yet the rocket's increasing speed continued to ram air onto its forward-facing surfaces, especially at the conical sections, increasing the stresses on the skin. At about 14 kilometres, this dynamic pressure, known as 'Q', reached its greatest extent, a point in the flight called 'max-Q'. Beyond this point, the rapidly thinning air reduced these aerodynamic stresses.

This was considered to be a risky phase of the launch and one that was always annunciated by the public affairs commentator in view of the fears it held, when any weakness in the structure would be revealed or when a slight deviation of the great length of the rocket in its true passage through the air at Mach 1.7 could result in the catastrophic break-up of the vehicle.

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