Shelby Jacobs


Shelby B.Jacobs (born 1935, Dallas, Texas) is an American engineer known for adapting camera technology that shot the iconic film of the separation between the first and second stages of the Saturn V rocket.[1][2][3]


Jacobs spent most of his career at Rockwell (under contract to NASA), starting at Rocketdyne (Canoga Park, Ca) a division of North American Aviation (NAA) which became Rockwell International where he designed engine components, hydraulics, pneumatics and propulsion systems (5/6 years).[4] Jacobs transferred to Rockwell Space Division (Downey) was a mechanical engineer in Rocket Propulsion Systems on Apollo/Saturn-II.

[5] In 1965, he was given a special assignment to work on a camera system to film the rocket separation of the Apollo 6 launch.[4] NASA provided the Camera Systems used on prior low earth orbit programs and requested Rockwell to install camera systems for visual confirmation of extensive Separation Systems analyses and tests. The camera was first launched on Apollo 4, however Apollo 6 on April 4, 1968, coincidentally the same day MLK was assassinated became most known.[4] This footage not only achieved its primary purpose of confirming the performance of Interstage Separation but was among the first to show the curvature of the Earth.[2]

[1][4] The camera systems were attached to the aft thrust structure of the Saturn-II (second stage); after shooting the film, the camera was ejected. It fell to the ground with parachutes.[3]

Jacobs was also one of the first black engineers hired by NASA and prime contractors.[4] After Apollo Jacobs joined the Space Shuttle program, where he served as Project Engineer responsible for Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) with included orbiter/external tank disconnect systems Umbilicals. Mr Jacobs was team leader on a proposal for continued production of ET Umbilicals (200 ship-sets) by Rockwell, which led to a promotion to Orbiter Program Office (Executive level) for the final 15 years of his 40-year aerospace career. [4]


Jacobs was celebrated in an exhibition at the Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey, California.[6]

Early life and education

Jacobs was born in Texas but spent his childhood in Val Verde, California.[7] He was recognized in high school as a outstanding student, class president, and promising athlete.[8] After scoring well on an aptitute test after high school, he earned a scholarship to UCLA.[4] He attended UCLA and AVJC.[9]

Jacobs is committed to racial justice. As one of few black engineers, Jacobs faced unequal pay and unfair treatment professionally.[10] In 1965, he spent two weeks registering voters in Alabama.[2]


  1. ^ a b "The Life and Dreams of Shelby Jacobs". US Black Engineer. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "NASA 'hidden figure' honors King's legacy of nonviolent progress". San Diego Union-Tribune. January 18, 2021. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Chang, Kenneth (July 13, 2019). "Two Magical Places That Sent Apollo 11 to the Moon and Back (Published 2019)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Kragen, Pam (April 26, 2015). "Rocket man: Apollo engineer a pioneer". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  5. ^ "At 83, hidden figure of space program finally gets his due". Los Angeles Times. January 2, 2019. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  6. ^ "After 51 Years, Shelby Jacobs' Pioneering Work as a NASA Camera Designer is Finally Being Recognized". BOTWC. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  7. ^ Michael (January 2, 2019). "Shelby Jacobs Extraordinary Man Of Space!". Canyon News. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  8. ^ "The Life and Dreams of Shelby Jacobs – Hidden Pioneers". Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  9. ^ "California Space Center Tackles the 'Hidden Figures' Problem". PCMAG. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  10. ^ "Representative Levin Launches "Constituent of the Month" Program to Highlight Outstanding North County San Diego and South Orange County Residents | U.S. Congressman Mike Levin". Retrieved February 13, 2021.