Testing History

That right there is a rocket being tested. If you work at Marshall Space Flight Center or Stennis Space Center, you may not care too much. Rocket test fires are old hat. Until you realize what is being tested.

That is a gas generator from the Rocketdyne F-1 rocket motor. The F-1 was a gas-generator cycle rocket motor, which meant that some of the fuel was used to fire a gas generator which then turned the turbine that fed fuel and oxidizer to the main rocket motor.

NASA engineers made 3D scans of gas generators from storage and in a pristine F-1 motor at the National Air & Space Museum, then used those to recreate a gas generator to be tested. So, no actual historical artifacts were injured in the making of this photo.

Why is NASA testing 60 year old rocket motors? Well, their new Space Launch System (SLS) is slated to be a heavy lift rocket for low earth orbit and beyond. Since it is a one time use system, staged combustion motors like those used on the space shuttle are prohibitively expensive, even though they are much more efficient. Therefore, NASA is looking at using a gas-generator cycle engine for the SLS.

Either way, it’s pretty damn cool to look at a photo taken a few days ago of 60 year old technology being used.

[Image Credit: NASA]

  • CaptianNemo2001

    More info…

    From article:
    ""Dynetics Inc. of Huntsville, Ala., in collaboration with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif. — the same company that developed the F-1 engine — will use these early tests as a springboard for more gas generator testing at Marshall. Then, they will use modern manufacturing to build a new gas generator injector that also will be hot fired in Test Stand 116 and then compared to the baseline data collected during the earlier test series.

    Additionally, Dynetics plans to fabricate and test several other F-1 engine parts, including turbine blades, leading to the testing of an entire F-1B powerpack including the gas generator and turbopump, the heart of engine operations.""

    Got Fire?

    I don't know about you but I swarz this sounds like they are re-building the F-1 because they know its stupid to waste money designing and drawing from scratch… You would think that just making a new set of F-1's for a new rocket body would be the easiest thing to do. Reliable thrust and reliable engine with a known lifting capacity.

    • It sounds like they are doing it more as a learning exercise, but that the direction they are heading is to build something like it for SLS. Remember, all the guys that designed the F-1 are either long retired or no longer with us. So, rather than reinvent the wheel they are going to leverage the F-1, but the current generation needs to learn more about it.

      • CaptianNemo2001

        We have blueprints… There is no reason why it cant be remade and used. Might even be able to make it lighter… I guess I should explain more.

        NASA spends so much money on overt-the-top "inspections-and-reliability-checks" its just crazy. They should after 40 years of running rocket engine know something off the shelf that should work, can be used and just bolt it up and lite it off. I know its not that simple but they make things, regularly, more complicated then they need to be.

        • The problem is, they only have a few rockets that have been man-rated (essentially triple redundancy on many things and double-redundancy on most things). It's one thing for a rocket to fail when you're launching a satellite, quite another if it happens when you're launching people.

          Furthermore, about 99% of the rockets we've sent up have been for LEO. Just scaling up isn't always possible or efficient. So, that leaves them to figure out what was done in the past and what direction to take now. Just studying blueprints and doing computer models isn't going to give the full picture. Actually building something and seeing how it performs in real life is the only way to do that. That is where they are right now. The next steps will be to see what needs to be done to make it better/more efficient and more reliable (the rules for man-rated rockets are quite different now than they were in the 1950s and 1960s).

          • CaptianNemo2001

            Now we have even more software that can go wrong…

    • CaptianNemo2001
    • CaptianNemo2001
  • wolfie

    Nice post and good to see. What part of our current technology will be relevant in the year 2073?

    • CaptianNemo2001

      Windows 20…
      Colt 1911 .45
      Browning .50 Caliber M2 Machine Gun
      Karabiner 98 Kurz 7.92×57mm Mauser
      And lastly the AK-47
      M1928A1 Thompson Sub-machine Gun is optional

      With the above lot you should be good for almost anything.

      • wolfie

        Windows 19 is far better and only crashes thrice a day.

        • CaptianNemo2001

          The Colt 1911 .45 will resolve all computer related problems.