Engineers and Saturn V F-1 Engine Engineers dressed in Apollo-style white shirts with black ties stand by a Saturn V F-1 engine in front of the Propulsion Research Development Laboratory at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville Ala. Inside the laboratory, the engineers disassembled and restored parts from two other F-1 engines. Five F-1 engines launched each Saturn V rocket that sent humans to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s — before most of the young engineers on the team were born. The engineers (left to right) are Tim Duquette, Eric Eberly, Derek O’Neal, Matt Marsh, Graham Nelson, Marty Calvert, Erin Betts, Andrew Hanks, and Van Bradford. These engineers are using one of the best, most powerful rocket engines ever designed to inspire and jumpstart the development of advanced propulsion systems needed for the evolved Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket — a launch vehicle designed to carry 130 metric tons (143 tons) and to send humans even farther than the moon. Image credit: NASA/MSFC

130t Cargo Expanded View An expanded view of an artist rendering of the 130-metric-ton configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., shows the many different elements of the rocket design. Used primarily to launch heavy cargo, this two-stage vehicle will be the largest rocket ever built and will enable exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit, supporting travel to asteroids, Mars and other deep space destinations. Image credit: NASA

NASA Engineers Resurrect And Test Mighty F-1 Engine Gas Generator

01.15.13

Imagine a young engineer examining an artifact from the Apollo era that helped send people on humankind’s first venture to another world. The engineer has seen diagrams of the rocket engine. She has even viewed old videos of the immense tower-like Saturn V rocket launching to the moon. Like any curious explorer, she wants to see how it works for herself. She wonders if this old engine still has the “juice.” Like a car mechanic who investigates an engine of a beloved antique automobile, she takes apart the engine piece by piece and refurbishes it.

This is exactly what a small team of young NASA engineers did. The engineers, who have been trained in fields from rocket propulsion to materials science, took apart and refurbished parts from Saturn V F-1 engines–the most powerful American rocket engines ever built. Why resurrect an Apollo-era rocket engine? The answer is simple: to mine the secrets of the F-1 — an engine that last flew before these engineers were born — and use it as inspiration for creating new advanced, affordable propulsion systems.

NASA needs powerful propulsion elements for future launch vehicles, such as the evolved Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS heavy-lift rocket capable of carrying a 130-metric-ton (143-ton) payload is being developed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The advanced booster required for the heavy-lift rocket will be completed in 2015.

“When we started examining different types of propulsion systems capable of lifting a rocket as large as the SLS, we pulled F-1 engine drawings and data packages and studied an F-1 engine that we had on hand at Marshall,” said Nick Case, an engineer from Marshall’s Engineering Directorate’s Propulsion Systems Department.

Read more: NASA – NASA Engineers Resurrect And Test Mighty F-1 Engine Gas Generator.

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