NASA tests rocket from Apollo 11 for use in future space missions

Updated 26 January 2013
0

NASA tests rocket from Apollo 11 for use in future space missions

A vintage rocket engine built to blast the first US lunar mission into Earth’s orbit more than 40 years ago is again rumbling across the Southern landscape.
The engine, known to NASA engineers as No. F-6049, was supposed to help propel Apollo 11 into orbit in 1969, when NASA sent Neil Armstrong and two other astronauts to the moon for the first time. The flight went off without a hitch, but no thanks to the engine — it was grounded because of a glitch during a test in Mississippi and later sent to the Smithsonian Institution, where it sat for years.
Now, young engineers who weren’t even born when Armstrong took his one small step are using the bell-shaped motor in tests to determine if technology from Apollo’s reliable Saturn V design can be improved for the next generation of US missions back to the moon and beyond by the 2020s.
They’re learning to work with technical systems and propellants not used since before the start of the space shuttle program, which first launched in 1981.
Nick Case, 27, and other engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on Thursday completed a series of 11 test-firings of the F-6049’s gas generator, a jet-like rocket which produces 30,000 pounds (13,600 kilograms) of thrust and was used as a starter for the engine. They are trying to see whether a second-generation version of the Apollo engine could produce even more thrust and be operated with a throttle for deep-space exploration.
There are no plans to send the old engine into space, but it could become a template for a new generation of motors incorporating parts of its design.
In NASA-speak, the old 18-foot (5.5-meter)-tall motor is called an F-1 engine. During moon missions, five of them were arranged at the base of the 363-foot (110-meter)-tall Saturn V system and fired together to power the rocket off the ground toward Earth orbit.
Thursday’s test used one part of the engine, the gas generator, which powers the machinery to pump propellant into the main rocket chamber. It doesn’t produce the massive orange flame or clouds of smoke like that of a whole F-1, but the sound was deafening as engineers fired the mechanism in an outdoor test stand on a cool, sunny afternoon.
The device produced a plume that resembled a blow torch the size of two buses and set fire to a grassy area, which was quickly extinguished.
“It’s not small,” Case said. “It’s pretty beefy on its own.”
And just like during the Apollo days, people in north Alabama heard rockets thundering in the distance during tests at Marshall.
“My wife and daughter were in our front yard and she said they could hear it, which was pretty cool,” Case said after an earlier test. “We live about 15 miles away.” A single F-1 engine can produce 1.5 million pounds (0.68 million kilograms) of thrust using a fuel composed of liquid oxygen and refined kerosene, which was not used in the space shuttle.
The tests were conducted at Marshall in a project conducted with Dynetics Inc. and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, which are studying NASA’s possibilities for deep-space missions years from now. The space agency plans to use commercial launches to reach low Earth orbit; larger rockets are required to escape the planet’s gravity.
R.H. Coates, an engineer who works with Case in Marshall’s liquid propulsion office, said young engineers can learn a lot from the work done by predecessors using slide-rules in the 1960s, but no one wants to simply rebuild the old Saturn V engine.
“This wouldn’t be your daddy’s F-1,” Coates said. “We’d use new materials and try to simplify it, update it.” Case started at Marshall as a high school intern in 2002 and has been working there since graduating from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2008. He said today’s technology allows things that weren’t possible during the 1960s, but he has been impressed by what he learned taking apart the unused Apollo 11 engine.
Engine No. F-6049 didn’t fit properly on the Apollo 11 rocket, but it is invaluable now as a testing tool. Coates said a total of 85 F-1 engines were used on 17 Apollo flights without a single failure.
About a dozen F-1 engines remain in Huntsville, home of NASA’s main propulsion center, and others are located elsewhere. Most are on display; Case said engineers used engine No. F-6049 for the tests because it was the most complete.
“It is really an excellent booster,” he said. “The guys in Apollo had it right.”


Paul McCartney teases ‘Egypt Station’

The rock legend on social media released a video of the Pyramids and palm trees swaying in the wind. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 June 2018
0

Paul McCartney teases ‘Egypt Station’

  • McCartney and his label did not provide further details but speculation immediately grew that he was ready with his next album, which would be his first of new material since 2013.

NEW YORK: Paul McCartney on Monday teased news of “Egypt Station” — presumed to be the title of his next album — as the former Beatle celebrated his 76th birthday.

The rock legend on social media released a video of the Pyramids and palm trees swaying in the wind on a sand-colored background set to snippet of ambient music mixed with vehicular traffic.

McCartney and his label did not provide further details but speculation immediately grew that he was ready with his next album, which would be his first of new material since 2013.

While McCartney is more known for an interest in India than Egypt, a 1999 painting by the musician and artist was entitled “Egypt Station” and depicted sunflowers and animals under a blue sky. McCartney, who toyed with retirement following the end of The Beatles more than 40 years ago, has shown a burst of energy as a septuagenarian and toured the world for much of 2016 and 2017.