Talk about a blast from the past: A new generation of engineers is hoping that a vintage rocket engine -- originally designed for Apollo 11’s launch to the Moon in 1969 -- will unlock a few secrets for future space exploration.
Apollo 11 engineers scrubbed this particular 18-foot-tall F-1 engine -- referred to as No. F-6049 by NASA -- from the Apollo 11 mission because of a glitch during testing, and later sent it to the Smithsonian Institution. But now, a new group is analyzing the bell-shaped motor in order to improve the design of Saturn V rocketsthat will be used in shuttles that will hopefully go to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
NASA is running tests at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama to see if the engine’s gas generator -- a jet-like rocket, which produces 30,000 pounds of thrust -- could be modified to generate even more thrust. Even though the old rocket won’t make it to space, it is helping NASA understand how to create a new range of F-1 rockets that can power past Earth’s gravity to explore deep space. According to R.H. Croates, an engineer at Marshall, “This wouldn’t be your daddy’s F-1. We’d use new materials and try to simplify it, update it.”
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