At this point, we all know that NASA has retired the space shuttle fleet. NASA plans to use private spacecraft under development by various companies within the United States as the future of transporting astronauts into low Earth orbit or to the international space station for the foreseeable future. Currently, NASA astronauts hitch a ride on Russian spacecraft to get into space.
NASA is also working on a plan to create a heavy lift rocket capable of putting large payloads into space called the Space Launch System or SLS. Some of these private space companies are working on the program, but NASA is still fiddling about with some of its own technology. The heaviest lift rocket engine ever produced was made by NASA in the 60s and was called the Saturn V.
These rocket engines now over 40 years old and when used in the 60s, each engine produced an insane amount of thrust to the tune of 1.5 million pounds at sea level. The Apollo missions used Saturn rockets with five of these gigantic engines. These engines also used a smaller gas-generator cycle rocket engine called the F-1 that burned fuel outside the combustion chamber to power the pumps of the engine.
Recently NASA test fired a refurbished F-1 for the second time this year. The F-1 is a rather impressive little engine on its own creating 31,000 pounds of thrust. When attached to the full rocket engine this gas generator was used to drive a turbine that produced 55,000 bhp. That turbine then drove the turbo pumps to supply the main engine with fuel. How much fuel you wonder, those turbo pumps supplied the engine with 3 tons of fuel per second. The experimentation with the F-1 isn’t going to result in direct use for the SLS project, but the tests provide a more affordable way to explore engine design in the early stages of the program according to NASA.
[via Ars Technica]