NASA Fires Up Apollo-Era Engine to Learn Old Tricks
Unit from late 1960s taken out of storage for tests
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 24, 2013 5:18 PM CST
In this image taken from video, NASA engineers test fire a key part of a rocket engine left over from the 1960s-era Apollo moon missions on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

(Newser) – 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. Engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center today completed a series of 11 test-firings of the F-6049's gas generator, a jet-like rocket that produces 30,000 pounds of thrust and was used as a starter for the engine. 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.

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Showing 3 of 40 comments
Chatsworth
Jan 25, 2013 8:26 PM CST
Good, glad to see that.Using old reliable technology that never failed or blew up in mid air like the Challenger shuttle, God rest the souls of those unfortunate astronauts who were killed in '85.
IAmKing
Jan 25, 2013 5:48 PM CST
"using the bell-shaped motor in tests..." Really? NASA has electric rockets now? Who knew? Thanks Al Gore.
Zero_for_President
Jan 25, 2013 12:32 PM CST
The moron comments show why America is a fascist, bankrupt and collapsing military empire...and little more