NASA Engineers Test Vintage Engine from Apollo 11 Rocket

First Posted: Jan 25, 2013 11:26 AM EST

It seems that vintage is in--even when it comes to rocket engines. NASA is looking back to the days of the Apollo program in order to develop the next generation of rockets for future space travel. The organization is now testing the F-6049, an engine that was supposed to help propel Apollo 11, in order to help design a heavy lift rocket for missions to the moon and beyond.

The vintage engine failed its mission in 1969. It was grounded because of a glitch due to a test in Mississippi and later was sent to the Smithsonian Institution where it remained for years. Now, engineers are learning to work with technical systems and propellants that haven't been used since before the start of the space shuttle program in 1981.

The engine uses a gas generator, a jet-like rocket which produces 30,000 pounds of thrust and which was used as a starter for the engine. The motor itself is 18 feet tall, and is called an F-1 engine by NASA engineers. During moon missions, five of these monstrous machines were arranged at the base of the 363-foot-tall Saturn V system and fired together to power the rocket off of the ground and toward Earth's orbit. Engineers hope to see whether a second-generation version of the engine could produce even more thrust and be operated with a throttle for deep-space exploration. If so, scientists may be able to send astronauts further than ever before.

Currently, there are no plans to send the engine itself into space, but it could be used as a template for future engines, and could help NASA scientists redefine space exploration.

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