Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 3

New F-1B rocket engine upgrades Apollo-era

design with 1.8M lbs of thrust


NASA has spent a lot of time and money resurrecting the F-1 rocket engine that powered
the Saturn V back in the 1960s and 1970s, and Ars recently spent a week at the Marshall Space
Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to get the inside scoop on how the effort came to be. But
there's a very practical reason why NASA is putting old rocket parts up on a test stand and firing
them off: its latest launch vehicle might be powered by engines that look, sound, and work a
whole lot like the legendary F-1.
This new launch vehicle, known as the Space Launch System, or SLS, is currently taking
shape on NASA drawing boards. However, as is its mandate, NASA won't be building the rocket
itselfit will allow private industry to bid for the rights to build various components. One
potential design wrinkle in SLS is that instead of using Space Shuttle-style solid rocket boosters,
SLS could instead use liquid-fueled rocket motors, which would make it the United States' first
human-rated rocket in more than 30 years not to use solid-fuel boosters.
The contest to suss this out is the Advanced Booster Competition, and one of the
companies that has been down-selected as a final competitor is Huntsville-based Dyne tics. Dyne
tics has partnered with Pratt Whitney Rocket dyne (designers of the Saturn V's F-1 engine,
among others) to propose a liquid-fueled booster featuring an engine based heavily on the design
of the famous F-1. The booster is tentatively named Pyrios, after one of the fiery horses that
pulled the god Apollo's chariot; the engine is being called the F-1B.
The F-1B and how it differs
Ars was on-hand to observe one of the fiery F-1 gas
generator tests in Huntsville, and after the test I was able to
speak at length with the Dyne tics/PWR folks about the engine.
Dyne tics had set up a display next to the test viewing area
featuring a small model of the proposed F-1B rocket engine,
along with a chart highlighting the differences between the F-1B
and the F-1 and a small model of an SLS rocket with two Pyrios
boosters hanging from its sides.
Enlarge The chart Dynetics had on hand at the gas generator
test, showing major differences between the F-1 and the
proposed F-1B.
Lee Hutchinson/NASA
"The first thing you'd notice is that it's large. It's just going to be
a very, very large piece of machinery," explained Doering. "In the F-1, they needed every bit of
performance they could get, and so they took the exhaust from the turbine and dumped it into the
nozzle and got a little extra performance out of that. That made the engine a bit bigger...but when

you look at the intricate way they had to build that, it was really, really difficult, and very
expensive."

Enlarge / A small model of the proposed F-1B design, on display at the gas generator test firing.
Visible in foreground and middle are Pyrios stickers with logo. I grabbed a bunch of these.
Lee Hutchinson

No more exhaust recycling


"One major difference that most people would notice right away is that...we've decided to
do away with that turbine exhaust that feeds into the nozzle, and that part of the nozzle that
comes after where the turbine exhaust manifold would dump in," Doering continued. The gas
generator's rocket exhaust, which I'd just watched, was used to drive the fuel pump turbine, but
then had to be directed somewhere; the exhaust manifold took those gasses and coated the inside
of the thrust chamber with them. This turbine exhaust was still fuel-rich and so didn't burn as

quickly as the more balanced fuel/oxidizer mixture being sprayed into the F-1's thrust chamber.
The slower-burning turbine exhaust rolled down the inside of the nozzle, protecting it from the
much hotter thrust reaction and keeping it cool. This dense, slower-burning exhaust is easily
visible in the F-1's thrust patternit is the darker-colored plume exiting the nozzle for a short
distance before the much brighter primary exhaust.
The turbine exhaust manifold is one of the F-1's most distinctive featuresit branches off of the
side of the nozzle and then wraps around the nozzle at approximately its visual midpoint. Doing
away with it would change the look of the engine significantly. "So the chamber nozzle would be
smallerwould look smaller even to the common person, even though it's still huge," he
continued. "That specifically will save a lot of money and complexity in the way we're deciding
to build the engine to address NASA's specific goals of affordability and performance."
Fortunately, the removal of the turbopump exhaust manifold and its complex series of ducts and
baffles and tubes doesn't particularly compromise the engine's performance. Doering is quick to
point out that even without ducting in the turbopump exhaust, the F-1B is being designed to have
as much thrust as the uprated F-1A concept from the 1960s: about 1.8M lbs of thrust, with the
goal of being able to loft 150MT of cargo into low Earth orbit with four engines on two boosters
(coupled with the other RS-25 and J-2X engines in the SLS stack). There's also enough headroom in the overall booster design to add another 20MT of total lift capacity without requiring
significant engineering changes, to meet other SLS design goals a bit down the road.
Dynetics and PWR are trying to hew as closely as possible to the operating characteristics of the
old engine's uprated F-1A variant, which was extensively tested in the 1960s but never actually
flown. The original hardware worked very well, and changes are only being made where it's
necessary to cut costs. "The flow paths will be the same," as the F-1A, Doering elaborated when
I asked for details. "The chamber pressure will be about the same, and the thrust will be about
the same. It's about a 1.8 million pound thrust engine, and if you look at the F-1A specs, it's
going to be about the same."
"This is even after ditching the recycling of the gas generator exhaust?" I asked.
"You lose very little thrust," confirmed Doering. "You lose a little bit of specific impulse, but
you lose very little thrust. The booster flies for just a couple of minutes and drops off and then
the vehicle flies on, so specific impulse matters very little."
Conclusion
"One major difference that most people would notice right away is that...we've decided to
do away with that turbine exhaust that feeds into the nozzle, and that part of the nozzle that
comes after where the turbine exhaust manifold would dump in," Kim Doring, Dynetics space
launch systems program manager, told Ars Technica "So the chamber nozzle would be smallerwould look smaller even to the common person, even though it's still huge. That specifically will
save a lot of money and complexity in the way we're deciding to build the engine to address
NASA's specific goals of affordability and performance."