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NASA Technology

How NASA Brought the F-1 Rocket Engine Back To Life 221

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-alive dept.
First time accepted submitter Martin S. writes "How NASA Engineers have reverse engineered the F1 engine of a Saturn V launcher, because: 'every scrap of documentation produced during Project Apollo, including the design documents for the Saturn V and the F-1 engines, remains on file. If re-creating the F-1 engine were simply a matter of cribbing from some 1960s blueprints, NASA would have already done so. A typical design document for something like the F-1, though, was produced under intense deadline pressure and lacked even the barest forms of computerized design aids. Such a document simply cannot tell the entire story of the hardware. Each F-1 engine was uniquely built by hand, and each has its own undocumented quirks. In addition, the design process used in the 1960s was necessarily iterative: engineers would design a component, fabricate it, test it, and see how it performed. Then they would modify the design, build the new version, and test it again. This would continue until the design was "good enough."'
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How NASA Brought the F-1 Rocket Engine Back To Life

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  • F1 engine (Score:5, Funny)

    by rossdee (243626) on Monday April 15, 2013 @09:43AM (#43451505)

    Bernie Eccelstone is suing for trademark infringement

  • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Monday April 15, 2013 @09:46AM (#43451513)

    the design process used in the 1960s was necessarily iterative: engineers would design a component, fabricate it, test it, and see how it performed. Then they would modify the design, build the new version, and test it again. This would continue until the design was "good enough."'

    take note modern IT managers - this is agile, not that bastardised process-heavy "agile" scrum-style crap you do today.

    • by fermion (181285) on Monday April 15, 2013 @09:51AM (#43451549) Homepage Journal
      Yes, if one is doing a one off project, or a prototype that will then be given to someone else to redesign, the perhaps this is the a good method. But for production work, that will have to be used by average people in the field, maybe not so much. The saturn V was not production, was only reliable with great effort, and with incredible highly skilled and trained people. It did it's job, but at great expense. Something one does not want to have to deal with when trying to make a profit.
      • Every IT shop... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 15, 2013 @10:06AM (#43451655)

        Yes, if one is doing a one off project, or a prototype that will then be given to someone else to redesign, the perhaps this is the a good method.

        Every mid to large sized IT shop I've ever seen or worked in (dozens) has basically been a "one-off project" when viewed as a whole. Yes sure, every one is basically built out of off-the-shelf hardware and OSes, but there is so much customization and scripting, customized apps and databases and communication software, and other various "glue" bits holding these microcosms all together, but after you examine the innards of any decent sized IT shop that's been running a while, the place as a whole is actually a giant hodge-podge Rube Goldberg contraption that has evolved and taken final shape over time and iterative development.

        We've not building Henry Ford assembly line Model Ts here.

      • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Monday April 15, 2013 @10:31AM (#43451865)

        Don't be brainwashed by all this "process" crap. These days you have to talk to guys in their 60's and 70's to get the full oral history, but they wistfully recall days when the emphasis was on getting things done and making them work, rather than mindlessly following "process". There were always procedures and so forth to keep documentation straight, but it was a means to an end instead of an end in itself. These days you get more brownie points for following process than you do for making things work. "Process" should be a way to get things done, not a fetish.

        Nor was everything simple in the old days. For example, the B-29 project was hideously complex. If they'd injected modern "process" instead of making it work and writing ECO's, everyone west of the Mississippi would probably be speaking Japanese now.

        • by Antipater (2053064) on Monday April 15, 2013 @11:30AM (#43452435)
          Actually, I don't know what this article is smoking. If you talk to guys in their 70's and 80's, you'll find that the Apollo program was a triumph of the "process" mentality. Mercury was a series of poorly-documented one-offs, but that was OK because all the work was done in one place by a small team of people. Anyone who got confused could just yell across the room at whomever and get a quick explanation before they screwed something up. Apollo, with design and manufacturing spread across multiple areas around the country, could not afford that.

          In fact, many of the hated design processes these days were actually invented by the Apollo program. They were the brainchild of Gen. Sam Phillips, who was brought in to NASA after the spectacular failures of the Pioneer and Surveyor programs. He had learned process management while leading the Air Force's Minuteman ICBM program, and it was he who dragged the NASA engineers, kicking and screaming, into a world where they had to actually document everything they did. He even wrote a memo a year before the Apollo 1 fire predicting the extreme dangers of the seat-of-the-pants approach Apollo had previously been taking.

          A perfect counterexample to Apollo's process system was the European Launcher Development Organization's [wikipedia.org] failed Europa rocket. With six nations contributing engineering work to the rocket and no centralized direction, failure was inevitable.

          • by tibit (1762298)

            What were those "spectacular" failures of the Surveyor program? The 5 out of 7 missions were successful. Those were the IIRC the first U.S. lander missions to the moon, BTW. Sure the Pioneer program had a more dismal record.

            • Eep. I screwed up my Lunar probe programs. I meant Ranger, not Surveyor.
            • In fact, one of the primary missions of Apollo 12 was to touch down very close to one of the Surveyor probes, so that they could retrieve equipment that had been exposed to cosmic radiation for a number of years, so it could be studied.

              They ended up touching down 185m from Surveyor 3.

              Not bad for 1969, after flying almost half a million kilometers to get there on less computing power than a modern day feature cellphone has.

          • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Monday April 15, 2013 @12:26PM (#43452999)

            What they did back then, and what they call "process" today, are two different things. Talk to some old timers. Here on Long Island I've met guys who worked on the LEM (built about five miles from where I grew up). Every engineer hates documentation, but good engineers appreciate that a certain level of formal specs and documentation (of designs, test procedures and test results) are necessary. There's an easy way to determine whether documentation serves a purpose or is just horse shit. Put yourself in the place of some poor slob picking up the documentation 5 or 10 (or even 50) years from now, and decide whether reading what you're writing would be useful to them. If it would be, it's useful. If you'd skip over it as something that was judged by how much it weighed, it's garbage.

            I'm mostly a hardware guy. I've worked in places where the documentation was awful and caused many problems. I've also worked in places where there was endless procedure and process, and while the documentatin weighed enough to satisfy project managers and process fetishists, it was often wrong. My favorite was when I worked for a small East Coast subsidiary of a large West Coast (LA area) company. There was a heavy mil influence at the parent, and every drawing had more stamps, signatures and dates than the Declaration of Independence. It was also often wrong. Sometimes I'd hit a schematic I couldn't figure out, and feeling like an idiot, call the designer, only to have him tell me he knew it was wrong! Meanwhile our garage shop (50 people tops) had dead nuts accurate documentation. In some cases I had things like cable drawings on a piece of scratch paper, but they were accurate, had the proper revision and approval info, and were properly logged into documentation control. Ask for the complete set of drawings for one of our satcom terminals, and you'd get a copy of it. The right rev and completely accurate. Documentation and procedures (oops, I mean process) has gone from something that's a means to an end, to a fetish that justifies the existence of buzzword spouters. ISO9000 anyone?

            • There's an easy way to determine whether documentation serves a purpose or is just horse shit. Put yourself in the place of some poor slob picking up the documentation 5 or 10 (or even 50) years from now, and decide whether reading what you're writing would be useful to them. If it would be, it's useful. If you'd skip over it as something that was judged by how much it weighed, it's garbage.

              Not true. Process and procedures change as technology and organizations change. Hardly anything is useful 5 to 10 years out. However, that in no way invalidates it's usefulness today. I work in networking and a snapshot of the network design today is invaluable when troubleshooting problems. 5 to 10 years down the line, the same documentation would be useless without updates.

              I'm mostly a hardware guy. I've worked in places where the documentation was awful and caused many problems. I've also worked in places where there was endless procedure and process, and while the documentatin weighed enough to satisfy project managers and process fetishists, it was often wrong.

              This is the crux of the problem with most documentation, inaccuracy and failure to keep it updated. Documentation needs to be pe

              • by jbengt (874751) on Monday April 15, 2013 @01:56PM (#43453793)

                Put yourself in the place of some poor slob picking up the documentation 5 or 10 (or even 50) years from now, and decide whether reading what you're writing would be useful to them.

                Hardly anything is useful 5 to 10 years out.

                That is wrong.
                There are many computer programs still in active use that are more than 10 years old that could benefit from good documentation.
                More than once, I've used documentation over 100 years old (obviously not computer-programming related) that proved to be very useful in designing heating, ventilation, and plumbing for an old building.

                • Ditto for hardware. I've used documentation over 10 years old. Usually the biggest problem is obsolete parts. In fact when I have used stuff that old, it's usually because somebody wants a tweak to some legacy design they're cranking out that still serves their purposes (hence not worth redesigning), and the tweak means working around some part that's no longer available. I've dropped in FPGA's or DSP's to replace some old chip that's no longer made.
          • by steelfood (895457)

            And yet, with today's "processes", an extension of that mentality, nothing seems to be able to complete on time and anywhere near budget.

            There's a point when processes are good enough, where they just work, and things are still getting done. Don't forget that processes increase time and effort for the engineers, but produce meta-work that does not contribute directly to the output. Processes are useful only if that meta-work can save the engineers more time and effort in future work, than the meta-work requ

        • by sjbe (173966) on Monday April 15, 2013 @12:35PM (#43453093)

          Don't be brainwashed by all this "process" crap. These days you have to talk to guys in their 60's and 70's to get the full oral history, but they wistfully recall days when the emphasis was on getting things done and making them work, rather than mindlessly following "process".

          All that "process crap" is exactly how any successful engineering project is done. The space program in the 60's and 70's was no exception. Do some reading about the actual engineering that went on and you'll quickly realize it was ALL about developing working processes. A process is nothing more than a set of procedures used to accomplish a task. If the task has to be communicated to someone else or cannot be overlooked or is just plain complicated, documentation becomes a vital aspect of the process. You can't build something as complicated as a space ship without a huge amount of extremely robust processes and accompanying documenation. Developing effective production processes isn't mindless busywork - it is among the most challenging and important things we do. The best manufacturing companies spend a tremendous amount of resources on process development because without them they would be unable to function.

          If you want to ensure that a rocket blows up, by all means ignore developing processes and don't worry about documenting or communicating the procedures used. Just be a cowboy and "get it done". When you have no way to discover what went wrong, who was responsible, when you were supposed to do it or how to do it again you might begin to understand why process is important. My company makes wire harnesses and we've made products that have gone into space. For even the simplest cable with a crimped terminal on one end we typically have about 15+ pages (and often much more) of assembly instructions, QA instructions, machine setup instructions, QA logs, shipping and packaging instructions, manufacturing orders (how many to build and when to build them), bills of material, training documentation, defect logs, packing slips, and invoices. And every bit of that documentation is genuinely important. Without robust processes in place it would be complete chaos to try to make even the most basic products, never mind something as complicated as a F1 engine. All that "process crap" lets us build a high quality product (repeatedly if needed), diagnose and correct any problems that may arise, and make sure everyone knows what they are supposed to do and when they are supposed to do it.

      • by MetaPhyzx (212830) on Monday April 15, 2013 @10:56AM (#43452127)

        The saturn V was not production, was only reliable with great effort, and with incredible highly skilled and trained people.

        I agree with the majority of this sentence, save for the first section.

        The Saturn V was launched ten times as part of a mission, which would make them all "production". That's a total of fifty F1 engines (5 per each first stage). If I'm not mistaken, two unmanned tests were scheduled; I cannot remember if it was tested on those after the engine became flight rated. With a usage window for the engine in production from 1968 to 1973 (Skylab).

        I believe the OP was referring to the process to get the engine flight rated with all the nuances noted, which means his initial heads up to the managers of today accurate.

      • by Hythlodaeus (411441) on Monday April 15, 2013 @10:59AM (#43452155)

        I one read an overview of the CMM levels, and what struck me was this:

        At level one, it doesn't say the organization is hopeless, doomed to failure, it says "success depends on the skills of exceptional individuals"

        The rest of the levels are built on a fantasy it could be otherwise.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The saturn V was not production

        There were 15 Saturn V rockets, with many spare parts.

        was only reliable with great effort

        There was not a single F1 engine failure.

        and with incredible highly skilled and trained people.

        Going to space is not monkey business. highly skilled personnel is also required to operate and service an Airbus A-320, and they have sold *thousands* of them.

        Something one does not want to have to deal with when trying to make a profit.

        Want to bet that the builders made a buck or two?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CAIMLAS (41445)

      You know, we used to call it simply, "engineering" - back before business school type managers stuck their dicks into the soup and soured the pot for everyone.

  • by T.E.D. (34228) on Monday April 15, 2013 @10:05AM (#43451643)

    I mentioned this in a comment last week [slashdot.org]. Manned spaceflight in the USA is essentially a matter of history, not something we know how to do today. If we wanted (for whatever reason) to go back to the moon, we'd bascially have to start over from scratch. It would probably take as at least as long as the original Apollo program, and cost far more.

    After the fall of the Roman empire, knowledge of concrete was lost, and for about 500 years Europeans were walking around Roman buildings and upon Roman roads that they had no idea how to recreate. Right now all our Apollo engineers are dead or dying, and the Astronauts will soon follow suit. Soon there will be no living human who has set foot on another world. Then we will know just how those Medieval Europeans felt when we go look at our old Apollo relics in the museums.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Why would we not just put people in a dragon capsule? If we really cared about having a sack of mostly water on site.

      Why would we go to the moon? Why not send robots?
      It seems pointless to send humans to do something a machine can do better.

      • by Aqualung812 (959532) on Monday April 15, 2013 @10:19AM (#43451735)

        Our God-given curiosity will force us to go there ourselves because in the final analysis, only man can fully evaluate the moon in terms understandable to other men.
        -Gus Grissom

        This was also proven in several instances where manual human intervention saved a mission when automated systems failed.

        Before you counter, yes, there were also man-made mistakes that caused problems during a mission. (Example Lovell's mistake in Apollo 8, which he manually corrected, and then used the skill on Apollo 13 when he didn't make a mistake).

        I'd also agree that sending the Mars automated rovers were the best first step, rather than jumping right to a manned landing.

        I think the thing we must accept is that both manned and unmanned missions are useful and different in their abilities & goals. Calling one "better" is over-simplifying.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Robots are cheaper, send more of them to do different tasks.

          So far PR is the only reason I have ever seen for sending humans.

          • Robots can only do the tasks we imagined they would need to do when we get there.

            Humans can use their imagination to change what they do based off of the new information received.

            In addition, the technology of getting off this rock is a worthwhile pursuit. As Dr. Hawking pointed out recently, we have to get off this planet & colonize somewhere else to increase our chances of survival.

            • by h4rr4r (612664)

              Supporting humans costs and arm and a leg.

              Without the ability to survive at that location there is no value gained in going there. If you are still stuck waiting on supplies from Earth there is no survivability gained.

              • by Rich0 (548339)

                I have to agree. If I wanted to plan for the long road of human survival off-earth I'd focus first on figuring out terraforming, or operating sealed self-supporting environments (something that you can do just fine on the ground on Earth).

                Once you can create completely self-sufficient and reliable environments with nothing but solar power input, then you can talk about sticking those up in space. I see no reason to stick those down on some planet at the bottom of yet another gravity well - just stick them

              • by powerlord (28156)

                So go use robots and other more automated vehicles to create the means necessary for human survival.

                For instance, send a robot to Mars ahead of future human exploration and set up a habitat, start making oxygen, water, and foodstuffs.

                No need to wait till we get there to start terraforming/colonizing a small piece.

              • >Without the ability to survive at that location there is no value gained in going there.

                It's a good thing King Ferdinand & Queen Isabella didn't share your view. In a more recent context, I suspect there are quite a few people in Las Vegas and Dubai who'd beg to differ (not to mention Antarctica, undersea, the summit of Mt. Everest, and South Florida around August & September).

                If you were exiled to what's now Las Vegas 500 years ago, and had to somehow live off the land without external supplies

          • > So far PR is the only reason I have ever seen for sending humans.

            And PR is what generates public (and ultimately political) support for NASA's budgets. If NASA decided to reinvent itself as an agency focused exclusively on pure science, and eliminated everything you might regard as "PR Fluff" from its mission, it wouldn't *have* a mission within 10 years. It would end up on the chopping block and get cut the next time there was any kind of budget crisis. Oh, ok... it might not get abolished and defunde

            • by h4rr4r (612664)

              I think that says more about our culture than it does about NASA or manned space missions. NASA should be doing just that, but cannot just to keep the idiots happy.

        • several instances where manual human intervention saved a mission when automated systems failed

          Sure, they used the shuttle to put spectacles on Hubble but only because they already had the shuttle. Do the overall economics make sense? Unmanned missions are so much cheaper that you can just send another if the first fails. A bit embarrassing but no dead astronauts.

          I'd also agree that sending the Mars automated rovers were the best first step, rather than jumping right to a manned landing.

          For a fraction the price of a manned mission, we could send fleets of ever more advanced rovers. Probably even bring samples back to Earth. And go to even more interesting places, like the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

          • by Rich0 (548339)

            I have to agree with this. If 20% of your robotic missions fail due to the inability to adapt, and each mission is 1/50th the cost of a manned mission, I'd call that a big success for robotics. How many Ranger probes did we crash into the Moon before we actually got useful data from them? Even so, in total they cost a fraction of what the first Apollo landing cost.

            If we spent on robotic missions the way we spend on manned ones we'd have probes launching every other Tuesday, and we'd lose probes a few tim

        • Our God-given curiosity will force us to go there ourselves because in the final analysis, only man can fully evaluate the moon in terms understandable to other men. -Gus Grissom

          Gus was biased by his desire to go there personally. I don't blame him, but he wasn't planning to buy his own ticket. He also said that back when robots were incredibly primitive.

          • Another example where "forget those fragile humans" makes sense, and has been used without many tears shed, is extremely deep ocean research. If you wanna look a few miles under the sea, forget bathyscaphes and ultra-deep submersibles, and just send a "fish". I don't think anyone considers doing otherwise these days, even though men once visited the bottom of the Marianas trench.
            • Don't underestimate lag time.

              An HD camera that is sending real-time video back on a ROV that is being controlled by a human in real-time is a far cry from the long delays of planet to planet communication.

              • by robot256 (1635039)
                Hence why our Mars rovers have progressively greater amounts of automatic navigation functions (some being uploaded years into operation). The lag doesn't matter so much if the robot can get from point A to point B all by itself. The humans just have to decide where to send it and what to look at when it gets there. They are even working on autonomous geologist programs designed to identify interesting rocks and photograph them without human intervention. Robots will only get smarter. Humans need just
      • by Scutter (18425)

        >It seems pointless to send humans to do something a machine can do better.

        Because PR. People can relate to a human stepping foot on the Moon/Mars/Asteroid/etc. and get excited about it. Excited people will want to spend more money doing it. It's good for the whole program. Now, whether that is worth the extra expense is obvious up for debate, but you can't deny that there is a benefit to having a human go to these places.

      • by MBGMorden (803437)

        It seems pointless to send humans to do something a machine can do better.

        Cheaper, but far from better. We've learned a lot from the Mars rovers for example, but in all the years they've been driving around up there, a geologist on-site could have learned more about the planet in a weekend of study there.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Cheaper is often better. That means we can actually afford to do it.

          I doubt that geoligist would agree, and even if he did it would cost more to land him there than we spent on exploring mars so far. Nevermind the cost of keeping him alive for the weekend, no returning him.

      • by swb (14022)

        It seems pointless to send humans to do something a machine can do better.

        I think this somehow ties into nerd personality -- dehumanizing things because they can't relate to the human element of it. Nerds have weak social skills and just can't relate to things which have a social value.

        Part of the reason for sending humans into space is because exploration of the unknown is part of the human experience. You can rationalize the practical end of it as advances in engineering and science (life support system

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          So to keep idiots happy we should send men up? That is what you are saying.

          I weep for humanity.

      • by bored (40072)

        Why would we go to the moon? Why not send robots?
        It seems pointless to send humans to do something a machine can do better.

        This has been answered a hundred times before by people who can do a much better job. Still...

        Its not so much the destination that's important, but the technology to get there and survive. Neither is it about packing up a bunch of stuff from earth and taking a vacation on the moon. Its about building sustaining environments that don't require resupply from the earths biosphere. That is

    • Concrete was a useful technology. I'm not sure that's true of manned space flight. For a fraction of the money you can send a robot.

      As someone who grew up as an enthusiastic proto-nerd on the Gemini and Apollo programs, I hate to say that. I still feel privileged that I lived at the time in history where I could watch the first man walk on the moon. But amongst the things we learned is that manned space flight is hideously expensive, and our robots have gotten a lot better since then too.

      • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Monday April 15, 2013 @11:02AM (#43452179) Homepage

        Concrete was a useful technology. I'm not sure that's true of manned space flight. For a fraction of the money you can send a robot.

        Sure, a robot is cheaper, but you get what you pay for. Steve Squyres (you know him, he's the guy in charge of Spirit and Opportunity) once noted that what the rovers had accomplished in five years could have been done by humans in a mere five days. (In fact, the total mileage covered by both rovers is less than one days traverse by one of the lunar rovers.) Robots are great when you want to mindlessly collect great heaping mounds of the same data, day after day... But at anything much more than that, they're still far inferior to people. (Which is why all three rovers to date aren't actually robots - they're teleoperated.) And there's nothing on the horizon to think that'll change anytime soon.

        • by delt0r (999393)
          If the rovers mass budget and cash budget where comparable to a manned mission, they too would have got the job done in five days. Apples and Oranges.

          And added bonus, NASA doesn't get shut down for a investigation for years when something goes wrong either. Lets not also forget that there are a huge amount of assumptions in that "a human could have done it 5 days". Like say no need to wear a space suit. We were on the moon for a lot of days. And quite frankly didn't get much done at all.
          • If the rovers mass budget and cash budget where comparable to a manned mission, they too would have got the job done in five days. Apples and Oranges.

            In some fantasy universe where the main limits on robotic performance is cash and mass, sure. But that's not the universe we live in. Here in the real world, the limitations on robotics are technological - despite the fact that over many decades, by many organizations, many, many, times to amount that's been spent on manned space has been poured into computa

            • by delt0r (999393)

              In some fantasy universe where the main limits on robotic performance is cash and mass, sure.

              Then you compare walking speed to rover motion speed. Both things are easily solved with mass and budget. And we are talking about a massive increase in both mass and budget here. In fact half of the this very slow progress is NASA over abundance of caution. Oh and the fact they don't have the energy budget for better computers on board because of mass constraints.

              Yes, there's huge assumptions there - like "humans will perform to their usual and proven standard".

              What proven record? On earth doesn't count. For mars there is the trip to consider, with both physical and psychological effects. And the suit th

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Monday April 15, 2013 @10:52AM (#43452087) Homepage

      I mentioned this in a comment last week. Manned spaceflight in the USA is essentially a matter of history, not something we know how to do today. If we wanted (for whatever reason) to go back to the moon, we'd bascially have to start over from scratch.

      Except - this story reveals your claim to be bullshit. We have (literally) tons of documentation on how they did it, and that's just the beginning...
       

      After the fall of the Roman empire, knowledge of concrete was lost, and for about 500 years Europeans were walking around Roman buildings and upon Roman roads that they had no idea how to recreate. Right now all our Apollo engineers are dead or dying, and the Astronauts will soon follow suit. Soon there will be no living human who has set foot on another world. Then we will know just how those Medieval Europeans felt when we go look at our old Apollo relics in the museums.

      In some fantasy world where we had stopped rocketry and spaceflight development and operations... you'd be right. But here in the real world, we're still flying rockets, we're still developing engines, and electronics, and materials, and... well... pretty much everything required for a moon flight. (In fact, there's a lot of Apollo components that will never see the light of day again because they're obsolete... long since replaced with something better.)
       
      One might as well complain about how nobody has built a Wright Flyer in over a century and how everyone who ever designed of flew one is dead.
       
      (Seriously, how does drivel like this get modded "Insightful", when it's clueless bilge?)

    • If you read TFA, you'll see that the design process for the F1 was basically to try almost random variations until they found one that worked. These days, we have a much better understanding of what happens in a rocket engine, and much better tools to help with the design of a new engine. So if we did start from scratch, we'd arrive at a working design much sooner. Compare SpaceX' relatively trouble-free entrance into the launcher market with the explosion festival that was NASA's early years.

    • by nozzo (851371)
      "Soon there will be no living human who has set foot on another world."

      This. A call to arms for the next gen space explorers.
  • Zomg! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Monday April 15, 2013 @10:20AM (#43451747) Journal

    The biggest engines we could buy for our model rockets was the D. This F is awesome!

    And it's just the F1 !

    • , and if you pass a certification test, commercial motors up to an O-8000 are available if you have the cash:

      http://www.pro38.com/products/pro150/motor.php [pro38.com]

      Model rocketry has come a LONG way since cardboard Estes rockets in the schoolyard....

    • by dpilot (134227)

      But could an F-1 even lift its own weight? After all the venerable D was at least a D-13, and even the C series was typically a C-6. At that scaling I would have expected the F to be something like an F-50.

      Perhaps the solution is that we're using a "new engine scale", kind of like ST:TNG moved to the new Warp scale instead of the old W**3 of ST:TOS. And of course since it's a first-stage booster, it would be an F-1-0. (I wonder what the ejection charge delay would be for a single/upper-stage version.)

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Monday April 15, 2013 @10:20AM (#43451749)

    A typical design document for something like the F-1, though, was produced under intense deadline pressure and lacked even the barest forms of computerized design aids.

    Thank goodness for that. People still know how to read paper drawings. If it was computerized, we might be able to read the media if it survived (1/2" mag tape or punch cards) but would probably have to spend a lot of time reverse engineering obsolete CAD formats.

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      There is much truth here. I remember when my advisor in grad school pointed out that we have stone tablets from a few thousand BC which we can read today, but he has tapes up on a shelf that he couldn't read without essentially re-engineering the systems used to create them.

    • by dpilot (134227)

      There is a company doing archival documentation work, and their solution is to etch small characters onto a metallic wafer. To read, you need a microscope - and know how to read the language it was written in.

    • by steelfood (895457)

      Paper will never die.

      Imagine Da Vinci had stored his notes on magnetic media. I wonder how much of it would have survived and been restorable for general consumption (hint: probably none).

      Digital storage makes duplication and sometimes modification much easier. But all it really does is commoditize the knowledge that's being stored. I.e., only the worthless stuff really qualifies to be stored digitally.

  • We constantly test, and call it good enough. The difference is the fighter is going to cost more than the Saturn missions...go figure.

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      We constantly test, and call it good enough. The difference is the fighter is going to cost more than the Saturn missions...go figure.

      Well, there is no doubt a ton of waste in the fighter programs, but do consider that the Saturn V did not have to deal with people trying to shoot it down, only had a run of a dozen or two units, and each unit only had to work one time on a single day, only spending a few days outdoors. That means that you could have a complex series of tests/checks/etc that all take place up until launch which are good for only that one launch. You can't exactly design an F-35 so that you need to reassemble the thing fro

  • by RabidMonkey (30447) <canadaboy&gmail,com> on Monday April 15, 2013 @10:29AM (#43451837) Homepage

    These are the types of Articles I still come to Slashdot for ... and for the comments, which have (sadly) diminished in quantity in the last decade. Amazing engineering work, amazing science.

  • Hello,

    Some people are claiming that all spaceflight knowledge in this country has been lost and it would cost far more (in constant dollars?) to re-do what was done in the 60's to get us to the moon. I'm not so sure.

    I'm working in an engineering field (not rocket science) which was dominated by experimentation/prototyping when it was "hot" (WWII and shortly thereafter). Giant teams of people (100s or more) would be doing what our very small team is today (3-ish).

  • F1 is a engineering marvel but shame it's only used for three minutes then dumped into the ocean. Think of all the design, craftsman machining, and all the horrible bureaucracy of documentation from parts selection, materials testing, assembly checks, auditing of special tools (and each tool has tons of paperwork). Armies of technicians and engineers working on just one engine. And many are built, and very $$$expensive$$$. Imagine if booster can be recovered, engines reused, the only thing lost is the prope
  • Meanwhile, Space-X is building the Falcon Heavy [spacex.com], with twice the payload of the Space Shuttle. The Falcon Heavy is three Falcon-9s. The Falcon-9, which is in current production and has been launched successfully several times, uses 9 Merlin engines. The Merlin engine is in current production, and about 400 a year are being manufactured. The first Falcon Heavy launch is scheduled for this year. For an actual commercial customer.

    So why is NASA trying to build a big booster again?

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