NASA To Use Apollo Era F-1 Rocket Again?

Apparently everything old is new again. NASA is looking at the possibility of once again using the F-1 rocket engine that got the Apollo missions (via the enormous Saturn V) off the ground. It doesn’t say if NASA is interested in the F-1, or the F-1A (which was developed post Apollo). Just goes to show that just because something is old, doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant.

Jeff Bezos and team found the F-1 engines of Apollo 11 a few months ago. Since then NASA has suggested The Smithsonian gets first dibs at an engine (which would still be their property if recovered), but a 2nd if recovered could go to the Museum of Flight.

Jeff Bezos’s Team Found Apollo 11′s F-1 Engines

Saturn V F-1 Rockets

The Saturn V was perhaps the greatest rocket ever built. Quoting Wikipedia:

It remains the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever brought to operational status and still holds the record for the heaviest launch vehicle payload.

The first stage (S-IC) was made of several F-1 rockets. Check out an old video to get an idea of how powerful they really were. The last launched in 1973, and there are a few (shell’s at least) as museum exhibits. We’ve got little left to remember them by. Unlike the Shuttle SRB’s they weren’t reusable. They just went to the bottom of the ocean. The most famous of them all are the ones that sent Apollo 11 on their way to the moon.

Jeff Bezos announced:

I’m excited to report that, using state-of-the-art deep sea sonar, the team has found the Apollo 11 engines lying 14,000 feet below the surface, and we’re making plans to attempt to raise one or more of them from the ocean floor. We don’t know yet what condition these engines might be in – they hit the ocean at high velocity and have been in salt water for more than 40 years. On the other hand, they’re made of tough stuff, so we’ll see.

They are still property of NASA, so lets hope they are willing to let them go to a museum. If Bezos’s suggestion for The Museum of Flight isn’t suitable, perhaps The Smithsonian would be. They have the Command Module (CM) already in the National Air and Space Museum.

NASA Constellation Program

NASA Constellation Ares V/Altair

NASA has posted a very cool video showing the status, and some renderings of the Constellation program. The parallels to the Apollo program are obvious and intentional as they are trying to minimize cost and risk by utilizing what was learned a generation ago. In just 3 years they seem to have done a lot of work, though there’s still years to go until the first flight, and a while longer until we’re looking at a return to the moon. That’s of course assuming that the program isn’t canceled or modified by then.

Altair in a sense is a modernized enlarged version of the lunar lander and Orion is in many ways a larger Apollo Command Module.

The Ares V rocket is a real monster of a rocket. It will be able to lift more than even the Saturn V (famous for being the rocket that shot the Apollo missions into space). Interestingly the Saturn V used the J-2 rocket for the second and third stage (the first used the F-1). The Ares V will use the J-2X rocket which is a modernized version for it’s second stage.