back to article Tweaked Space Shuttle Main Engine gets ready for final testing

A test run of the engines powering NASA's Moon rocket is due to kick off this week, an essential milestone since the Space Shuttle cast-offs will need to be replaced – beginning with Artemis V. NASA's Artemis uses parts left over from the Space Shuttle program. It is notable for having managed to turn the Space Shuttle Main …

  1. Paul Herber Silver badge

    " to be dumped into the ocean during launch, along with the rest of the core stage."

    Are you the type of person who picks up any rubbish you seeing while walking on the beach? Well, you may as well stop bothering.

    NASA can dump it quicker that you can pick it up.

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    A similar option for HS2?

    250kph Intercity express trains are super-expensive

    We have museums full of old steam trains

    We fit big resistive electrical heaters in the boilers, run form overhead power lines

    = cheap high speed locomotives ready in days

    Then we decide we can't electrify the entire line and we've run out of old steam locomotives and we need to make it carbon neutral so we invent miniature nuclear reactors to generate the power to run the heaters to make the steam (we then abandon our design and buy the reactors from N. Korea)

    Then we decide it's too dangerous to put the reactors on the train.

    So we position them every 10miles along the track, the loco connects to power, raises steam, and runs for 10miles until the boiler is cold

    Announce massive success in investing billions in clean power, high speed rail and bringing jobs to run down steam locomotive building regions

    1. John Sager

      Re: A similar option for HS2?

      Upvoted for inventive cynicism!

    2. eldel

      Re: A similar option for HS2?

      Ah - the government technical advisor finally reveals (him/her)self. We were wondering where you were hiding.

    3. that one in the corner Silver badge

      Re: A similar option for HS2?

      > bringing jobs to run down steam locomotive building regions

      So would that be the Darlington Works, or CTL Seal in Sheffield?

      BTW, the latter are clearly worried as they have to resort to pronouncements such as:

      >> Geoff Turner from the Clan Locomotive Project said rather than being put together in "a little siding somewhere at the end of a heritage railway", the engines were being built in what had been described as "a cathedral to engineering".

      Because, of course, that "little siding" already has a track record of actually building a new loco!

      Although neither is really ready to go with track-side nukes. Do you think we could get away with pulling the locos with trained packs of whippets or fueling 'em with parmos, just to tide us over?

      1. eldel

        Re: A similar option for HS2?

        Problem with that is that you could only use the whippets "oop north". You're not getting south of Derby with them. You could always have whippet resource centers either side of the Pennines just to get over the top.

        1. 43300 Silver badge

          Re: A similar option for HS2?

          Parmos to fuel the whippets have an even more limited geographical range! Nobody outside Smoggieland seems to have taken to this particular "delicacy".

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: A similar option for HS2?

        The original steam locomotives were developed by barely literate Geordies

        The current government is simply investing in a long term plan to reinvigorate industry by reducing the educational standards in the North

        Step 1, Poverty

        Step 2, Rickets and flat caps

        Step 3, Britain becomes once more the industrial workshop of the world

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A similar option for HS2?

      Upvote for a novel take on this half-baked idea, which I first read here:

      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirty-Eight-Chris-Perkes-ebook/dp/B0066DGJBE

    5. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Re: A similar option for HS2?

      Interestingly, two of your steaming options have been done in the past.

      During WW2, the Swiss were running some Steam-Electric engines as they had plentiful hydroelectric supply but coal was very expensive. (SBB E 3/3)

      Also, fireless steam engines were designed - either using a reservoir of steam or in the notable case of Fowler's Ghost, by using fire bricks.

  3. Lurko

    For all the rubbish thrown at him

    ..at least Musk has been trying to re-use rockets. Meanwhile, over at NASA it's a case that the ocean's simply one big garbage dump.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: For all the rubbish thrown at him

      NASA is re-using the rockets

      The old ones were built for the Space Shuttle, they are now being "re-used" for this

      Then when we run out of the old ones we we build new Space shuttle engines for this project (at only 10x the original cost) - the entire project will then be cancelled and the engines can be take out of storage and "re-used" in a future project

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The new RS-25 engines will go to 111 percent and be tested to 113 percent to gain a margin of operational safety."

    Speaking as an engineer, I wouldn't call 2% a margin of operational safety, I'd call it crossing your fingers and hoping nothing goes wrong....

    1. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Silver badge

      "Speaking as an engineer, I wouldn't call 2% a margin of operational safety, I'd call it crossing your fingers and hoping nothing goes wrong...."

      Totally agree. And the "2% margin" mindset was what contributed to the Challenger loss - along with many other things. When the rubber o rings (that held back the hot gasses, and eventually failed on the challenger flight) had failed and burned through half their thickness on earlier flights, senior NASA bods interpreted that as proof of a 50% safety margin (ie there was still 50% o ring left). Other people insisted it was actually all the safety margin gone, and more since the o rings shouldn't have any erosion but they were ignored.

      But then, if all space craft were built with a genuine 50% margin they'd probably never get off the ground. Space is hard - and risky.

      1. Brian 3

        Yeah, NASA are busy building a nitro drag racer, the sort so extreme the engine block doesn't even have cooling because it only runs for 10 seconds. While crowing about how it's "necessary" and "important" to make it super extreme b/c that extra couple %! When they could build a turbo diesel truck that could be used, I dunno, several times?

        Also, wasn't there a report that the production COULD NOT be restarted, because literally ALL of the engineers/machinists were gone, and so rather than calling it "restarting" production, it's more like, developing the production from the ground up all over again.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Not quite

          The redesign is "design for manufacture", and "design for lifetime".

          The methods used for the original RS25 are still known, and there are still plenty of skilled machinists etc who could build them from the original drawings if desired.

          The trouble is that it'd be too expensive, even for the pork barrel that is Artemis - there were many custom tools and labour intensive steps. Humans are expensive.

          So they're trying to redesign it for modern manufacturing methods that require fewer highly skilled people, instead using highly flexible CAM machines that they already own and can put to other uses afterwards.

          Also, the new ones only need to work once. So as well as higher levels of allowable erosion, it doesn't need to be possible to strip them down for inspection and repair.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        It's not really 111% relative to "full power"

        It's 100% = nominal level of the 1st generation engines.

        Rather than re-calibrating everything (and potential confusion) they kept this as 100% so subsequent Shuttle missions ran at >100% even though this was below full power for later version engines

    2. FIA Silver badge

      Isn’t it 1.8%?

    3. zuckzuckgo Silver badge

      > The new RS-25 engines will go to 111 percent

      Turn it up to 11! Straight out of the "Spinal Tap" school of rock...etry.

    4. TonyR

      "Speaking as an engineer, I wouldn't call 2% a margin of operational safety, I'd call it crossing your fingers and hoping nothing goes wrong...."

      You have the context wrong. This is the NASA Space Shuttle Division where Marketing Speak is the norm. 1% is a base margin of operational safety so 2% is double that or 200% margin of operating safety.

    5. MyffyW Silver badge

      11

      ....but these ones go to 11

      It's one louder, isn't it?

  5. AndrueC Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Seriously? This the 21st century and the best NASA can do is use shelved technology from the previous century?

    Worse still instead of re-using the old technology as was originally intended now they are just going to dump it into the ocean after one use.

    I remember when NASA could be considered the paragon of technical and engineering excellence.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      But by leasing the engines back from the project they sold them to and that way, it comes under the monthly current budget and not the capital account !

      (round of applause)

      1. DJV Silver badge
      2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Trebles all round!

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      I remember when NASA could be considered the paragon of technical and engineering excellence.

      I remember when NASA had a proper budget with (relatively) little levels of political interference. Gee, I feel old...

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
        Alien

        I remember when NASA put a man on the moon...

        My grandfather remembered seeing the news about the Wright brothers' flights _and_ saw the moon landings.

    3. IvyKing

      The RL-10 engine is still in production, with first items made in 1962-63.

      The RS-25 was noted for having a high Isp, don't think a new engine would be significantly better. IIRC, the plans for new engines are to use 3-D printing of some of the critical parts to reduce cost of manufacture.

  6. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    So, this is the second run of the RS-25 engines? So.... RS252? :D

    RS252... RS252... Computer Interface.... RS252....

    God, I feel old.

    1. Ochib

      It's only a Recommended Standard.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > So, this is the second run of the RS-25 engines? So.... RS252? :D

      Or maybe RS 252 HEMI. Still feels old but cooler.

      (Heat / Energy Maximized Impulse?)

    3. Matthew Elvey

      You're so old you forgot a digit. It's https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RS-232. Not 252.

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