back to article NASA lights humongous rocket that goes nowhere ... until 2019

If you have a hankering to watch eight minutes of billowing clouds of rocket exhaust, NASA's posted the video of the latest test of its RS-25 engine. The RS-25 is, as NASA-watchers know, the power-plant the agency is developing to shove its planned Space Launch System skywards. Yesterday's test was the third time NASA's run …

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  1. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Won't 8 million pounds of thrust also knock Earth out of it's current orbit and crash us into the moon?

    And is 8 million pounds of thrust equivalent to lifting a dozen large blue whales over your head or it is more? I can't work it out !!!

    1. jake Silver badge

      No. Earth's orbit is safe.

      But I hear that one single launch of the SLS will cause runaway global warming that the Earth will never recover from! And the chemtrails from this monster engine ... don't get me started on the chemtrails!

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: No. Earth's orbit is safe.

        don't get me started on the chemtrails!

        Yeah - but think of all the mind-control chemicals we can get in that stream!

        Actually Citizen - that information is way above your current clone-level. Please turn yourself in for reprocessing immediately.

        Trust The Computer. The Computer Is Your Friend.

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      8 million pounds thrust

      That is anything from 16 to 24 large blue whales, depending on how well fed they are.

      I am more interested in what you could do with the expected cost of a launch: $1B. How about starting and cancelling two paperless NHS projects?

      1. Robin Bradshaw

        Re: 8 million pounds thrust

        Whilst I dont have a good way of describing the thrust in el reg units I do know a good video showing the mass of fuel burned per second in elephants for the saturn 5 which is in the same ballpark as the SLS

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4iMeKif488

        1. stucs201

          Re: 8 million pounds thrust

          I feel the "untied balloon" would be a suitable reg unit for thrust. I suspect the numbers would be rather large when using it to measure rockets though.

          1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

            Re: 8 million pounds thrust

            The Norris is a measure of force: http://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/page/reg-standards-converter.html

          2. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: 8 million pounds thrust - the Untied Balloon

            The Untied Baloon is a unit of lift, not thrust.

            The proper unit of thrust is the Japanese Commuter Shover.

        2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

          those poor elephants

          They should have used cows. At least they would bounce.

        3. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          Re: 8 million pounds thrust

          Whilst I dont have a good way of describing the thrust in el reg units

          Might I suggest The Ballmer, that being the amount of thrust required to launch an office chair across a room at a speed sufficient to convey the thrower's anger?

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: 8 million pounds thrust

        four RS-52 motors providing two million pounds of thrust, “working in conjunction with a pair of solid rocket boosters to produce up to eight million pounds of thrust”.

        Presumably that's 4 motors producing a total of 2m lbf, otherwise the solid boosters wouldn't be adding much. In which case why not just use 3 solid boosters alone?

        A Saturn V managed 8m lbf with 5 F1s and no boosters. Almost 60 years ago :(

      3. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: 8 million pounds thrust

        Two paperless NHS projects? You do realise it would cost nearly £12billion just to cover the paperwork for that.

    3. sitta_europea

      Blue whales.

      I'm soooooo glad that elReg didn't swallow NASA's tripe. Oh, sorry, that should read "hype".

      According to Martin Burkey, of NASA’s Space Launch System team, RS-25 produces 512,000 pounds of thrust, that’s more than 12 million horsepower and "makes a modern jet engine look like a wind-up toy".

      Unfortunately this also makes NASA look like a wind-up, because horsepower is, well, power, and power is distance moved per unit time (kinda like speed) multiplied by force (er, thrust) so it's back to school for Mr. Burkey and well done elReg for not falling into the bear trap.

      1. dkjd

        Re: Blue whales.

        distance per unit time is velocity and has nothing to do with either thrust or power

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
          Happy

          Re: Blue whales.

          Surely the problem with a 12 million horsepower rocket, is that all the horses will gradually catch fire. Is that why rockets keep dropping stages as they rise?

          This must be the great SpaceX innovation. He's not landing his rockets in order to re-use them. He's bringing them back because of delicious horsey barbeque. Or should that be braai? I guess you can take the man out of South Africa...

        2. MJB7
          Boffin

          Re: Blue whales.

          Quote: distance per unit time is velocity and has nothing to do with either thrust or power

          You have misunderstood what the OP wrote. What he actually said is: "power is distance moved per unit time multiplied by force" (which is correct). There was a parenthetical remark after "time", but it didn't end the definition of power.

      2. cray74

        Re: Blue whales.

        Unfortunately this also makes NASA look like a wind-up, because horsepower is, well, power, and power is distance moved per unit time

        And therefore the power in the exhaust is calculable: you're moving known mass at known velocities. In public discussions, this often leads to incredible numbers about how many horsepower some rocket engine develops. In engineering discussions about nuclear and electric rocket analyses, the jet power becomes somewhat important because the available input power (from the reactor, solar panels, or hamsters in wheels) imposes limits on the possible output power, and therefore maximum possible thrust and exhaust velocity.

        If my memory hasn't completely failed me, I recall the equation being like:

        Power = 0.5 x [exhaust velocity] x [thrust force] / efficiency

        An ion engine with a specific impulse of 3000 (exhaust velocity of ~30,000m/s) that develops 1 pound of thrust (4.5 Newtons) via a mechanism 50% efficient (typical for electric rockets) requires an electrical input power of:

        0.5 x [30,000m/s] x [4.5N] / 0.5 = 135,000 Watts

        While its exhaust has 62,500 Watts and the engine's radiators are handling a similar 62,500 Watts.

        In the late 1950s, the US sketched out a number of nuclear-thermal rocket designs rated by their gigawatts of output, like the 12-gigawatt and 14-gigawatt rockets considered for the Helios and Hyperion rockets. The uranium in the engines could only produce some much power to warm and expand the exhaust, and it was critical to understand what that value was.

    4. DropBear Silver badge

      "Won't 8 million pounds of thrust also knock Earth out of it's current orbit and crash us into the moon?"

      Don't be silly, of course not. They always fire the exact same engine twice, 12 hours apart, so that the effect gets pretty much cancelled. They have strict regulations for that kind of thing you know!

      1. DJO Silver badge

        "Won't 8 million pounds of thrust also knock Earth out of it's current orbit and crash us into the moon?"

        There will be a minuscule effect on the Earth, every force having an equal and opposite reaction and all that stuff but the Earth is very big and very very heavy when compared to a rocket so I really wouldn't worry about it.

        Anyway the Moon is receding so any change to the Earth's orbit won't be enough to catch the Moon. also as the Moon orbits the Earth if the Earth's orbit was disturbed the Moon would just tag along for the ride staying in much the same orbit as now.

      2. Stevie Silver badge

        12 hours apart

        This, of course, causes the earth to become slightly less oblate, which is why you satnav/gps occasionally demands you adopt a stupid route through a mamor metropolis during rush hour instead of going round the bloody thing.

      3. JLV Silver badge
        Joke

        >twice, 12 hours apart

        So, $2B per launch then?

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      8 million pounds of thrust - meh!

      Bit of a shame that the Sea Dragon was never actually made - its single first stage engine was rated at 79,000,000 lbf (RP-1 & LOX).

      No, that's not a typo - 79 million pounds of thrust.

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Lawn-laying instructions?

    Hopefully there is a large arrow painted on the side of the rocket motor. Under it will be the words "this way up".

    Best not to take chances

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Lawn-laying instructions?

      My favourite part of the xkcd Up-goer 5 Illustration is the arrow to the rocket nozzles which says "If this starts pointing towards space, you are having a bad problem, and you will not go to space today."

    2. cray74

      Re: Lawn-laying instructions?

      Hopefully there is a large arrow painted on the side of the rocket motor. Under it will be the words "this way up".

      The shuttle carrier 747s do include orientation requirements on the shuttle mounts. ;)

    3. DropBear Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Lawn-laying instructions?

      Absolutely. And I'm sure they put a "warning: hot exhaust" sticker on the other end, possibly even a "if you're reading this when the engine is on... never mind..." on the interior of the nozzles.

      1. Jos V

        Re: Lawn-laying instructions?

        You might not have heard about them, but Kulula Air has all kinds of funny livery:

        http://www.snopes.com/photos/airplane/kulula.asp

        They also have a "this side up" livery. Google images will show more.

        Have a good weekend all.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gives you perspective...

    SpaceX Launches and Landings seem so routine and feel like they only last a few moments, but this gives you perspective on how long a SpaceX/Nasa Launch seems to a an avidly watching, apprehensive Rocket Engineer.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Gives you perspective...

      "SpaceX Launches and Landings seem so routine"

      Except for the ones that explode, I'm assuming.

  4. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Happy

    So how many people

    cheering enthusiastically at the end of such a video aren't secretly a teensy bit disappointed the thing didn't go KABOOM!

    Still, as a child of the Apollo era watching these videos, a wide grin always threatens to split my face at the ears, as so many great memories come flooding back

    Good for NASA to get this test right!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We kept the only piece of the Shuttle we are still able to understand...

    .... let's put it in a 1960 rocket design so we can dream again about an era when we were able to look forward, not backward...

    But we will build the Great American Rocket again, and it will be the bbbigger, bbbiggest rocket ever seen!

    Next NASA project: design a flying vehicle made of wood and canvas, just add an iPhone to make it look "futuristic".

    The X-37 is a much more interesting project.

  6. publishnet

    The Space Shuttle main engines are RS-25 not RS-52 as stated in the article.

  7. Swiss Anton

    Rocket powered car

    Will I be able to use one of these to power my car after petrol & diesels are banned [in the UK] after 2040?

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: Rocket powered car

      And will it be covered by the congestion charge?

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Flame

      Re: Rocket powered car

      Yes. Because nobody will be able to catch you. Or probably find your body after the inevitable crash and burn boom.

      However you will need to modify your car slightly - as you'll need a slightly larger fuel tank. And your fuel bils may increase just a teensy bit. 10,000 mile services will also become a tad more expensive, but seeing as you're unlikely to live that long - this shouldn't be a problem.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Rocket powered car

        10,000 mile service? It better go longer than that or the car will have a servicing frequency rivaling a vintage Jaguar.

    3. cray74

      Re: Rocket powered car

      Will I be able to use one of these to power my car after petrol & diesels are banned [in the UK] after 2040?

      The RS-25 is fueled with hydrogen and oxygen, which produces copious amounts of dihydrogen monoxide. Besides being known for eroding mountains and being bound in most tumors, dihydrogen monoxide is a potent greenhouse gas. Given the way REACH and the UK's Environment Agency have been going, they'd probably try to ban it and anyone who tried to correct their grasp of chemical nomenclature.

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: Rocket powered car

        Exposure to DHMO has a 97% observed mortality rate.

        1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Rocket powered car

          "Exposure to DHMO has a 97% observed mortality rate."

          Observe some more and the percentage will go up.

          It's also a highly addictive substance. Deprive an addicted person of DHMO for 2-3 days and they will beg incessantly for it.

          1. Swarthy Silver badge

            Re: Rocket powered car

            DHMO is an industrial solvent that has been found to be present in a significant number of lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.

            It is possible to overdose on less than 60ml of pure DHMO, but addicts have been known to consume more than 2 litres per day!

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Rocket powered car

          Exposure to DHMO has a 97% observed mortality rate.

          Worse than that. Historical studies show that everyone exposed to it over a period of 100 years or so has died and thus it has 100% mortality.

          Ban it immediately!

          1. Robert Moore
            Pint

            Re: Rocket powered car

            For more information on the hazards of DHMO see:

            http://www.dhmo.org/

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Uffish
        Happy

        Re: Rocket powered

        Oh, I do like a steam engine, will the completed rocket have a whistle ?

        1. Swiss Anton

          Re: Rocket powered

          I like your thinking, a steam powered car would be a more sensible option for transport after 2040. True Stephenson's original was a bit slow, but this bad boy, "The fastest kettle in the world", can do over 140 mph*.

          (*Needs a bit of a run up to get to that speed, preferably a nice flat 2 mile runway. Also emits copious qualities of DHMO)

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Rocket powered car

        DiHydrogen Monoxide is the most prevalent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere by a quite a lot.

    4. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Rocket powered car

      Just skip all the hassle and buy one of the Batmobils - those already have this built-in right now...

    5. Mark 85 Silver badge

      @Swisss Anton -- Re: Rocket powered car

      Will I be able to use one of these to power my car after petrol & diesels are banned [in the UK] after 2040?

      I recall a video (I think it's been discredited) of a lad who put a JATO bottle in the trunk (the thingy in the rear) and ignited it. It became airborne and killed him and ended up in a zillion pieces. So.. the answer is.. don't try it.

    6. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Rocket powered car

      You will have to fuel up with Jet-A at the airport.

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    IT Angle

    Due to timing the controller uses 2 MC68k processors on the same chip.

    Which were only mfg for NASA for this task.

    So probably run out of chips.

    The RS25 was one of the jewels of the Shuttle programme. There were a fair few mods that could have made it both higher T/W and more reliable. Using it in expendable mode is deeply stupid. Hopefully this time round they will use actual off the shelf chips.

    Since it will operate no further than LEO they don't really need to be space rated either.

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