I almost titled this entry “Rocket Porn” but I wasn’t sure if the management would appreciate it. Still, to the space enthusiast this is definitely pretty enthralling.
These photos are straight from my old college roommate, now an engineer at NASA’s Stennis Space Center. He works in a building that overlooks the test stand for the new engines that are going to power the next generation of rockets, and it’s apparently quite the show. The fuel costs alone run well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per test and so I suppose I should temper my enthusiasm on the grounds that I spent Saturday’s post opposing federal deficit spending. Still, I find it hard to begrudge NASA their 0.5% of the federal budget when they manage to accomplish such amazing things like the still-functioning Mars rovers.
Anyway. This is the test stand just before ignition. A few things to notice: the big barge in front of the test stand delivers the liquid hydrogen to the site. I’m not sure if it’s emply at this point, though I’d guess it is by virtue of the fact that it’s parked so close to an operating rocket engine. The second thing to notice is the vertical pipe toward the left side of the image. Hydrogen is constantly evaporating out of the test system, and this escaping gas is collected and shunted off into this pipe, where it’s burned. The heat waves are visible coming off of the top:
This next is what the view looks a couple seconds after ignition:
And a few seconds after that: