If NASA’s Space Launch System ever moves beyond “Powerpoint Engineering”, it might just do so with an update of the massive F1 engines that powered the Saturn V. If Uncle Sam’s gonna throw my hard-earned tax money down a hole anyway, then I’m cool with this particular hole:
How we get there from here is described in a fascinating story at Ars Technica:
Even though the performance goals of the engine will be close to its predecessor, its manufacturing will be done through radically different methods. The Dynetics folks echoed Betts, Case, and Coates when reflecting on the F-1’s construction, making many of the same observations about the jaw-dropping amount of hand-done work in the old design. In the name of affordability and efficiency, modern manufacturing techniques will be brought firmly to bear on the new version.
Each Pyrios booster will feature a pair of F-1B engines, built with techniques that more resemble 3D printing than traditional casting or milling. The main combustion chamber and nozzle in particular will undergo tremendous simplification and consolidating; the parts count for those two assemblies together will be reduced from 5,600 manufactured elements in the original F-1 down to just 40.
I have my doubts that this particular pig will ever fly, but if it leads to some serious R&D to perfect and cheapen an already heart-stoppingly powerful engine, then so much the better. With licensing and whatnot, somebody is bound to put it to good use.