Inside the Collection

On loan from the Smithsonian

F1 rocket motor on display at the Powerhouse Museum
Photography by Marinco Kojdanovski, © Powerhouse Museum, all rights reserved.

Curators at the Powerhouse not only research information about the artefacts in our own collection, from time to time we assist external colleagues with their object research as well. Satellite propulsion engineer Alan Lawrie, author of histories of the Saturn V and Saturn I rockets, contacted the museum seeking information about the F-1 rocket motor in the Space exhibition. Together with former employees of the Rocketdyne company, which manufactured the F-1, Alan has been researching the location and identification of all the surviving F-1 rocket engines.

The most powerful single chamber liquid fuel rocket engine so far put into service, five F-1 motors were used in the first stage of the Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo missions to the Moon. The only example on public display outside the United States, the museum’s F-1 is on long term loan from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

Unfortunately, the Smithsonian’s records had very little information about the history of this rocket motor and had incorrectly recorded its serial number, making it difficult for Alan to trace the story of this particular engine. Despite the difficulty of accessing the suspended engine, we were able to arrange for photos of the motor’s makers plate, which allowed for the correct identification of its serial number. This enabled a search of the surviving Rocketdyne records to establish the engine’s history.

We now know that the F-1 rocket motor in the Space exhibition was the 25th of 114 research and development F-1 engines produced by Rocketdyne and that it was probably manufactured in 1961. It was test fired 35 times.

One response to “On loan from the Smithsonian

  • International cooperation at its best! This research involved Kerrie (Australia), Rocketdyne people (California) and me (UK). Many thanks to Kerrie for getting to the bottom of this mystery. I received a note of thanks from the Smithsonian so the effort was definitely worthwhile.
    Thanks, Alan Lawrie.

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