Moon Rocket Engines Reach Space At Last

It only took 40 years, but engines originally designed for the Soviet N-1 moon rocket finally left Earth yesterday

Flying at last: an AJ26/NK-33 engine gets hoisted into place. Aerojet

There were celebrations all around at Wallops Island, Virginia, yesterday, as the new Antares rocket built by Orbital Sciences launched successfully on its first test flight.

There may have been some applause in Russia, too. Antares uses Aerojet AJ26/NK-33 liquid kerosene rocket engines originally built for the Soviet Union’s canceled N-1 moon rocket in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After being warehoused for 20 years, the engines were purchased by American companies and modified. On Sunday they finally made it to space, powering the Antares first stage.

Antares is now scheduled to launch Orbital’s Cygnus cargo vehicle on its first trip to the International Space Station this summer.  Meanwhile, Russia is looking at using the NK-33 on future Soyuz rockets.

A replay of the Antares launch for those who missed it:

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