Years in the building, seconds in the launching; rocket engines are truly awesome in their sheer power, but are also amazing feats of engineering and design.
The scientific principle remains quite simple: accelerated gas creating thrust through a nozzle. However, extrapolating that concept to the point where the rocket has sufficient power to lift people and satellites beyond Earth’s gravity and into orbit is far more complex. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise, the manufacturing and testing process IS rocket science.
In Europe one of the key centres of work on rocket engines is done at the Snecma factory complex in a remote location in forests near the town of Vernon in Normandy. Many of the components are built elsewhere in Europe, but the assembly and testing are carried at the site in northern France.
The pieces are carefully milled from titanium or lightweight alloys over a period of weeks. When construction is finally completed then comes the critical test phase, where the rockets are fired into life inside a vast tower.
Space reporter Jeremy Wilks visited the Snecma site to find out more about this unique and constantly evolving industrial sector.
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