17 Amazing Facts About Rockets You May Not Know25th Sep 2022
Rockets are one of humanity’s greatest inventions. They helped to conquer near space, land on the Moon, get an idea about Mars and other celestial bodies. They enable scientists to collect important data about the Earth to improve and secure our future on it. And since rockets continue to make the history of our greatest discoveries, here are 17 amazing facts about rockets that you may not know.
You might have asked yourself, who invented rockets? The first rockets might have appeared during the Song Dynasty in the 9th-10th century with the invention of gunpowder. At first, tubes with powder charges were used for fireworks, and the first facts about rockets come from descriptions of the experience of using “Fire Spears”. Military purposes are mentioned in 1132 when describing the siege of the Chinese city of Xi’an. In the 13th century, along with the Mongol conquerors, rockets came to Europe, but it was only in the 1920s that rocket science as we know it gained further development.
The law, formulated by the scientist back in 1687, says: Every action always has an equal and opposite reaction; likewise, the interactions of two bodies against each other are equal and directed in opposite directions. The action is that the engine expels the rocket fuel, which, when burned, forms an exhaust that pushes the rocket in the opposite direction (just like the recoil of a gun).
The invention belongs to the German designer Wernher Von Braun. The rocket was called V2 and was conceived as a ballistic missile. The Nazis used the famous German V2 rockets to bomb Great Britain during World War II. However, during flight tests, it turned out that the rocket could climb 80 km and fly along a suborbital trajectory. After the victory over fascism, the V2 was used by the Allies as a prototype for creating the first orbital launch vehicles.
On October 24, 1946, the V2 was launched from a launch pad of the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, USA. It was equipped with a film camera loaded with 35 mm film, which took one frame every 1.5 seconds. The rocket managed to reach a height of about 105 kilometres and fell down, crashing into the ground at a speed of 150 meters per second. The camera was utterly broken, but the film in the steel cassette survived.
Fact 5. All rockets reaching space are multi-stage
One of the lesser known facts about rockets is that the V2 was the first and last known single-stage rocket. Since then, all launch vehicles have been designed with multiple stages. This is the only optimal option to get off the ground, overcome atmospheric resistance and become a satellite of the Earth, since the release of each stage significantly lightens the rocket mass and allows it to reach the required speed. Of course, a single-stage rocket can also enter low-Earth orbit, but this is not practical due to low efficiency and payload capacity limitations.
The main task of the launch vehicle is to put the payload into orbit. It can be either a spaceship or an artificial satellite. Thanks to rockets, over 70 years of space exploration, thousands of various satellites were launched into orbit, and several dozen crewed flights were made, including seven to the Moon. Rockets also helped to build the largest object in space — the International Space Station. The ISS measures 109 by 51 meters and weighs 400 tons. Rockets are the only means of getting into space and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
Most rockets take off vertically, so before the launch, a rocket is placed on a launch pad and secured with trusses. When the engines start, the trusses shoot back, releasing the rocket into flight. Preparing for the launch can take several days, and a staff of several dozen people is working to see it done. All systems must work smoothly and without failure. Weather conditions, such as the strength and direction of the wind should not be able to have a significant impact on the rockets at the time of launch. The launch site is usually located far from the settlements and closer to the sea so that the used stages do not cause damage when they fall. All these preparations cost a lot of money and considering the cost of producing the carrier itself, the final launch cost can come to tens of millions of dollars.
There are fewer requirements for horizontal launch. Since an aircraft to which a rocket is attached acts as the first stage, any airfield with a suitable runway can act as a launch pad. However, a horizontal launch has limitations in terms of payload mass due to the lifting characteristics of the aircraft, and the cost is no cheaper than launching a similar vertical rocket. That is why this launch method is not in demand. Our look at Launcher One by Virgin Orbit will help you learn more about horizontal launch technology.
Fact 8. Rockets conquer vacuum
Space is a gigantic vacuum in which a spaceship is propelled by chemical-fueled engines. They are called orientation engines. The engine creates an exhaust which is thrown away from the spaceship, thus, giving it momentum to maintain the required trajectory. This is definitely one of the facts about space rockets to be aware of.
A 150 dB sound is already unbearable for human hearing, while 200 dB is lethal. A rocket makes a noise of about 180 dB during launch, which is 40 dB louder than a fighter jet taking off. Such sound pressure creates powerful vibrations and is dangerous not only for people but also for the rocket itself since it can damage it. That is why to reduce the noise level at the launch pads, water or rather tons of water get used. This makes it possible to reduce the noise level to 130-140 dB. However, water acts not only as a noise suppressor but also as a cooler. The temperature in a rocket engine’s combustion chamber can reach 4,000 degrees Celsius, and the water protects rocket parts from overheating and catching fire.
Fact 10. Rocket is the fastest transport
The rocket needs to develop 1 escape velocity, equal to 7.9 km/s, to overcome the resistance of the Earth’s atmosphere and enter the near-Earth orbit. But ,for example, to reach the Moon, this speed will not be enough since, in this case, it is necessary to overcome the force of the Earth’s gravity. And for this, the rocket needs to fly even faster, with a second escape velocity equal to 11.2 km/s or 40,000 km per hour. If the car was moving at that speed, the road from Glasgow to London would take 1 minute.
The first orbital rocket, German V2, burned 127 kg of fuel in 1 second of flight. However, modern launch vehicles have significantly surpassed V2 in this regard. The Saturn V needed to burn 2,000 tons of fuel to reach LEO, the Space Shuttle required 1700 tons, and the Falcon Heavy now burns 410 tons. In the video below, you can see a visualization of the combustion process in four different space systems (Saturn V, Shuttle, Falcon Heavy and Space Launch System). RP-1 is coloured red, liquid hydrogen (LH2) is orange, and liquid oxygen (LOX) is blue.
The most powerful, largest and heavy-lifting rocket is still considered to be the American Saturn-V, which was created specifically for the Apollo lunar program and was no longer used after its completion. It was also the last rocket designed by Wernher von Braun. Here are some famous facts about rockets in the Saturn V iteration of the Saturn family: the spacecraft, created in 1963, had a height of 110 m, and a diameter of 10 m, and could deliver up to 141 tons of payload to Low Earth Orbit and 43.5 tons to a translunar trajectory. The most powerful rocket currently in existence, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, has a height of 70 m and can deliver up to 64 tons of cargo to LEO.
Fact 13. Rockets can be reusable
Until recently, almost all space rockets were disposable, and the separated upper stages partially burned up in the atmosphere and fell into the ocean. The only exception was the Space Shuttle. The space plane, created in the early 1980s, was launched into orbit using solid propellant stages, after which it would return to Earth as a glider. As a result, the Space Shuttle and its boosters could be reused after minor repairs. However, this system turned out to be very expensive and not reliable enough, so the shuttles were abandoned in 2011.
Since then, Elon Musk’s SpaceX pioneered the recovery and reuse of the first stages of its Falcon 9 rocket and is successfully using this to reduce launch costs. The advantage of SpaceX’s reusable tech is that the stage landing is vertical, fully controllable and highly accurate. Now, the reusable rockets trend is gaining momentum. Rocket Lab joined SpaceX in 2022, successfully landing the first stage of its Electron rocket using a helicopter. And these are really amazing space rocket facts you should know about.
In the 1930s, enthusiasts proposed such programs in Europe and even implemented some of them. So, in 1931-1935, a Austrian rocket designer made 24 launches of V-7 rockets, which delivered about 6,000 letters. And in 1959, the US Postal Service successfully launched an SSM-N-8 Regulus cruise missile from a Barbero submarine whose nuclear warhead had been replaced with a special mail container. The rocket delivered 3,000 mail items to the US Navy base in Florida. The envelopes were inscribed: “The first official rocket mail.”
This is definitely one of the coolest facts about rockets of the 21st century. Relativity Space was the first company to attempt printing an entire space rocket. For this, it developed a special 3D printer that manufactures almost 95% of the structural elements, except for the electronics, seals, and some other elements. The use of additive technologies made it possible to reduce the number of assembly parts to a thousand (there are fewer parts than in a car), and the production time has been reduced many times.
On July 20, 2021, the space company Blue Origin, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, conducted the first-ever suborbital launch of the New Shepard spacecraft with ordinary tourists on board. The flight to an altitude of 80 km lasted 11 minutes, three minutes of which the passengers were in a state of microgravity and could see space through the observation windows. Since then, Blue Origin has already made five commercial flights and plans to increase their frequency.
If you can spare a couple of hundred thousand dollars, you can apply. Virgin Galactic also plans to provide similar services, and SpaceX will easily send you on a week-long trip to LEO or the ISS, but this pleasure will already cost you in the seven-figure range.
Fact 17. SpaceX is building a rocket to fly to Mars
Here, we are not talking about Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy, which today are recognized as the best space vehicles. We mean SpaceX Starship — a universal system for delivering cargo and astronauts not only to orbit and the Moon but also to other planets. The dream of flying to the Red Planet, shared by Elon Musk and many space travel fans, is becoming a reality.
Here are some new SpaceX rocket ship facts. Starship capabilities surpass not only the most powerful launch vehicle in the world, Saturn V, but also NASA’s new brainchild — SLS. Starship is higher and heavier, and for fuel, it uses methane that can be mined on Mars. In addition, it will be fully reusable and will be able to refuel directly in orbit. SpaceX promises the first Starship orbital flight in late 2022/early 2023. Well, we wish them good luck, since the last SN 24 static fire test was a success, but ended with walls of flames.
We hope these 17 facts about rockets have helped you expand your knowledge of rocket science and space exploration. And we will continue keeping you informed about exciting space news and stories. Follow our updates!