This is an image of the Gemini-Titan 11 rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral in 1966. This was the 9th manned flight as part of the Gemini program, carrying Charles Conrad and Richard Gordon into space.
This is an artist’s illustration of the Ares V rocket, currently under development by NASA. This enormous rocket will be the lifter that carries equipment into space for future human Moon missions.
This is an image of the space shuttle’s external fuel tank coming out of a hanger. The tank is filled with liquid hydrogen and helium, which feeds the space shuttle’s main engines at the tail of the spacecraft. It’s covered with an orange foam to keep the cold liquids insulated.
This is an image of NASA’s Voyager 2 launch atop a Titan III rocket. Voyager 2 went on to explore all of the outer planets in the Solar System, sending back the first ever images Uranus and Neptune.
This is an image of a Delta II rocket blasting off with one of the Mars Exploration Rovers on board.
We’ve written many articles about rockets for Universe Today. Here’s an article about rockets launched by India to monitor an eclipse, and here’s an article about how rockets work.
Today was a proud day in the history of New Zealand, marking the first ever home-grown rocket launch from the island. The private space company Rocket Lab, Ltd launched their Atea-1 rocket to a height of over 100 km at 2:28pm (NZST). The launch took place at Great Mercury Island, just off the coast of the North Island, and is a first for the company as well as the country.
Rocket Lab, Ltd was formed three years ago with the hopes of developing a rocket that would make space more accessible. The Atea-1 rocket has a small payload capacity, 2kg (4.4lbs). This first test of the rocket had a payload that recorded how well the engine burned during the 22-second firing, as well as a GPS locator for recovery. As of this writing, the 1st stage booster section was recovered, but the company is still looking for the payload stage.
The target of the launch was 50km (31miles) northeast of Great Mercury Island, and the team hopes to recover the second stage within the next two days so as to analyze the measurements taken on how well the test flight went.
The launch was initially scheduled for 7:10am, but a number of technical issues delayed the flight until the afternoon. A section of aerocoupler, which connects the fuel line to the rocket, froze up, which stuck the rocket in place on its pad. A helicopter was dispatched to Whitianga on the North Island to pick up another coupler from an engineering supplier.
After almost scrubbing the launch three times, emptying the rocket and refueling it, the team was ready to go at 2:30. The 6meter (20 foot) long rocket was launched above the Karman line, 100 km (62 miles) above the Earth, making this an official flight into space.
Atea is the Maori word for space, and this specific rocket was named Manu Karere – meaning ‘bird messenger’ – by the local Thames iwi. Rocket Lab founder, Mark Stevens (who legally changed his name to Mark Rocket about seven years ago) told the Waikato Times, “The last six months have been a terrific amount of work. The tech team has put in a massive effort. It’s not trivial sending something into space. This is a huge technological leap for New Zealand.”
The video interview of Mark Stevens and Peter Beck embedded below is courtesy of the New Zealand Herald.
Rocket Lab has produced a number of products for the aerospace industry, including separation systems, rocket fuel and software. The company is completely privately funded.
This isn’t the first rocket to be launched from the island. That distinction belongs to a rocket that was imported in 1963 by the Cantrbury University physics department to conduct upper atmospheric research in collaboration with the Royal New Zealand Air Force. That rocket only went to 75km (46 miles), making Atea-1 the first ever rocket to be launched into space, and adding New Zealand and Rocket Lab to the ever-lengthening list of space-faring enterprises.
Flometrics, Inc. successfully flew a liquid fueled rocket with a 100% renewable fuel, a version of JP-8 (Jet Propellant 8) and liquid oxygen. The 180 lb (81 kg) rocket was 20 feet (6 meters) tall, 1 foot (.3 meters) diameter and it was powered by a RocketDyne LR-101 rocket engine that was originally used as a steering engine on the early Atlas and Delta rockets. The rocket performance during the 15 second long burn was better than the performance of a similar rocket using RP-1 refined kerosene rocket fuel. It reached an altitude of approximately 20,000 ft (6096 m) and may have exceeded Mach 1. The biofuel ran cleaner than the standard rocket fuel that has been used before. Since the biofuel was originally designed for jets, it may be possible to tune it for better performance in rocket engines. The fuel was developed by the Energy and Environment Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota.
Rocketry is actually older than many people think. The first rockets originated in China and subsequently the Middle East with the discovery of gunpowder. These rockets were used for military purposes or as entertainment. The use of rockets and gunpowder would eventually transform warfare, and to this day we still use rockets in pretty much the same way they were used 700 years ago. The only difference is that when we use rockets for military purposes we call them missiles and when used for entertainment they can be toys or pyrotechnics.
The composition of the first rocket was what is now in aeronautics called a solid rocket. This rocket runs on a solid fuel that burned inside the rocket. The heated exhaust is expelled out the bottom the rocket, creating the thrust needed to fly. The composition of solid fuel rockets is still pretty much the same as in ancient times.
The casing is the body of the rocket. Rockets were made differently depending upon their end use. For example, solid rockets that were used in space programs had steel casings. The next important element of a solid rocket was the grain. The grain is the solid fuel needed to power the missile. The first types used had gunpowder as the grain but the formula could be altered. If you ever saw a fireworks display, this is why the explosions have different colors. The additions of different metals and composites in the grain of the rockets creates this effect. The final components; the fuse. This was the ignition device used to start the combustion process of the rockets fuel. Later as rocketry was further researched a nozzle was added to the design to better direct exhaust and improve thrust.
The first rockets that were used in modern rocketry was invented by Dr. Robert Goddard. For this he is known as the Father of Modern Rocketry. He created the first successful liquid fuel rocket, adding the nozzle design that is so common today. The liquid fuel rocket ran on a slightly different design than its predecessor with the fuel being released from a pressure tank to a combustion chamber where it was mixed with air or another oxidizer to burn and create heated exhaust which was directed away to create thrust. This would be the design that would pave the way for modern aeronautics and eventually space exploration.
So as we see rockets have come a long way from their earliest day. Nevertheless, they are still playing an important role in the development of human technology. Making new advances possible every day with the missions and experiments they support.
If you enjoyed this article there are other related articles on the Universe Today website you might want to checkout. Here is an article that talks more about solid fuel rockets. If you want to learn more about modern rockets this article on new advances made on liquid fuel rockets.
There are other interesting articles you can find on the web. Time magazine has a great profile article on Robert Goddard. Another good resource is the NASA website which has a brief article on the history of rockets.
You might also enjoy listening to an episode of Astronomy Cast. Episode 100 Rockets is relevant to the stuff talked about in the article.
Even before man had managed to take to the skies on our planet, he had thought of spaceflight and soaring through the skies of the planets that he could see. As soon as the Montgolfier brothers had successfully launched their first hot air balloon a race began to see who could fly untethered, then into space. That race for spaceflight never let up. Yuri Gagarin and the Soviet space program arrived first, but the Americans were close behind and were committed to one-up-manship.
Tackling all of the spaceflight articles on the internet would take a dozen researchers a lifetime. Of course, you do not have that kind of time or patience, so we have assembled links to all of the articles that we have here on Universe Today related to the topic. We do not expect you to just dive in blind, so here are a few fun facts about spaceflight.
The average space suit costs a little over $12 million(U.S.). Not bad for an outfit that can protect you from a meteorite.
There are 13,000 detectable pieces of space junk…left over pieces and parts from space repairs, broken down satellites, etc. Where ever man goes, garbage seems to accumulate. Some of this junk managed to destroy at least one satellite.
We are on the cusp of full blown space tourism. The ultrarich have been buying trips on space shuttle missions for years, but there are at least two companies that have tested commercial spacecraft.
Many of today’s modern rockets are a variation of the German V2 rocket.
There are hundreds of interesting facts about spaceflight in the links below. Everything from space food to space tourism and the different mission launched by various space agencies. Hopefully, you will find everything that you need and, as always, enjoy your research.
In a controversial move likely to enflame tensions between Russia, Europe and the US, Poland has agreed (in principal) to host bases for the “Star Wars” US missile shield intended to protect against any future missile attack from rogue nations. Russia totally opposes plans, stating that a European missile system, so close to the Russian border, is akin to the Cuban missile crisis in the 1960s where the US and Soviet Union went to the brink of nuclear war…
Any space missile system intended to neutralize the threat of a nuclear attack from rogue states was bound to cause controversy and anger. As predicted, the future development of a European US missile shield has caused very loud opposition from Russian President Vladimir Putin, directly highlighting that such a move would cause another arms race and could create a nuclear standoff between Russia, US and Europe in between.
The Czech Republic is currently drawing up plans for involvement in the US project and now Poland, a country that directly borders Russia, has agreed to more discussions about installing ten interceptor missiles. The missile shield plans are in a direct response to the ongoing threat from “rogue states”, principally Iran and North Korea, from their nuclear arms development programs the US believes they are still pursuing, but understandably, Russia is suspicious that the US is attempting to gain strategic strength in Eastern Europe. Mr Putin has hinted strongly that although Russia is not planning to begin wholesale targeting of Europe, any “new targets” in the future would be connected to the “strategic nuclear potential of the United States… in Europe” (see BBC article “New era of discord for Russia and West” for full information on the new political unrest). Scary.
“We understand that there is a desire for defence modernisation in Poland and particularly for air defence modernisation in Poland. This is something that we support because it will make our ally, Poland, more capable,” – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, supporting the missile defence plan in Poland.
The US missile shield concept depends on European fast response missiles to be launched as soon as the threat of imminent attack is detected from aggressors in the Middle East and beyond. By detecting possible nuclear missiles clearing cloud cover and entering space, radar bases within the EU can track and then guide conventional missiles from the shield network to intercept. Tests of such a system have so far had a mix of success and failure, but with improvement of the “Star Wars” technology (a name first coined in 1983 after announcement by US President Ronald Reagan for the commencement of the “Strategic Defence Initiative”) and rocket engineering, rates of successful interception are bound to increase.