The World’s Top Rock­ets

YOU Gateway to Space - - Contents -

This is our se­lec­tion of the coolest car­rier rock­ets ever sent into space

ROCK­ETS are cur­rently the only way for all space­craft to go into space. A space­craft is ei­ther perched on top of the rocket, as in the case of the Soyuz or Apollo, or mounted on the side of the rocket, as in the case of the Space Shut­tle. It is some­times con­fus­ing when dis­cussing Soviet rock­ets and space­craft as they of­ten used the same name for both, for ex­am­ple the Voskhod and Soyuz are the names of both space­craft and rock­ets. Here we look at only the rock­ets.


To blast into space a rocket has to travel nearly 40 times faster than a Boe­ing 747 and needs to reach a speed of at least 7,9 kilo­me­tres per sec­ond – this cor­re­sponds to more than 20 times the speed of sound! If it goes any slower grav­ity will pull it back to Earth so the rock­ets need pow­er­ful en­gines. The en­gines burn fuel, turn­ing the fuel into hot gases. The gases are pushed out the back of the rocket, caus­ing the rocket to be pro­pelled up­wards (see how it works on page 18).


Not only space­craft are launched by rock­ets. Rock­ets also launch space sta­tions, space tele­scopes and satel­lites into space. And rock­ets are also not only used as launch ve­hi­cles. They can be dev­as­tat­ing weapons called mis­siles that can travel thou­sands of kilo­me­tres to strike cities and other tar­gets.

One such mis­sile was the V-2 rocket, de­signed by the Ger­man-born rocket sci­en­tist Wern­her von Braun, dur­ing World War 2. In 1944 the V-2 was the first ar­ti­fi­cial ob­ject ever to launch into space.

Although the V-2 has a ter­ri­ble his­tory (read more on page 4), it is in a strange way the fa­ther of mod­ern rock­ets and Von Braun went on to de­velop the Saturn V rocket for Amer­ica that sent the first hu­mans to the moon.

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