The World’s Top Rockets
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.
HOW DO ROCKETS WORK?
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).
WHAT ELSE ARE ROCKETS USED FOR?
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.