Basics of Rocket Science

 

Rockets are one of the most fascinating machines to have ever been created. The thought of blasting off into space inside a large capsule has always captivated everyone’s imagination. The commercial success of SpaceX this year in carrying two astronauts to the ISS has reignited interest in space exploration. I mean, who wouldn’t wanna sit inside a tall, towering vehicle that promises to take you to places you’ve never seen before?

Are you one of those people that would?

In that case…

Fasten your seatbelt and sit tight!

3…2…1…Lift off!

Quick jumps :

Forces on a Rocket 1

Other forces on a rocket in motion : 2

Rocket Systems 3

Propulsion System – How do rockets move forward? 4

Payload System – What’s carried up? 6

Guidance Systems 7

Future of Rocket Science 9

 

Forces on a Rocket

Rockets work fundamentally on Newton’s third law, which states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Here, ‘action’ and ‘reaction’ both mean forces. In order for a rocket to launch from the ground, the rocket expels gases , and the gases in turn provide an equal thrust opposite in direction.

Other forces on a rocket in motion :

  1. Drag : The opposing force on the rocket’s motion by air is known as drag (cause it seems to “drag” the rocket down). It is the component of force that is parallel to the direction of airflow.
  2. Weight : The force exerted on a rocket due to gravity is called weight. In magnitude, the weight of a rocket :

Quite simply, the more the mass, the more the weight

  1. Lift : The component of force that is perpendicular to the oncoming direction of air flow is known as lift. Think of a paper aeroplane gaining an upward lift as you fling it across a room. The molecules of air in contact with a rocket exert a sideward force in the same way.

(A paper airplane is actually a great way to study the forces on a rocket)

Beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and gravitational field, however, the drag, weight and lift forces stop acting on a rocket. The drag and lift forces act on a rocket because of air, and the absence of a medium in space results in the absence of those forces. The rocket is then controlled primarily by the propulsion system.

Rocket Systems

A rocket primarily consists of 4 systems in place :

  1. Structural System : This consists of the design of the rocket and all of the structural components that make it up. You can say that it’s the skeleton or the frame of a rocket.
  2. Propulsion System : This system houses all of the parts that are required to propel a rocket.
  3. Payload System : The system that houses the required cargo that needs to be transported to space.
  4. Guidance System : The system involved in controlling the movement of a rocket.

(Image Credit : NASA)

Payload System – What’s carried up?

A rocket needs a source of energy in order to take off from the ground or to keep it going during its flight. This source of energy is the propellant, which gives the rocket its thrust. The action of giving thrust to the rocket is known as propulsion.

Rockets can be propelled by Thermal Nuclear Propulsion (using heat generated from a nuclear fission reactor to provide thrust), by cold gas thrusters (expansion of pressurised gases providing thrust), or, most commonly, by a combustion engine.

Cold gas thrusters are the cheapest, since all it takes is ejection of the pressurised gas through a nozzle (outlet).

(Cold gas thrusters : Advisable not to touch them)

A combustion engine consists of two propellants : the fuel of the rocket, and a source of oxygen known as the oxidiser. The combustion (burning) of the fuel occurs with oxygen inside the combustion chamber, and a mixture of heat and hot gases as products of the reaction is released through the nozzle, which propels the rocket forward.

You can see the thrust produced in real time by SpaceX’s Merlin engines :

 

Rockets are one of the most fascinating machines to have ever been created. The thought of blasting off into space inside a large capsule has always captivated everyone’s imagination. The commercial success of SpaceX this year in carrying two astronauts to the ISS has reignited interest in space exploration. I mean, who wouldn’t wanna sit inside a tall, towering vehicle that promises to take you to places you’ve never seen before?

Are you one of those people that would?

In that case…

Fasten your seatbelt and sit tight!

3…2…1…Lift off!

Quick jumps :

Forces on a Rocket 1

Other forces on a rocket in motion : 2

Rocket Systems 3

Propulsion System – How do rockets move forward? 4

Payload System – What’s carried up? 6

Guidance Systems 7

Future of Rocket Science 9

 

Forces on a Rocket

Rockets work fundamentally on Newton’s third law, which states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Here, ‘action’ and ‘reaction’ both mean forces. In order for a rocket to launch from the ground, the rocket expels gases , and the gases in turn provide an equal thrust opposite in direction.

Other forces on a rocket in motion :

  1. Drag : The opposing force on the rocket’s motion by air is known as drag (cause it seems to “drag” the rocket down). It is the component of force that is parallel to the direction of airflow.
  2. Weight : The force exerted on a rocket due to gravity is called weight. In magnitude, the weight of a rocket :

Quite simply, the more the mass, the more the weight

  1. Lift : The component of force that is perpendicular to the oncoming direction of air flow is known as lift. Think of a paper aeroplane gaining an upward lift as you fling it across a room. The molecules of air in contact with a rocket exert a sideward force in the same way.

(A paper airplane is actually a great way to study the forces on a rocket)

Beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and gravitational field, however, the drag, weight and lift forces stop acting on a rocket. The drag and lift forces act on a rocket because of air, and the absence of a medium in space results in the absence of those forces. The rocket is then controlled primarily by the propulsion system.

Rocket Systems

A rocket primarily consists of 4 systems in place :

  1. Structural System : This consists of the design of the rocket and all of the structural components that make it up. You can say that it’s the skeleton or the frame of a rocket.
  2. Propulsion System : This system houses all of the parts that are required to propel a rocket.
  3. Payload System : The system that houses the required cargo that needs to be transported to space.
  4. Guidance System : The system involved in controlling the movement of a rocket.

(Image Credit : NASA)

Payload System – What’s carried up?

A rocket needs a source of energy in order to take off from the ground or to keep it going during its flight. This source of energy is the propellant, which gives the rocket its thrust. The action of giving thrust to the rocket is known as propulsion.

Rockets can be propelled by Thermal Nuclear Propulsion (using heat generated from a nuclear fission reactor to provide thrust), by cold gas thrusters (expansion of pressurised gases providing thrust), or, most commonly, by a combustion engine.

Cold gas thrusters are the cheapest, since all it takes is ejection of the pressurised gas through a nozzle (outlet).

(Cold gas thrusters : Advisable not to touch them)

A combustion engine consists of two propellants : the fuel of the rocket, and a source of oxygen known as the oxidiser. The combustion (burning) of the fuel occurs with oxygen inside the combustion chamber, and a mixture of heat and hot gases as products of the reaction is released through the nozzle, which propels the rocket forward.

You can see the thrust produced in real time by SpaceX’s Merlin engines :

  • Solid propellants consist of both fuel and an oxidiser that are pre-mixed in the solid form. The oxidizer is usually ammonium nitrate, potassium chlorate, or ammonium chlorate. The fuels used are hydrocarbons, such as asphaltic-type compounds, or plastics.They’re cheap and easily available. Downside includes not being able to control the resultant thrust.
  • Liquid propellants consist of both a fuel and an oxidiser in the liquid state. Fuels like alcohol, kerosene, hydrazine and liquid hydrogen are most commonly used as liquid propellants. Liquid propellants have a visible advantage over solid propellants as the amount of thrust given can be controlled by supplying more liquid fuel to the liquid oxidiser and burning it.

 

Rockets are one of the most fascinating machines to have ever been created. The thought of blasting off into space inside a large capsule has always captivated everyone’s imagination. The commercial success of SpaceX this year in carrying two astronauts to the ISS has reignited interest in space exploration. I mean, who wouldn’t wanna sit inside a tall, towering vehicle that promises to take you to places you’ve never seen before?

Are you one of those people that would?

In that case…

Fasten your seatbelt and sit tight!

3…2…1…Lift off!

Quick jumps :

Forces on a Rocket 1

Other forces on a rocket in motion : 2

Rocket Systems 3

Propulsion System – How do rockets move forward? 4

Payload System – What’s carried up? 6

Guidance Systems 7

Future of Rocket Science 9

 

Forces on a Rocket

Rockets work fundamentally on Newton’s third law, which states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Here, ‘action’ and ‘reaction’ both mean forces. In order for a rocket to launch from the ground, the rocket expels gases , and the gases in turn provide an equal thrust opposite in direction.

Other forces on a rocket in motion :

  1. Drag : The opposing force on the rocket’s motion by air is known as drag (cause it seems to “drag” the rocket down). It is the component of force that is parallel to the direction of airflow.
  2. Weight : The force exerted on a rocket due to gravity is called weight. In magnitude, the weight of a rocket :

Quite simply, the more the mass, the more the weight

  1. Lift : The component of force that is perpendicular to the oncoming direction of air flow is known as lift. Think of a paper aeroplane gaining an upward lift as you fling it across a room. The molecules of air in contact with a rocket exert a sideward force in the same way.

(A paper airplane is actually a great way to study the forces on a rocket)

Beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and gravitational field, however, the drag, weight and lift forces stop acting on a rocket. The drag and lift forces act on a rocket because of air, and the absence of a medium in space results in the absence of those forces. The rocket is then controlled primarily by the propulsion system.

Rocket Systems

A rocket primarily consists of 4 systems in place :

  1. Structural System : This consists of the design of the rocket and all of the structural components that make it up. You can say that it’s the skeleton or the frame of a rocket.
  2. Propulsion System : This system houses all of the parts that are required to propel a rocket.
  3. Payload System : The system that houses the required cargo that needs to be transported to space.
  4. Guidance System : The system involved in controlling the movement of a rocket.

(Image Credit : NASA)

Payload System – What’s carried up?

A rocket needs a source of energy in order to take off from the ground or to keep it going during its flight. This source of energy is the propellant, which gives the rocket its thrust. The action of giving thrust to the rocket is known as propulsion.

Rockets can be propelled by Thermal Nuclear Propulsion (using heat generated from a nuclear fission reactor to provide thrust), by cold gas thrusters (expansion of pressurised gases providing thrust), or, most commonly, by a combustion engine.

Cold gas thrusters are the cheapest, since all it takes is ejection of the pressurised gas through a nozzle (outlet).

(Cold gas thrusters : Advisable not to touch them)

A combustion engine consists of two propellants : the fuel of the rocket, and a source of oxygen known as the oxidiser. The combustion (burning) of the fuel occurs with oxygen inside the combustion chamber, and a mixture of heat and hot gases as products of the reaction is released through the nozzle, which propels the rocket forward.

You can see the thrust produced in real time by SpaceX’s Merlin engines :

 

Rockets are one of the most fascinating machines to have ever been created. The thought of blasting off into space inside a large capsule has always captivated everyone’s imagination. The commercial success of SpaceX this year in carrying two astronauts to the ISS has reignited interest in space exploration. I mean, who wouldn’t wanna sit inside a tall, towering vehicle that promises to take you to places you’ve never seen before?

Are you one of those people that would?

In that case…

Fasten your seatbelt and sit tight!

3…2…1…Lift off!

Quick jumps :

Forces on a Rocket 1

Other forces on a rocket in motion : 2

Rocket Systems 3

Propulsion System – How do rockets move forward? 4

Payload System – What’s carried up? 6

Guidance Systems 7

Future of Rocket Science 9

 

Forces on a Rocket

Rockets work fundamentally on Newton’s third law, which states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Here, ‘action’ and ‘reaction’ both mean forces. In order for a rocket to launch from the ground, the rocket expels gases , and the gases in turn provide an equal thrust opposite in direction.

Other forces on a rocket in motion :

  1. Drag : The opposing force on the rocket’s motion by air is known as drag (cause it seems to “drag” the rocket down). It is the component of force that is parallel to the direction of airflow.
  2. Weight : The force exerted on a rocket due to gravity is called weight. In magnitude, the weight of a rocket :

Quite simply, the more the mass, the more the weight

  1. Lift : The component of force that is perpendicular to the oncoming direction of air flow is known as lift. Think of a paper aeroplane gaining an upward lift as you fling it across a room. The molecules of air in contact with a rocket exert a sideward force in the same way.

(A paper airplane is actually a great way to study the forces on a rocket)

Beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and gravitational field, however, the drag, weight and lift forces stop acting on a rocket. The drag and lift forces act on a rocket because of air, and the absence of a medium in space results in the absence of those forces. The rocket is then controlled primarily by the propulsion system.

Rocket Systems

A rocket primarily consists of 4 systems in place :

  1. Structural System : This consists of the design of the rocket and all of the structural components that make it up. You can say that it’s the skeleton or the frame of a rocket.
  2. Propulsion System : This system houses all of the parts that are required to propel a rocket.
  3. Payload System : The system that houses the required cargo that needs to be transported to space.
  4. Guidance System : The system involved in controlling the movement of a rocket.

(Image Credit : NASA)

Payload System – What’s carried up?

A rocket needs a source of energy in order to take off from the ground or to keep it going during its flight. This source of energy is the propellant, which gives the rocket its thrust. The action of giving thrust to the rocket is known as propulsion.

Rockets can be propelled by Thermal Nuclear Propulsion (using heat generated from a nuclear fission reactor to provide thrust), by cold gas thrusters (expansion of pressurised gases providing thrust), or, most commonly, by a combustion engine.

Cold gas thrusters are the cheapest, since all it takes is ejection of the pressurised gas through a nozzle (outlet).

(Cold gas thrusters : Advisable not to touch them)

A combustion engine consists of two propellants : the fuel of the rocket, and a source of oxygen known as the oxidiser. The combustion (burning) of the fuel occurs with oxygen inside the combustion chamber, and a mixture of heat and hot gases as products of the reaction is released through the nozzle, which propels the rocket forward.

You can see the thrust produced in real time by SpaceX’s Merlin engines :

The payload is the carrying capacity of the rocket. For a rocket, the payload can consist of deep-space probes, satellites or crewed/uncrewed spacecraft, scientific instruments, and other resources like food for humans in the ISS. Carrying the payload up to low earth orbit is one of the main priorities for

(SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Spacecraft that carried two astronauts to the ISS in 2020)

The mission of a rocket can vary from carrying a crewed spacecraft intended to transport a person to the International Space Station (ISS), to carrying a satellite intended to facilitate telecommunications, and hopefully in the future (as SpaceX seems to have promised), to carry humans from one space port of the Earth to another. Looks fantastic, right?

Guidance Systems

The guidance system consists of a group of devices communicating with each other in order to :

  1. Control the movement of the rocket during maneuvers
  2. Provide stability to the rocket.

It includes on-board computers, sophisticated sensors, communication systems, accelerometers etc. that guide the rocket towards its destination.

The rocket can be programmed to self-correct its direction (turn itself back) once it’s tilted by a small angle due to dust or air, using data input from the attached sensors. There are a lot of ways to provide the torque necessary in order to keep it stable; modern rockets use Gimbaled Thrust to provide the necessary torque.

In the Gimbaled thrust, the nozzle of the rocket can be swiveled from side to side in order to change the line of application of thrust, and to give the rocket torque about its centre of gravity. Just imagine a bird changing its direction of flight using its tail. Same principle.

Some rockets have boosters or fins (like those of a shark) to perform the same function.

(Torque can also be provided by H U G E boosters)

Future of Rocket Science

Rockets are one of the best ways of carrying stuff from low to high earth orbit. Without a rocket carrying a satellite that makes internet connection possible, you probably wouldn’t have been seeing this article over the internet. Worst case scenario, you wouldn’t be able to call your friends. Communication would suffer high losses.

The future of rockets is a vital component to space exploration, and with increase in the number of engineers and scientists testing out rocket systems, and the Automation Revolution, the road to us getting to Mars isn’t exactly that far. Commercial spaceflight tourism has already begun, with the sheer increase in the amount of people booking their tickets to outer space and the moon.

NASA’s Artemis mission promises to get the first woman and the next man to the moon by 2024, SpaceX has the grand goal of establishing a human base on Mars. China, Russia, USA and India are currently the leading catalysts in space exploration.

Advancement in rocket technology is happening really fast (and I mean really). SpaceX has literally landed a rocket back on earth. This revolutionary achievement has massively cut down rocket costs. Just imagine the number of rockets needed for carrying like 20 satellites. Now all of it can easily be done by a single rocket carrying payload back and forth. Damn, don’t tell me that isn’t awesome.

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