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Early Rocketry

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Chuck Layne

on 29 December 2015

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Transcript of Early Rocketry

Unit 3 - Early Rocketry
Scientists, engineers and governments
influential in the development of rockets

The only British unit at the "Battle of the Nations" was a detachment of the Royal Horse Artillery armed with Congreve rockets. Captain Alexander Mercer described the use of Congreve rockets on June 17 1815 during the retreat from Quatre Bras as follows:

"The rocketeers had placed a little iron triangle in the road with a rocket lying on it. The order to fire is given - port-fire applied - the fidgety missile begins to sputter out sparks and wriggle its tail for a second or so, and then darts forth straight up the chaussée. A gun stands right in its way, between the wheels of which the shell in the head of the rocket bursts, the gunners fall right and left… our rocketeers kept shooting off rockets, none of which ever followed the course of the first; most of them, on arriving about the middle of the ascent, took a vertical direction, whilst some actually turned back upon ourselves - and one of these, following me like a squib until its shell exploded, actually put me in more danger than all the fire of the enemy throughout the day."
Required Reading
Indian Mysore rockets being used against the British in the 1790's
Required Reading
Sir William Congreve (1772 – 1828 and his Congreve Rockets
At other times the Congreve rockets were more successful. Used by British ships to pound Fort McHenry in the War of 1812, they inspired Francis Scott Key to write "the rockets' red glare," words in his poem that later became The Star- Spangled Banner.
The British firing Congreve rockets at Fort McHenry - September 13, 1814
Supplemental Reading
Nikoli Kibalchich - Engineer, Revolutionary, Assassin and Rocket Man
Required Reading
Required Reading
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky - Russian scientist, philosopher and science writer.
Tsiolkovsky seated on right
Kibalchich's execution following his role in the 1881 assassination of Russian Emperor Alexander II
The assassination of Czar Alexander II - 1881
Required Reading
Robert Goddard - Father of American Rocketry
A video clip containing images of Tsiolkovsky
Required Viewing
The German V1 rocket - The Buzz Bomb
Early German Rocketeer - Hermann Oberth
Required Reading
1961 - Oberth is in glasses
Archival footage of Goddard's early rockets
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The German V2 rocket
I find it incredible how little was required at the launch site to get these relatively sophisticated rockets into the air.
Required Reading
Sergei Korolev - Soviet engineer and program manager
Korolev is seated
Korolev's 1938 mug shot
Supplemental Reading
Kibalchich's description of a solid fuel rocket
Supplemental Reading
The V-1 flying bomb
Required Reading
Supplemental Reading
V-2 Rockets
Required Reading
Werner von Braun - From weapons of mass destruction to the Moon
The V-2 Rocket
von Braun after his capture by the
Allies in Germany
Supplemental Reading
von Braun with President John Kennedy
This site has a collection of fascinating information about von Braun including a series of his weekly notes written by him during his time as director of the Marshal Space Flight center in Huntsville, Alabama, USA, in the 1960s and early 1970's
Required Viewing
A brief clip of von Braun (in civilian clothes) inspecting damage from a failed V-2 test launch
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Archival footage of early rocket launches at the German Peenemunde test site
Full video of Disney's Man in Space
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This 1955 video narrated in parts by von Braun increased America's fascination with human space flight
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A 5 minute clip of von Braun explaining his vision for a multiple stage rocket to take humans into space
Stop Reading
Please proceed to take Unit 3 - Quiz 1
Stop Reading
Please proceed to take Unit 3 - Quiz 2
Please proceed to take Unit 3 - Quiz 2
Humans have long been fascinated with the power of the rocket. Early in their history, rockets were used as weapons of war, from the Chinese fire-arrows, to the Indian Mysore rockets to their successor, the British Congreve rockets. Later, Russian, German and American scientists and engineers, with the support of their governments, began developing modern rockets, at first as weapons and later for peaceful missions such as satellite launches, trips to the Moon, and sending humans to space stations. The science of rocketry will continue to expand with additional nations developing their own space programs and private industry fueling innovative approaches to rocketry.
The development of modern rocketry was the work of scientists in the late 19th and early 20th century who refused to let the bounds of Earth keep them from pursuing their dreams of rocket flight. They were often ridiculed for their revolutionary ideas that humans could build a rocket that could carry people to the Moon. American inventor, Robert Goddard was ridiculed by the New York Times for his suggestion in a 1920 Smithsonian article that rockets could be used to send payloads to the Moon. The day after Apollo 11 began its historic journey to the moon in 1969, the New York Times issued a retraction to their 1920 editorial that criticized Goddard’s suggestions, ending the piece by stating they regretted with earlier error. The pioneering work of the individuals we will learn about next was instrumental in the development of today’s rockets.
While there are many scientists and engineers who played significant roles in the development of modern rocketry, we will focus on a few prominent names.
The first person to receive credit for proposing a solid fuel rocket was Nikolai Kibalchich who sketched his design for a manned rocket while in prison within days of being executed for his role in the assassination of Emperor Alexander II of Russia. His proposal was buried in the archives until August 1917 when revolution ended the rule of the Romanov dynasty.
Another Russian scientist, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, wrote extensively about the concept of jet propulsion. In 1903 he published a manuscript titled "Exploration of the World Space with Reaction Machines". The Tsiolkovsky formula describes the mathematical relation between the changing mass of a rocket as it burns fuel, the velocity of exhaust gases, and the rocket’s final speed. It is is considered one of the foundations of the science of astronautics.
Robert Goddard was an American scientist and inventor who launched history’s first liquid-fueled rocket in 1926. Primarily working independent of government support, Goddard built a series of rockets over the next 20 years, progressively developing more sophisticated devices. He is credited with theorizing that rockets could function in the vacuum of space thereby conceptually opening the way for travel to distant objects in the solar system.
As a young man, Hermann Obreth read Jules Verne's "From the Earth to the Moon’ and became fascinated with the idea of space travel. This German scientist, is best known for his 1923 publication The Rocket into Planetary Space which was based upon his dissertation work but was roundly rejected by his academic committee. Obreth persisted, and eventually launched his first rocket in 1931.

He is credited with recognizing that multi-stage rockets could increase the speed of the last stage of the rocket. He posed: ‘if there is a small rocket on top of a big one, and if the big one is jettisoned and the small one is ignited, then their speeds are added.’, This idea has been a corner stone of rocketry ever since. One of his young assistants was Wernher von Braun with whom he developed a lifelong relationship.

Tsiolkovsky, Goddard and Obreth all developed and explored their ideas of rocketry during approximately the same period and reached similar conclusions. However, there is no evidence that any of the three was aware of the work of the others. For this reason all three share the title of ‘Father of Rocketry’.
Although developed for the purpose of bombing cities, the German V-1 and V-2 rockets represent significant technological advances in rocketry. Although the V-1 never left the atmosphere and so not technically considered a rocket, it could fly relatively long distances at an average altitude of 3,500 feet and an average speed of 350 miles per hour. The V-1’s used a pulse engine, powered by 150 gallons of gasoline, that made a characteristic sound that led to them being referred to as buzz bombs or doodlebugs by Londoners for whom the V-1’s were primarily targeted. Later versions had radio transmitters which provided some information about the landing sites of the bombs.
The V-2 was the first true rocket in that it left the atmosphere, traveled to altitudes up to 60 miles and hit city-sized targets 190 miles away from the launch site. It took only 30 seconds for the V-2s to go from launch to the speed of sound and flew at 5 times the speed of sound. Its engine was 17 times more powerful than any engine developed up to that time. The V-2 represented four major technological advances that were to be important to the development of the rockets used to launch humans into space. These advances were: a powerful engine, an aerodynamic shape, a relatively functional guidance system, and a radio transmission system. Wernher von Braun was instrumental in the development of the V-2 rocket.

Although ultimately having no impact on the final result of World War 2, these weapons were responsible for thousands of deaths in and around London and the port cities of Western Europe after D-Day.
Sergei Korolev is widely regarded as the founder of the Soviet space program. After receiving a technical and engineering education, Korolev worked at the Jet Propulsion Research Institute in Moscow developing liquid-fuel rockets. In 1938, Korolev as imprisoned as part of Stalin’s purges and remained a prisoner until 1944. After World War 2, he led the development of the world’s first ballistic missile which in various forms has served as the Russian human launch vehicle ever since. Korolev died in 1966 at the age of 59 having led the development of the Russian space program, including the launch of the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin.
Wernher von Braun is considered a giant in the world of human space flight. Von Braun worked for the Germans on the development of the V-2 rocket bomb and was captured by the Americans in May of 1945. His value to the Americans was quickly realized and he was sent to America to work on ballistic missiles. After the launch of the Russian Sputnik satellite, von Braun had the opportunity to return to his first love; that of trying to launch humans into space. In 1960 von Braun became the first director of the Marshal Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and developed the legendary Saturn rockets that launched humans to the moon. He quit NASA in 1972 in protest of President Richard Nixon’s decision to cancel the Apollo program thereby discontinuing flights to the moon.
The development of the modern rocket was rapid in in historical terms. From Goddard's and Oberth's primitive launches in the late 1920s and early 1930s it took just 40 years until the massive Saturn 5 rocket propelled astronauts to the moon. The pioneers of the early and mid-20th century were titans of science and engineering.
Unit is complete
Required Viewing
The first person to receive credit for proposing a solid fuel rocket was Nikolai Kibalchich who sketched his design for a manned rocket while in prison within days of being executed for his role in the assassination of Emperor Alexander II of Russia. His proposal was buried in the archives until August 1917 when revolution ended the rule of the Romanov dynasty.

Nikolai Kibalchich
We will now examine some of the prominent scientist and engineers who played significant roles in the development of modern rocketry.

Early Russian space flight successes
Full transcript