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THE HISTORY OF ROCKETRY. I. What were the first rockets used for?. Gunpowder was invented in the ninth century by the Chinese . a. In the thirteenth century China , hand held rockets “arrows of flying fire” were set off during religious celebrations. b. These devices

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I. What were the first rockets used for?

  • Gunpowder was invented in the ninth century by the Chinese.

    a. In the thirteenth century China, hand held rockets “arrows of flying fire” were set off during religious celebrations.

    b. These devices

    were used as

    weapons during

    the Middle Ages

c. The first true use of rockets is reported in 1232

1) During the battle of Kai-Keng, the Chinese repelled the Mongol invaders by a barrage of “arrows of flying fire.”

2) These fire-arrows were a simple form of a solid-propellant rocket.

3) A tube, capped at one end, contained gunpowder. The other end was left open and the tube was attached to a long stick.

4) When the powder ignited, the rapid burning of the powder produced fire, smoke, and gas that escaped out the open end and produced a thrust.

5) The stick acted like a simple guidance system.

2. Modern Day

a. In the eighteen century, Indian forces used rockets to defeat the British in battles

b. A single rocket could usually not hit its target, but rockets in large numbers would cause extensive damage

c. Colonel William Congreve designed rockets for use by

the British military.

d. The Congreve rockets were used by British ships to pound Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. This inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The rockets’ red glare,” in “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

e. During the end of the 18th century, rockets experienced a revival as weapons of war.

II. When did rockets become thought of as less of a weapon and more as means of space travel?

1. In 1898, a Russian physicst, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, proposed the idea of space exploration by rocket.

a. Tsiolkovsky published ideas about rocket travel using multistage rockets

b. He suggested that rockets could travel outside the Earth’s atmosphere because their self contained propulsion system would not rely on oxygen.

c. Tsiolkovsky suggested the use of liquid propellants for rocket.

III. Who are founders of human space flight

1. Russian engineer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935)

2. American physicist Robert Goddard (1882-1945)

3. German physicist Hermann Oberth (1894-1989)

4. Engineer Wernher Von Braun (1912-1977)- Modern Era

IV. Tsiolkovsky Contributions

1. Built Russia’s first wind tunnel in 1897

2. First to say that in order for humans to survive in space, they would need oxygen supplied to them inside a sealed cabin.

3. Credited with calculating the speed and amount of fuel a rocket would need to break free from Earth’s gravitational field.

4. The Earth is the cradle of the mind, but we cannot live forever in a cradle". - (Konstantin Tsiolkovsky-Kaluga,1911. From a letter.)


"Star Trek, The Next Generation"

5. Sputnik, the first artificial Earth satellite, was launched on October 4, 1957, just after the 100th anniversary of his birthday, in honor of Tsiolkovsky.

6. The largest crater on the far side of the Moon is named after Tsiolkovsky

The Oberth Class Scientific Vessel Tsiolkovsky (NCC 53911) in the background

V. Robert H. Goddard’s Contributions

1. Known as the father of American Rocketry.

2. In his 1919 pamphlet, Goddard stated that a rocket operates with greater efficiency in the vacuumof space than in air

3. Worked on building different rocket stages, ignition and fuel systems, guidance control and parachute recovery.

This is the frame from which it was fired on March 16, 1926


4. Launched first liquid propelled rocket (liquid oxygen and gasoline) in 1926.

a. Rocket was 10 pounds and was launched from a cabbage patch in Auburn, Massachusetts.

b. It flew for only 2.5 seconds, climbed 41 feet, and landed 184 feet away.

c. This was the spark of the Saturn V rocket which would take humans to the moon.


5. Was first to propose taking a rocket to the moon in his book “Method of Reaching Extreme altitudes”

6. Came up with concept of liquid propelled rockets.

a. Liquid fuel and a liquid oxidizer- The liquid oxidizer replaces gaseous oxygen and allows the fuel to burn.

b. Types of liquid fuel are:

1) Alcohol

2) Kerosene

3) Liquid Hydrogen

4) Hydrazine

c. Liquid oxidizers are:

1) Nitrogen tetroxide

2) Liquid oxygen

Roswell, New Mexico

7. In 1930, Robert Goddard set up the first professional rocket test site in Roswell, New Mexico.

8. Worked for US Navy from 1942 until his death in 1945. He created boosters to help launch planes from ship decks.

VI. Hermann Oberth’s contributions

1. Hands on builder and launcher of rockets like Goddard

2. Developed mathematical theories of rocket flight and theorized about effects of spaceflight on humans.

3. Popularized the concept of spaceflight through books.

4. First introduced idea of an

electric “Moon Car”.

5. Introduce concept of Space

Station where rockets

could be refueled.

Hermann Oberth

Hermann Oberth and Fritz von Hoppel, where hired to authenticate this script

6. Oberth’s interest in rocketry was sparked at the age of 11 when his mother gave him a copy of Jules Verne's From The Earth To The Moon.

7. In 1929,, he lost the sight in his left eye during an experiment while working as a technical advisor to German director Fritz Lang on his film, “Girl in the Moon

Hermann Oberth

8. Oberth's vision inspired young German rocketeers to establish the Society for Spaceship Travel (German acronym "VfR") in 1927.

9. By invitation of Wernher von Braun, Oberth moved to Huntsville, Alabama in 1955 and became a participant in the early rocket tests. He lived here until his retirement in 1958.

10. He traveled from Germany again in 1969 to watch the launch of Apollo 11.

Oberth's book The Moon Car saw print in 1959

VII. Wernher von Braun’s Contributions

1. When he was 19, von Braun joined the VfR. At the age of 22, he received his doctorate in physics at the University of Berlin.

2.Went to work for the German Ordinance Department at Kummersdorf developing liquid fuel rockets.

3. Became head of the German Rocket Development Center inPeenemunde with A-3, A-4, A-5 rockets which were forerunners to all later rockets and ballistic missiles.

Von Braun

a. The A-4 was developed into the V-2 (vengeance Weapon 2).

b. It carried 2000 lbs. of explosives, traveled 3,000 MPH, and could reach heights of up to 50 miles.

c. First launched successfully in October of 1942, the V-2 was a terrifying weapon.

d. In April of 1945 as WWII was being lost by the Germans, von Braun and 126 of his associates surrendered to the Allies , and came to work for the US government under Project Paperclip

V2 rocket captured by the Americans

Von Braun

Redstone rocket

4. Became director of Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and constructed a new long rang ballistic missile called the Redstone.

a. The Redstone was 70 feet tall, twice the size of the V-2

b. The Redstone was the rocket for the suborbital Mercury


c. Also developed the Juno-1 which launched Explorer I- America’s answer to Sputnik.

EXPLORER I On a Juno-1

5. Developed the Jupiter-C rocket which could launch a satellite into orbit. It could travel a height of 680 miles, and cover a distance of 3,300 miles

Von Braun

Von Braun

6. Biggest accomplishment was the Saturn V which would be used to launch manned spaceflights to the moon, it was 363 feet tall and weighed 3,000 tons.

7. Before his death, he also worked on the Space Shuttle Program.

8. In 1977, he was awarded the National Medial of Science.

Saturn V Rocket







What about rockets developed after WWII by the soviet Union?

1. Sergei Korolev designed and built the first Soviet liquid-propellant rockets and winged engines, and eventually the first Soviet ICBM.

2. On October 4, 1957, a rocket based on the design of the ICBM was used to launch Sputnik I, the first man-made satellite into space.

  • Rockets have launched many people and machines into space.

  • Astronauts have orbited the Earth and landed on the Moon.

  • Space is open to exploration and commercial exploitation.

  • Thanks to NASA for the information included in this presentation.

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