What is a rocket? Why do spacecrafts need rockets?« Back to Questions List


A rocket is a cylindrical projectile that can be propelled to a great height or distance by the combustion of its contents. A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle that obtains thrust from a rocket engine. Rocket engine exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction. Rocket engines push rockets forward simply by throwing their exhaust backwards extremely fast.


Small firework –like rockets were invented in China about 1,000 years ago. Rocket technology was first known to Europeans following its use by the Mongols Genghis Khan and Ögedei Khan when they conquered parts of Russia, Eastern, and Central Europe. The Mongolians had acquired the Chinese technology. In 1792, the first iron-cased rockets were successfully developed and used by Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan, rulers of the Kingdom of Mysore in India against the larger British East India Company forces during the Anglo-Mysore Wars. The British then took an active interest in the technology and developed it further during the 19th century. William Congreve, son of the Comptroller of the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, London, became a major figure in the field. From 1801, Congreve researched on the original design of Mysore rockets and set on a vigorous development program at the Arsenal's laboratory. In 1912 Robert Goddard, inspired from an early age by H.G.Wells, began a serious analysis of rockets, concluding that conventional solid-fuel rockets needed to be improved in three ways. First, fuel should be burned in a small combustion chamber, instead of building the entire propellant container to withstand the high pressures. Second, rockets could be arranged in stages. Finally, the exhaust speed (and thus the efficiency) could be greatly increased to beyond the speed of sound by using a De Laval nozzle. He patented these concepts in 1914. He also independently developed the mathematics of rocket flight. Rockets remain a popular military weapon. Scientifically, rocketry has opened a window on the universe, allowing the launch of space probes to explore the solar system and space-based telescopes to obtain a clearer view of the rest of the universe.



Robert Goddard and the first liquid-fueled rocket.


Jet engines and petrol engines need air to work. These engines will not function inspace as there is no air. Rocket engines do not require air  and so they can work in space as they do on earth. 



Saturn V is the biggest rocket to have successfully flown.