Wednesday, March 18, 2020



The first rockets were used as propulsion systems for arrows, and may have appeared as early as the 10th century in . However more solid documentary evidence does not appear until the 13th century. The technology probably spread across Eurasia in the wake of the Mongol invasions. Usage of rockets as weapons before modern rocketry is attested in China, Korea, Indian subcontinent, and Europe. One of the first recorded rocket launchers is the "wasp nest" fire arrow launcher produced by the in 1380. In Europe rockets were also used in the same year at the Battle of Chioggia. The Joseon kingdom of Korea used a type of mobile multiple rocket launcher known as the "Munjong . Iron-cased rockets, known as Mysorean rockets, were developed in Kingdom of Mysore by the mid 18th century in India,[1] and were later copied by the British. The later models and improvements were known as the Congreve rocket and used in the Napoleonic Wars.


The dating of the invention of the first rocket, otherwise known as the gunpowder propelled fire arrow, is disputed. The History of Song attributes the invention to two different people at different times, Feng Zhisheng in 969 and Tang Fu in 1000. However Joseph Needham argues that rockets could not have existed before the 12th century, since the gunpowder formulas listed in the Wujing Zongyao are not suitable as rocket propellant.

Rockets may have been used as early as 1232, when reports appeared describing fire arrows and 'iron pots' that could be heard for 5 leagues (25 km, or 15 miles) when they exploded upon impact, causing devastation for a radius of 600 meters (2,000 feet), apparently due to .Rockets are recorded to have been used by the Song navy in a military exercise dated to 1245. Internal-combustion rocket propulsion is mentioned in a reference to 1264, recording that the 'ground-rat,' a type of firework, had frightened the Empress-Mother Gongsheng at a feast held in her honor by her son the Emperor Lizong.

Subsequently, rockets are included in the military treatise Huolongjing, also known as the Fire Drake Manual, written by the Chinese artillery officer Jiao Yu in the mid-14th century. This text mentions the first known multistage rocket, the 'fire-dragon issuing from the water' (huo long chu shui).

Rocket launchers known as "wasp nests" were ordered by the Ming army in 1380.

The American historian Frank H. Winter proposed in The Proceedings of the Twentieth and Twenty-First History Symposia of the International Academy of Astronautics that southern China and the Laotian community rocket festivals might have been key in the subsequent spread of rocketry in the Orient.



The Chinese fire arrow was adopted by the Mongols in northern China, who employed Chinese rocketry experts as . Rockets are thought to have spread via the Mongol invasions to other areas of Eurasia in the mid 13th century.

Rocket-like weapons are reported to have been used at the Battle of Mohi in the year 1241.

Middle East

Between 1270 and 1280, Hasan al-Rammah wrote his al-furusiyyah wa al-manasib al-harbiyya( The Book of Military Horsemanship and Ingenious War Devices), which included 107 gunpowder recipes, 22 of which are for rockets.According to Ahmad Y Hassan, al-Rammah's recipes were more explosive than rockets used in China at the time.The terminology used by al-Rammah indicates a Chinese origin for the gunpowder weapons he wrote about, such as rockets and fire lances.Ibn al-Baitar, an Arab from Spain who had immigrated to Egypt, described saltpeter as "snow of China" (Arabic: ثلج الصين‎ thalj al-ṣīn). Al-Baytar died in 1248.The earlier Arab historians called saltpeter "Chinese snow" and " Chinese salt."The Arabs used the name "Chinese arrows" to refer to rockets.The Arabs called fireworks "Chinese flowers".While saltpeter was called "Chinese Snow" by Arabs, it was called "Chinese salt" (Persian: نمک چینی namak-i čīnī) by the Iranians,or "salt from the Chinese marshes" (namak shūra chīnī Persian: نمک شوره چيني).


In 1300 Mongol mercenaries in India are recorded to have used hand held rockets.By the mid-14th century Indians were also using rockets in warfare.


The Korean kingdom of Joseon started producing gunpowder in 1374 and was producing cannons and rockets by 1377.However the multiple rocket launching carts known as the "Munjong hwacha" did not appear until 1451.


In Europe, Roger Bacon mentions gunpowder in his Opus Majus.
However rockets do not feature in European warfare until the 1380 Battle of Chioggia.

Konrad Kyeser described rockets in his famous military treatise Bellifortis around 1405.

Jean Froissart had the idea of launching rockets through tubes, so that they could make more accurate flights. Froissart's idea is a forerunner of the modern bazooka.


William Congreve (1772-1828), son of the Comptroller of the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, London, became a major figure in the field. From 1801 Congreve researched the original design of Mysore rockets and started a vigorous development program at the Arsenal's laboratory. Congreve prepared a new propellant mixture, and developed a rocket motor with a strong iron tube with conical nose. This early Congreve rocket weighed about 32 pounds (14.5 kilograms). The Royal Arsenal's first demonstration of solid-fuel rockets took place in 1805. The rockets were effectively used during the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. Congreve published three books on rocketry.

Subsequently, the use of military rockets spread throughout the western world. At the Battle of Baltimore in 1814, the rockets fired on Fort McHenry by the rocket vessel HMS Erebus were the source of the rockets' red glare described by Francis Scott Key in ".Rockets were also used in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Early rockets were very inaccurate. Without the use of spinning or any controlling feedback-loop, they had a strong tendency to veer sharply away from their intended course. The early Mysorean rockets and their successor British Congreve rockets reduced veer somewhat by attaching a long stick to the end of a rocket (similar to modern bottle rockets) to make it harder for the rocket to change course. The largest of the Congreve rockets was the 32-pound (14.5 kg) Carcass, which had a 15-foot (4.6 m) stick. Originally, sticks were mounted on the side, but this was later changed to mounting them in the center of the rocket, reducing drag and enabling the rocket to be more accurately fired from a segment of pipe.

In 1815 Alexander Dmitrievich Zasyadko (1779-1837) began his work on developing military gunpowder-rockets. He constructed rocket-launching platforms (which allowed firing of rockets in salvos - 6 rockets at a time) and gun-laying devices. Zasyadko elaborated a tactic for military use of rocket weaponry. In 1820 Zasyadko was appointed head of the Petersburg Armory, Okhtensky Powder Factory, pyrotechnic laboratory and the first Highest Artillery School in . He organized rocket production in a special rocket workshop and formed the first rocket sub-unit in the Imperial Russian Army.

Artillery captain Józef Bem(1794-1850)Kingdom of Poland started experiments with what was then called in Polish raca kongrewska. These culminated in his 1819 report Notes sur les fusees incendiares (German edition: Erfahrungen über die Congrevischen Brand-Raketen bis zum Jahre 1819 in der Königlichen Polnischen Artillerie gesammelt, Weimar 1820). The research took place in the Warsaw Arsenal, where captain Józef Kosiński also developed multiple-rocket launchers adapted from . The 1st Rocketeer Corps formed in 1822; it first saw combat during the Polish–Russian War 1830–31.

Accuracy greatly improved in 1844 when William Hale modified the rocket design so that thrust was slightly vectored, causing the rocket to spin along its axis-of-travel like a bullet. The Hale rocket removed the need for a rocket stick, travelled further due to reduced air-resistance, and was far more accurate.

In 1865 the British Colonel Edward Mounier Boxer built an improved version of the Congreve rocket by placing two rockets in one tube, one behind the other.


At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a burst of scientific investigation into interplanetary travel, largely driven by the inspiration of fiction by writers such as Jules Verne and .Scientists seized on the rocket as a technology that was able to achieve this in real life, a possibility first recognized in 1861 by .

In 1903, high school mathematics teacher Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857–1935), inspired by Verne and Cosmism, published Исследование мировых пространств реактивными приборами (The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices), the first serious scientific work on space travel. The Tsiolkovsky rocket equation—the principle that governs rocket propulsion—is named in his honor (although it had been discovered previously).He also advocated the use of liquid hydrogen and oxygen for propellant, calculating their maximum exhaust velocity. His work was essentially unknown outside the Soviet Union, but inside the country it inspired further research, experimentation and the formation of the Society for Studies of Interplanetary Travel in 1924.

Robert Esnault-Pelterie (1909).
In 1912, Robert Esnault-Pelterie published a lecture on rocket theory and interplanetary travel. He independently derived Tsiolkovsky's rocket equation, did basic calculations about the energy required to make round trips to the Moon and planets, and he proposed the use of atomic power (i.e. radium) to power a jet drive.

Robert Goddard
1912Robert 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 . He patented these concepts in 1914.He also independently developed the mathematics of rocket flight.

During World War I Yves Le Prieur, a French naval officer and inventor, later to create a pioneering scuba diving apparatus, developed air-to-air solid-fuel rockets. The aim was to destroy observation captive balloons (called saucisses or Drachens) used by German artillery. These rather crude black powder, steel-tipped incendiary rockets (made by Ruggieri[clarification needed]) were first tested from a Voisin aircraft, wing-bolted on a fast sports car and then used in battle on real aircraft. A typical layout was eight electrically fired Le Prieur rockets fitted on the interpane struts of a . If fired at sufficiently short distance, a spread of Le Prieur rockets proved to be quite deadly. Belgian ace Willy Coppens claimed dozens of Drachen kills during World War I.

In 1920, Goddard published his ideas and experimental results in A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes.The work included remarks about sending a solid-fuel rocket to the Moon, which attracted worldwide attention and was both praised and ridiculed. A New York Times editorial suggested:

"That Professor Goddard, with his 'chair' in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react -- to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high ."- New York Times, 13 January 1920
In 1923, Hermann Oberth(1894-1989) Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen ("The Rocket into Planetary Space"), a version of his doctoral thesis, after the University of Munich had rejected it.

In 1924, Tsiolkovsky also wrote about multi-stage rockets, in 'Cosmic Rocket Trains'.


Pre-World War II

Modern rockets originated when Goddard attached a supersonic (de Laval) nozzle to the combustion chamber of a liquid-fueled rocket engine. These nozzles turn the hot gas from the combustion chamber into a cooler, hypersonic, highly directed jet of gas, more than doubling the thrust and raising the engine efficiency from 2% to 64%. On 16 March 1926 Robert Goddard launched the world's first liquid-fueled rocket in .

During the 1920s, a number of rocket research organizations appeared worldwide. In 1927 the German car manufacturer Opel began to research rocket vehicles together with Mark Valier and the solid-fuel rocket builder Friedrich Wilhelm Sander.In 1928, Fritz von Opel drove a rocket car, the Opel-RAK.1 on the Opel raceway in Rüsselsheim, Germany. In 1928 the Lippisch Ente flew: rocket power launched the manned glider, although it was destroyed on its second flight. In 1929 von Opel started at the Frankfurt-Rebstock airport with the Opel-Sander RAK 1-airplane, which was damaged beyond repair during a hard landing after its first flight.

In the mid-1920s, German scientists had begun experimenting with rockets that used liquid propellants capable of reaching relatively high altitudes and distances. In 1927 and also in Germany, a team of amateur rocket engineers had formed the Verein für Raumschiffahrt (Society for Space Travel, or VfR), and in 1931 launched a liquid propellant rocket (using oxygen and gasoline).

Rocketry in the Soviet Union also began with amateur societies; foremost was the Group for the Study of Reactive Propulsion (GIRD) headed by . From 1931 to 1937 in the Soviet Union, extensive scientific work on rocket engine design occurred at the Gas Dynamics Laboratory (GDL) in Leningrad, which was merged with GIRD in 1933 bringing rocketry fully under government control.The well-funded and -staffed laboratory built over 100 experimental engines under the direction of . The work included regenerative cooling, hypergolic propellant ignition, and fuel injector designs that included swirling and bi-propellant mixing injectors. However, Glushko's arrest during Stalinist purges in 1938 curtailed the development.

Similar work was also done from 1932 onwards by the Austrian professor Eugen Sänger. He worked there on rocket-powered spaceplanes such as Silbervogel (sometimes called the "antipodal" bomber).

On November 12, 1932 at a farm in Stockton NJ, the American Interplanetary Society's attempt to static-fire their first rocket (based on German Rocket Society designs) failed in a fire.

In 1936, a British research programme based at Fort Halstead in Kent under the direction of Dr. Alwyn Crow started work on a series of unguided solid-fuel rockets that could be used as . In 1939, a number of test firings were carried out in the British colony of Jamaica.

In the 1930s, the German Reichswehr (which in 1935 became the Wehrmacht) began to take an interest in rocketry.Artillery restrictions imposed by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles limited Germany's access to long-distance weaponry. Seeing the possibility of using rockets as long-range artillery fire, the Wehrmacht initially funded the VfR team, but because their focus was strictly scientific, created its own research team. At the behest of military leaders, Wernher von Braun, at the time a young aspiring rocket scientist, joined the military (followed by two former VfR members) and developed long-range weapons for use in World War II.


A battery of Katyusha launchers fires at German forces during the

A German V-2 rocket on a Meillerwagen.

Layout of a V-2 rocket.
At the start of the war, the British had equipped their warships with unrotated projectile unguided anti-aircraft rockets, and by 1940, the Germans had developed a surface-to-surface multiple rocket launcher, Nebelwerfer, and the Soviets already had introduced the RS-132 air-to-ground rocket. All of these rockets were developed for a variety of roles, notably the .

In 1943, production of the V-2 rocket began in Germany. It had an operational range of 300 km (190 mi) and carried a 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) warhead, with an . It normally achieved an operational maximum altitude of around 90 km (56 mi), but could achieve 206 km (128 mi) if launched vertically. The vehicle was similar to most modern rockets, with turbopumps, inertial guidance and many other features. Thousands were fired at various Allied nations, mainly Belgium, as well as England and France. While they could not be intercepted, their guidance system design and single conventional warhead meant that they were insufficiently accurate against military targets. A total of 2,754 people in England were killed, and 6,523 were wounded before the launch campaign was ended. There were also 20,000 deaths of slave labour during the construction of V-2s. While it did not significantly affect the course of the war, the V-2 provided a lethal demonstration of the potential for guided rockets as weapons.

In parallel with the guided missile programme in Nazi Germany, rockets were also used on aircraft, either for assisting horizontal take-off (RATO), vertical take-off (Bachem Ba 349 "Natter") or for powering them. During the war Germany also developed several guided and unguided air-to-air, ground-to-air and ground-to-ground missiles (see list of World War II guided missiles of Germany).


At the end of World War II, competing Russian, British, and US military and scientific crews raced to capture technology and trained personnel from the German rocket program at . Russia and Britain had some success, but the United States benefited the most. The US captured a large number of German rocket scientists, including von Braun, and brought them to the United States as part of .In America, the same rockets that were designed to rain down on were used instead by scientists as research vehicles for developing the new technology further. The V-2 evolved into the American Redstone rocket.

After the war, rockets were used to study high-altitude conditions, by radio telemetry of temperature and pressure of the atmosphere, detection of cosmic rays, and further research; notably the Bell X-1, the first manned vehicle to break the sound barrier. This continued in the US under von Braun and the others, who were destined to become part of the US scientific community.

Independently, in the Soviet Union's space program research continued under the leadership of the chief designer Sergei Korolev. With the help of German technicians, the V-2 was duplicated and improved as the R-1, R-2, and R-5. German designs were abandoned in the late 1940s, and the foreign workers were sent home. A new series of engines built by Glushko and based on inventions of Aleksei Mihailovich Isaev formed the basis of the first ICBM, the R-7.The R-7 launched the first satellite, Sputnik 1, and later Yuri Gagarin, the first man into space, and the first lunar and planetary probes. This rocket is still in use today. These prestigious events attracted the attention of top politicians, along with additional funds for further research.

One problem that had not been solved was atmospheric reentry. It had been shown that an orbital vehicle easily had enough kinetic energy to vaporize itself, and yet it was known that meteorites can make it down to the ground. The mystery was solved in the US in 1951 when H. Julian Allen and A. J. Eggers, Jr. of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) made the counterintuitive discovery that a blunt shape (high drag) permitted the most effective heat shield. With this type of shape, around 99% of the energy goes into the air rather than the vehicle, and this permitted safe recovery of orbital vehicles.

The Allen and Eggers discovery, initially treated as a military secret, was eventually published in 1958.Blunt body theory made possible the heat shield designs that were embodied in the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo , and Soyuzspace capsules, enabling astronauts and cosmonauts to survive the fiery re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. Some spaceplanes such as the Space Shuttle made use of the same theory. At the time the STS, Maxime Faget, the Director of Engineering and Development at the Manned Spacecraft Center, was not satisfied with the purely lifting re-entry method (as proposed for the cancelled X-20 "Dyna-Soar").He designed a space shuttle which operated as a blunt body by entering the atmosphere at an extremely high with the underside facing the direction of flight, creating a large shock wave that would .The Space Shuttle uses a combination of a ballistic entry (blunt body theory); and then at an altitude of about 122,000 m (400,000 ft), the atmosphere becomes dense enough for the re-entry phase to begin. Throughout re-entry, the Shuttle rolls to change lift direction in a prescribed way, keeping maximum deceleration well below 2 . These roll maneuvers allow the Shuttle to use its lift to steer toward the runway.


Rockets became extremely important militarily as modern intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) when it was realized that carried on a rocket vehicle were essentially impossible for existing defense systems to stop once launched, and launch vehicles such as the R-7, became delivery platforms for these weapons.

Fueled partly by the Cold War, the 1960s became the decade of rapid development of rocket technology particularly in the Soviet Union (Vostok, Soyuz, Proton) and in the United States (e.g. the X-15 and X-20 Dyna-Soar aircraft). There was also significant research in other countries, such as France, Britain, Japan, Australia, etc., and a growing use of rockets for Space exploration, with pictures returned from the far side of the Moon and unmanned flights for .

In America, the manned spaceflight programs, Project Mercury, Project Gemini, and later the Apollo program, culminated in 1969 with the first manned using the , causing the New York Times to retract its earlier 1920 editorial implying that spaceflight couldn't work:

Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th century and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. 


Since the early 2010s, new private options for obtaining spaceflight services emerged, bringing substantial market competition into the existing launch service provider business. Initially, these market forces have manifest through competitive dynamics among payload transport capabilities at diverse prices having a greater influence on rocket launch purchasing than the traditional political considerations of country of manufacture or the particular national entity using, regulating or licensing the launch service.

Following the advent of spaceflight technology in the late 1950s, space launch services came into being, exclusively by national programs. Later in the 20th century commercial operators became significant customers of launch providers. International competition for the communications satellite payload subset of the launch market was increasingly influenced by commercial considerations. However, even during this period, for both commercial- and government-entity-launched commsats, the launch service providers for these payloads used launch vehicles built to government specifications, and with state-provided development funding exclusively.

In the early 2010s, privately developed launch vehicle systems and space launch service offerings emerged. Companies now faced economic incentives rather than the principally political incentives of the earlier decades. The space launch business experienced a dramatic lowering of per-unit prices along with the addition of entirely new capabilities, bringing about a new phase of competition in the space launch market.

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