It IS Rocket Science! Part Two–Rocket Powered Vehicles | Weekend Watchlist

Contrary to popular belief, the concept behind basic rocketry is quite simple. Stuff is burned in a tube and hot gas shoots out the back producing thrust to make you go-go-go! Getting your rocket to move where you want, when you want, and not explode unless you want, gets a whole lot trickier.

Last week we examined some rocket engines and rocket based weaponry. This week it’s all about getting you and yours from A to B.

When you mention taking a rocket ride, the following is most likely what comes to mind. Thus, without further ado, I give you the rocket that took man to the moon, Saturn V.

Let’s talk numbers: 363 feet tall. That’s the height of a 36 story building. 58 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. 6.5 million pounds fully gassed up. 7.6 million pounds of thrust at launch burning at 5,800 degrees Fahrenheit or 3,200 Celsius. Saturn V could put 130 tons in orbit or 50 tons on the moon.

Let’s take a look at that a lot closer an a lot slower.

Even in miniature, the Saturn V dwarfs all competition. Steve Eves broke world records by launching this 1/10th scale (36ft!) Saturn V model rocket in 2009. It is estimated that the thrust generated by this model on its 4,440 ft. trip could have fired a Volkswagen Beetle half a mile.

Not all rocket powered vehicles are meant to launch us into orbit. In the late 1920s Max Valier and Fritz von Opel began creating rocket powered cars.

Rocket cars would continue to be a tinkered with until the 1980s when supplies of concentrated hydrogen peroxide would dry up. One of the most famous cars that shattered land speed records was the Blue Flame, a hydrogen peroxide rocket powered dragster.

…and let me tell ya, it is REALLY hard to find video of rocket cars on the Web. Lot’s of jet cars, but very few powered by rockets. I was just about to give up when I found this priceless vid from 2010 of a rocket powered funny car. And the view is just as rare as the ride!

Hydrogen peroxide rockets have been used to give a boost to more than cars. British secret agents, for example. Just as many jet powered cars are mistakenly called rocket cars, the famous jet pack from the 1965 James Bond classic Thunderball is a rocket pack. The Bell Rocket Belt, to be specific.The Bell Rocket Belt still sees duty in the most expensive of PR stunts such as the opening ceremony of the 1984 Summer Olympics or the 2010 launch of Halo Reach.

The sea is a harsh mistress and hydrogen peroxide rocket powered boats don’t see much action. The most famous one was Lee Tylor’s Discovery II. The vehicle disintegrated when hitting an errant wave during a world record speed run in 1980. Discovery II was the last rocket powered vehicle used in speed record attempts.

Taylor was gunning for Ken Warby’s world record of 317mph. Set in 1978, this record stands today. There are unofficial reports that the Discovery II hit 333mph in testing.

Turning our eyes to the sky, the Lippisch Ente became the first full-size rocket propelled aircraft in 1928. This wooden glider was powered by two black powder (gunpowder) rockets and few 4,900 feet in it’s test flight. The only bit of video I could find from this flight has been removed by YouTube due to a copyright complaint. The copyright claimant has apparently not replaced the historic footage.

Germans scientists would continue to invest heavily into rocketry. The culmination of this early research would be the first mass produced rocket plane, the Me 163.

Rocket powered aircraft would prove that the sky was not the limit and barriers were made to be broken. In 1947, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the rocket powered Bell X-1.

Unlike the ground based rocket vehicle events, rocket powered aircraft persist for speed freaks today. In 2008, Red Bull sponsored the Rocket Racing League.

These newest machines drop the hydrogen peroxide rockets of the ‘70s for ones powered by liquid oxygen.

Finally, we round out Growing Up Otaku’s tribute to rockets with the most iconic space vehicle in the world, the space shuttle. From the giant solid rocket boosters used in liftoff, to the three large main engines of the orbiter, to the small rocket-powered orbital maneuvering thrusters, the space shuttle is a huge collection of rocket engines.

Volume Warning: The following video is quieter than others in this feature.

The is so much to say about the space shuttle. The following feature, The Space Shuttle, is a 80 minute feature produced by NASA TV and narrated by (who else?) William Shatner detailing the people and technology behind mankind’s most amazing spaceship. I simply could not complete this feature without including it.

From ancient Chinese rocket launchers to the voyages of the space shuttle Enterprise, rockets have a long tradition of changing our very concept of what is possible.

Looking to catch up? Here is part one of GUO’s Weekend Watchlist tribute to rockets.

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