DailyDirt: Rocket Engines, Old And New

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Rockets capable of sending payloads into orbit aren’t too common. Not surprisingly, a vehicle that has to control an enormous explosion and direct the thrust in a specified direction isn’t easy to make reliable. So when rocket scientists have created a design that works, it doesn’t make that much sense to radically change the design without good reasons. Here are just a few examples of rocket engines that are gradually evolving and improving as the demands of space launches grow.

If you’d like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

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Companies: blue origin, nasa, orbital sciences corp, united launch alliance

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Rocket Engines, Old And New”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: WHAT “Enormous Explosion”?

“Chemical rockets don’t explode”.

It’s possible that the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger might not agree with that assessment.

We could say that there are essentially two types of “explosions” — deflagration and detonation, the latter of which produces an intense supersonic shock wave.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: WHAT “Enormous Explosion”?

I’m not so sure I entirely agree with your definition of “explosion”. An explosion doesn’t even necessarily involve combustion — it is simply a rapid increase in volume that releases a lot of energy very rapidly. If you inflate a balloon too far, you get an explosion.

Chemical explosives are, at heart, just materials that rapidly combust. Slower combustibles, such as gunpowder or rocket fuel, need to be contained in a pressure vessel to explode. High explosives are just materials that combust so rapidly that they don’t need a pressure vessel to cause an explosion.

Chemical rockets absolutely can explode, in essentially the same manner that a firecracker explodes.

Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

Re: Re: WHAT “Enormous Explosion”?

I never heard balloons that you overinflate described as “exploding”, only as “bursting”.

I agree there might be an ambiguity over the meaning of “explosion”, as meaning any kind of catastrophic structural failure that scatters pieces outwards (contrast an implosion). So the more specific term for what I’ve been describing here is “detonation”.

Regardless, “explosion” cannot be used to describe the behaviour of a chemical rocket under normal operation, contrary to what was stated in the article.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: WHAT “Enormous Explosion”?

““explosion” cannot be used to describe the behaviour of a chemical rocket under normal operation”

This is mostly true, although it’s not terribly inaccurate to say that a chemical rocket is a slow, controlled “explosion”, that is well within the gray area (like a popping balloon) that is technically an explosion but not of the type that normal people mean when they use the term.

I don’t really fault the article for this usage. It’s a sensationalistic way of putting it, but it’s not technically wrong.

jim says:


There is a difference in the term explosion, regarding on type and release of the explosion. Every one that has unwrapped a firecracker and set it off knows of that effect. It is therefore called a controlled explosion. Or a burn off. But if something interrupts the flow of propellents, or the shockwave enters the combustion chamber, all bets are off. It’s the blocking of the chamber, that overpresurizes the chamber, degrading the performance, overheating the pot, usually the failure to deliver enough fuel, in the proper form that causes the problem.

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