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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  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 22 Oct 2014 @ 5:49pm

    WHAT “Enormous Explosion”?

    Chemical rockets don’t “explode”. It’s just “combustion”. An explosion involves a shockwave, which triggers further uncontrolled combustion in a runaway process. Regular old burning does not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      OldMugwump (profile), 22 Oct 2014 @ 6:03pm

      Re: WHAT “Enormous Explosion”?

      Depends on the rocket.

      "Old bang-bang" does involve explosions.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 24 Oct 2014 @ 6:08pm

        Re: "Old bang-bang" does involve explosions

        Notwithstanding I was careful to say “chemical rockets”, I’m still not sure Project Orion counts as a “rocket”. The only thing it has in common with “rockets” is they both rely on Newton’s Third Law.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 7:01pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 22 Oct 2014 @ 11:04pm

        Re: the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger might not agree with that assessment.

        Yes they would, as would the experts who investigated the disaster.

        Challenger broke up from severely mismatched thrust forces, it did not detonate.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 6:14am

          Re: Re: the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger might not agree with that assessment.

          Your facts are interfering with the troll parade.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 4:39am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 23 Oct 2014 @ 2:52pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 5:22pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 29 Oct 2014 @ 1:47pm

            Re: WHAT “Enormous Explosion”?

            When you pop a balloon, do bits of balloon go everywhere?

            No, they don’t. When a balloon bursts, it simply tears into ribbons. Most of the ribbons still stay joined together. No explosion at all.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 6:34pm

    This is terrible news for the US taxpayer, as it would have been orders of magnitude less expensive to just keep using those dirt-cheap Russian rocket engines for the forseeable future.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 8:34pm

    I recently heard a talk by the main SpaceX rocket scientist.

    The SpaceX engine is the most efficient engine since the Russian one was designed.

    The SpaceX engine was designed to take humans to Mars & home. That's why its fuel is something that can be manufactured on Mars.

    SpaceX is dead serious about going to Mars.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jim, 23 Oct 2014 @ 5:19am

    Explode

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    owale (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 5:31am

    totally true, there a lot of explosion types

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ethorad (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 7:54am

    what is it with rocket names?

    regex [A-Z][A-Z]?-[1-9]?[0-9]

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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