Topic: Rocketry

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Black Arrow

Spaceflight Rocketry

Black Arrow, officially capitalised BLACK ARROW, was a British satellite carrier rocket. Developed during the 1960s, it was used for four launches between 1969 and 1971. Its final flight was the first and only successful orbital launch to be conducted by the United Kingdom, and placed the Prospero satellite into low Earth orbit.

Black Arrow originated from studies by the Royal Aircraft Establishment for carrier rockets based on the Black Knight rocket, with the project being authorised in 1964. It was initially developed by Saunders-Roe, and later Westland Aircraft as the result of a merger.

Black Arrow was a three-stage rocket, fuelled by RP-1 paraffin (kerosene) and high test peroxide, a concentrated form of hydrogen peroxide (85% hydrogen peroxide + 15% water). It was retired after only four launches in favour of using American Scout rockets, which the Ministry of Defence calculated to be cheaper than maintaining the Black Arrow programme.

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Lockheed Martin X-33

United States Aviation Spaceflight Aviation/aircraft project Rocketry

The Lockheed Martin X-33 was an uncrewed, sub-scale technology demonstrator suborbital spaceplane developed in the 1990s under the U.S. government–funded Space Launch Initiative program. The X-33 was a technology demonstrator for the VentureStar orbital spaceplane, which was planned to be a next-generation, commercially operated reusable launch vehicle. The X-33 would flight-test a range of technologies that NASA believed it needed for single-stage-to-orbit reusable launch vehicles (SSTO RLVs), such as metallic thermal protection systems, composite cryogenic fuel tanks for liquid hydrogen, the aerospike engine, autonomous (uncrewed) flight control, rapid flight turn-around times through streamlined operations, and its lifting body aerodynamics.

Failures of its 21-meter wingspan and multi-lobed, composite-material fuel tank during pressure testing ultimately led to the withdrawal of federal support for the program in early 2001. Lockheed Martin has conducted unrelated testing, and has had a single success after a string of failures as recently as 2009 using a 2-meter scale model.



A rolleron is a type of aileron used for rockets, placed at the trailing end of each fin, and used for passive stabilization against rotation. Inherent to the rolleron is a metal wheel with notches along the circumference. On one side, the notches protrude into the airflow. During flight, this will spin the wheels up to a substantial speed. The wheels then act as gyroscopes. Any tendency of the rocket to rotate around its major axis will be counteracted by the rollerons: the gyroscopic precession acts to move the rolleron in the opposite direction to the rotation.

Rollerons were first used in the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile.

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Rotary Rocket

Companies Aviation Spaceflight Aviation/aircraft project Rocketry

Rotary Rocket Company was a rocketry company that developed the Roton concept in the late 1990s as a fully reusable single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) crewed spacecraft. The design was initially conceived by Bevin McKinney, who shared it with Gary Hudson. In 1996, Rotary Rocket Company was formed to commercialize the concept. The Roton was intended to reduce costs of launching payloads into low earth orbit by a factor of ten.

The company gathered considerable venture capital from angel investors and opened a factory headquartered in a 45,000-square-foot (4,200 m2) facility at Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California. The fuselage for their vehicles was made by Scaled Composites, at the same airport, while the company developed the novel engine design and helicopter-like landing system. A full-scale test vehicle made three hover flights in 1999, but the company exhausted its funds and closed its doors in early 2001.

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Space Transportation System

United States Aviation Spaceflight Rocketry

The Space Transportation System (STS), also known internally to NASA as the Integrated Program Plan (IPP), was a proposed system of reusable manned space vehicles envisioned in 1969 to support extended operations beyond the Apollo program. (NASA appropriated the name for its Space Shuttle Program, the only component of the proposal to survive Congressional funding approval). The purpose of the system was twofold: to reduce the cost of spaceflight by replacing the current method of launching capsules on expendable rockets with reusable spacecraft; and to support ambitious follow-on programs including permanent orbiting space stations around the Earth and Moon, and a human landing mission to Mars.

In February 1969, President Richard Nixon appointed a Space Task Group headed by Vice President Spiro Agnew to recommend human space projects beyond Apollo. The group responded in September with the outline of the STS, and three different program levels of effort culminating with a human Mars landing by 1983 at the earliest, and by the end of the twentieth century at the latest. The system's major components consisted of:

  • A permanent space station module designed for 6 to 12 occupants, in a 270-nautical-mile (500 km) low Earth orbit, and as a permanent lunar orbit station. Modules could be combined in Earth orbit to create a 50 to 100 person permanent station.
  • A chemically fueled Earth-to-station shuttle.
  • A chemically fueled space tug to move crew and equipment between Earth orbits as high as geosynchronous orbit, which could be adapted as a lunar orbit-to-surface shuttle.
  • A nuclear-powered ferry using the NERVA engine, to move crew, spacecraft and supplies between low Earth orbit and lunar orbit, geosynchronous orbit, or to other planets in the solar system.

The tug and ferry vehicles would be of a modular design, allowing them to be clustered and/or staged for large payloads or interplanetary missions. The system would be supported by permanent Earth and lunar orbital propellant depots. The Saturn V might still have been used as a heavy lift launch vehicle for the nuclear ferry and space station modules. A special "Mars Excursion Module" would be the only remaining vehicle necessary for a human Mars landing.

As Apollo accomplished its objective of landing the first men on the Moon, political support for further manned space activities began to wane, which was reflected in unwillingness of the Congress to provide funding for most of these extended activities. Based on this, Nixon rejected all parts of the program except the Space Shuttle, which inherited the STS name. As funded, the Shuttle was greatly scaled back from its planned degree of reusability, and deferred in time. The Shuttle first flew in 1981, and was retired in 2011.

A second part of the system, Space Station Freedom, was approved in the early 1980s and announced in 1984 by president Ronald Reagan. However, this also became politically unviable by 1993, and was replaced with the International Space Station (ISS), with substantial contribution by Russia. The ISS was completed in 2010.

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Mars Colonial Transporter

Spaceflight Moon Rocketry Solar System/Mars Solar System

The SpaceX Starship is a fully-reusable launch vehicle and spacecraft that is being privately developed by SpaceX. It is designed to be a long-duration cargo and passenger-carrying spacecraft. The development of the Starship began in 2014.

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Direct Fusion Drive

Spaceflight Physics Rocketry

Direct Fusion Drive (DFD) is a conceptual low radioactivity, nuclear-fusion rocket engine designed to produce both thrust and electric power for interplanetary spacecraft. The concept is based on the Princeton field-reversed configuration reactor invented in 2002 by Samuel A. Cohen, and is being modeled and experimentally tested at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, a US Department of Energy facility, and modeled and evaluated by Princeton Satellite Systems. As of 2018, the concept has moved on to Phase II to further advance the design.

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Tsiolkovsky Rocket Equation

Spaceflight Physics Rocketry

The Tsiolkovsky rocket equation, classical rocket equation, or ideal rocket equation is a mathematical equation that describes the motion of vehicles that follow the basic principle of a rocket: a device that can apply acceleration to itself using thrust by expelling part of its mass with high velocity can thereby move due to the conservation of momentum.

Δ v = v e ln m 0 m f = I sp g 0 ln m 0 m f {\displaystyle \Delta v=v_{\text{e}}\ln {\frac {m_{0}}{m_{f}}}=I_{\text{sp}}g_{0}\ln {\frac {m_{0}}{m_{f}}}}


Δ v   {\displaystyle \Delta v\ } is delta-v – the maximum change of velocity of the vehicle (with no external forces acting).
m 0 {\displaystyle m_{0}} is the initial total mass, including propellant, also known as wet mass.
m f {\displaystyle m_{f}} is the final total mass without propellant, also known as dry mass.
v e = I sp g 0 {\displaystyle v_{\text{e}}=I_{\text{sp}}g_{0}} is the effective exhaust velocity, where:
I sp {\displaystyle I_{\text{sp}}} is the specific impulse in dimension of time.
g 0 {\displaystyle g_{0}} is standard gravity.
ln {\displaystyle \ln } is the natural logarithm function.

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Spaceflight Before 1951

Aviation History Spaceflight Military history Military history/Military science, technology, and theory Spaceflight/Timeline of spaceflight working group Physics Lists Military history/World War II Military history/Cold War Rocketry Military history/European military history Military history/British military history

Spaceflight as a practical endeavor began during World War II with the development of operational liquid-fueled rockets. Beginning life as a weapon, the V-2 was pressed into peaceful service after the war at the United States' White Sands Missile Range as well as the Soviet Union's Kapustin Yar. This led to a flourishing of missile designs setting the stage for the exploration of space. The small American WAC Corporal rocket was evolved into the Aerobee, a much more powerful sounding rocket. Exploration of space began in earnest in 1947 with the flight of the first Aerobee, 46 of which had flown by the end of 1950. These and other rockets, both Soviet and American, returned the first direct data on air density, temperature, charged particles and magnetic fields in the Earth's upper atmosphere.

By 1948, the United States Navy had evolved the V-2 design into the Viking capable of more than 100 miles (160 km) in altitude. The first Viking to accomplish this feat, number four, did so 10 May 1950. The Soviet Union developed a virtual copy of the V-2 called the R-1, which first flew in 1948. Its longer-ranged successor, the R-2, entered military service in 1950. This event marked the entry of both superpowers into the post-V-2 rocketry era.

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Mysorean Rockets

Military history Military history/Military science, technology, and theory Military history/Weaponry India Rocketry Military history/Asian military history Military history/South Asian military history India/Karnataka

Mysorean rockets were an Indian military weapon, the first iron-cased rockets successfully deployed for military use. The Mysorean army, under Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan, used the rockets effectively against the British East India Company during the 1780s and 1790s. Their conflicts with the company exposed the British to this technology, which was then used to advance European rocketry with the development of the Congreve rocket in 1805.

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