When we imagine rockets, we think of tall,thin vehicles with futuristic shapes. We also think about the kinds of rockets that go into space. The word rocket also describes a type of engine. Rocket engines power vehicles that use rockets to move. In the future, rockets could work like buses and trains do today. Could we depend on rockets to travel around the world one day? What about into space? That’s what many people are exploring today.
One day, commercial transport rockets could become a reality for all of us. We are still years off from having rockets taking us around the world in less than an hour. That doesn’t mean we can’t imagine!
How Commercial Rockets Work
To understand how commercial transport rockets work, we need to see how rockets work.
Rockets burn fuel like other kinds of engines do. Many rocket engines burn fuel into very hot gas. When the hot fuel turns into gas, the engine pushes the gas out of the back opening. The gas leaving the back opening is what makes the engine push forward. A rocket engine doesn’t need air to work.
Rocket engines work in space where there is no air. Two different kinds of rocket engines exist. Some rockets, like the main engines of the Space Shuttle that orbit the Earth, use liquid fuel. Other kinds of rockets, like the Space shuttle rocket boosters, use solid fuels. Even toy rockets and fireworks use solid fuel like those space rockets do!
Rockets move in space. It’s possible, thanks to a science rule known as Newton’s third law of motion. Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion said, ‘for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.’ When it comes to rockets, the action occurs when a rocket pushes on the exhaust. The exhaust also pushes on the rocket. When this happens, the rocket pushes the exhaust backward, and the exhaust helps move the rocket forward.
The History of Commercial Rockets
When were the first rockets invented? China used the first known rockets in the 1200s. Their solid-fuel rockets were used in fireworks. China’s armies also used these rockets in wars. In later centuries, rockets evolved into larger and more advanced devices. These advanced rockets found use in important space missions like the United States’ Apollo 11 mission in 1969. That mission, which got the first men to land on the moon, used a Saturn V rocket.
The NASA space shuttle program used solid fuel rockets to bring humans into space. Unlike liquid-fueled rockets, solid-fueled rockets give rockets fuel without turning off. After the catastrophic 1986 Challenger incident, NASA redesigned the solid fuel rockets boosters.
Fortunately, rockets are still used by NASA and other government organizations to bring satellites and other objects into space. These missions usually don’t send human crew members into space. Today, independent organizations want to make manned space travel a reality for people on Earth again. Public figures like Elon Musk want to make commercial transport rockets a reality for people on Earth. Commercial transport rockets could let people travel around the Earth in under an hour or less. Can you imagine how handy that would be?