back to article Rocket boffinry in pictures: Gulp the Devil's venom and light a match

It's been more than 70 years since the first successful test flight of the German Vergeltungswaffe 2 (V2) - the weapon that paved the way for subsequent rocket-based efforts to escape Earth's surly bonds. On 3 October 1942, a team headed by Wernher von Braun watched its creation rise from the launchpad at Peenemünde, little …

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  1. Chris G Silver badge

    With a little help from my freinds

    So America's space program is underpinned by the efforts of a former enemy and war criminal and the current core vehicle is from another former enemy?

    Werner Von Braun knowingly used slave labour kept in appalling conditions during his leadership of the Nazi V weapon program but the Yanks forgave him and set him up in the States to kickstart the cold war weapons race.

    Just goes to show, it doesn't matter how much of an evil bastard you are if you have the right currency.

    1. Kharkov
      Happy

      Re: With a little help from my friends (FTFY)

      Yep, any criminal who a: is the only one (or one of very few) who can do something that the government very much wants to be done and b: promises not to be naughty again (unless the new government is keen on it) is going to be forgiven and all .

      And we're what? Surprised by this?

      Incidentally, wikipedia (to keep the sources simple) has Hitler mentioning to Albert Speer that Von Braun was 'exempt from persecution as long as he is indispensable for you'.

      More seriously, the article does a good job of laying out the current significant players in the access-to-orbit club but it would be more useful if the article had included costs for each rocket. SpaceX is quite open about their costs and from looking around the internet, once can get a figure of, on average, 180 million for an Atlas V, but what about the launch costs for the Japanese, the Russians, the Indians and of course the Chinese?

      For that matter, what is the expected number of launches from each type/country per year? Yes, wikipedia is useful there but it'd still be nice to get it all in one place...

      1. Chris Miller

        Re: With a little help from my friends (FTFY)

        Don't say that he's hypocritical,

        Say rather that he's apolitical.

        "Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?

        That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun.

        (Tom Lehrer)

      2. Vulch
        Boffin

        Re: With a little help from my friends (FTFY)

        Launch costs can be difficult to determine. Russia markets the Proton to the West through a US company, International Launch Services, who tend to quote prices a bit under those of Ariane and Atlas 5/Delta 5 launches. There's good reason to believe that a Proton is built by around 50 people in a bit under a year, putting the basic unit cost at around 10 million. The Soviet Union put in a lot of effort up front at reducing the manufacturing costs of its launchers and making them easy to check out prior to launch, Soyuz and Proton were both designed as ICBMs so the plan was to have lots of them and to be able to launch them at short notice. SpaceX have learned those lessons and should be able to reduce their costs as the Falcon designs settle down.

    2. Mayhem

      Re: With a little help from my freinds

      Ahh, but Mr President, our Germans are better than their Germans

    3. Gene Cash Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: With a little help from my freinds

      Heck, if it got me to the Moon or Mars, I'd personally laser someone's arms & legs off. In a jiffy. None of this faffing about. I'm a bit desperate over here in the States without a working space program, and I'll do whatever my alien overlords say, to get into space.

    4. Bubba Von Braun
      FAIL

      Re: With a little help from my freinds

      And Bomber Harris burned Dresden to the ground though the war was effectively over. Even Churchill was embarassed and distanced himself from it and cease further attacks. The US fried Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even though Gen Curtis LeMay had reported that his area incediary bombing had resulted in the problem he was running out of targets.

      Von Braun himself was locked up by the very perpetrators, and he escaped from the SS before they themselves could be muirdered at the end of the war. If you going to after a German then you need to do so for the entire generation that allowed the regime to come to power.

    5. Don Mitchell

      Re: With a little help from my freinds

      It's not accurate to say the US rocket program was based on von Braun. The V-2 was a fascinating rocket, because of its large size, but it was not a new concept. In the mid 1930s, Goddard was launching liquid-fuel rockets with gyro guidance, the Russians built small rockets and the BI-1 rocket plane, there was a lot of experimentation.

      After the war, the US has three rocket programs. Von Braun's people worked for the Army and built the Redstone, a modernized version of the V-2. The Navy has a program that began with RMI, Curtiss-Wright and Goddard, building JATO engines during the war and the Viking and Vanguard rockets in the 1950s. The Air Force contracted with its partners in the aviation industry to build the first long-range intercontinental rockets and cruise missiles (Navaho, Atlas, etc), which bore little resemblance to the German work.

      It's not that the Germans didn't do a brilliant job with the V-2, it just was not unique knowledge or beyond the understanding of other engineers. It's become a cliché to talk about "our Germans and their Germans", but that is a naïve pictures of the history of rocketry in the 1950s and afterwards.

  2. Robert E A Harvey
    Thumb Up

    Good summary

    I enjoyed that. If only the UK had kept up our own programme...

    1. Kharkov
      Happy

      Re: Good summary

      Well....

      Yes & No. The UK would have benefitted from remaining a space power but neither we nor our other launching spot - Woomera in Australia - is really in a good place to launch rockets. We're much too far north (or south, in the case of Australia).

      That said, we can take heart that Skylon (check it out on wikipedia) will be entering service fairly soon as these things go and while most of them will probably be operating from South America where they can easily get to equatorial orbits, it's not too unreasonable to think that one or two of them my end up operating from the UK, heading for polar, sun-synchronous or some other high-inclination orbit.

      1. Robert E A Harvey

        Re: Good summary

        Yes, I like Skylon. Good luck to the lads.

      2. Bubba Von Braun
        Thumb Up

        Re: Good summary

        Woomera is good for polar orbits, everyone gets so focused on Geostationery orbits and the added advantage of lauching near the equator. If you look at the basket case SeaLaunch has become launching from the equator itself really didnt have folks beating a path to their door.

        BTW: Woomera is closer to the equator than Baikonur and is booked solid into 2020.

  3. Khaptain

    Space Junk

    It's one thing to put all that technology up into space but who is ultimately responsable for bringing it back down again ( who gets the role as the cleaning lady) ?

    Also how do they manage to keep track of eveything up there , don't they ever "lose" bits and pieces ?

    1. imanidiot Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Space Junk

      This is indeed a very large worry, and one that even has a name. Kessler Syndrome.

      (The wikipedia article does a good job of explaining it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_junk)

      To quote: "Currently about 19,000 pieces of debris larger than 5 cm are tracked,[1] with another 300,000 pieces smaller than 1 cm below 2000 km altitude"

      And that is just the tracked debris. Most of the debris is microscopic (paint flecks, metal fragments, SRB exhaust particles)

      Currently, nobody is taking charge in solving the problem. Some agreements have been made about decommisioning sattelites, but there are fears we might already have reached the tipping point and are now in an unstoppable cascade of debris generating collisions.

      1. jason 7
        Unhappy

        Re: Space Junk

        Would be a shame to think that in say another 30 years it becomes so cluttered that it gets too dangerous and becomes off limits.

        Trapped by our own junk.

        1. ecofeco Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: Space Junk

          Story of the human race right there.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Space Junk

        "Most of the debris is microscopic (paint flecks, metal fragments, SRB exhaust particles)"

        Putting that in perspective - a single paint fleck gouged a large chunk out of a space shuttle front window.

        Devices left in orbit for a while and then retrieved generally look like they've been hit with shotguns. It's not uncommon for there to be hundreds of tiny holes in solar panels, etc.

        As for "too dangerous to go up" - there's a lot of speculation that we're already at or perilously close to the tipping point when cascades of collisions pretty much wreck everything at several orbital levels. If you've ever seen the video of a room full of armed mousetraps plus 1 rubber ball you might get an idea of what can happen.

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Boffin

    I aim for the stars

    but sometimes I hit London...

    Is that perhaps why the UK is the only nation to have voluntarily given up a space program?

    1. hplasm
      Big Brother

      Re: I aim for the stars

      More likely that UK politicians are denser than a dwarf star and more myopic than cave fish.

      And greedy- don't forget. Short term wins over long term every time.

      Bastards.

      1. Ted Treen
        Big Brother

        @hplasm - Re: I aim for the stars 02/04/13 0804

        Spot on, old lad.

        Couldn't agree more. And I don't think I could have put it so clearly and succinctly (albeit it a little generous).

        Politics is definitely a world-wide job creation scheme for the terminally incompetent.

    2. graeme leggett

      Re: I aim for the stars

      I think the government realised that despite launching some V2s directly after the war, developing our own icbm ( and the missile silo along the way) and putting a satellite in space that it was just too expensive to do on its own.

      1. The lone lurker

        Re: I aim for the stars @ Graeme

        The Blue streak missile was developed to completion. The Black knight sounding rocket and subsequent Black Arrow rocket were derivatives of this system.

        The Black Arrow was the satellite launcher and was also completed but the program was cancelled just before they were about to test launch. However as the parts had been produced and were actually in transit to Woomera the go-ahead to launch the three completed rockets was given.

        Only one launch succeeded and lifted the Prospero satellite to orbit in 1971.

        Interestingly, prior to Black Arrow cancellation NASA had offered to launch British payloads for free but this offer was withdrawn after the successful launch of Prospero.

        If you can find a copy there is a fascinating book called "Black Arrow. A Vertical Empire" that details the internal politics that led to the cancellation.

        1. Aldous

          Re: I aim for the stars @ Graeme

          More suprising the Black Knight/Arrow was launched for peanuts compared to what other nations of the time were spending.

        2. graeme leggett

          Re: I aim for the stars @ Graeme

          Yes now I rethink what I wrote I had probably meant to Phrase it as somewhere between "decided" and "realised" but betwrrn this Blackberry virtul keyboarf and text prediction I have ended up implying the government of the day WAS correct when my actual position is more they MIGHT havr been right

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I aim for the stars

        Yes, if we'd proceeded to develop rocketry, the Queen might now have to make do with only a couple of large houses and a lot more bankers might have lost their six figure bonuses.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: I aim for the stars

      "Is that perhaps why the UK is the only nation to have voluntarily given up a space program?"

      No.

      Because in the late 1960's a government commission of the "Great and the good" IE with f**kall knowledge or understanding of space concluded that a)Space was not that big a deal to HMG b)Funding an independent launch vehicle was quite expensive (around £10-20m for the development programme at a time when Concorde was on course for a few £Bn) c)Those very nice Americans would sort out any requirements for future payloads.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: I aim for the stars

        d: There was no money to be made. That left the door wide open for those lovely folks at intelsat, etc.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Obligatory

    And for a highly informative and entertaining take on rocket fuel chemistry, I can't recommend John D. Clark's Ignition!: An informal history of liquid rocket propellants highly enough.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Obligatory

      *looks up the title on Amazon*

      *Notices the cheapest second hand copy is 375 dollars*

      Nope...

      I would love to read it, but not at that price. Unfortunately my library seems to be unable to obtain it for me either.

      1. James Cullingham

        Re: Obligatory

        *looks up the title on amazon.co.uk*

        There the cheapest second hand copy is £80, and there is an additional copy at an astonishing £1,336.29 (plus £2.80 P&P). That must be a hell of a book

        1. Dave Bell

          Re: Obligatory

          Those exotic prices are likely to be the result of uncontrolled automatic pricing.

          Seller A has his pricing robot set a price at, for instance, 98% of the most expensive.

          Seller B chooses to advertise at 105% of the most expensive other seller, and buy a cheap copy if anyone is fool enough to buy.

          Neither, alone, is a stupid rule, but in combination, the price keeps increasing indefinitely.

      2. Narlaquin
        Mushroom

        Re: Obligatory

        The book itself is long out of print. However, a pdf is available:

        http://library.sciencemadness.org/library/books/ignition.pdf

        1. Narlaquin
          Facepalm

          Re: Obligatory

          Dagnabbit, beaten by David Given

      3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Boffin

        Re: Obligatory

        This is available as a free PDF.

        It's a bit tough to follow if you don't have some chemistry background but very entertaining.

        I had not realised there were any compounds that could make an Asbestos fire blanket catch light for example.

        1. Mayhem

          Re: Obligatory

          An excerpt for those unfamiliar with John Clarke's turn of phrase ... I give you Chlorine trifluoride

          >>

          It is, of course, extremely toxic, but that's the least of the problem. It is hypergolic with every known fuel, and so rapidly hypergolic that no ignition delay has ever been measured. It is also hypergolic with such things as cloth, wood, and test engineers, not to mention asbestos, sand, and water — with which it reacts explosively. It can be kept in some of the ordinary structural metals — steel, copper, aluminum, etc. — because of the formation of a thin film of insoluble metal fluoride which protects the bulk of the metal, just as the invisible coat of oxide on aluminum keeps it from burning up in the atmosphere. If, however, this coat is melted or scrubbed off, and has no chance to reform, the operator is confronted with the problem of coping with a metal-fluorine fire. For dealing with this situation, I have always recommended a good pair of running shoes.

          1. Peter Simpson 1
            Mushroom

            Re: Obligatory

            This looks like a good read.

            There is another, similar book. I have a PDF at home and will post the details. The author was somewhat of a "cowboy chemist". He started a chemical company when there were no regulations and left behind him a trail of Superfund sites. It's an interesting and exciting read...you come away from it wondering how he lived long enough to write the book.

            1. Peter Simpson 1
              Thumb Up

              Re: Obligatory

              Max Gergel: Excuse Me, Sir, Would You Like To Buy a Kilo of Isopropyl Bromide?

              http://library.sciencemadness.org/library/books/gergel_isopropyl_bromide.pdf

            2. Triggerfish

              Re: Obligatory

              For those who want some similar reading try this blog.

              http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/things_i_wont_work_with/

              1. Peter Simpson 1
                Mushroom

                Re: Obligatory

                The whole sciencemadness library seems to be full of books about things you (and your neighbors) would be better off not trying...

                //thumbs up, or explosion???

                //shame we can't have both

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Pint

            "... with such things as cloth, wood, and test engineers, ..."

            The best description ever.

            Congratulations, Mayhem.

          3. LesC
            Go

            Re: Obligatory

            Adobe X1 struggles with this but it's a fascinating read - if you're fed up with Iain Banks or Sector General then give this a try. It's a blast from the pioneering days of rocketry. Literally.

    2. David Given
      Thumb Up

      Re: Obligatory

      ...was just about to comment about this book. Definitely recommended reading if you're interested to know what sort of horrors military rocket fuel tended to involve (at one point they experimented with injecting metallic mercury into rocket exhausts to increase the momentum transfer...). There is a lot of tediously skimmable chemistry, but the rest of the book is definitely worth it.

      The book itself is unfortunately woefully out of print. Anyone who is interested in it should therefore not visit http://library.sciencemadness.org/library/books/ignition.pdf, because that would be naughty.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge
        Go

        Re: Obligatory: the IT angle?

        Thanks for that link, it's an excellent read; here's a further excerpt to bring us back to biting the hand that feeds IT:

        <quote, apropos rocket motor performance calculations>

        All the compilations of thermodynamic data are on punch cards, now, versatile programs, which can handle a dozen or so elements, are on tape, and things are a lot simpler than they were.

        ... there is one disconcerting thing about working with a computer—it's likely to talk back to you. You make some tiny mistake in your FORTRAN language — putting a letter in the wrong column, say, or omitting a comma — and the 360 comes to a screeching halt and prints out rude remarks, like "ILLEGAL FORMAT," or "UNKNOWN PROBLEM," or, if the man who wrote the program was really feeling nasty that morning, "WHAT'S THE MATTER STUPID? CAN'T YOU READ?" Everyone who uses a computer frequently has had, from time to time, a mad desire to attack the precocious abacus with an axe.

        </quote>

        Plus ça change, eh?

        I don't think the chemistry is beyond anyone who has half a chance of remembering some O-level inorganic chemistry, by the way, unless you're actually thinking of *using* the information to prepare some rocket fuel. In that case, you're mad!

      2. The elephant in the room
        Flame

        Re: Obligatory

        Despite absolutely not following that link Ignition seems to have fallen into my computer, and I see it has a foreword by some chap called Isaac Asimov!

  6. John Robson Silver badge

    Kerbal Space Programme....

    I can't believe it doesn't even get a mention...

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
      Happy

      Re: Kerbal Space Programme....

      Nor does Goddard. He made a few contributions.

      The thing we really need is an infinite improbability drive, so if anybody can give me a Bambleweeny 57 sub-meson brain hooked up to an atomic vector plotter, I will supply the cup of really hot tea and feed in the improbability of the infinite improbability drive.

      1. Mike Richards

        Re: Kerbal Space Programme....

        And Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.

    2. M Gale

      Re: Kerbal Space Programme....

      I can't believe it doesn't even get a mention...

      Shiny!

    3. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Copenhagen Suborbitals

      What about Copenhagen Suborbitals?

      Ok, so I'm not sure that any of their rockets has quite gone in the direction it's supposed to, but who else is building their own liquid fuelled rocket engine in a shed*.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqASqda0ylc

      *(quite a large shed yes, but they're not really using any advanced tools or materials)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    Araine 5 record

    the note that Ariane 5 has had 4 failures in 68 launches makes it sound worse than it really is - The last 53 successive launches have been without failure - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariane_5

    1. Yag
      Unhappy

      Re: Araine 5 record

      The first launch was a spectacular case of fail...

      The backstory is quite sad however : No funding for adequate test means, reuse of the old Ariane 4 means, depression and suicide for some of the technical grunts who got all the blame on them...

  8. Tom 11
    Thumb Up

    Nice work!

    Thanks for that great article Lester, pictures really make it, the Soyez on the last page is magnificent :)

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Nice work!

      There's a more impressive view of Soyuz launching here:

      http://news.discovery.com/space/astronaut-view-soyuz-launch-130402.htm

      This one was taken from the ISS...

  9. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Anybody working on superguns?

    These look like very cheap ways of launching things into low orbit - though you wouldn’t want to live next door. You can largely replace the first stage of a rocket* with these and use really cheap and controllable fuel on the ground.

    Bury one in the Andes and you could scare the hell out of the condors!

    *You could get 1000mph for 10G push over 10Km - unmanned vehicles should be able to take a lot more than this.

    1. John 110
      Thumb Up

      Re: Anybody working on superguns?

      In Bob Shaw's "Tomorrow Lies in Ambush", the hero has a company using a huge gun (in Iceland IIRC) to put stuff in orbit.

      Bob Shaw, sadly neglected and missed writer.

      1. RainForestGuppy
        FAIL

        Re: Anybody working on superguns?

        Not very a original author, I think Jules Verne had the same Idea 100 years earlier "From the Earth to the Moon"

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Anybody working on superguns?

      "These look like very cheap ways of launching things into low orbit - though you wouldn’t want to live next door. You can largely replace the first stage of a rocket* with these and use really cheap and controllable fuel on the ground."

      This one comes up on a regular basis. Using EM launch on the Moon is a viable option. People forget you have 2 problems. If the gun supplies all the velocity you're limited to bulk cargo as there is no real experience building engines that can survive 1000g (what you seem to be talking about is more like an EM launcher or mass driver, not a combustion gun which have much higher g forces).

      And 1000 mph equates to about 444 m/s. That's M1.3. Orbital velocity is about M23. Where is the other M21.7 coming from?

      Perhaps you would like to review your numbers?

    3. Tim #3

      Re: Anybody working on superguns?

      Worth having a read about Project Harp https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_HARP for more about superguns.

      Though as Gerald Bull ultimately found out, there are dangers with getting involved in that field.

    4. Mike Richards

      Re: Anybody working on superguns?

      Not since supergun genius Gerald Bull met a nasty end at the hands of the Israeli secret service (allegedly).

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Anybody working on superguns?

      So far the closest anyone's gotten is to point the "gun" at the ground and ride the recoil to orbit. (Terry Pratchett cam up with that analogy a number of years ago). In that case, Saturn V is very "super"

      The HARP guns could fire sounding(*) payloads but the fundamental problem with guns or EM rail launchers on earth is that atmospheric friction will destroy most of the payload which didn't get squished by the initial acceleration.

      (*) In rocketry terms, "Sounding" means (more or less) straight up - and straight back down afterwards. Spaceship One is a sounding rocket with wings.

  10. DaiKiwi
    Pint

    Upgoer Five

    Nice article. And now, the Saturn Five explained in 'Basic English', with blueprint.

    http://xkcd.com/1133/

  11. David Harper 1

    Why no mention of Sergei Korolev?

    It's a pity that this otherwise excellent article fails to mention Sergei Korolev, who was as great a rocket scientist as Werner von Braun.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Why no mention of Sergei Korolev?

      "It's a pity that this otherwise excellent article fails to mention Sergei Korolev, who was as great a rocket scientist as Werner von Braun."

      And somewhat ironically put in a lot more jail time as well.

      1. Mayhem

        Re: Why no mention of Sergei Korolev?

        There was a fantastic Equinox documentary called "Russian Rockets, the Engines that came in from the Cold" back in 2001 on the NK-33 engine, which up until the fall of the Soviet Union was unknown in the west. And then the impoverished rocket scientists came knocking on various doors in the west to try and sell their engine, which was promising a seemingly impossible thrust-to-weight ratio of almost double anything the west could produce.

        The best part of the documentary is the expressions of astonishment on the face of the western engineers when they saw one demonstrated, and the absolute disbelief when the scientists said they had over a hundred of them in a warehouse back home. It turned out that while the rocket the engine was originally for was cancelled by the Kremlin, and the program was supposedly shut down, Korolev and his team just carried on refining the techniques and produced what turns out to be the finest LOX/Kerosene engine ever made.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NK-33

        1. Mayhem

          Re: Why no mention of Sergei Korolev?

          Knew I'd find a copy of it somewhere

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEX0IHIn0_4

    2. Bubba Von Braun
      Thumb Up

      Re: Why no mention of Sergei Korolev?

      And did just as the US did got his own set of "Germans" then proceeded to build the R1 using Glushko's copy of the V2 engine. All thanks to Helmut Grottrup for providing re-worked blueprints from the parts left at Nordhausen and from personal memory.

      Korolev's brilliance did show through, using the R2 with a detachable warhead increased the range.

      Glushko was a huge fan of the "Devils Venom" designing the engines for Mikhail Yangel's R12 as by this point the relationship between Korolev and Glushko was as toxic as the Devil's venom.

  12. oddie
    Happy

    of the smaller countries not mentioned...

    I'm sure they decided to focus on only the main countries with orbital lift capabilities, but even just for its weird launch trajectories due to political reasons the israeli program centered around the Shavit rockets is quite interesting.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm Aways Surprised...

    .. how Von Braun got into the US.

    Every time I went there I had to tick "NO" on question C of the visa waiver form saying I wasn't a scumbag Nazi mass murderer.

    1. Mayhem

      Re: I'm Aways Surprised...

      But no doubt he ticked Yes, so he couldn't be deported for lying on his visa application.

      Seriously, that part of the form is nothing to do with detecting unwanted people

      (Oh ze clever Americanz ... ze complicated security qvestion getz me every time!)

      and everything to do with providing a simple way of deporting people without having to go through the potential hassle of the courts. Proven to have lied on the form? Bang, entry visa revoked, you're on a plane.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    More On Scientists

    Apparently the Ministerium Für Staatssicherheit (the Tsheka of communist Germany) had some elite intel capabilities allegedly in the same class as the Americans in the 80s.

    So the MfS cryptologists were quickly hired by Rohde&Schwarz (a major intel technology supplier among other electronic things) of Munich, so that the now unified German state could retain their talent without polticial embarassment.

    http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/zweite-karriere-ex-stasi-kryptologen-arbeiten-fuer-bundesregierung-und-nato-a-719573.html

    Tyranny getting shit done and so on.

    I could continue about the lineage of Bavaria Inc., Nazism, Fremde Heere Ost and how the Americans fell over each other to re-use these intel/special ops people in their work against the Russkies.

    Also quite funny how former Nazis were all too happy to recycle the propaganda they knew from 33 to 45 against the Soviets and for the Americans. I assume it made their self-reconciliation a bit easier to sing the same song under different rule.

  15. jason 7
    Mushroom

    Time to dust off Project Orion.

    I'm sure with today's more precise maths modelling and experience a fully nuclear launch out in the pacific would work a treat.

    Getting 5000+ tons of building materials and supplies into space in one go, not to mention a fully working factory/workshop would be a huge leap.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_%28nuclear_propulsion%29

  16. ukgnome
    Thumb Up

    @Lester

    Nice article Lester, I could read about and look at pictures of rockets all day. And thanks to having two small boys at home I often do.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should you decide to move to the USA,

    We can offer you a big office, your own phone, pens and pencils, executive rocket toys ...and a hair transplant.

    Who could resist?

  18. wobblestar

    Once we had a rocket ....

    ... cracking documentary on the British satellite launch capability, produced in 2008.

    On YouTube in pieces or here complete http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=95c_1257331486

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Flame

      Re: Once we had a rocket ....

      What do you exactly expect when shopkeepers do massive engineering projects ? They got a satellite launched and that should be sufficient for the national ego.

      And, they seemed to have been obsessed with safety. They should have launched from a remote place in Scotland, thereby saving time and money. If you really want to do spaceflight, unwanted explosions are almost the daily bred. If you want it quickly, you need to risk your own people. Von Braun died of cancer and I assume he breathed a bit too much hydrazine. The Russkies fried themselves on a regular basis.

  19. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Boffin

    Things *might* be under review.

    http://www.bis.gov.uk/ukspaceagency/news-and-events/2013/Mar/access-to-space-what-will-the-uk-need-in-the-future

    Don't get too excited. It's a study, not an investment programme. They are asking questions at this point.

    The UK actually has 2 test ranges at MoD Arbopath (Cardogan bay) and South Uist (Outer Hebrides)

  20. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Shuttles

    "The 1986 Challenger disaster was caused by a seal failure in one of the orbiter's SRBs, which in turn ruptured the external liquid hydrogen fuel tank, resulting in a catastrophic explosion."

    Um, no. The ruptured tanks dumped their load, which deflagrated harmlessly (but spectacularly) behind the shuttle stack. What destroyed the orbiter was the result of going sideways at mach $LARGENUMBER due to asymetric thrust - aerodynamic stresses ripped it apart in a matter of a 1-2 seconds.

    The SRBs kept going until the Range Safety Officer sent the destruct command a few seconds later. This fired a charge which split the SRB casings longitudinally and effectively shut down forward thrust. (The SRB propellant burned for a while longer, but at no point was there an explosion.)

    1. Bubba Von Braun
      Boffin

      Re: Shuttles

      "An explosion is a rapid increase in volume and release of energy in an extreme manner, usually with the generation of high temperatures and the release of gases. Subsonic explosions are created by low explosives through a slower burning process known as deflagration."

      Challengers external tank did not detonate. But it did explode when the aft bulkhead collapsed causing the LH2 to be propelled into the LOX tank destroying the intertank structure at the same time the right hand SRB impacting the top of the ET, the resulting burn of the LH2/LOX was uncontained and extrene. With the spine of the assembly destroyed the Orbiter veered off and and was subject to loads in excess for 20g's way beyond the 5g's the Shuttle was designed for.

      Interestingly the Shuttle never exploded and given the presence of "Devils Venom" propellants in the OMS pod and the RCS system in the nose quite surprising.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Shuttles

      "The SRBs kept going until the Range Safety Officer sent the destruct command a few seconds later. "

      That inability to shut down large solids without huge thrust loads is what makes them so damm dangerous for crewed space flight.

  21. ecofeco Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Excellent Summation

    Thanks. Great article.

  22. Peter Fairbrother 1
    Mushroom

    T-Stoff

    T-Stoff was 80% or 85% (there were several versions) hydrogen peroxide stabilised with less than 1% oxyquinoline or more often phosphate. The rest was water.

    Yes I know that Wikipedia says T-Stoff was 20% oxyquinoline, but Wikipedia is wrong. 80% peroxide with 20% oxyquinoline is a highly sensitive - breathe wrong and it goes off - high explosive.

    Or it would be, if anyone was insane enough to try and make it.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: T-Stoff

      Does anyone recall a news story some years back (2004-5 iirc) about a cargo of hydrogen peroxide going off in a transport truck, leaving the M25 strewn with orange buckets?

      IIRC that was about 5-10 litres of 90% peroxide for a rocketpack enthusiast, which didn't like being shaken on the truck (cue stories about couriers and their mishandling of anything marked "fragile")

  23. PassiveSmoking
    Flame

    No mention of SpaceShipOne?

    Didn't SpaceShipOne use some fuel based on burning rubber with Nitrus Oxide? I'd have thought that would get a mention, as it was a pretty novel power plant.

    1. Bubba Von Braun
      Thumb Up

      Re: No mention of SpaceShipOne?

      Spaceship One used a Nitrous Oxide Hybrid. NOX is the oxidizer with rubber used as the fuel. Hybrids have been around since the 60's but companies like Environmental Aeroscience Corporation (EaC) has done allot to promote this form of propulsion system. EaC was one of the contractors for the SpaceShip One program.

  24. Dave Rickmers
    Alert

    No mention of pollution or climate

    SRBs make very nasty clouds, as do Hydrazine rockets. Look the other way at your own peril.

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