As NASA is getting ready to send new astronauts to the Moon and Elon Musk is preparing to colonize Mars, public interest in space technology has reached new heights.
Of course, none of these ambitious plans would have been possible without rocket technology, which is a hard fact. To celebrate humanity’s greatest invention, we list 10 surprising rocket facts we bet you didn’t know!
Table of Contents
Fact #1 Rockets May Be a Thousand Years Old
As far as rocket science goes, what is the craziest fun fact? Historians assume that the first analogues may have been developed around the 9-10th century, along with gunpowder.
This invention allegedly goes back to Song Dynasty in China, but even gunpowder took a few centuries before it could reach Europe. As far as modern prototypes go, we only saw the first examples in the 1920s.
Fact #2 Nazi Germany Launched First Rocket to Sub-Orbit
The first launcher to reach suborbital space was V2, invented by Wernher von Braun. Originally, Nazi Germany intended to use V2 as a weaponized missile to bomb allied states, but during test flights, it climbed surprisingly high!
Still, it wasn’t until the Nazi’s defeat before this amazing technology was improved for more peaceful, scientific purposes.
Fact #3 All Modern Rockets are Multi-Stage
V2 was the only launcher with a single stage, which is not surprising considering the fact that it was never intended for space flight.
All modern launchers have two or more stages, where the first one is used to overcome the first dense layers of Earth’s atmosphere, and the other stages (less powerful one) are used later in the space flight.
Fact #4 ISS Reached Orbit on a Rocket, Too
We all know rockets launch satellites and even people in space, but have you ever thought about how the International Space Station (ISS) reached orbit? Of course, no single launcher could deploy such a large object (ISS weighs over 400 tons, after all), so the space station had to be assembled from smaller modules directly in LEO.
Fact #5 Rockets Delivered Mail During WWII
What is the most unknown fact? Probably that rockets were used to deliver mail during WWII! According to Orbital Today, the first mail-delivering rockets are made by tech enthusiasts in the 1930s.
We know for a fact that a program from an Austrian designer had over 6,000 letters delivered using V7 missiles.
Later in 1959, the US modified a nuclear warhead to deliver 3,000 mailboxes to a US navy base in Florida, marking this historic delivery as the “first official rocket mail.”
Fact #6 Today’s Rocket Technology is Not Uni-Standard
One of the most amazing facts about rockets is that there is still no universal standard as to how these launchers should be built.
The fact is, they vary greatly in design, size, production materials, payload capacity, and even the fuel that powers them.
The latter is roughly divided into liquid and fuel, but even here, different combinations can be used to ensure necessary thrust parameters.
Fact #7 You Can Create a Rocket on a 3D-Printer
Space technology does not stand still, and additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing) plays a major part in pushing it forward.
Plenty of rocket component parts have been produced on 3D printers, but some companies have already attempted to print an entire launcher using this innovative seamless technology.
And it worked! Relativity Space has made 95% of its entire rocket on a 3D printer already, and it certainly looks this is only the beginning.
Fact #8 Modern Rockets Are Built Reusable
First launchers that went to space could only go there once, but today’s aerospace giants, such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and some others, are working on making their spacecraft 100% reusable.
This simple fact will eventually make launches more affordable, giving deep space exploration an unprecedented boost.
Fact #9 Rockets Need Hundreds of Tons of Fuel to Reach Their Goals
Even though rocket technology is constantly improving, such powerful vehicles need lots of fuel. For example, NASA’s Space Shuttle burned 1700 tons of fuel in one flight.
In contrast, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy requires 410 tons, which is way more budget-friendly but still a lot!
Fact #10 Saturn V Remains the Largest Rocket Ever Built (For Now)
Saturn V, a historic launcher that took astronauts to the Moon, still remains the largest and most powerful rocket ever built.
Designed specifically for the Apollo mission in 1963, this giant stood 110 m high and 10 m wide. Up to this day, Saturn V remains the heavyweight champion in the rocket-building world, but of course, SpaceX Starship may soon claim this title.
Of course, this list barely scratches the surface of interesting rocket facts, and considering today’s rapid technological pace, we may soon learn new exciting facts about aerospace technology. In the meantime, we wait for the first astronauts to land on the Moon and proceed to Mars!