Feeds

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 …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

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.

12
4
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...

7
0
Silver badge

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)

22
0
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
0

Re: With a little help from my freinds

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

4
0
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.

1
0
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.

2
0

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.

0
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Good summary

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

5
0
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.

4
1
Silver badge

Re: Good summary

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

2
1
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.

1
0
Silver badge

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
1
Bronze 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.

3
1
Silver badge
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
0
Silver badge
Windows

Re: Space Junk

Story of the human race right there.

1
0
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.

0
0
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?

2
0
Silver badge
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.

13
0
Bronze badge

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.

0
0

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.

5
0
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.

3
0
Silver badge
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.

3
0
Bronze badge

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.

1
1

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.

1
0
Bronze badge

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

0
0
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.

1
0
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.

5
0
Bronze 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.

0
0
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.

12
0

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

0
0
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
0
Facepalm

Re: Obligatory

Dagnabbit, beaten by David Given

0
0
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.

0
0

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.

12
0
Silver badge
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
0
Silver badge
Pint

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

The best description ever.

Congratulations, Mayhem.

0
0
Silver badge
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
0
Bronze badge

Re: Obligatory

For those who want some similar reading try this blog.

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

1
0
Silver badge
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

0
0
Bronze badge

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.

0
0
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.

0
0
Bronze 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!

0
0
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!

0
0
Bronze badge

Kerbal Space Programme....

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

2
0
Silver badge
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
0

Re: Kerbal Space Programme....

And Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Kerbal Space Programme....

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

Shiny!

0
0
Bronze 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)

0
0
ql
Bronze badge
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
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.