Last week a United States’ “hit-to-kill vehicle” intercepted and destroyed a mock intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time during a test. Until fifteen years ago, however, anti-ballistic missiles (ABMs) like the one just tested were banned under the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed by the United States and Soviet Union in 1972.
NASA is building a brand new rocket for the future of human spaceflight. Astronaut Christina Koch, who graduated from NASA’s astronaut training program in 2015, helps us examine the Space Launch System rocket in more detail.
On December 18, 1941, 11 days after Pearl Harbor, four young members of the American Rocket Society (ARS)—James Wyld, John Shesta, H. Franklin Pierce, and Lovell Lawrence Jr.—officially incorporated Reaction Motors, Inc. (RMI), in New Jersey. The timing was no coincidence: it was one of many patriotic actions Americans took after suddenly finding themselves fighting a war. RMI, which was created to offer assisted-take-off rockets to the military aviation branches, was the first successful American company devoted to liquid-propellant rocketry. In its 31-year lifespan, it developed rocket engines of noteworthy importance, especially for pioneering X-planes.
Blue Origin, Jeff Bezo’s private rocket company, passed an in-flight test of its launch escape system Wednesday—a method of detaching a crew capsule from a launch rocket. The successful test moves Blue Origin one step closer to its goal of carrying tourists into space.
How to bring crews safely back to Earth in the event something goes wrong during a launch has always been a concern. Launch escape systems have been engineered into nearly all ventures into space.
Ninety years ago today, on March 16, 1926, Robert H. Goddard (1882-1945) launched the world’s first liquid-propellant rocket. His rickety contraption, with its combustion chamber and nozzle on top, burned for 20 seconds before consuming enough liquid oxygen and gasoline to lift itself off the launch rack. The rocket took off from a snowy field outside Worcester, Massachusetts, reaching a height of about 12.5 meters (41 feet) and a distance of 56 meters (184 feet). It was smashed on impact. Goddard, his wife Esther, and a couple of assistants from Clark University, where he was a physics professor, were the only witnesses.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Wernher von Braun (March 23, 1912-June 16, 1977), one of the most famous rocketeers and advocates of spaceflight that ever lived. Accordingly, it is an appropriate time to reflect on his remarkable life and career. A longstanding “space cadet,” von Braun was an early member of the “Verein fur Raumschiffahrt” (Society for Spaceship Travel, or VfR). Although spaceflight aficionados and technicians had organized at other times and in other places, the VfR emerged soon after its founding on July 5, 1927 as a leading group that both advocated for spaceflight and worked to build rockets. Growing up in the VfR, Wernher von Braun became the quintessential and movingly eloquent advocate for the dream of spaceflight and a leading architect of its technical development.