Feeds

Space elevators, vacuum chutes: What next for big rocket tech?

How boffins hope to escape long shadow of the V2

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Pic special We recently suggested that even the most advanced rocket currently slipping the surly bonds of Earth is nothing more than glorified V2, over 70 years since Hitler's Vergeltungswaffe 2 first lifted off the pad at Peenemünde.

Today, we'll have a look at some technologies that may one day allow us to escape V2 designer Wernher von Braun's long shadow - the extent of which is clearly demonstrated by a quick look at how far we've advanced since the V2.

Von Braun's rocket was powered by a couple of big tanks of liquid ethanol/water mix and liquid oxygen (LOX)...

A cutaway view of a V2 rocket

The V2 laid bare (click for a bigger version)

...while the Saturn V's first stage used a couple of enormous tanks of kerosene and LOX to get off the ground:

Cutaway view of the Saturn V. Pic: NASA

The Saturn V

Cutaway view of the Ariane 5 on the launchpad. Pic: ESA

The Ariane 5 (click for a bigger version)

The mighty lifter's second and third stage were propelled Moon-wards by liquid hydrogen (LH2) and LOX. Fast forward 40 years, and Europe's Ariane 5's two stages similarly rely on one LH2/LOX unit each.

Looking at cutaways of the three vehicles, it's clear the chap in his cavalry riding breeches admiring the V2 would, if confronted with an Ariane 5, find little has changed in the basic design.

Unlike the V2 and Saturn V, however, the Ariane gets an initial kick from two solid rocket boosters (SRBs), providing 92 per cent of thrust at lift-off.

These burn ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP) - a block of oxidising ammonium perchlorate and aluminium powder, held in a binder such as hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB).

It sounds impressive, although solid-rocket tech is fundamentally unaltered since the Chinese had the bright idea of strapping a cylinder packed with gunpowder to an arrow, thereby creating the fire-arrow projectile.

Solid-fuel rockets are simple and reliable - so simple that while it took a thousand years go from this...

An engraving of a soldier launching a fire-arrow

The fire-arrow: Light blue touchpaper and stand well back

...to this...

A cutaway view of a space shuttle SRB. Pic: NASA

A bigger fire-arrow: The space shuttle's SRB (click for a bigger version)

...even the most advanced SRB can hardly be considered a major scientific advance.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.