TOPIC: Rocket staging
OBJECTIVE: To demonstrate how several stages of of a rocket can operate in steps to propel a rocket.
DESCRIPTION: Two inflated balloons are joined in a way simulate a multistage rocket launch as they slide along a fishing line on the thrust produced by escaping air.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Gregory Vogt, OSU
EDITED BY: Roger Storm, NASA Lewis Research Center
Travel into outer space takes enormous amounts of energy. Much of that energy is used to lift rocket propellants that will be used for later phases of the rocket's flight. To eliminate the technological problems and cost of building giant one-piece rockets to reach outer space, NASA, as well as all other space fairing nations of the world have chosen to use a rocket technique that was invented by 16th-century fireworks maker Johann Schmidlap. To reach higher altitudes with his aerial displays, Schmidlap attached smaller rockets to the top of larger ones. When the larger rockets were exhausted, the smaller rocket climbed to even higher altitudes. Schmidlap called his invention a "step rocket."
NASA utilizes Schmidlap's invention through "multi staging." A large first stage rocket carries the smaller upper stages for the first minute or two of flight. When the first stage is exhausted, it is released to return to the Earth. In doing so, the upper stages are much more efficient and are able to reach much higher attitudes than they would have been able to do simply because they do not have to carry the expired engines and empty propellant tanks that make up the first stage. Space rockets are often designed with three or four stages that each fire in turn to send a payload into orbit.
GO BACK TO THE ROCKET ACTIVITIES
Aerospace Education Services Project Oklahoma State University