Posts Tagged ‘Rockets’
Shock diamonds are a pattern that occurs in an afterburner’s flame. The reasons behind its existence are very technical and geeky and having to do with changes in pressure in the flame and atmospheric pressure as an external force, but it is pretty well summed up in the following diagram which i have lifted from Aerospaceweb.org.
Sources: video from XCOR Aerospace (www.xcor.com > on YouTube under general license)
The V-2 (Vergeltungswaffe-2) is the predecessor of all modern rockets and spacecraft. It was essentially the starting point for all modern spaceflight as it was the first non-human piloted object to enter the upper atmosphere. You may be asking what makes the V-2 (or A4, Aggregat-4 as it is sometimes known) different than other rockets, what distinguishes it, and what makes it applicable to label as the beginning? What about the A3?
Well, like I said it was the first rocket to enter `space` or the thermosphere, which is the outermost layer of our atmosphere starting around 85km above the surface of the Earth. It followed a path that was roughly parabolic, peaking around 90km with a range of 300km. I think now would be also a good time to get into the technical aspects of it before I get into a little more history. This was a weapon that was developed by the Nazis during World War II; vergeltungswaffe roughly translates to `reprisal weapon` or `vengeance weapon`. I say that because I think that when you think about this rocket in the context of the WWII era, that is the late 30′s and early 40′s, you will see that the V2 in all its horrors as a death instrument not only in the end but during its production, is a staggering technical achievement.
Anyways, by modern rocket standards, the V-2 is not very big, but this is a weapon that is 14 meters tall and almost 2 wide at its widest point, weighing in at 12,870 kilos or over 14 tons; slightly bigger than the grenades soldiers were tossing around from trenches in WWI. All that mass breaks down to 3.6 tons of alcohol and another 5 of liquid oxygen and both were used as fuel. Add on a 1000kg warhead and you have a missile that comes in to its target at a truly apocalyptic 5,760kph with a speed on impact of 800 meters/sec. That means it was not even possible to hear the thing coming in – if someone survived the blast, then they heard it coming in. During liftoff, the fuel would burn and propel the rocket for about 70-80 seconds to 90km in the atmosphere where it would reach a brennschluss, or cutoff point and begin its downward trajectory.
Approximately 6000 V-2s were produced in total in forced labor camps under the Nazi regime. 3225 were fired killing approximately 7,250 and injuring another 20,000 where over 12,000 people died in imprisonment camps making them at a cost of over 2 and 1/3 million British pounds each. This weapon, surprisingly enough, caused more deaths during production than firing from launch sites and landing at intended targets, surely one of if not the only weapon to ever have this credit tagged on its legacy.
This post is actually going to be in two parts, and this concludes part 1. Part 2 is going to delve more into the history, the launches of the rocket, the failures, the motivations behind building it and ultimately and most importantly to my blog, how it cemented its legacy by being the starting point for all modern rockets and space craft.
Photo credit: 2007 Anatoly Zak on RussianSpaceWeb.com – full link: www.russianspaceweb.com/a4.html
Information credit: I researched and lifted some information from RussianSpaceWeb.com, V2Rocket.com, and “Gravity’s Rainbow” by Thomas Pynchon, c 1973 Bantam Books