Rockets: Sulfur, Sputnik and Scramjets

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Our story starts around 700 B.C. when the Chinese used a form of gunpowder to fumigate their houses. The first real rockets were gunpowder-filled sections of bamboo thrown under horses to scare them; the next development was to tie these to arrows.

The Mongols took rockets from China to Europe where only some, including Admiral Nelson and the Crown Prince of Sweden, were impressed. The Royal Navy used them in all sorts of odd actions against 'restless natives' in Tierra Del ...

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Overview

Our story starts around 700 B.C. when the Chinese used a form of gunpowder to fumigate their houses. The first real rockets were gunpowder-filled sections of bamboo thrown under horses to scare them; the next development was to tie these to arrows.

The Mongols took rockets from China to Europe where only some, including Admiral Nelson and the Crown Prince of Sweden, were impressed. The Royal Navy used them in all sorts of odd actions against 'restless natives' in Tierra Del Fuego, Australia and New Zealand, and the Russian and Austrian empires adopted rockets as alternatives to artillery in boggy and mountainous territory. By 1870 their heyday appeared over.

But since the Roman Empire people had dreamed of travelling to the moon and by 1900 some were starting to realise that rockets were the only way to get there. Robert Goddard in the USA and other space enthusiasts all across Europe in the first half of the twentieth century started developing the rockets that are now used for space exploration, by the military and for commercial purposes such as setting up satellite communications that have revolutionised our modern world.

Our story ends with a look at the future of rockets and the third-generation spacecraft, the scramjet.

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Editorial Reviews

KLIATT
Science writer Macinnis was barely a teenager when he watched the first Sputnik crawl slowly across the stars on the night of October 4, 1957. Like many another boy, he instantly became infatuated with rockets, propellants, boosters and all the panoply of the dawning Space Age. As the new technology matured, so did he, and ultimately he was able to witness the tenuous success of the Hyshot experimental rocket test deep in the remote reaches of his native Australia. This launch, which took place on August 16, 2002, was the first hesitant step in developing a hypersonic ramjet engine, an event that even now is only barely beginning to reach the public consciousness. Developing a "scramjet" rocket engine capable of scooping its vital oxidizer from its own slipstream may well mark the way to a new generation of space launch vehicles. Inspired by these two epochal events, Macinnis set out to compile a popular history of rocketry that would be accessible to the casual reader. His take on the subject is mature and stimulating, not the usual glib treatment of this popular subject, but definitely not "rocket science" either. Too many other books begin with a wink at Wang Hu's famous (but, it turns out, apocryphal) rocket chair, and end with a histrionic salute to Project Apollo. This author takes a more thoughtful approach. He presents a thought-provoking study of just why the ancient Chinese might have wanted to isolate the ingredients of black gunpowder, for example, and speculates just how they might have accomplished this. From there, he goes into all of its ramifications. This is presented in an easy, enthusiastic and sometimes ironic style, stuffed full of interesting factoids,stories and anecdotes. If anyone wonders how brimstone got its name or how burning sulfur came to be associated with the Devil, this is the book. Readers will appreciate the creative eccentricities of William Congreve and Robert Goddard, and enjoy learning about the different rocket motors and how they work. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Allen & Unwin, dist. by IPG, 266p. illus. bibliog. index., Ages 15 to adult.
—Raymond Puffer
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781865087948
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin Pty., Limited
  • Publication date: 4/1/2004
  • Pages: 288
  • Lexile: 1430L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.64 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Table of Contents

Prologue
1 Sputnik and the 50-year rule 1
2 The first rockets 11
3 The alchemists 27
4 Congreve's ricochet rockets 48
5 The rockets' red glare 71
6 After Waterloo 90
7 The dream of space 103
8 Civil rockets 115
9 The universal touring gene 130
10 A question of fuels 147
11 Chasing Goddard 160
12 Rockets in World War II 185
13 The Space Age 206
14 The alternatives 225
Postscript 242
Acknowledgements 244
References 248
Index 258
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