General Information on How Rockets Work: Rocketry for the Novice, Explaining What Makes a Rocket Engine

To explain how a rocket works it is important to understand the parts used in its construction. A rocket is an object that gains momentum by an internal reaction. A rocket is a type of engine. An engine is just a machine that creates motion through another energy source. Unlike other engines that need to pull in external air, a rocket only uses internal components.


A rocket has three standard parts. These include the chamber, the propellant, and the payload.


The Chamber


The chamber is the part of the rocket where the propellant is stored at high pressure. It is this high pressure that enables the rocket to expel the propellant at high speeds and creates the familiar lift of a rocket. Along with the chamber is the nozzle. The nozzle is the open end of the chamber. Because of the small size of the nozzle and the high pressure within the chamber, the propellant is forced out at high speeds creating thrust.


The Propellant


The propellant is the fuel of the rocket. This also makes up most of the weight of the rocket. Many rockets need a combination of fuel and an oxidizer but there are some rockets that have a single propellant.


The Payload


The payload is anything that the rocket is carrying. This includes machinery and people as with the rockets that go to space. In instances of weapons, the explosives would be considered the rocket’s payload. With weapons, the payload is often called the warhead.


How Does the Rocket Work


The rocket is very simple but complex at the same time. For a rocket to work all that is needed is to have the propellant in the chamber and add the payload. The propellant is ignited and this causes great heat added to the pressure within the chamber. The gases are released from the chamber through the nozzle creating thrust. The thrust is the force produced to lift the payload of the rocket.


While simple in theory, there are many obstacles that need to be addressed for a successful rocket launch. Once ignited, the propellant creates a lot of heat under extreme pressure. The chamber needs to withstand this heat or have some way to cool throughout the process. The chamber also needs to be strong enough to withstand the pressure created.


With a basic understanding of the parts of a rocket, it is possible to begin to enjoy flying rockets with little assistance. Many rocket kits can be purchased that contain all of the items needed. In addition, the chamber is design to control the internal reaction with little monitoring. The NASA website is also a good source of additional information.


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