Do you know how the first rockets were made and what they were used for? Before we answer that, let us understand what led to the invention of rockets and how did it invoke the idea of launching objects far up into space.
The higher you go, the farther you see. Common sense, right? Back in the day, people built tall structures from the top of which they located prey, the enemy, or sometimes just to make beautiful architecture. With the invention of rockets, the whole approach of gaining height to look further changed. Of course, the first rockets were not built with the intention of exploration and discovery but were used for war.
Later in the 1920s, scientists began looking into the area of space exploration by using rockets. On October 4th, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first artificial earth orbiter, Sputnik 1. On August 5th, 1959, Explorer 6 was launched by NASA which took the first orbital photograph of the Earth. Then on April 24th, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit. It enabled us to look deep into space.
Launching an object into space, be it a small communication satellite or an interplanetary payload, has become an incredibly complex task and it gets more difficult by the day. Nowadays it involves scientists, planning years before space launching, and calculations are no more done on computers of the past, they require supercomputers to solve complex equations which makes this space launches successful.
So how does a Space Launch happen?
To answer that, let us understand how a rocket functions. A rocket is a closed chamber filled with a combustible substance also known as the propellant. Combustion of this propellant produces gasses that escape through a tiny hole at the end of the rocket. Escaping gasses produces a thrust that is used to overcome the forces of Earth’s gravity.
Scientists calculated that to launch an object into space, the object would need to reach a speed of 11.2 kilometers per second, also known as the escape velocity. Anything less than that and the object would come straight back to the surface after exhausting all its fuel.
How is an Object sent to Space?
To be launched into space, you would need a vehicle. We are talking about huge rockets. these are of different types with different stages. The selection of launch vehicles mainly depends on the destination and the weight of the payload. Further, the payload has to be taken into space and the heavier it is, the bigger the rocket. common sense right? Just a historical fact: back in the day, when launch vehicles were not commercially produced, ICBMs (Intercontinental ballistic missiles) were used as launch vehicles to send satellites and other payloads to space.
When is a Rocket Launched?
Launch Windows is the time in a day when the payload lifts off the ground. But sometimes a technical snag or any other problem might prevent the launch from happening. For that, we have something called a launch period. You see, the time when the rocket needs to be launched is calculated and not just randomly decided upon. It depends on the weather, the destination of the payload and the type of launch vehicle, and the location of the launch.
Sometimes everything might not go as planned during the launch window. So scientists pre-calculate and decide upon a period of days during which the rocket can be launched if the selected launch window is missed. This is known as the Launch period, which in simple words means that the equator is moving at a mind-boggling speed.
Now we know when and how a payload is sent to space. But how do we decide the location of the launch? Now before we answer that, let me explain something to you real quick. you see the circumference of the earth at the equator is 40,075 Kilometers and the earth completes one full rotation in 24 hours. Now if a rocket is placed at the equator then, you get the idea right? it too is traveling at the same speed as the equator. This means the rocket needs to burn less fuel to achieve escape velocity and reach its destination. Super cost-effective right?
If you like this type of content then do not forget to have a look at our other blog: https://explified.com/blog/the-near-misses-earth-has-had-with-asteroids/
Rockets can be launched from any part of the world, but anywhere near or on the equator would be economical. Space, from low earth orbits to the higher ones is crowded by other artificial satellites and deep space missions are threatened by meteorites.
To avoid collision with other satellites or meteorites, space agencies track most objects in the space near-earth or in the solar system. A collision avoidance system is put into action which prevents the launch vehicle from crashing into other satellites or meteorites while traveling to its destination.
A Space Launch is in itself a complex task! From what we learned, If you want to launch anything into space you’d need to throw it at an astronomical speed in a particular direction at a particular time, and don’t forget that your object also has to avoid obstacles in its path. Incredible right?