Early History of Rocketry

Those that have researched into to beginning of the space age will easily recognize the name, Werner von Braun. He is considered the founding father of modern rocketry, contributing to numerous leaps in this field. Early on in his life he was given a book about going to the planets and rocket for the travel, capturing his attention and his mind. From then on he decided that he wanted to do what the book illustrated, and started to conduct his own experiments. One experiment consisted of numerous homemade solid fuel rocket engines being strapped to the back of a wagon. All of the engines were light, driving the wagon down the road into a crowd of any people, luckily no one was hurt.

As he started to conduct more in-depth experiments, the world turned very grim with the eruption of World War Two. It is a common fact that the Nazi’s are considered to be one of the cruelest societies in modern times, Von Braun would not have been able to peruse his dream of going in to space. At a young age he always wanted to go in to space but when he arrived at the age where he could actually peruse his dream, the Nazi’s were in power. They banned all rocket experiments unless they pertained to having a military purpose. The defeated Von Braun realized that he only way he could peruse his dream would be to put aside his own morals and help with the creation of what would eventually become the first missile.  He was not alone in this endeavor to obtain the recognition and more importantly the funding from Adolf Hitler. Members of his society, Verein für Raumschiffahrt, and himself presented various rocket ideas to Nazi Army officials. In the eyes of the Nazi, almost every rocket present to them was horrible, only Von Braun’s design caught the attention of the Nazis. What set his design apart from everyone else’s was his innovation and the use of the liquid fueled rocket engine.


broun with nazi

(Von Braun with Nazi officials)

Previous designs saw the advancement of solid fueled rocket engines, yet they were only able to improve upon the design to minutely gain better thrust and duration from the engine. However, with Von Braun’s engine there were vast amounts of variable that could alter the flight to become better than the best solid fuel rocket engine. This is due to the fact that he could change the about of fuel being burned subsequently controlling the trust of the engine mid-flight. Previously a solid fuel engine would be light and take off, unable to be stopped since the chemical reaction producing the thrust is extremely hard to stop mid-flight. But Von Braun’s rocket engine’s trust was controllable mid-flight through various valves controlled by an onboard computer.  These valves controlled the flow rate of the liquid propellant subsequently making it have more thrust as more propellant is added and a lower thrust as the flow is restricted.


solid vs liquid

(Liquid fueled rocket compared against a solid propellant rocket)

Being able to show the Nazi Army that his rocket engine had the capability to surpass the old solid fuel engines, Von Braun signed a contract to experiment and eventually build rockets capable of reaching targets for war.  The first step that he and the Army agreed on was to send him back to school to obtain a Ph.D in Physics with a dissertation about theoretical and practical problems that liquid fueled rocket engines would face. At the same time, he was also designing his first liquid fueled rocket with member that previously were on his old rocket society. This rocket would become the stepping stone for all future rocket designs, allowing the human civilization to be able to make giant leaps in science and technology.


Work cited:

Hollingham, Richard. “V2: The Nazi Rocket That Launched the Space Age.” BBC. N.p., 3 Sept. 2014. Web. 19 June 2016.


2 thoughts on “Early History of Rocketry

  1. sxk535

    This blog post was so interesting! Although I do find space travel and rockets really cool, I’ve never looked into the history behind rockets. I have conflicted feelings about Werner von Braun. On one hand I understand that drive to follow your dreams and pursue scientific goals, but on the other hand he did contribute to building one of the deadliest weapons of modern warfare (and for the Nazis!). However, I think he was super innovative and he’s definitely a prominent figure in the scientific world.

  2. avo5227

    Great job Brian! You provide alot of information and background knowledge on Von Braun. I enjoyed how you documented the progression of his career and what essential lead him to develop his innovative and ground breaking rocket. One suggestion would be to add a few more picture to break up some of the longer text, but otherwise well done!!

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