The first rockets – of the firework type, cardboard tubes containing gunpowder – were made in 13th-century China, and the idea quickly spread to the West. Their military use was limited, guns being superior, until they were developed by William Congreve. Later Congreve rockets mounted the guide stick alongside the central axis; and William Hale eliminated it altogether, placing curved vanes in the exhaust stream, thus stabilizing the rocket's motion by causing it to rotate on its axis.
The 20th century saw the introduction of new fuels and oxidants, for example, a mixture of nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin for solid-fuel rockets, or ethanol and liquid oxygen for the more efficient liquid-fuel rockets. The first liquid fuel rocket (see liquid-propellant rocket engine) was made by Robert Goddard who also invented the practical multistage. In World War II Germany, and afterward in the United States, Wernher von Braun made vast improvements in rocket design. Other propulsion methods, such as ion propulsion, have been developed.
Related entry rocket principle
Related categories ROCKETRY TERMINOLOGY
HISTORY OF ROCKETRY
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