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Universe and Space Science | Chapter 8 | 8th Science - Rockets | 8th Science : Chapter 8 : Universe and Space Science

Chapter: 8th Science : Chapter 8 : Universe and Space Science


1. Parts of Rockets 2. Types of Propellants 3. Launching of Satellite


The universe is a great mystery to all of us. Our mind always tries to know about the space around us. Understanding the space will be helpful to us in many ways. Space research provides information to understand the environment of the earth and the changing climate and weather on the earth. Exploring the space will help us to answer many of the challenges we are facing these days. Discovery of rockets has opened a small portion of the universe to us.

Rockets help us to launch space probes to explore the planets in the solar system. They also help us to launch space-based telescopes to explore the universe. More than all rockets enable us to put satellites, which are useful to us in a number of ways. Our country has effective rocket technology and has applied it successfully to provide so many space services globally.

Rockets were invented in China, more than 800 years ago. The first rockets were a cardboard tube packed with gunpowder. They were called fire arrows. In 1232 AD, the Chinese used these ‘fire arrows’ to defeat the invading Mongol army. The knowledge of making rockets soon spread to the Middle East and Europe, where they were used as weapons.


1. Parts of Rockets

A rocket is a space vehicle with a very powerful engine designed to carry people or equipment beyond Earth and out into space. There are four major parts or systems in a rocket. They are:

* Structural system

* Payload system

* Guidance system

* Propulsion system

Structural system (Frame)

The structural system is the frame that covers the rocket. It is made up of very strong but light weight materials like titanium or aluminum. Fins are attached to some rockets at the bottom of the frame to provide stability during the flight.

Payload system

Payload is the object that the satellite is carrying into the orbit. Payload depends on the rocket’s mission. The rockets are modified to launch satellites with a wide range of missions like communications, weather monitoring, spying, planetary exploration, and as observatories. Special rockets are also developed to launch people into the Earth’s orbit and onto the surface of the Moon.

Guidance system

Guidance system guides the rocket in its path. It may include sensors, on-board computers, radars, and communication equipments.

Propulsion system

It takes up most of the space in a rocket. It consists of fuel (propellant) tanks, pumps and a combustion chamber. There are two main types of propulsion systems. They are: liquid propulsion system and solid propulsion system.

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicl (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) rockets are India’s popular rockets.

Activity 1

Make a model of a rocket using the low cost materials available to you. Also prepare an album of the rockets launched by India.


2. Types of Propellants

A propellant is a chemical substance that can undergo combustion to produce pressurized gases whose energy is utilized to move a rocket against the gravitational force of attraction. It is a mixture, which contains a fuel that burns and an oxidizer, which supplies the oxygen necessary for the burning (combustion) of the fuel. The propellants may be in the form of a solid or liquid.

a. Liquid propellants

In liquid propellants, fuel and oxidisers are combined in a combustion chamber where they burn and come out from the base of the rocket with a great force. Liquid hydrogen, hydrazine and ethyl alcohol are the liquid fuels. Some of the oxidizers are oxygen, ozone, hydrogen peroxide and fuming nitric acid.

b. Solid propellants

In solid rocket propellants, fuel and oxidiser compounds are already combined. When they are ignited they burn and produce heat energy. Combustion of solid propellants cannot be stopped once it is ignited. Solid fuels used in rockets are polyurethanes and poly butadienes. Nitrate and chlorate salts are used as oxidizers.

c. Cryogenic propellants

In this type of fuel, the fuel or oxidizer or both are liquefied gases and they are stored at a very low temperature. These fuels do not need any ignition system. They react on mixing and start their own flame.


3. Launching of Satellite

Activity 2

Take a balloon and blow air into it. Now let the air inside the balloon to come out. What do you observe? You can see the balloon moving in a direction opposite to the direction of the air. Rocket also moves almost similar to this.

In this experiment, a rocket launch is illustrated by blowing up a balloon and letting it go. The escaping air exerts a force on the balloon, and the balloon reacts by pushing in the opposite direction with the same force, as described by Newton’s third law of motion (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction). The opposing force (as with rocket thrust) propels the balloon forward (figure 1). To make the demonstration more controlled, the balloon is attached to a line made from string.

Before being launched into the space, rockets will be held down by the clamps on the launching pad. Manned or unmanned satellites will be placed at the top of the rocket. When the fuel in the rocket is burnt, it will produce an upward thrust. There will be a point at which the upward thrust will be greater than the weight of the satellite. At that point the clamp will be removed by remote control and the rocket will move upwards. According to Newton’s third law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As the gas is released downward, the rocket will move upward.

To place a satellite in a particular orbit, a satellite must be raised to the desired height and given the correct speed and direction by the launching rocket. If this high velocity is given to the rocket at the surface of the Earth, the rocket will be burnt due to air friction. Moreover, such high velocities cannot be developed by a single rocket. So, multistage rockets are used. To penetrate the dense lower part of the atmosphere, initially the rocket rises vertically and then it is tilted by a guidance system.


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