Rockets and Spacecraft

Part of the Astronomers' Universe book series (ASTRONOM)

Rockets have been used for ceremonial and warfare purposes since the ancient Chinese first created them, probably in about AD 600. The first written record of the use of rockets as powered artillery was during the siege of Kai-Fung-Fu in AD 1232, when the Chinese used rocket fire-arrows to repel the Mongol invaders. Through the 13th century other Asian armies developed gunpowder-propelled fire-arrows, and the use of these weapons quickly spread throughout Asia, Europe and the Arab countries.

Development of rockets for weapons continued and in 1647 Nathaniel Nye’s Art of Gunnery, which included a large section on rockets, was published in London. Kazimierz Siemienowicz, a Polish–Lithuanian, also wrote about rockets and his work Artis Magnae Artilleriae pars prima (Great Art of Artillery, the First Part) was published in 1650. This contains work on rockets, pyrotechnics, fireballs and fireworks. However, the use of rockets declined as improvements were made to conventional artillery, such as cannons, by the use of better construction techniques, materials and propellants and a better understanding of ballistics.


Propulsion System Gravity Gradient Space Shuttle Hubble Space Telescope Launch Vehicle 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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