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Amazing Vid Shows What You’d See If Rockets Were Transparent

You can even see the fuel draining out of them.

5. 14. 20 by Victor Tangermann
Haze Gray Art
Image by Haze Gray Art

A new video shows what it would look like if four rocket types were transparent during liftoff and stage separation — even showing how the fuel drains as the rockets keep firing.

The fascinating animation compares the following four rockets from left to right:

  • Saturn V, a US-made super heavy-lift vehicle used by NASA between 1967 and 1973
  • The Space Shuttle, NASA’s space plane that retired back in 2011
  • SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, a super heavy-lift vehicle
  • NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), the space agency’s upcoming heavy lift rocket that has been under development since the Space Shuttle retired in 2011

The video color-codes a number of different rocket fuel types being used up by the rockets’ various stages.

  • Red is kerosene RP-1, a highly refined form of kerosene similar to jet fuel.
  • Orange is liquid hydrogen (LH2), a common rocket fuel used by NASA. Interestingly, it first cools the nozzle of the rocket before being ignited by an oxidizer.
  • Blue is liquid oxygen (LOX), the liquid form of diatomic oxygen that often is used as oxidizer for the liquid hydrogen in rockets such as NASA’s workhorse RS-25, an engine that was used for the Space Shuttle.

NASA’s upcoming SLS will mix both LH2 and LOX to produce a massive amount of energy — and water.

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Due to the extremely low density of LH2, NASA’s SLS would need a gigantic fuel tank. To mitigate that, designers gave the rocket two boosters on either side, a design derivative of NASA’s retired Space Shuttle.

Both SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and the Saturn V use a refined version of kerosene as a first stage, a stage that gets jettisoned at a certain altitude.

Burning kerosene comes with a heavy toll on the environment as burning it creates immense amounts of carbon dioxide — a problem that could be compounded if SpaceX’s plan to launch a rocket every two weeks ever comes to fruition.

The animator behind the video even thought to include a tiny little red Tesla Roadster — a car famously launched into space in 2018 by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

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Editor’s note 5/14/2020: A previous version of this story wrongly stated that SpaceX’s Heavy Falcon will carry NASA astronauts into space later this month. It will in fact be a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

READ MORE: If Rockets were Transparent [YouTube]

More on rockets: Dock a SpaceX Spacecraft to the ISS in This Amazing Simulator


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