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.
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.
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]
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