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A rocket is a type of engine used to provide propulsive thrust to a vehicle, such as generally a missile or, more rarely, an aircraft.
Printable Rocket Coloring Pages
To put a body in orbit, it needs to provide a thrust capable of lifting it off the ground and accelerating it to a speed of about 36 000 km/h, entirely outside our daily experience.
The rocket must, in short, be able to release enough thrust to overcome its weight.
The thrust is provided to the rocket by the so-called fuel, which is the gas produced by the engine’s combustion, which is then ejected at high speed (about 16000 km/h).
To release a sufficient thrust must be expelled a lot of gas, and therefore must be used tens of tons of propellant.
This, in turn, increases the overall weight to be lifted and brought to altitude: not only the satellite has to be lifted, but the whole structure, including the propellant tanks that provide the thrust!
Launch of an Ariane 5 To understand with numbers: at the moment, an Ariane 5 can lift and put in a temporary orbit a satellite of about 6 tons, then transferred on a final stationary orbit, at 36 000 meters of altitude.
Thanks to the thrust of the last stage of the launcher. But the entire Ariane 5 has a total mass of a whopping 750 tons, 120 times more than its payload!
That said, it will now be easy to see why the Kourou spaceport has a desirable location for a space launch base.
To “pierce” the atmosphere and release the satellites to their final orbit, a launcher must travel at least 150 km at a speed of 7.9 km/s.
This speed is achieved by the thrust of the rocket engines, which are kept on for a certain period. But to launch a rocket, not all places on Earth are equivalent.
Our planet is a spinning top that turns on itself: all points complete a full circle in about 24 hours, tracing an imaginary circumference.
But since the Earth is spherical, places at different latitudes travel along greater circumferences as we move from the poles towards the equator.
And since all points on the Earth take the same amount of time to make a complete circle, this means that a point located at the equator moves at a more incredible speed.
In short, if you launch at the equator, you can use the Earth’s rotation as if it were a slingshot, saving fuel.
This is precisely the strength of Kourou, which is located at a northern latitude of 5 degrees, just 500 km from the equator: a unique position worldwide.
Launched from Kourou, a launcher can count on a velocity increase of about 460 m/s, which is the speed at which Kourou moves due to the Earth’s rotation.
The implication is that a launch costs less and that by having to load less fuel into the launcher’s tanks, the scientific load of the satellite can be increased.
In particular, this seems very convenient for geostationary satellites, which are often used for telecommunications.