1926: The First Modern Rocket had a Motor on its Top

1926: The First Modern Rocket had a Motor on its Top
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 16. March 1926
  • The rocket's inventor is holding the launch base. The rocket is much longer than him, with its engine at the top of the image and its tank at the same level as the man’s torso. The tank is linked with the motor only with thin tubes, so that the rocket looks very unusual by today's standards.

The first liquid fuel modern rocket in history was launched on this day. The man who constructed it was Robert Goddard and he did not receive much fame during his life – in fact, he was not even fully understood.

It is interesting that some in American press even ridiculed his idea of sending a rocket to the Moon. However, it turned out that Goddard was right, and today he is considered one of the “fathers of modern rocketry”.

On this day in 1926, Goddard tested his liquid-fueled rocket on a farm in Massachusetts. Present were only he, his wife Esther, and two colleagues.

It is interesting that Goddard’s first rocket had a motor placed on its top, while the fuel tank was below the nozzle, protected by asbestos. The liquid fuel drive was revolutionary. Namely, rockets with solid fuel were known to the Chinese as early as the 13th century.

Why did Goddard’s first rocket have a motor on top? It was probably on the assumption that it will make it more stable, because the weight of the lower fuel tank should maintain balance like a pendulum weight.

However, Goddard’s experiments already showed that this is not the case, so he later moved the motor to the bottom of the rocket, which then became the standard way rockets were built. However, that first rocket was still able to take off, lift into the air, and end up in a nearby field.

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