How do you power a rocket engine? (Video)

Rockets are probably the most complicated pieces of a human-made machinery ever – especially their engines. These components have no analogs in any terrestrial transport.

RS-25 rocket engine on the way to the test site.

RS-25 rocket engine on the way to the test site. Credits: NASA/SSC

Even when we consider all the latest advances in technology – modern materials, numerical control capabilities, and even a possibility of integrating functions driven by machine learning – flying a rocket still remains a difficult challenge, and a risky business. The biggest part of the challenge is to ensure a reliable operation of the engine itself – both from the mechanical and electronic control perspective.

If you want to lift a rocket off the Earth’s surface, first you need to produce a rapid combustion reaction during which the exhaust gases are accelerated to very high speeds, pushing the engine in the opposite direction. For small models, such reaction can be done in a relatively simple way, where you just need to sufficiently pressurize all the propellant components, ignite the reaction, and that’s it. But for larger and more sophisticated rockets, where you need higher performance and better fuel efficiency, the engine design and operation control becomes an extremely complicated task, where even the fuel circulation needs considerable ingenuity to make it work.

The following video explains the ways which can be used to power rocket engines in order to make them fully functional:

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