home Mind-Boggling Stories The Crazy Way Scientists Launch Rockets From Balloons

The Crazy Way Scientists Launch Rockets From Balloons

Large chemical rockets are needed to launch payloads into space from the ground, but could rockoons, rocket balloons, be a more efficient alternative?

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Rockoon

“The Rockoon (balloon-launched rocket) consisted of a small high-performance sounding rocket launched from a balloon above most of the atmosphere. The Rockoon low-cost technique was conceived during an Aerobee firing cruse of the Norton Sound in March 1949. Rockoons were first launched from icebreaker Eastwind off Greenland by an ONR group under James A. Van Allen.”

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“The balloon lifts the rocket through the densest parts of the atmosphere. Instead of fighting gravity, we use it to our advantage. The rocket only ignites in almost-vacuum conditions, where there is virtually no drag and rockets work at full efficiency. We can also accommodate a larger payload than usual. This is the environmentally friendly way to put satellites into precise orbits!”

Development of the First Sounding Rockets

“Rockoons have been mentioned several times in the preceding pages, particularly in connection with the Deacon rocket. The Deacons were used on most rockoons, but a rockoon is actually the combination of any balloon with any rocket. The rockoon concept seems to have been originated by Lt. M. L. (Lee) Lewis during a conversation with S. F. Singer and George Halvorson during the Aerobee firing cruise of the U.S.S. Norton Sound in March 1949. The basic idea is to lift a small sounding rocket high above the dense atmosphere with a large balloon in the Skyhook class.”

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