Friday, April 13, 2012

Out To Launch

A defiant North Korea launched a long-range rocket...only to have it break apart and fall into the sea.  It wasn't even Friday the 13th yet.

Is it that hard?  With a whole nation behind the project?  When I was a kid we used to launch rockets all the time.  I bet if I could pick ten friends from my college days and you gave us enough money, we'd be able to come up with something long-range.

Do we have any engineers or scientists reading this blog who can explain what makes this achievement so difficult?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think its fun to imagine this post being read in the voice of Nelson from The Simpsons. Hawhaw.

2:55 AM, April 13, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You try to build anything with what they've got in North Korea and you'll see what the problem is.

10:36 AM, April 13, 2012  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

The analogy to your homemade rockets is problematic, because small structures are more stable than large ones. Buy a toy boat -- a plastic one, between 2 to 6 inches long, that is hollow inside and has a plastic deck. Put it in your bathtub and put a bunch of icecubes in your bathtub. Now try ramming the boat into the ice-cubes... and I guarantee you that you won't tear a hole in the side of the boat.

A small toy boat has very little inertia. The Titanic had a lot of inertia: enough to rip steel.

That's why this happens to real rockets, far too often.

Also, we spent a tremendous amount of money on our space program between the 1950s and 1990s. I suspect we spent more money each year than the entire GNP of North Korea for a decade. When I worked at Rocketdyne in the 1980s, there were tests of the Space Shuttle Main Engine nearly every week. They put the engine through tests more strenuous than it was ever supposed to encounter on the actual shuttle, to see just how much it could take. About once per year an engine blew up in a test. But it was worth it; in 1986 people were crying when Challenger blew up, but at the same time we were proud that it wasn't our engine that had caused the explosion.

4:03 PM, April 13, 2012  

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