Rocket fuel

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Rocket fuels are used to propel projectiles. Typically, expanding gases from the rapid combustion of the rocket fuel propels the rocket.[1]

Gunpowder was the first rocket fuel, first used in ancient China.[1]

Rockets are best known for their use in celebrations, and as weapons. Rockets have also been used in engineering, and by mariners, to carry a messenger line across a chasm, or between ships.[1] Starting in the 20th century, rockets have been used for transportation, carrying satellites or astronauts, to outer space.[2][3]

Rockets designed by pioneers like Robert Godard and Werner von Braun carried both a liquid fuel, and supercooled liquid oxygen, to enable particularly rapid combustion, and to allow the rockets to continue to burn even when the rocket had risen to high to use ambient atmospheric oxygen.[2][3]

Rockets that rely on solid fuel may have a solid oxidant mixed with the fuel.[2][3]

Rockets used in outer space may rely on hypergolic fuels, where two separate fuels ignite automatically, without an outside source of ignition, merely by mixing them in a combustion chamber.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ross Andersen. The Strange and Wonderful Origins of Rocketry, The Atlantic magazine, 2012-07-25. “To understand how, we have to travel back to the invention of the first rocket fuel: gunpowder, or "the fire chemical," as it was called in ancient China.”
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 John Wenz. NASA Is Cooking Up a Better Rocket Fuel That's Also Not As Dangerously Toxic, Popular Mechanics, 2015-09-01. “Rocket fuel is nasty stuff—highly toxic and very combustable.”
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Jennifer Leman. Watch NASA Fire Up the Most Powerful Rocket Booster Ever, Popular Mechanics, 2020-09-04. “NASA and Northrop Grumman conducted the first solid rocket booster test for the agency's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on September 2.”