What is a Launch Vehicle?

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Sep 21, 2022

A launch vehicle or a carrier rocket can carry a payload or a satellite/spacecraft from the surface of the earth to the Lower earth orbit after which the payload or the satellite is deployed and will reach its intended orbit or destination. 

Launchpads are a primary requirement to launch spacecraft or satellites into space. Launchpads of the carrier rocket can be located on land, on a fixed or a mobile ocean platform, or on a submarine. The most important aspect of deciding the location for a launchpad is, that it must be away from human habitation as in case of a launch failure, there are no casualties that take place.

A launch vehicle carrying a heavy payload requires a substantial amount of thrust to free itself from the earth’s gravity and reach outer space. The combustion of fuels present in the launch vehicle produces gas due to high temperature which expands rapidly. This high volume of gas is let out through the nozzle which is placed at the bottom of the launch vehicle. The gas released from the nozzle then applies a high amount of force on the ground and as a reaction an upward force is generated which is known as thrust. The thrust generated drives the launch vehicle in an upward direction towards space which enables the launch vehicle to escape earth’s gravity.

The structure of the launch vehicle depends on the payload & its intended orbit. As the fuel required for a launch vehicle is large, the fuel is stored in multiple stages. The payload (satellite or spacecraft) is kept at the top of the launch vehicle. Post-launch, if the fuel of any stage is exhausted, the empty fuel tank is detached from the launch vehicle body & the fuel in the next stage is ignited. This process is repeated till the satellite or the spacecraft is deployed or separated. By using the separation process which takes place from bottom to top, the overall weight of the launch vehicle reduces which helps the satellite or the spacecraft to gather more speed. Additionally, the overall fuel consumption is also reduced.

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nasa

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