New Video Shows What Rockets Would Look Like If They Were Transparent

A new video shows what rocket launches would look like if rockets were completely transparent. The video shows the surprising amounts of fuel burned during a launch, in addition to showing the rockets’ separation stages as their payloads ascend out of Earth’s atmosphere.

The video compares four different rockets:

The Saturn V

This three-stage launch rocket was used by NASA from 1967 to 1973. It was originally designed for the Apollo program and later on used to launch Skylab--the first American space station. To date, it is still the most powerful rocket with 7,891,000 lbf (35,100 kN) thrust at sea level. It also transported the largest payload when it took out the Apollo command, service module, and lunar module of the Earth’s atmosphere on their journey to the Moon.

The Space Shuttle

This is a reusable low-Earth orbital spaceship that was used by NASA between 1991 and 2011 that took a lot of satellites into orbit, including the Hubble Space Telescope. This ship helped create the construction of the International Space Station.

Falcon Heavy

Easily one of the most powerful spacecrafts since the Saturn V was retired. This SpaceX rocket is able to handle 140,000 pounds of payload into orbit at significantly lower cost than some of its competitors. On its maiden voyage, it took a Tesla Roadster into space, while playing David Bowie’s Space Oddity as it flew past Mars.

Space Launch System

This is NASA’s replacement for the Space Shuttle, which will continue the exploration of deep space through the Artemis program and a return to the Moon. It also has the potential to have a crewed mission to Mars. When it is completed, it will become the most powerful rocket in use. The first stage of payload will produce over 2 million pounds of thrust.

The animated video shows the fuel tanks draining as the fuel burns through to lift the rockets into space. The red fuel is kerosene RP-1, a fuel similar to jet fuel. The orange fuel is liquid hydrogen, which is used by many of NASA’s rockets. It is extremely powerful and highly reactive and needs to be delicately insulated against heat or it could expand too rapidly and potentially explode. The blue fuel is liquid oxygen, and was first used in the liquid-fueled rocket in 1926. It sent the rocket, nicknamed “Nell” 42 feet in the air for a 2.5 second flight that ended in an uncontrolled landing in a nearby field.

SpaceX launched Crew Dragon on May 27, becoming the first rocket launch on American soil in nine years, as well as the first private rocket through NASA’s Commercial Crew program.