When it was the first time the liquid hydrogen was used in a rocket engine? I mean for space launches, but it would be interesting to also know about first uses in experimental engines, in military, sounding and maybe aircraft.

And why it wasn't used before that?

Related question - When was liquid methane used for the first time in rocket engines?


1 Answer 1


Walter Thiel, a German experimenter, tried to use liquid hydrogen fuel in a small rocket engine before WW2.

The first systematic investigation of LH2 as an airplane and/or rocket fuel in the US started in 1945.

The first operational rocket stage to use LH2 as a fuel was the Centaur.

LH2 is difficult to use because of its extreme low temperature, difficulty of liquefaction, and low density.


  • $\begingroup$ Thiel late 1930s and Centaur 1962. Interesting. Was LH used in any sounding rocket? $\endgroup$
    – Joe Jobs
    Aug 6, 2020 at 15:00
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @JoeJobs not as far as I know, but I am not real familiar with sounding rockets. It would appear to be a poor fuel choice for that application due to its low density and high cost. $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2020 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ Walter Thiel was one of the main developers of the engine used for the V-2 rocket. The V-2 used alcohol diluted with some water to reduce problems with cooling. He died 1943. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Aug 6, 2020 at 15:20

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