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A decent response on how the burning process works but how does this glowy burner push the spacecraft

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    $\begingroup$ Is your question "how does a rocket work?" Because that seems to be what it boils down to. $\endgroup$ May 25, 2023 at 10:05
  • $\begingroup$ Rick, there is no difference between the principles of operation for the engines of the first and second stages. Both use jet-propulsion. You should edit your question to say “how does a rocket engine provide thrust?” I can’t find a post here explaining that, so it is good that you have asked. If you edit your question, I’ll answer it. $\endgroup$
    – A McKelvy
    May 25, 2023 at 10:43
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    $\begingroup$ @AMcKelvy space.stackexchange.com/q/39938/6944 $\endgroup$ May 25, 2023 at 11:43
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble, thatll do it. Rick, if the linked question/answer don’t satisfy you, please clarify your specific question. $\endgroup$
    – A McKelvy
    May 25, 2023 at 12:09

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I think it's the near-invisibility of the exhaust from second stage engines in videos (compared to the first stages) that has caught your attention.

It always bothers me too, but for one or more reasons involving the fuel/oxidizer ratios (mixture) for 2nd stage operation and the choices of fuel itself and also because there's no atmospheric oxygen to facilitate post-burning (think carbon soot particles as glowing embers or bits of ash in final combustion) in space.

In fact, if you watch a first stage launch all the way up, especially from a camera mounted ON the rocket, you'll see an amazing evolution of the plume, it spreads out and can get pretty dim.

So like the comments say, there's no difference in propulsion between first and second stages - both push out a HUGE mass flow of very fast exhaust gas, and it's the reaction from the exhaust mass going one direction that propels the spacecraft in the other direction.

It's just as powerful whether it's blindingly bright and opaque, or its nearly transparent and invisible.


From Why is the flame of the Falcon 9's 2nd stage (nearly) invisible?

Falcon 9 Second Stage

From How did the kerosene-burning Black Arrow have transparent exhaust? (seems to just "hover" in photos)

From Norbert Brügge's West_Europe/BlackArrow/Gallery http://www.b14643.de/Spacerockets_1/West_Europe/BlackArrow/Gallery/Arrow.htm

credit: Norbert Brügge's West_Europe/BlackArrow/Gallery

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