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44 votes
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When did the concept of "stages" enter rocketry?

The first multistage rocket is much older then one might think. Its from the 14th century CE. Huolongchushui or fire dragon issuing from the water (Chinese: 火龙出水; pinyin: huolóngchushui; literally: ...
Polygnome's user avatar
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43 votes
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Why not keep the engine for multi-stage rockets?

There are some major challenges with this. For starters, the engines of the first stage produce far too much thrust for the last stage, which would require extra structural mass to allow the rocket to ...
Nathan Tuggy's user avatar
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43 votes
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Why do rockets have multiple stages?

The basic reason: tossing an extra stage can be far, far, more of a mass-savings than trying to make one stage that can do everything. There's a handful of reasons for this: Engines weigh much less ...
Anton Hengst's user avatar
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38 votes

Why do rockets not glide back?

As with most things space, it all comes down to tradeoffs. The most efficient rocket is one that is purely expendable and has no mass that does not contribute to getting the payload towards orbit. If ...
GremlinWranger's user avatar
25 votes
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What would be necessary in order for us to achieve a single stage to orbit, reusable rocket?

I am referring to rockets capable of taking supplies and humans to other planets. For an interplanetary single-stage rocket with tens to hundreds of tons of payload capability, no existing propulsion ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
25 votes
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Is Asparagus Staging Possible

It's possible, but not as easy in real life as it is in KSP. To maintain proper tank pressurization, the crossfeeds have to be pump-driven; the fuel and oxidizer crossfeed lines have to be pretty ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
23 votes

Why not keep the engine for multi-stage rockets?

Nathan's answer is good and cover almost everything but let me add a last bit: An engine nozzle can be optimized for only one given altitude ambient pressure. This has a great impact on the rocket ...
Antzi's user avatar
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22 votes

What would be necessary in order for us to achieve a single stage to orbit, reusable rocket?

Rockets are basically devices which exploit Newton's Third Law, for every force there is an equal and opposite force. By throwing mass out the back as fast as possible this imparts an equal force that ...
Schwern's user avatar
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22 votes

Why do rockets have multiple stages?

Then why not use only 1 stage? Because we don't know how to do that. That we don't know how to do make a single stage to orbit is a consequence Tsiolkovsky rocket equation and of the fact that some ...
David Hammen's user avatar
21 votes
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Why did the Saturn V stage fairing appear to burn after separation?

The From the annotated Apollo 8 Flight Journal, in the notes after the 2:36 mark, we see that the interstage separation happens well after the J-2 engines on the second stage are running: If, at ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
20 votes
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What do we mean by rocket stages?

To get a rocket to space, you have to build it to be really light while containing lots of fuel. This is called the mass fraction: In most rockets, more than 90% of the starting weight is fuel, the ...
Hobbes's user avatar
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18 votes

For a typical Shuttle mission, how much solid fuel is leftover at SRB separation?

Offered as a supplement to the other answers, here are some data about SRBs thrust profiles and operation. Thrust of a SRB is function of the area of the solid fuel burning, as shown below: You can ...
le_daim's user avatar
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17 votes
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How is hot staging of Starship expected to provide such a large (10%) increase in total mass to LEO?

The main benefit is that the second stage never stops accelerating, retaining close to maximum acceleration at all times. One of most significant losses in rocket launches are gravitational losses; ...
SF.'s user avatar
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16 votes

When did the concept of "stages" enter rocketry?

I would mention works of Konstantin Tsiolkovsy. I think that he was first, who proposed to use multistage rockets for space flights. His most important work, published in May 1903, was Exploration ...
Pavel Bernshtam's user avatar
16 votes

Why do rockets not glide back?

Wings are heavy. They also add mass to the rocket's structure, because it is loaded horizontally when flying with wings rather than vertically as it is at launch. At the time Energia was developed, ...
Skyler's user avatar
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16 votes
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Developing intuition about altitude and velocity in multi stage rockets

I will argue that your simulation outcome is not reasonable. Consider what happens if we decouple your multi stage rocket right at launch, making no use of the first stage at all. That is, just using ...
SE - stop firing the good guys's user avatar
15 votes
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Why does PSLV use four stages to get to LEO, and why do they alternate solid, liquid, solid, liquid?

PSLV is a bit of a weird duck because it's a transitional step from small solid-rocket designs to larger ones that rely more heavily on liquid rocket engines with higher specific impulse. It doesn't ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
14 votes
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What is the most number of stages, including fractional stages?

There actually aren’t that many different stage counts, but the variation comes because different missions have different delta-v requirements, and different propulsion technologies yield different ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
14 votes

Could rockets launched from the ground use wings in the stages?

Could a slower or smaller rocket take advantage of lift if all the stages had wings? Wings on the first stage can be useful; the Pegasus air-launched rocket has wings on its first stage that provide ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
14 votes
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Does a high staging number have diminishing returns? Is there a way to address that mathematically?

Any multi-stage rocket design has to obey three rules to achieve good performance: Fuel type and engine design must allow for a high specific impulse. This is equally valid for single and multi ...
Rainer P.'s user avatar
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14 votes

Highest stage count that are used one right after the other?

As far as I can tell, the most ever used in sequence is 5 on India's ASLV. It only ever succeeded once, though. Wikipedia mentions a possible 5th stage for Titan IVB but I haven't seen actual ...
Elad Stern's user avatar
14 votes

Why do rockets have multiple stages?

Other answers address the core construct of the rocket equation with words and equations, but here it is visually: Where the Y-axis is the $\Delta V$ and the X-axis is the propellant mass. $b$ is a ...
BrendanLuke15's user avatar
13 votes

What do we mean by rocket stages?

The major limitation to the performance of chemical rockets is the amount of fuel they must carry to reach high speeds. To reach higher and higher speeds you need to carry exponentially more fuel, ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
13 votes
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Why was the Minotaur V built as a 5-stage design?

It's always easier to create a new launcher by making a small modification to a reliable existing launcher. Small solid rocket stages are relatively simple and reliable, so building up a launcher from ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
13 votes
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What types of decoupling mechanisms to separate spacecraft are used in spaceflight?

According to The Logic of Microspace: Technology and Management of Minimum-Cost Space Missions by Rick Fleeter (Microcosm & Kluwer, 2000), p.130, the de-facto standard mechanism for separating ...
user25972's user avatar
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11 votes

Highest stage count that are used one right after the other?

As discussed in one of the linked questions, Minotaur V is another 5-stage orbital launcher. Jason is a 5-stage sounding rocket.
Russell Borogove's user avatar
10 votes

Which currently operational orbital launch vehicle achieves highest system-specific impulse?

The current launcher with the highest overall system specific impulse is almost certainly the Delta IV Heavy. As far as I can tell from the list of current orbital launchers on Spaceflight 101, it is ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
10 votes
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What is used to connect the side boosters to the first stage?

Pneumatic "pushers" (rather than traditional explosive pyrotechnics used by most rockets) are used to separate the boosters on the Falcon Heavy. There's probably some electrically operated, large ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
10 votes
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Super Capacitor Stages

No Even if overall design makes a helicopter lifted first stage sensible you still need good energy density (power per KG of energy storage). Super capacitors have a special properties that make them ...
GremlinWranger's user avatar
10 votes
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Continuous staging?

Conceptually, staging is getting rid of hardware we no longer need. Keeping useless hardware attached to the rocket is expensive, since added mass reduces acceleration. Ideally, we would want to get ...
SE - stop firing the good guys's user avatar

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