MAXIMUM THRUST (KAPUT) (Germany, 1929)


Since Fritz Lang’s film Frau Im Mond, it was more than obvious that rockets were the only form of propulsion that would put a mensch or frau on the moon…

Rocket engines were useful in that they did not need to induct oxygen into its combustion system. Its propellant system carried its own oxidizer, which is necessary when one is propelled and elevated to heights beyond the earth’s atmosphere and whereupon there is no oxygen. (No oxygen, no fire. No fire, no thermodynamics in the thin, rarefied air of the cosmos… )

Jets, however, sucked in copious amounts of oxygen. Due to this system of propulsion, they become less efficient at higher altitudes as the air is thinner and less oxygen is available for combustion.

In aerospace, that is how it shakes out. On land, there are different reasons for using different forms of propulsion.

The first documented LSR rocket car explosion involved the Opel RAK 3, built in Germany in the 20s and campaigned by Fritz Von Opel and Max Valier. The initial runs in Berlin were followed by a few attempts made on rails, during which RAK 3 pushed the world speed rekord up to 158 mph with clusters of solid fuel, black powder rockets arranged in a cylindrical cone. After a successful flight with the RAK 1 Friedrich rocket propelled aircraft, the experiments conducted by Opel as a pioneer in rocket propulsion end in 1929. Patron Shell Oil (who was floating the nearly bankrupt Valier) insisted that the propulsion system be modified from a water ‘spiritus’ and oxygen combination to a paraffin-based system; a subsequent test ended in a holocaustic explosion that killed Valier, moments after his aorta was punctured by metallic fallout. It was high stakes techno-mechanical vaudeville, with Valier a mortal victim of his own schtoink …

The moral? The folks cutting the checks may not have the best approach to maximum velocity. The trick is to take their money and not their ideas…


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