Published on Aug 28, 2020

Abstract Rocket Background Images

License Info: Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC

The word “rocket” can mean different things. Most people think of a tall, thin, round vehicle. They think of a rocket that launches into space. “Rocket” can mean a type of engine. The word also can mean a vehicle that uses that engine.

How Does a Rocket Engine Work?

Like most engines, rockets burn fuel. Most rocket engines turn the fuel into hot gas. The engine pushes the gas out its back. The gas makes the rocket move forward.

A rocket is different from a jet engine. A jet engine needs air to work. A rocket engine doesn’t need air. It carries with it everything it needs. A rocket engine works in space, where there is no air.


There are two main types of rocket engines. Some rockets use liquid fuel. The main engines on the space shuttle orbiter use liquid fuel. The Russian Soyuz uses liquid fuels. Other rockets use solid fuels. On the side of the space shuttle are two white solid rocket boosters. They use solid fuels. Fireworks and model rockets also fly using solid fuels.

Why Does a Rocket Work?

In space, an engine has nothing to push against. So how do rockets move there? Rockets work by a scientific rule called Newton’s third law of motion. English scientist Sir Isaac Newton listed three Laws of Motion. He did this more than 300 years ago. His third law says that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The rocket pushes on its exhaust. The exhaust pushes the rocket, too. The rocket pushes the exhaust backward. The exhaust makes the rocket move forward.

This rule can be seen on Earth. Imagine a person standing on a skateboard. Imagine that person throwing a bowling ball. The ball will go forward. The person on the skateboard will move, too. The person will move backward. Because the person is heavier, the bowling ball will move farther.

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