A liquid-propellant rocket or a liquid rocket is a rocket with an engine that uses propellants in liquid form. Liquids are desirable because their reasonably high density allows the volume of the propellant tanks to be relatively low, and it is possible to use lightweight pumps to pump the propellant from the tanks into the engines, which means that the propellants can be kept under low pressure. This permits the use of low mass propellant tanks, permitting a high mass ratio for the rocket.
Liquid rockets have been built as monopropellant rockets using a single type of propellant, bipropellant rockets using two types of propellant, or more exotic tripropellant rockets using three types of propellant. Bipropellant liquid rockets generally use one liquid fuel and one liquid oxidizer, such as liquid hydrogen or a hydrocarbon fuel such as RP-1, and liquid oxygen. This example also shows that liquid-propellant rockets sometimes use cryogenic rocket engines, where fuel or oxidizer are gases liquefied at very low temperatures.
Liquid propellants are also sometimes used in hybrid rockets, in which they are combined with a solid or gaseous propellant.
The idea of liquid rocket as understood in the modern context first appears in the book The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices , by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. This seminal treatise on astronautics was published in 1903.
The only known claim to liquid propellant rocket engine experiments in the nineteenth century was made by a Peruvian scientist named Pedro Paulet. However, he did not immediately publish his work. In 1927 he wrote a letter to a newspaper in Lima, claiming he had experimented with a liquid rocket engine while he was a student in Paris three decades earlier. Historians of early rocketry experiments, among them Max Valier and Willy Ley, have given differing amounts of credence to Paulet's report. Paulet described laboratory tests of liquid rocket engines, but did not claim to have flown a liquid rocket.
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