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“Hermann Oberth and the LOX/Alcohol Factor: The Birth of the Space Age” by
Frank H. Winter
Quest Volume: 30 #4 (2023)
For very many years, the seminal book of Hermann Oberth, Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (The Rocket into Planetary Space) of 1923 has been very widely acclaimed for the impact it made upon the cause of spaceflight, particularly in how this work triggered the rocket and space fads of the later 1920s, that saw, among other things, the rise of the first spaceflight and rocket societies, not to leave out a huge outpouring during that time of other books and articles on the topic. These groups, in turn, conducted among the earliest experiments with crude liquid-fuel rockets. In short, Oberth’s small book laid the foundations, in Western Europe that spread to other countries, of “setting the stage” for the later Space Age. Oberth’s book is also greatly credited for inspiring Wernher von Braun and so many other later rocket and spaceflight pioneers. Moreover, due to his book, Oberth himself is considered one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics, along with Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Robert Goddard, and Robert Esnault-Pelterie. However, for the first time ever, this article examines in detail how Oberth’s specific choice of liquid oxygen (LOX) and alcohol as propellants for his Model B rocket in his Die Rakete played direct roles for more than 50 years in the development of the liquid-propellant rockets in several countries that has been hitherto overlooked by numerous writers on the history of rocketry and spaceflight. Thus, this article greatly expands our perspectives on the full impact of Oberth’s Die Rakete that is very fitting on this 100th anniversary of the publication of this key work.
Winter, Frank H. “Hermann Oberth and the LOX/Alcohol Factor: The Birth of the Space Age.” Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly 30, no. 4 (2023): 3-22.