A fascinating video shows what rocket launches would look like if the rockets were completely transparent. The animation reveals the incredible amounts of fuel burned through during launch as well as the rockets' separation stages as they take their payloads out of the atmosphere, fighting Earth's mighty gravitational pull.
The animation from Youtuber Hazegrayart compares four rockets:
The Saturn V
The three-stage launch vehicle used by NASA from 1967 to 1973 first developed for the Apollo program and later used to launch the first American space station, Skylab. It remains the most powerful rocket to date with 7,891,000 lbf (35,100 kN) thrust at sea level. It also delivered the heaviest payload when it took the Apollo command and service module and lunar module out of Earth's atmosphere to begin their journey to the Moon.
The Space Shuttle
The partially-reusable low-Earth orbital spacecraft system that NASA used between 1981 and 2011 took many satellites into orbit as well as the Hubble Space Telescope, and helped the construction of the International Space Station.
The most powerful rocket since the Saturn V ceased operations, the SpaceX rocket is able to take 64,000 kilograms (140,000 pounds) of payload into orbit at a much cheaper cost than its competitors. The first time it launched, it took a Tesla Roadster into space whilst blaring out David Bowie's Space Oddity before sending it flying out beyond Mars.
Space Launch System
NASA's planned replacement for the Space Shuttle, which will aid deep space exploration on the Artemis program to go back to the Moon, and potentially crewed missions to Mars. When it's launched, it will become the most powerful rocket ever used. The first stage will produce over 2 million pounds of thrust.
The video shows the fuel tanks draining as the fuel is burned to take the rockets into space. The red is kerosene RP-1, a refined form of kerosene similar to jet fuel. Orange is liquid hydrogen (LH2), a highly-efficient fuel used by many of NASA's rockets. Extremely powerful and highly volatile, it needs to be carefully insulated against heat or it will expand rapidly and risk explosion. Blue is liquid oxygen (LOx), which was used in the very first liquid-fueled rocket in 1926, sending the rocket (later named "Nell") 12 meters (41 feet) into the air in a 2.5-second flight, which ended in an uncontrolled landing in a nearby cabbage field.
And to remind you of the sense of scale of these launches, check out this footage of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch from last year.
And if rocket launches are your thing, then you're in luck. In just two weeks, you will be able to witness American space history when SpaceX's Crew Dragon becomes the first rocket to launch from US soil in nine years, and the first-ever private rocket as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program. Put May 27 in your diary.