Top 5 Facts: Rocket firsts

First true rocket

In 1232 BC, the Chinese used rocket-arrows propelled by burning gunpowder in their war with the Mongols. While not very effective, they were likely a frightening sight.

First liquid-fueled rocket

Robert Goddard built and launched the first liquid-fuel rocket on 26 March 1926. It was fuelled by gasoline and liquid oxygen, the flight lasting two and a half seconds. The rocket climbed 12.5 metres before landing in a nearby cabbage patch.

First launch into space

Germany launched the first rocket capable of reaching space, the V-2 rocket, in 1942. The missile was launched at sites in England and Belgium as part of the World War Two effort.

First launch into Earth orbit

On 4 October 1957, the R-7 ICBM was the first rocket to launch an artificial satellite – Sputnik 1 – into orbit. This marked the start of the Space Race between the US and the USSR.

First private launch into Earth orbit

SpaceX, a company pioneering commercial space travel, launched Falcon 9 on 10 December 2010. With an unmanned capsule, it orbited Earth twice before landing in the Pacific.