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Pendulum rocket fallacy

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Free body diagrams illustrating the pendulum rocket fallacy

The pendulum rocket fallacy is a historical fallacy of the mechanics of a rocket in flight. The first liquid-fuel rocket, constructed by Robert H. Goddard in the 1920s, differed significantly from modern rockets in that the rocket engine was at the top and the fuel tank at the bottom of the rocket.[1] It was believed that, in flight, the rocket would "hang" from the engine like a pendulum, and the weight of the fuel tank would be all that was needed to keep the rocket flying straight up.[2] However, the rocket rose just 41 feet (12 m) during a 2.5-second flight that ended 184 feet (56 m) away in from the launch site,[3] showing that the rocket was no more stable than placing the rocket engine at the base.[4]


  1. NASA, Discover NASA and You Archived 2010-05-27 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. Scott Manley. The Pendulum Rocket Fallacy (YouTube). Retrieved 2020-10-02.
  3. Streissguth, Thomas (1995). Rocket man: the story of Robert Goddard. Twenty-First Century Books. pp. 37. ISBN 0-87614-863-1. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  4. Sutton, George P. (2006). History of Liquid Propellant Rocket Engines. Reston, Virginia: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. pp. 267, 269. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png

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