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A rocket was a form of spacecraft propulsion, usually used when a society began the early stages of space flight. It was relatively simple, and could be constructed from easily available materials. Rocket engines could also be used in a wide range of other applications, from fireworks to weapons.
Uses of rockets Edit
Rockets were rarely used in societies which had attained warp and/or impulse travel, although they occasionally found uses in small applications such as boosters for gravity boots. (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) Rockets had a limited maximum speed – they could only travel as fast as exhaust gases are ejected, which in practical terms means that a rocket could not go faster than about 0.25c (i.e. one quarter of the speed of light). Since the force of a rocket depended on the number, speed and mass of the exhaust gas particles, rockets were also impractical for propelling large vehicles, in contrast to fusion-powered impulse engines (especially those with driver coils, such as those found aboard Federation Galaxy-class starships).
In 2151, Commander Charles Tucker III remarked about the dangerous nature of rockets: "In the old days, astronauts rode rockets with millions of liters of hydrogen burning under their seats. You think they said, gee I'd love to go to the moon today but it seems a little risky?" (ENT: "Silent Enemy")
The quick replacement of rockets by more advanced systems was in stark contrast with what Human science fiction writers had envisioned; rocket ships were a staple of early science fiction stories, and could often be seen on the cover of genre magazines like Galaxy or Incredible Tales. (DS9: "Far Beyond the Stars")
Significant rockets Edit
Due to their relative simplicity, rockets were a common form of propulsion for a society's first space flights and were often indicative of a low technological level.
One of the most famous rockets in Earth's history was the Phoenix, Zefram Cochrane's first warp-powered spacecraft. Although the Phoenix itself was powered by an early warp drive, it had to be boosted into Earth orbit by a chemical rocket (which was, at that time, the only practical launch system available). The booster Cochrane used for his historic flight was modified from a Titan II nuclear missile. (Star Trek: First Contact)
Rockets did sometimes find applications among warp-capable civilizations, however. For example, Constitution-class starships were equipped with rockets that could be used to quickly escape planetary orbit in the event of an emergency. (TOS: "The Cage")