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Q&A: The Fastest Rocket

10 Feb 2014, 07:01 UTC
Q&A: The Fastest Rocket
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Question: What is the speed of the fastest rocket ever built? — RM, Seattle, WA
Answer: The answer to your question depends on what you mean by “rocket” and “fastest,” but the graph above provides a good starting point for this discussion. Take some time to study it before proceeding.
First, note that the graph has a logarithmic vertical axis. Each step up represents an increase of “times 10″ instead of the usual equal intervals. Logarithmic graphs are often used when the data spans a very wide range of values, as they do here. The horizontal axis is merely a list of objects in increasing order of speed.
Second, rather than answering your question literally, I’ve included some space probes that aren’t really “rockets,” but were launched using rockets. The first four terrestrial entries were included to help establish a sense of scale.
So according to the chart, the record for “fastest rocket” goes to the the Helios Probes, launched in 1974 and 1976 to study the Sun in a close fly-by. It’s important to note that the speed cited for Helios is relative to the Sun. The other speeds in the chart are relative to Earth. Consider that, ...

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