Ask an Explainer


How does a rocket relate to Newton's three laws of motion?


Like all objects, rockets are governed by Newton's Laws of Motion. The First Law describes how an object acts when no force is acting upon it. So, rockets stay still until a force is applied to move them. Likewise, once they're in motion, they won't stop until a force is applied. Newton's Second Law tells us that the more mass an object has, the more force is needed to move it. A larger rocket will need stronger forces (eg. more fuel) to make it accelerate. The space shuttles required seven pounds of fuel for every pound of payload they carry.  Newton's Third Law states that "every action has an equal and opposite reaction". In a rocket, burning fuel creates a push on the front of the rocket pushing it forward. This creates an equal and opposite push on the exhaust gas backwards.

Ask an Explainer