The invention of the multistage rocket.

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A multistage rocket is a vehicle having two or more rocket units, each operating in turn once its propellant has been exhausted.


The Chinese philosophers and military strategists Jiao Yu and Liu Ji invented[1] the multistage rocket circa 1350. Here is a description of their multistage rocket which they termed as “fire-dragon issuing from the water”:

  • A 152 centimetres long bamboo was taken, the septa removed and the nodes scraped smooth.
  • A piece of wood was then carved in the shape of a dragon’s head and fitted on one end of the bamboo. A wooden dragon’s tail was carved and fitted on the other end.
  • Rockets were then placed inside the bamboo through an opening in the dragon’s head.
  • Before the dragon’s head on both sides of the bamboo were attached two rockets each weighing almost a kilogram. A similar arrangement was made a bit further from the dragon’s tail. The 4 rockets were fixed tightly to the bamboo with hemp and fish glue.
  • The fuses for the rockets inside the bamboo were lead out from the dragon’s head and made to be attached to the 4 rockets that were fixed on the outside of the bamboo. The fuses were reinforced with oiled paper.
  • The fuses for the 4 external rockets were twisted into one. These rockets would be lit first in battle and once in the air and nearly out of gunpowder would the rockets inside the bamboo light and propel the multistage rocket toward its target.

Here is an illustration[1] of their multistage rocket:

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Here is a photograph[1] of a reconstruction of their multistage rocket:

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No portrait of Jiao Yu could be found. Here is one[2] of Liu Ji:

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  1. gbs_navlinks_s, pages 505-511.