Space History – What’s the Most Powerful Fuel

For many years rocket engineers, scientists and leaders all over the world have all debated the most powerful fuel. What is it that really gets things moving?

Saturn V F1 engine

Saturn V F1 engine

There are those who would say that the fuel of the V2 rocket is the most powerful – alcohol and liquid oxygen (LOX). After all, that’s what rocket-man Wernher von Braun used.

Others argue that kerosene and LOX is the best to propel rockets into space. Delta II and Atlas rockets have used that combination very successfully.

Still others say that Hydrogen and LOX makes the best combination. Certainly the success of the Saturn rockets, the Space Shuttle and the Delta IV bear that out.

Yet another group may argue that hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide (hypergolics) are the best. Certainly no one can argue the use of hypergolics with Ariane 1, the Russian Proton, the U.S. Titan rocket, or the Apollo Lunar Lander and Service Module.

You may also hear that solid propellants are the best. Solids were used with the Minuteman and Peacekeeper Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, and it’s still used in the solid rocket boosters of the Space Shuttle, and in the form of strap-on motors for a variety of modern rockets.

The Seven Forgotten Leadership Lessons of the Space Race demonstrates that no matter what  combination of chemicals you use, the real fuel behind them all is: hope and a purpose.

Whenever I hear about a project that has lost its edge, where morale is low and there’s no spark of innovation, I start asking questions that probe whether management is using the most powerful fuel. Often the meaning of a project has become muddled in the mundane working of daily life and the vision has become unclear or lost. A leader must always be focusing people on the overall vision (and the most important aspect of any vision – “why”).

Leadership must also ensure that each person feels ownership of that vision and understands how their actions support it. That gives purpose. Vision gives hope. And when mixed with purpose, the combination can move a nation to put a man on the Moon.

If you’re in an organization that seems to be disorganized, disfunctional, or unmotivated, then maybe you should look into changing to the most powerful fuel that the Space Race used – creating hope and a purpose.



Leadership Lessons from the Space Race, by

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