# What alternative shapes may a rocket heading into orbit have?

It looks like most rockets that head out of Earth, or even into orbit are pencil shaped (or nearly so). I would take this to mean there is some mass of air such vehicles push out of their way.

What alternative shapes may a rocket headed into space, or orbit have?

EDIT: This will probably seem crazy; I was toying with the idea of a tunnel or more extending some length of the body with some mechanism to pull the air out of the way forward and ejecting it backwards (sort of like a jet) to create a little bit of pressure differential. Sort of like striations on the body of a whale and other marines help it slip easily through water.

• Everything that's been tried is "basically" the same shape. Rockets are better if they're long and thin in order to keep the direction, and the tips are better if they are sharp to make them more aerodynamic and reduce the friction in the air. If you have some specific idea how the shape of a rocket could look like, could you please add it to the question? Otherwise the answer is that there's no other meaningful shape. Nov 2 '12 at 20:00
• It's funny that fish, if they move with any speed, all look like fish - small cross section, smooth, etc. Form follows function. Nov 2 '12 at 22:13
• @Mike Dunlavey: Cars were mostly horse-wagon shaped with a box saloon for quite a while after the first automobiles were produced... Then there was a paradigm shift when it became necessary to increase velocity Nov 3 '12 at 3:24
• People have made some truly bizarre designs in Kerbal Space Program, though unfortunately it doesn't model aerodynamics properly yet. So most of the crazy designs would probably be unflyable in real life. So I guess you're stuck with build-it-yourself-and-see or learning how to use some computational fluid dynamics/finite element system. As others have said though the basic tradeoff is slim profile versus thrust (in atmospheric flight). In space shape really doesn't matter at all as long as the thrust axis goes through the centre of mass and you have enough torque for stability control. Jan 3 '13 at 8:35
• You may want to visit the article on aerospikes: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drag-resistant_aerospike Jul 9 '13 at 12:51