Thursday, March 3, 2016

Unusual Item: Manuscript on Rocketry

The Step-Rocket

Illustration from rocketry manuscript by Conrad Hass 

Conrad Haas (1509–1576) was a military engineer for the Kingdom of Hungary and the Principality of Transylvania, who is often cited as the first person to describe a multistage rocket in writing, although some historians attribute that distinction to Jiao Yu in 14th Century China. Haas was born in Dornbach (now part of Vienna) and he served as the Zeugwart (equipment manager) and arsenal master of the Imperial Austrian army under Ferdinand I. Stephen Báthory, the grand prince of Transylvania invited Haas to Hermannstadt, Siebenbürgen (now Sibiu, Transylvania, Romania) in 1551, where he was the engineer of weaponry and he also started to teach at Klausenburg (now Cluj-Napoca).

Diagram of a Step-Rocket

Between 1529 and 1556, he wrote a book in which he described rocket technology, involving the combination of fireworks and weapons technologies. (The book only exists in German.) His work concerns not just tactics, but also delves into the technical details of rocket construction, explaining the working principles of a rocket. He described many rocket types, including the multi-stage rocket, bundled rockets, and the idea of modern spacecraft. His work also dealt with the theory of motion of multi-stage rockets, different fuel mixtures using liquid fuel, and introduced delta-shape fins and bell-shaped nozzles. Less practically, but far more colorfully, he had pictures of rocket cats and rocket birds.Haas' manuscript was discovered in 1961, in the Sibiu public records (Sibiu public records Varia II 374).

Another page of the manuscript

FICTION: In my Honor+Intrigue campaign the French obtained a copy of Haas' manuscript with marginalia written by Johann Schmidlap. (Schmidlap was an actual German fireworks maker, who experimented with staging in 1590, using a design he called "step rockets." Along with Schmidlap's marginalia are serveral loose sheets with diagrams and experimental notes written in Latin and using a cipher and tables of enciphered numbers by a French monk and alchemist recording his experiments based on the works of Haas and Schmidlap.

A follow-up post will contain Honor+Intrigue stats on various sized rockets adapted from the Wondrous Devices supplement from All-for-One: Regime Diabolique.

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