In the late 1920s, a young Wernher von Braun acquired a copy of Hermann Oberth's book, Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (The Rocket into Interplanetary Space). Starting in 1930, he attended the Technical University of Berlin, where he assisted Oberth in liquid-fueled rocket motor tests. Von Braun was working on his creative doctorate when the Nazi Party gained power in Germany. An artillery captain, Walter Dornberger,
arranged an Ordnance Department research grant for von Braun, who from
then on worked next to Dornberger's existing solid-fuel rocket test site
at Kummersdorf. Von Braun's thesis, Construction, Theoretical, and Experimental Solution to the Problem of the Liquid Propellant Rocket (dated 16 April 1934), was kept classified by the German army and was not published until 1960. By the end of 1934, his group had successfully launched two rockets that reached heights of 2.2 and 3.5 km (1.4 and 2.2 mi).
At the time, Germany was highly interested in American physicist Robert H. Goddard's research. Before 1939, German scientists occasionally contacted Goddard directly with technical questions. Von Braun used Goddard's plans from various journals and incorporated them into the building of the Aggregat (A) series of rockets.
Following successes at Kummersdorf with the first two Aggregate series rockets, Wernher von Braun and Walter Riedel began thinking of a much larger rocket in the summer of 1936, based on a projected 25-metric-ton-thrust engine.
Wind tunnel model of an A4 in the German Museum of Technology in Berlin
After the A-4 project was postponed due to unfavourable aerodynamic stability testing of the A-3 in July 1936, von Braun specified the A-4 performance in 1937, and A-4 design and construction was ordered c1938/1939. During 28–30 September 1939, Der Tag der Weisheit
(English: the day of wisdom) conference met at Peenemünde to initiate
the funding of university research to solve rocket problems.:40 By late 1941, the Army Research Center
at Peenemünde possessed the technologies essential to the success of
the A-4. The four key technologies for the A-4 were large liquid-fuel
rocket engines, supersonic aerodynamics, gyroscopic guidance and rudders
in jet control. At the time, Adolf Hitler
was not particularly impressed by the V-2; he pointed out that it was
merely an artillery shell with a longer range and much higher cost.
In early September 1943, von Braun promised the Long-Range Bombardment Commission:224 that the A-4 development was 'practically complete/concluded',:135 but even by the middle of 1944, a complete A-4 parts list was still unavailable.:224 Hitler was sufficiently impressed by the enthusiasm of its developers, and needed a "wonder weapon" to maintain German morale, so authorized its deployment in large numbers.
The V-2s were constructed at the Mittelwerk site by prisoners from Mittelbau-Dora,
the concentration camp where an estimated 20,000 prisoners died during
the war. Of these, 9,000 died from exhaustion and collapse, 350 were
hanged (including 200 executed for acts of sabotage) and the remainder
were either shot or died from disease or starvation.
At the end of the war, a race began between the United States and the USSR to retrieve as many V-2 rockets and staff as possible.
Three hundred rail-car loads of V-2s and parts were captured and
shipped to the United States and 126 of the principal designers,
including Wernher von Braun and Walter Dornberger were in American hands. Von Braun, his brother Magnus von Braun and seven others decided to surrender to the United States military (Operation Paperclip) to ensure they were not captured by the advancing Soviets or shot dead by the Nazis to prevent their capture.
Operation Backfire (WWII) V-2 rocket on Meillerwagen (S.I. Negative #76-2755)
In October 1945, British Operation Backfire
assembled a small number of V-2 missiles and launched three of them
from a site in northern Germany. The engineers involved had already
agreed to move to the US when the test firings were complete. The
Backfire report remains the most extensive technical documentation of
the rocket, including all support procedures, tailored vehicles and fuel
Post-war V-2s launched in secret from Peenemünde may have been responsible for a curious phenomenon known as Ghost rockets, unexplained objects crossing the skies over Sweden and Finland.
In his book My Father's Son, Canadian author Farley Mowat, then a member of the Canadian Army,
claims to have obtained a V-2 rocket in 1945 and shipped it back to
Canada, where it is alleged to have ended up in the National Exhibition
grounds in Toronto. There was a V-2 stored outside at RCAF Station
Picton, Ontario in June 1961.
The Canadian Arrow, a competitor for the Ansari X Prize, was based on the aerodynamic design of the V-2.
US test launch of a Bumper V-2.
Operation Paperclip recruited German engineers and Special Mission V-2
transported the captured V-2 parts to the United States. At the close
of the Second World War, over 300 rail cars filled with V-2 engines, fuselages, propellant tanks, gyroscopes and associated equipment were brought to the railyards in Las Cruces, New Mexico, so they could be placed on trucks and driven to the White Sands Proving Grounds, also in New Mexico.
In addition to V-2 hardware, the U.S. Government delivered German
mechanization equations for the V-2 guidance, navigation and control
systems, as well as for advanced development concept vehicles, to U.S.
defense contractors for analysis. In the 1950s some of these documents
were useful to U.S. contractors in developing direction cosine matrix
transformations and other inertial navigation architecture concepts that
were applied to early U.S. programs such as the Atlas and Minuteman
guidance systems as well as the Navy's Subs Inertial Navigation System.
A committee[who?] was formed with military and civilian scientists, to review payload proposals for the reassembled V-2 rockets. This led to an eclectic array of experiments that flew on V-2s and paved the way for American manned space exploration. Devices were sent aloft to sample the air at all levels to determine atmospheric pressures and to see what gases were present. Other instruments measured the level of cosmic radiation.
The first photo from space was taken from a V-2 launched by US scientists on October 24, 1946.
Only 68 percent of the V-2 trials were considered successful. A supposed V-2 launched on 29 May 1947 landed near Juarez, Mexico and was actually a Hermes B-1 vehicle.
The U.S. Navy attempted to launch a German V-2 rocket at sea—one test launch from the aircraft carrier USS Midway was performed on 6 September 1947 as part of the Navy's Operation Sandy.
The test launch was a partial success; the V-2 went off the pad but
splashed down in the ocean only some 10 km (6.2 mi) from the carrier.
The launch setup on the Midway's deck is notable in that it used
foldaway arms to prevent the missile from falling over. The arms pulled
away just after the engine ignited, releasing the missile. The setup may
look similar to the R-7
launch procedure but in the case of the R-7 the trusses hold the full
weight of the rocket, rather than just reacting to side forces.
The PGM-11 Redstone rocket is a direct descendant of the V-2.
also captured a number of V-2s and staff, letting them set up in
Germany for a time. The first work contracts were signed in the middle
of 1945. In 1946 (as part of Operation Osoaviakhim) they were obliged to move to Kapustin Yar in the USSR, where Gröttrup headed up a group of just under 250 engineers. The first Soviet missile was the R-1,
a duplicate of the V-2. Most of the German team was sent home after
that project but some remained to do research until as late as 1951.
Unbeknownst to the Germans, work immediately began on larger missiles,
the R-2 and R-5, based on extension of the V-2 technology.
In: Weapons, Science and Technology
Tags: Wernher, von Braun, Space, Flight, Rocket, V2, War, NASA, Interplanetary, BBC
Location: United States (load item map)
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