A Viking Rocket Takes off at White Sands

As a result of the V-2 panel‚s work, the armed services were able to gain a lot of experience with rockets.  The panel also published the first standard atmospheric tables in 1952; titled the Rocket Panel Atmosphere, based on the measurements they were able to make using the V-2‚s. 

As the supply of V-2‚s dwindled, a need for smaller rockets became apparent.  The panel wanted rockets that were cheaper and simpler to assemble, test, and launch than the V-2‚s.  They also wanted the ability to move to places other than White Sands to do experiments.  As a result, James VanAllen and the Applied Physics Laboratory at John Hopkins developed a new Aerobee Sounding Rocket.  The NRL also developed the Viking, which was a very reliable and efficient rocket, but very expensive.  Because of its cost, the Viking program probably would not have been very successful had it not been chosen as the starting point for the Vanguard IGY satellite launching vehicle. (The Navy was also in charge of Vanguard.)

As time passed, the Rocket Panel had a steadily increasing scope of activity.  The name changed originally from „the panelš to the „V-2 Upper Atmosphere Research Panel,š then to „Upper Atmosphere Rocket Research Panelš (UARRP) and finally, in April 1957, to the „Rocket and Satellite Research Panelš (RSRP), but its size remained small.  This was, in part, because the panel limited the number of representatives from any one agency.  While they wished the membership to remain small, they encouraged outside interest and participation in meetings.  NACA (the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics) was often represented as an observer, as well as the U.S Weather Bureau and several universities.  Although the panel was not official, for its first decade all the groups involved in sounding rocket research in the United States were represented on it.  Some other groups involved with the UARRP were the Defense Department‚s Research Advisory Board, the Committee on Guided Missiles, and the Committee on Geophysical Sciences. 

Because the military funded most of the rocket research, every now and then the issue arose of security classification.  According to Dow, space scientists felt that their information ought to be shared with the world at large since there were many practical benefits to the knowledge they obtained.  Some important applications which could benefit from the availability of information include: 

-missile, high altitude craft, and space vehicle design
-reentry behavior of ballistic missiles
-high altitude navigation
-hazards to personnel and equipment in high atmosphere and space
-weather forecasting
-climate study
-prediction of biological, chemical, or radiological agent trajectories
-develop reliable point to point communications
-guidance, control, and delivery of missiles
-detection of enemy missiles and high altitude craft
-countermeasures against enemy missile
-remote detection of nuclear explosions


Contents: . Rocket preparing for launch at White Sands Julie Wisner
12 December 2001
History 265
University of Michigan