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V-2 and Bumper Early Space Research
The V-2 Bumper History and Development

Table of Contents


Chapter One
---History leading to the V-2
---Projects surrounding the V-2
---German surrender and V-2 testing in the US

Chapter Two
---Systems of the V-2
---V-2 bumper history & systems
---V-2 Creations the Jupiter and Redstone




The V-2 Rocket was the basic vehicle that both the USA and Russia used to form the foundation for space flight. In the early days of rocketry, Robert Goddard came to the realization that in order for humans to control a craft in space we needed a liquid propelled rocket. The solid rocket fuel that had been used was not able to accomplish this goal. Goddard had several successful flights of liquid fueled rockets, many of which he had patens for. This information was the basis for the V-2 and the future of weapons and space flight.
Toward the end of World War II, the Germans had developed a capable rocket that could deliver an explosive warhead over a respectful distance. This rocket was called the V-2. It was the creation of Werner Von Braun and his team. The V-2 was based on the workings and designs of Goddard’s early liquid fueled rockets. Although Von Braun had dreams of space exploration, he was pressured by the Nazis to develop the V-2 as a weapon of war. Luckily, the Germans did not have enough time to develop the V-2 into its most efficient form. The V-2 was still in the testing and refinement process. The end of the war was imminent and the Germans knew that they were losing. Rather than risk loosing there life in Soviet hands, Von Braun and his team fled to the American lines in hopes of better treatment as prisoners. After arriving in the U.S., Von Braun and his team were placed into the US rocket program. After a year they had the first successful launch of a V-2 on U.S. soil. Later, the U.S. and Von Braun launched the V-2 and bumper on a successful test flight. With the Bumper second stage in place, the V-2 was capable of reaching even grater altitudes. This was a huge step in the right direction for American rocketry. These developments would lead the way to the Redstone rocket which would launch the first American satellite and man into space.

History leading to the V-2

The V-2 rocket was man’s great stepping stool toward space flight. However, this would have never been possible if it was not for the prior research of Robert Goddard. Early rockets were first developed by the Chinese using gunpowder perhaps as early as 1000. But these rockets were solid fuel, used only for show and warfare. A rocket using solid fuel didn’t have the control or capability of getting into space. Therefore the liquid fueled rocket needed to be developed if man was to accomplish his dream of space flight. (WWW-10)

Figure 1-1 Modern solid liquid comparison (WWW-1)

Robert Goddard first developed and flew his liquid fueled rocket on March 16, 1926. It marked a great leap forward in the development of future rockets and space vehicles.

Figure 1-2 Robert Goddard’s liquid rocket (WWW-17)

Figure 1-3 Goddard’s rocket (WWW-2)

This would give way to the development of gyroscopic control for stabilization and improved turbo pumps. These components were crucial if the liquid rocket was to be effective. In 1914, Robert Goddard received two patents; one was for a rocket using liquid fuel. The other was for a two and a three-stage rocket using solid fuel. (WWW-5)

Figure 1-4 V-2 turbo pump (WWW-8)

Figure 1-5 V-2 gyro control (WWW-7)

Following Robert Goddard’s accomplishments would be a young German by the name of Wernher von Braun. Von Braun was born on March 23, 1912 in Wirsitz, Posen. From childhood, Wernher revealed an interest in both science and music. He became inspired about rocketry through the writings of Hermann Oberth and his book The Rocket into Interplanetary Space. In 1932, young Wernher received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. He was offered a grant to conduct and develop scientific investigations on liquid-fueled rocket engines. Von Braun’s liquid rockets were based on of patents developed by Robert Goddard. These plans were easily obtained though the patent office of the United States.

Figure 1-6 Werner von Braun (WWW-18)

During von Braun’s early life he became involved in a rocket club called Verein fur Raumschifffahrt (VfR) or Club for Space flight. This was one of many rocket clubs that seemed to spring up in Germany around the 1930’s. The works of von Braun in this club were noticed by an artillery captain named Walter Dornberger. Dornberger went to see the VFR and was very impressed. Von Braun and his team worked through the spring and summer of 1932, only to have the rocket fail when tested in front of the military. Even though the launch was a failure, Dornberger was impressed with von Braun and hired him to lead the military's rocket artillery unit. (Von Braun & Ordway , Spangenburg & Moser)

Figure 1-7 Wernher von Braun carrying VfR rockets (Spangenburg & Moser)

Before obtaining his PhD. von Braun was busy conducting his first rocket tests at Kummersdorf. This was an old army artillery range outside of Berlin. A few of von Braun's colleagues from the VFR days joined him and started work on what would be called the A-1 rocket. The A-1 would eventually evolve into the A-2 and A-3. These rockets were successfully tested off the coast of Germany in the North Sea. In 1935, von Braun and his team had grown to eighty members and were regularly firing liquid-fueled engines with great success. However, the operation was starting to out grow the facilities at Kummersdorf. (Von Braun & Ordway)
Von Braun was under great pressure from the Nazi’s to develop weapons that could be used to attack the Allies from Germany. Von Braun, however, was not interested in developing weapons but rather in developing spacecraft. When the first V-2 hit London, von Braun remarked to his colleagues, "The rocket worked perfectly except for landing on the wrong planet." Following this comment, the SS and the Gestapo arrested von Braun. They claimed that he committed crimes against the state because his interests were in opposition to weapons. His crime was indulging in frivolous dreams when he should have been concentrating on building bigger rocket bombs for the Nazi war machine. Dornberger convinced the SS and the Gestapo to release von Braun because without him there would be no V-2 and Hitler would have them all shot. (Book -2)

Development surrounding the V-2

Germany had many different types of rockets both liquid and solid at the beginning of World War II. The series that most closely correlates to space flight was the A series. This would be the series that would eventually develop into the V-2. ("Vengeance weapon 2") The military's rockets however, were larger and more ambitious during this time. Many other rockets were developed and launched for military use. One was the Enzian, a plastic wood swept-wing rocket. It reached an altitude of nine miles and weighed 4,350 lbs. Only twenty five of these missiles were fired before the program was canceled in 1945. Another was occasionally called the V-3, the Schmetterling. It was a midwing monoplane with a cruciform tail. It had a liquid sustainer that was manufactured by BMW and mounted internally. This rocket, however, had solid boosters externally mounted to assist with thrust. Therefore, it wasn’t totally a liquid rocket. A one-third model of the V-2 also developed was called the Wasserfall. Although this was a simpler construction it was still affective up to 8 miles. The propulsion system was pressure feed operating on nitric acid and vinyl isobutyl ether. This missile was developed for surface to air attacks and had future plans of being equipped with a guidance system. (Von Braun & Ordway)
The V-1 was a creation of the Luftwaffe and built near Peenemünde. This was the Fi-103, an unmanned cruise missile that was also known as the “buzz-bomb.” Following the A-1 was the A-2. These were manufactured and tested in Kummersdorf. The rocket engine team for this rocket was implementing a 1500 kgt motor which had 50 times the thrust capability of anything at that time. On December 4th, 1937, Von Braun and his team launched the first A-3. Five minutes after liftoff the parachute deployed and the rocket went off course. The second A-3 was launched without a chute and crashed off target. After the second failure von Braun decided to wait till the winter weather cleared to attempt another test, but after waiting for the right weather, the third A-3 still failed. After this, von Braun and his team decided to set about correcting the stability problem and other serious problems. (Spangenburg & Moser)
A new request soon came to von Braun for a rocket that had a range of 260 km, max payload of 1000 kg, and accurate within 2 to 3 meters from its target. It was to be transportable by rail and therefore limited its length and diameter. This would allow it to go around curves and pass threw tunnels. These would be the requirements that would lead into the V-2.
The V-2 was the basis for the next generation rocket design because it was an affective liquid fuel rocket and had a massive payload capability. The A-5 had served as a test vehicle for the A-4 (V-2) but only the A-7 had actually been built during the war. The A-6 was complete on paper but was never converted to hardware. The A-6 was to be an improved V-2, powered by an engine using nitric-sulfuric acid mixture for the oxidizer and fuel consisting of vinyl isobutyl ether. (Von Braun & Ordway, WWW - 3)
The first A-7’s did not have propulsion systems and were used merely for air-drop tests to gather ballistic data. Later models used A-5 engines for ground tests. These engines were capable of producing a 3300 lb thrust. The A-8 like the A-6 was never constructed. This launch vehicle was to be an improved A-6 using the same wing configuration as the A-7. The objective of the A-9 program was increased range. Its approach velocity would be fairly low but it would have a range of 400 miles. Toward the end of the war, von Braun’s superiors started to doubt its usefulness. However, the boost-glide system was explored further.
There was a rocket flown at the end of the war sometimes called the bastard A-4. This was a V-2 that had been modified with crude supersonic wings and enlarged aerodynamic control surfaces. The A-4 b was the result of Germany loosing V-2 launch sites in northern France, Belgium, and Holland. Out of the five A-4b constructed, only two were actually launched. (Jan 8, 24 1945) The first was a failure but the second flew true. It climbed to an altitude of 50 miles and a speed of 2,700 miles per hour. This made it the first winged guided missile to exceed the speed of sound. (Von Braun & Ordway, WWW-3)

Figure 1-8 A-4b (WWW-3)

Figure 1-9 V-2 color schemes (WWW-4)

The closing of the A program would come with ideas more aimed at space travel. The A-10 was not a complete vehicle but the first stage of a two stage vehicle. The A-9 was to be the second stage of this vehicle. The A-10 was to produce 400,000 lbs of thrust using a nitric acid and diesel oil fuel. The first stage was to be 65 feet long with a diameter of 162 inches. The loaded total weight of the entire vehicle was 174,000 lbs. The second stage was to only be 30,000 lbs making the first stage about 144,000 lbs. The calculations showed the missile could carry a one ton payload roughly 2,500 miles. One of the projects conceived following the A-10 would have been called the A-11. This rocket would have been the previous A-10 with a third stage. The German dual-staged vehicle was the launch vehicle that could have possibly placed a man into orbit. The last in the series was called the A-12. This included a 4 stage rocket capable of producing 2.5 million pounds of thrust. This rocket could have placed a payload of 60,000 lbs into orbit. (Von Braun & Ordway)

German surrender and V-2 testing in the US

As the closing days of the war loomed, Soviet troops approached nearer and nearer to Peenemünde. Orders came in from a Nazi military official called Kammler. He ordered all at Peenemünde to defend it at all costs. On January 31, 1945 von Braun called in his section chiefs and department directors. He told them that the high command had ordered that they relocate all defense projects to central Germany. However von Braun thought that the high command had other ideas in mind. He suspected that Kammler would use him and his team as pawns for a negotiation with the Allies. Von Braun didn’t want him or any of his men to be part of such a crime. Another possibility was that they would all be killed once they reached central Germany. This was because Kammler might want to kill any personnel that might be useful to the allies. (Book-2)
As the war was drawing to an end von Braun sent his brother Magnus out to find the Americans. He then returned with the Allies some time later after being questioned. The Americans were skeptical at first but soon came to realize that they had captured the ultimate prize, the German rocket scientists. After their capture, von Braun and the others underwent extensive questioning. Four months after their surrender, von Braun and 114 team members left for the United States. (Spangenburg & Moser)

Figure 2-1 Von Braun’s surrender (Spangenburg & Moser)

Von Braun and his group of hand picked team members would finally arrive at Fort Bliss, Texas. Their job was to put together and test the V-2 Rockets and rocket parts that had arrived from Germany. This project was named Hermes; it was shared by the US Army and General Electric. The Germans lives were heavily controlled. They were not allowed to meet with American engineers to discuss their work or attend scientific conferences. On weekends, small groups of five or six of them would go out to town with an army escort. The US government kept the rocket specialists under constant surveillance. Each scientist would be assigned a custodian who was responsible for his whereabouts and activities at all times. In addition to the controlled lifestyle, the Germans received low pay and spent significant time away from there families. (Spangenburg & Moser)
The initial purpose of the Germans work was to train Americans, both civil and military, in the assembly and checkout of the rockets. On May 10, 1946 the first V-2 was launched into the upper atmosphere. It carried several scientific instruments for gathering data. Several more followed that year with much both and failure. The highest altitude attained by the US V-2 was 132 miles. This was about twice the distance as the American X-15. (Spangenburg & Moser)

The Hermes program came into being in 1946 and ran until 1951. By its close it had launched 67 V-2’s. Another project was developed during this period called Project Blossom. This project consisted of a V-2 with modified nose cones. This program sent canisters containing insect and plant life. Its purpose was too stuffy the effect of radiation on life at high altitudes. There was another project located at white sands that implemented the use of a bumper missile. Eight of these V-2 bumpers where launched between 1947 and 1950. The bumper, a two stage rocket consisted of an V-2 as the first stage and a WAC Corporal sounding rocket for stage two. The rockets second stage only weight 661 lbs and went higher than any V-2 could alone.
The Army conducted a series of eight bumper research firings between May 1948 and July 1950. The fifth flight on 24 February, 1949 was the only complete success reaching an altitude of 244 miles and a velocity of 5150 miles per hour. Flights seven and eight were significant for being launched from what was Long Range Proving Ground at Cape Canaveral. The purpose of both flights was to determine the aerodynamic characteristics of high speed missiles. The Bumper launch details can be found bellow.(WWW-19)

The V-2 & Its Systems

The V-2 rocket was small by comparison to today's rockets. It achieved its thrust by burning a mixture of liquid oxygen and alcohol at a rate of about one ton every seven seconds. Once launched, the V-2 was a formidable weapon that could devastate whole city blocks. It stands 46.1 feet high and has a thrust of 100,000 pounds. The V-2 had a payload capacity of 2,200 pounds and could also reach a velocity of 3,500 miles per hour. It was guided by a gyroscopic system that sent signals to aerodynamic steering tabs on the fins. It was generally inaccurate by today’s standards due to errors in aligning the rocket with its target. Premature shut-off of the motor and inconsistencies in electric current caused the malfunctions. The V-2 was propelled by a mixture of 75% ethyl alcohol, water, and liquid oxygen. The water-alcohol mixture tank was made of aluminium to save weight. The two liquids were delivered to the thrust chamber by two rotary pumps, driven by a steam turbine. It was pumped through the walls of the main burner, so that it could heat the mixture and at the same time cool the burner. This way the burner would not melt from the heat. The fuel was then pumped into a main burner chamber through several nozzles. This assures that the correct mixture of alcohol and oxygen. The steam turbine operated at 5,000 rpm on two auxiliary fuels, namely hydro peroxide and calcium permanganate. (WWW-7)

Figure 2-2 The V-2 after launch (WWW -19)

Later, the V-2 used radio signals transmitted from the ground to navigate the missile toward its target. The first models used a simple analog computer that would adjust the azimuth for the rocket. The flight distance was controlled by the amount of fuel, so that when the fuel runs out the rocket it would stop accelerating and soon reach the top of the parabolic flight curve.
An important component of the V-2 propulshion system was the turbo pump which was driven by a hydrogen peroxide burning "steam generator" mounted inside. After this unit starts and the pump was spinning at operating rpm, the fuel and oxidizer valves opened. When the alcohol and liquid oxygen come together in the combustion chamber they ignited automatically and the engine runs. This steam generator unit provided power to drive the turbine combination fuel and oxidizer pump.
The Automatic gyro control was essential in making sure the rocket follows a stable trajectory. The guide beam and radio command revivers were for navigation and control of the guidance system.
The two main large tanks held the liquid oxygen and liquid alcohol-water mixture. The third small tank contains hydrogen peroxide and its main function was the driving of the turbo pump. (Von Braun & Ordway & WWW - 7)

Figure 2-3 V-2 (Von Braun & Ordway)

Figure 2-4 V-2 Bumper

The V-2 bumper history & systems

The Bumper program was a co-operative program established among the agencies responsible for the various phases of the early launch vehicle programs. The purpose of this program was to investigate launching techniques for a two-stage missile, and separation of the two stages at high velocity, to conduct limited investigation of high-speed high-altitude phenomena, and to attain increased velocities and altitudes.
The overall responsibility for these V-2 missiles was given to the General Electric Company for what was called the Hermes Project. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology was assigned responsibility for the theoretical investigations required, the design of the second stage, and basic design of the separation system. The Douglas Aircraft Company was assigned responsibility for fabrication of the second stage and detailed design and fabrication of the special V-2 parts required.
The Bumper V-2 was the first missile launched at Cape Canaveral on July 24, 1950. It was a V-2 with an added second stage that was a solid rocket booster, normally used to launch the WAC Corporal. The WAC Corporal was an unguided rocket used for high-altitude research. It was 16 feet long without a booster and had a long nose. The corporal was 12 inches in diameter and used liquid propellants that developed a thrust of 1,500 pounds for 50 seconds.

Figure 2 – 5 WAC Corporal (WWW-19)

The WAC Corporal weighed 200 pounds empty and 660 pounds at launch. It was a smaller rocket that could fit in the V-2 and yet retain enough space in the instrument compartment to house the indispensable components of the guidance equipment. In the instrument compartment was the guide-rails and expulsion cylinders used as a launcher for the WAC Corporal. These cylinders were activated by means of a compressed-air-bottle through a pressure reducer and a solenoid valve. This valve was activated by the final cut-off signal of the V-2, causing the fins of the WAC Corporal to slide out of the three slots in the upper part of this warhead launcher. (WWW-19)
Eight of these missiles were assembled and flown during the Bumper Program. The first launch combination rocket had a short duration burn. The solid propellant motor that propelled the second stage attained only slightly more speed and altitude than the V-2. The second Bumper was fired on August 19, 1948 and, like Bumper 1, contained only a partial charge. The velocity of the V-2 was about ten percent below normal, but was operational. At 28 seconds into flight, the propulsion system was performing normally. But at 33 seconds the turbine started to over-speed. It reached a peak speed of 4,800 rpm a few tenths of a second later, then decreased, ultimately failing. This action was attributed to the premature closure of the alcohol preliminary valve in the V-2, due to a failure in the controlling circuit. (Von Braun & Ordway, WWW-19)
On September 30, 1948, the third missile was launched. The second stage used a liquid propellant, this time burning for 32 seconds. Operation of the V-2 was successful in all aspects; however, the second stage motor exploded just prior to separation. The fourth Bumper, like the third, used a liquid propellant with 32 seconds burn time for the second stage. The flight appeared normal and velocity was nominal. However, a break in the alcohol line resulted in an explosion 28.5 seconds into flight. This caused the jet guidance vanes to broaden, the telemetry record to fail, the beacon signal to disappear and the servo signals to increase to near maximum. The spurious signals drove the jet vanes hard over, causing the missile to execute a fast turning motion. As you can guess the rocket was destroyed. (Von Braun & Ordway, WWW-19)
Bumper 5 was launched on February 24, 1949, and was the first Bumper to be fired with a fully tanked second stage, which allowed 45 seconds burn time. Not much greater than the previous launches but greater nonetheless. This flight was successful in every phase. Thirty seconds after take-off, the V-2 reached a speed of 3,600 miles per hour. The V-2 and the WAC Corporal separated and the WAC attained a speed of 5,150 miles per hour at an altitude of approximately 250 miles. This was the highest velocity and highest altitude ever reached by a man-made object. The WAC carried telemetry instruments which transmitted data to ground stations. This was the first time radio equipment had ever operated at such extreme altitudes. (Von Braun & Ordway, WWW-19)
The sixth bumper was launched at White Sands Proving Ground on April 21, 1949. This was almost identical to the fifth and it was hoped that the performance of sixth would exceed the fifth. The nose cone was instrumented to record data on cosmic radiation at altitudes greater than could be reached by other missiles. Performance was normal for 47.5 seconds when the cut-off relay was triggered by a malfunction in the control system. It was likely that excessive vibration, due to structural changes made to accommodate the WAC Corporal, could have caused this failure as well as the failure of missiles 2 and 4. (WWW-19)
Bumper missiles 7 and 8 were shipped from White Sands Proving Ground to Cape Canaveral, Florida. The first attempt to launch Bumper 7 was unsuccessful due to moisture collected within the missile. It was necessary to return it to the hanger where it was dried and rechecked. Two changes were made to reduce the probability of further condensation troubles. Silicone grease was applied at vulnerable points and the loading sequence was reversed to load liquid oxygen after loading hydrogen peroxide. These measures proved adequate in the launch that would follow.
Bumper 7 was successfully fired after Bumper 8 which was fired on July 24, 1950. Notwithstanding the error in trajectory; Bumper 7 attained a speed of Mach 9, the highest sustained speed that had ever been reached in the Earth's atmosphere. Through the Bumper flights, it was determined that the speed of a rocket or missile could be increased with each successive stage. The Bumper program officially concluded in July 1950. (WWW-19)

V-2 Creations: Touching the Redstone and Jupiter

Coinciding with the transfer of launch operations to the Cape, the Army's missile program moved from White Sands to a post just outside of Huntsville, a north Alabama cotton town. Von Braun and his team arrived north of Huntsville, Alabama on April of 1950. Here they started working on the next generation of the V-2, the Redstone. This rocket would be designed to launch America's first satellite and the first two U.S. manned suborbital flights. There were three main versions of the Redstone rocket that the worked on; Jupiter C, Redstone, and Mercury Redstone. There were many different versions of this particular model but they were all based off of the V-2. (WWW-14)

Figure 2-6 Comparison (WWW-14)

Figure 2-7 Redstone (WWW-14)

Figure 2-8 Jupiter C (WWW-14)

The American Redstone rocket is a direct descendant of the German V-2. It was first designed as a surface-to-surface missile for the U.S. Army. The Redstone was capable of flights up to 200 miles and burned alcohol and liquid oxygen. The Redstone missile was designed to carry a 6,000-pound warhead at a distance of 500 miles. Its engine produced 77,200 pounds of thrust at liftoff. Trajectory was controlled by four vanes which were attached to four fixed fins at the base of the missile. The vanes deflected the engine's exhaust to steer the missile. This was a method nearly identical to that employed on the German V-2. The Redstone was controlled by an inertial guidance system that used air-breathing gyroscopes. The re-entry vehicle, carrying a nuclear weapon, separated from the missile following engine cutoff. Although it had an operational life of only five years, the Redstone remains one of the single most important vehicles in the history of the U.S. space program. (WWW-14) (WWW-15)
The Jupiter-C consisted of a modified Redstone ballistic missile topped by three solid-propellant upper stages. The tank of the Redstone was lengthened by eight feet to provide extra propellant. The instrument compartment was also smaller and lighter than the Redstone. The second stage was an outer ring of eleven scaled-down sergeant rocket engines and third stage is a cluster of three sergeant rockets. These are held in position by bulkheads and rings. The vehicle was guided by a gyro-controlled autopilot controlling both air-vanes and jet vanes. Following a vertical launch the vehicle was programmed so that it would travel at an angle of 40 degrees from the horizontal. At first-stage burnout, explosive bolts fired and springs separated the instrument section from the first-stage. When the apex was reached, a radio signal from the ground ignited the eleven-rocket cluster of the second stage. The third and fourth stages were fired in turn to boost the satellite and fourth stage to an orbital velocity of 18,000 miles per hour. (WWW-14)

Figure 2-9 Jupiter C (Von Braun & Ordway)


There is no doubt that America owes its accomplishments in space to many special pioneers over the course of time. It started with Robert Goddard’s liquid rocket and advanced with von Braun’s V-2. The V-2 was the future for space history. Both the US and Russians used it for there perspective space programs. It has been modified, carried great distances and implemented for use. From its days as a weapon in Germany it was developed into a Bumper rocket piercing father and higher into the atmosphere. It gave way to missiles like the Redstone and developed into rockets for space use like the Jupiter.


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