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Preludes to U.S. Space-Launch Vehicle TechnologyGoddard Rockets to Minuteman III$

J.D Hunley

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780813031774

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813031774.001.0001

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(p.339) Appendix: Chronology

(p.339) Appendix: Chronology

Preludes to U.S. Space-Launch Vehicle Technology
University Press of Florida

Before 1100

Gunpowder invented in China.


Probable first use of military rockets by Chinese.


Probable first use of military rockets by Arabs and Europeans.


Indian troops used rockets against British in Mysore Wars.


William Congreve adapted Indian rocket technology for European use.


British troops used Congreve rockets against Danes, French, and United States.


Congreve-type rockets adapted for use in lifesaving and whaling.


William Hale invented first spin-stabilized rocket. Experiment by Robert

February 9, 1909

Experiment by Robert Goddard on exhaust velocity of a black-powder rocket.

January 1920

Smithsonian Institution published Goddard's “A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes.”


Goddard switched to liquid propellants.


Hermann Oberth's Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (The rocket into interplanetary space) published.

March 26,1926

Goddard launched first liquid-propellant rocket known to fly.

April 4,1930

Creation of American Interplanetary Society (after, American Rocket Society).


Small group of researchers around Frank Malina at Caltech began rocket research that led to later creation of Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

December 10, 1938

James H. Wyld tested first American engine to apply regenerative cooling to entire combustion chamber.

June 1940

Former Goddard associate Clarence N. Hickman submitted rocket proposals to Frank B. Jewett, president of Bell Labs and a division chairman of recently created National Defense Research Committee, leading to establishment of Section H (for Hickman) of NDRC's Division of Armor and Ordnance. Section H engaged in rocket research and development during World War II.

December 16,1941

Reaction Motors, America's first rocket company, founded.


John W. Parsons of Malina group at Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory, California Institute of Technology (GALCIT) developed first castable composite solid propellant.

March 1942

Aerojet Engineering Corporation (later Aerojet General Corporation), America's second rocket firm, founded.

October 3, 1942

German A- 4(V-2) missile successfully flight- tested.


Caltech, urged by its Charles Lauritsen, operated a rocket research eort in Eaton Canyon, Calif.

November 1943

Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) established nearInyokern, Calif.


GALCIT began calling itself Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

November 15,1944

Army Ordnance contracted with General Electric (GE) for Hermes project.

October 11,1945

JPL's WAC Corporal reached an altitude of 230,000–240,000 feet

Fall 1945

At North American Aviation (NAA), William Bollay created what became Aerophysics Laboratory, forerunner of Rocketdyne Division.


Caltech's Edward W. Price developed internal-burning, star-shaped perforation for White Whizzer rocket, allowing higher propellant load and protecting case from heat of burning.

March 29,1946

Army Air Forces contracted with NAA for MX-770 missile, which evolved into Navaho.

December 3,1946

Navy funded Rocket Propellant Information Agency, a forerunner of Chemical Propulsion Information Agency.


Air Force's MX-774B furthered ballistic missile technology.

mid–lates 1940s

Charles Bartley at JPL adopted Thiokol's polysulfide as a solid-propellant binder.


Bartley and associates switched from potassium perchlorate to ammonium perchlorate as oxidizer.

May 22,1947

First launch of Army's Corporal E missile.

September 18,1947

U.S. Air Force became separate military service, severing ties with U.S. Army, in which it had been Army Air Forces.


Thiokol entered rocket business in Elkton, Md. Army began supporting Rocket Propellant Information Agency, renamed Solid Propellant Information Agency.


Thiokol designed T-41 motor for Hughes Aircraft's February, Falcon missile.

February 24,1949

Two-stage Bumper WAC climbed a reported miles in first successful American ignition of a second stage at altitude.

November 1949

Construction began on Air Force's rocket testing site at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.


Reaction Motors' Edward A. Neu Jr. applied for patent July, on “spaghetti” construction of combustion chambers.

July 10, 1950

Development of Army's Redstone missile began.


Aerojet under Navy contract began studying hydrazine as rocket propellant.

January 23,1951

Air Force contracted with Convair for MX-project, which soon became Atlas.

December 1951

Successful static test by Thiokol and GE of RV-A-10 missile's 31-inch solid-propellant motor.

Late 1951

Air Force's Non-Rotating Engine Branch began to study and fund solid-propellant rocketry.

20 August 20, 1953

First flight test of Army's Redstone missile.


At Air Force insistence, NAA conducted Rocket Engine Advancement Program, which led to development of RP-1 (kerosene) as rocket fuel.


Army's Corporal missile declared operational.

February 1,1954

Teapot Committee, commissioned by Air Force, issued important report stressing urgency of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

July 1,1954

Western Development Division (WDD) established in Inglewood, Calif., to manage the development of ICBMs.

August 2,1954

Air Force Brig. Gen. Bernard A. Schriever assumed command of WDD.


Keith Rumbel and Charles B. Henderson of Atlantic Research Corporation discovered that aluminum as main fuel in solid propellant could significantly increase specific impulse.


Army's Sergeant solid-propellant missile developed.


Rocketdyne Division of NAA established.

January 6,1955

Air Force contracted with Convair Division for devel opment and production of Atlas airframe, plus integration, assembly, and testing of its other subsystems.

January 14,1955

WDD and collocated Special Aircraft Project Office (SAPO) of Air Materiel Command contracted with Aerojet General for development of alternate liquid oxygen–hydrocarbon propulsion system for Atlas missile (later used in Titan I).

April 28,1955

Air Force Secretary Harold E. Talbott preliminarily approved development of a second ICBM, which became Titan I.

May 2,1955

Air Force gave formal approval to the development of an ICBM with two full stages, later called Titan I.

ca. September 1955

Air Force began Large Solid Rocket Feasibility Program.

September 14,1955

Air Materiel Command made Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Company overall contractor for two-stage missile that became Titan I.

November 8,1955

Defense Secretary Charles E. Wilson formally directed Air Force to proceed with intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) number 1, which became Thor, and told Army to develop an alternate IRBM that became Jupiter, with Army and Navy collaborating on a sea launched version of that missile.

November 17,1955

Navy's Special Projects Oce established to work with Army on adapting Jupiter for sea use (but ultimately, as it turned out, to oversee Polaris).

December 23,1955

WDD and SAPO contracted with Douglas Aircraft for airframe and assembly of Thor IRBM.

February 1,1956

Army Ballistic Missile Agency activated.

November 26,1956

Defense Secretary Wilson limited Army jurisdiction to missiles up to a 200-mile range for tactical battlefield use, giving operational control over all IRBMs to Air Force.

December 8,1956

Secretary Wilson directed Navy to begin Polaris program, adding it to Jupiter and Thor as IRBMs under development.

January 25,1957

First (unsuccessful) flight test of Air Force's Thor IRBM.

March 1957

Air Force Col. Edward N. Hall, assisted by Barnet R. Adelman, began work on solid-propellant ICBM that became Minuteman.

March 1,1957

First (unsuccessful) flight test of Army's Jupiter IRBM.

June 1,1957

Redesignation of Air Force's WDD as Ballistic Missile Division (AFBMD).

June 11,1957

First (unsuccessful) flight test of Air Force's Atlas A missile.

July 11,1957–December 31,1958

International Geophysical Year.

October 4,1957

Soviet launch of Sputnik 1.

December 6,1957

First (failed) launch of Vanguard with a satellite.


Hercules' Allegany Ballistics Laboratory developed composite-modified double base (solid) propellant.


Navy established Liquid Propellant Information Agency.

January 31,1958

Army's Juno I launched Explorer I, America's first satellite.

Febraury 7,1958

Department of Defense (DoD) activated Advanced Research Projects Agency.

February 20,1958

DoD approved what in June became Minuteman solid propellant missile project.

April 23,1958

First (unsuccessful) launch of a Thor-Able vehicle.

June 18,1958

Army deployed Redstone Missile.

October 1,1958

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) created.

October 9, 1958

Air Force contracted with Boeing Airplane Company for assembly and testing of Minuteman missile.

October 11, 1958

A Thor-Able vehicle launched first successful space probe, NASA's Pioneer I.

December 18,1958

Successful launch into orbit of entire Atlas missile with a communications repeater in Project Score.

December 20,1958

First (unsuccessful) flight test of a Titan missile.

January 19,1959

General Schriever approved in-silo launch for future Titan II.

February 6, 1959

Successful launch of Titan I with dummy second stage.

April 28,1959

NASA contracted with Douglas to develop a Thor-Vanguard launch vehicle named Delta.

May 1959

Initial operational capability for Jupiter IRBM.

June 1959

First Thor squadron on operational alert in Great Britain.

September 1,1959

Air Force's Atlas D, first U.S. ICBM, operational

November 1959

DoD authorized Air Force to develop Titan II.

January 7,1960

First guided flight of Polaris A, marking first use of a digital computer for an inertial guidance system on a missile.

July 1,1960

First launch of four-stage Scout solid-propellant launch vehicle with all stages live (from Wallops Island).

July 29,1960

First launch of functional Polaris missile. AFBMD contracted with Martin for production of Titan II.

First (unsucessful) flight test of Mercury-Atlas launch vehicle.

September 21,1960

First launch of Air Force Blue Scout (from Cape Canaveral).

February 1,1961

First launch of Minuteman missile and first test with all stages functioning on initial flight (all-up testing).

February 21,1961

Successful launch of Mercury-Atlas.2.

April 1,1961

Air Force reorganization, creating Air Force Systems Command with subordinate Ballistic Missile Division split into Ballistic Systems Division and Space Systems Division.

May 5, 1961

Astronaut Alan Shepard launched on Mercury-Redstone 3 into successful suborbital flight.

September 29, 1961

Successful test of liquid-injection thrust-vector-control system for Polaris A3.

November 17, 1961

First successful launch of Minuteman missile from underground silo.

February 20,1962

Astronaut John Glenn launched into orbit on Mercury-Atlas 6.

March 16,1962

First launch of Titan II.

April 18,1962

First Titan I squadron deployed.

June 1962

Polaris A2 operational.

October 1962

First Minuteman I delivered to Strategic Air Command.

December 1,1962

Creation of Chemical Propulsion Information Agency from Solid Propellant Information Agency and Liquid Propellant Information Agency.

June 13,1963

First Titan II squadron operational.

October 26,1963

First launch of Polaris A3 from a submarine.

April 8,1964

Successful test flight of Gemini on a Titan II.

September 28,1964

Polaris A3 operational.

March 23,1965

Successful launch of manned Gemini 3 on a Titan II.

December 8,1965

DoD approval for development of Minuteman III.

July 18–21,1966

Gemini 10 mission, with astronauts Michael Collins and John Young successfully docking with Agena spacecraft launched by an Atlas launch vehicle.

December 1966

Initial operational capability for Minuteman II.

May 26,1967

Air Force Systems Command consolidated Ballistic Systems Division and Space Systems Division into Space and Missile Systems Organization (SAMSO).

February 12,1969

Final Minuteman I removed from silo, ending deploy ment of that missile.

June 1970

Initial operational capability for Minuteman III.

Sources: Dates from narrative, except for entries before, which are based on Van Riper, Rockets and Missiles, xiii–xiv; initial deployment dates of Titan I and Titan II, taken from Stumpf, Titan II,31,134; scattered entries from “BMO Chronology.”

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