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Preludes to U.S. Space-Launch Vehicle TechnologyGoddard Rockets to Minuteman III$
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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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Polaris and Minuteman: The Solid-Propellant Breakthrough, 1955–1970

Polaris and Minuteman: The Solid-Propellant Breakthrough, 1955–1970

Chapter:
(p.291) 9 Polaris and Minuteman: The Solid-Propellant Breakthrough, 1955–1970
Source:
Preludes to U.S. Space-Launch Vehicle Technology
Author(s):

J. D. Hunley

Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813031774.003.0010

This chapter discusses the development of the Polaris and Minuteman missiles. By the time Polaris got under way in 1956 and Minuteman in 1958, solid-propellant rocketry had already made tremendous strides beyond the use of extruded double-base propellants in tactical missiles during World War II. But there were still enormous technical hurdles to overcome before a solid-propellant missile could hope to launch a strategic nuclear warhead far enough and with sufficient accuracy to serve effectively as a deterrent or as a retaliatory weapon in case of enemy aggression. Unmet needs included higher performance; more stable combustion; nozzle materials that would stand up to heat and to corrosive chemicals from the exhaust of longer- and hotter-burning propellants; lighter combustion chambers, to reduce the weight being launched; a small but still powerful warhead, also to reduce weight; a way to terminate combustion as soon as the desired velocity was achieved, to improve accuracy; a way to control the direction (vector) of the thrust, for steering; and a small, light, and accurate inertial guidance system.

Keywords:   missile technology, ballistic missiles, missile development, rocket development, solid propellants, liquid propellants

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