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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

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

J. D. Hunley

University Press of Florida

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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