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Military Origins of the Space Race

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AEROBEE: A ROCKET FOR SCIENCE

A few early test rockets were adapted to become "sounding" rockets for upper atmosphere research. The most versatile of these was the Navy's Aerobee, a larger version of the Army's WAC Corporal.

The Aerobee was first produced for the Applied Physics Laboratory of The Johns Hopkins University. Improvements led to a family of Aerobee sounding rockets for both military and civilian use. More than 1,000 Aerobees were launched from 1947 to 1985.

Aerobee launch
75 k jpeg
SI#: 80-4139

AEROBEE 150

Aerobee in GalleryThe Aerobee 150 was refined from an earlier version, Aerobee-Hi, and first flown in 1955. It had a liquid-propellant main stage atop a solid-propellant booster and was about twice the size of a WAC Corporal. It could deliver a 68-kilogram (150-pound) payload to an altitude of 275 kilometers (170 miles).

 This Aerobee 150 was reconstructed from parts transferred from the Naval Ordnance Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range and from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Aerobee Diagram
76 k jpeg
SI#: 96-15332
Length, with booster: 9 m (30 ft)
Weight: 950 kg (2,100 lb)
Thrust (main engine): 18,300 newtons (4,100 lb)
Propellants: Aniline and nitric acid (main engine); solid propellant (booster)
Manufacturer: Aerojet Engineering Corp.


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