This is the Aerobee 150 sounding rocket that was capable of reaching an altitude of about 170 miles (270 km) with a payload of 150 pounds (70 kg) of scientific instruments. The rocket consisted of a solid-fuel booster and a liquid-fuel sustainer stage.
The atmospheric, and sometimes astronomical experiments, were performed during the few minutes when the rocket reached its peak altitude. The data was automatically relayed back to a ground station by radio transmission. This rocket was donated to the Smithsonian in 1976 by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.