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Military Origins of the Space Race

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The V-2 Missile
The Corporal Missile
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Three types of rockets are displayed here:

  • A rocket used as a missile is a weapon that delivers an explosive warhead to a target.
  • A sounding rocket carries scientific instruments into the upper atmosphere.
  • A launch vehicle sends spacecraft into Earth orbit or beyond.

 These rockets played important roles in rocketry research, national defense, or space exploration.

V-2 (black and white patterned rocket)--developed by the German army for use in World War II, inspired large-scale rocketry in the United States and Soviet Union, and set the stage for long-range ballistic missiles.

WAC Corporal (small white rocket with black top)--high-altitude U.S. Army test rocket, used from 1945 to 1950, representing the state of American rocketry at the time of the German V-2.

Viking (white rocket with silver top)--U.S. Navy refinement of V-2, used in the late 1940s and early 1950s as a sounding rocket and test vehicle for Project Vanguard.

Jupiter-C (large white rocket marked UE)--placed the first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, into orbit on January 31, 1958.

Vanguard (tall black and silver rocket)--boosted the second U.S. satellite, Vanguard 1, into space on March 17, 1958.

Aerobee 150 (slim gray and black rocket)--one of a family of sounding rockets used from 1947 to 1985 for upper atmosphere research.

Scout-D (tall white rocket marked United States)--used by NASA and other customers from 1961 through 1994 to launch small scientific satellites.

Minuteman III (large green rocket)--an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and U.S. strategic weapon since 1970.


 In addition to the rockets, two jet-powered cruise missiles hang overhead:

Pointer Other exhibits about rockets are located in the Museum's How Things Fly and Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall galleries.

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Vanguard Aerobee 150 Viking Jupiter C Scout Minuteman III