SpaceRace Logo National Air and Space Museum logo
Military Origins of the Space Race

Space Race Home
Military Origins
Racing to the Moon
Satellite Reconnaissance
A Permanent Presence
Illustrating the Threat

Previous pageNext page
The V-2 Missile
The Corporal Missile
Rocket Rivals
The Ultimate Weapon
Launching the Space Age
The Scout Program


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 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
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.

Rocket Rivalries Previous page Next page Viking
Space Race > Military Origins > Rocket Rivalries > 1-2 >> The Ultimate Weapon

Space Race Home
Introduction | Military Origins | Racing To the Moon | Satellite Reconnaissance | Permanent Presence | Illustrations