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Military Origins of the Space Race

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In 1946 the U.S. Navy began work on a sounding rocket to meet its research needs and to gain experience in designing and building large missiles. From 1949 through 1957, 14 Vikings were built and flown to test different features and carry larger instrument payloads.

Viking Launch
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SI#: 75-10228
Viking's design introduced important innovations in control, structures, and propulsion. No two Vikings were identical.

The Viking rocket was used mainly to study the region of the upper atmosphere that affects long-range radio communication. However, the Naval Research Laboratory also conducted a study and test launch to investigate Viking's potential as a tactical ballistic missile.

Report Cover
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Line ArtThe Viking displayed here is a full-size model made with portions of a real airframe; it is typical of Viking #8 and later versions. It was built by Viking's prime manufacturer, the Glen L. Martin Company of Baltimore. The visible internal components consist of both real objects and mock-ups. The model was donated to the Smithsonian in 1975, after the company installed an original XLR-10 Viking engine from the Museum's collection.

Gift of the Glen L. Martin Company
Diagrams courtesy of Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel (1957)

Viking diagram
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Length: 13.7 m (45 ft)
Weight: 6,700 kg (14,800 lb)
Thrust: 91,200 newtons (20,500 lb)
Propellants: Alcohol and liquid oxygen
Manufacturer: Glen L. Martin Co. (airframe), Reaction Motors, Inc. (engine)

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