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60 years ago today - first rocket in space

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lessgravity

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Today was a quiet anniversary of an event 60 years ago. A Bumper WAC became the first rocket in space.
I'm surprised there has been so little mention of this achievement.
 

lessgravity

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From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sub-orbital_spaceflight comes:

The very first ballistic missile to reach space was the German V-2 early in 1942 (date uncertain) which reached an altitude of 189 km.
In my research this was highly disputed. It's possible even probable but there were no record of the flights actual altitude in 1942 (most accounts show 1944) only hearsay from reports of the 189km. The 1949 launch was undisputed and recorded.

Looks like Wired beat me to the report anyway
 
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WillMarchant

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Have you read Neufeld's "Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War" book? That's probably as close as I'll ever get to a primary reference. Anyway, he lists (pg. 136) a flight to 56 miles on 3 October, 1942. On page 181 he describes a Summer 1944 flight to 109 miles.
 

lessgravity

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Have you read Neufeld's "Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War" book? That's probably as close as I'll ever get to a primary reference. Anyway, he lists (pg. 136) a flight to 56 miles on 3 October, 1942. On page 181 he describes a Summer 1944 flight to 109 miles.
Yes I love that book. Read it twice. Yes the flight that he refers to is is a test to visually observe air burst. The problem lies in the data from those attempts.
We go on the word of Dornberger and von Braun that the altitude that day was 176km (109 miles). I believe it probably happened and that the altitude is correct however there is a lack of data to substantiate this and the official word awards the first in space event to the 1949 flight.
Did the data exist to confirm the flight in 1944? Possibly. There are some who believe that it existed but was suppressed so that the Americans could claim the prize. According to Neufield "von Braun was thrilled with the 1949 flight" but the program was run by GE as part of Hermes and they claim the attempt had little to do with the German Scientist (pg 238)
NASA officially recognizes the 1949 date. It would be great if the data for the 1944 flight would appear and substantiate that claim.
 

georgegassaway

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No, Bumper-Wac was not the first rocket into space. No more than Alan Shepard was the first Man into Space (there was this guy named Gagarin who not only mde it into space for 5 minutes, but actally orbited, a month before).

I do not know why the achievements by VonBraun and other members of his team keep getting underplayed over time. I wonder if the Wright Brothers grew up in Germany and achieved what they did, would they now be recognized for the first heavier than air airplane flight, or would there be nit-picking over “data”?

There is this, about 1/2 way thru the page, from:
http://www.v2rocket.com/start/makeup/design.html
“The A-4/V-2 rocket had an operational range of 234 miles. The max. burning time of the engine was 65-70 seconds, shortly before engine shutdown the A-4/V-2 weighed 4040 kg at a height of 35 km, starting with 1 G force, and at shutdown 8 G, after shutdown the rocket flew to a height of 97 km and fell to earth with a impact speed of 3240-3600 km per hour.”

So, even when flown angled, as a missile, it reached about 97 km, just 3 km shy of the magic 100 km threshold of space. So is it so hard to believe that any V-2’s set to fly vertically could not easily bust 100 km? Just because there may not have been proof to show that some certain flight flew to exactly say, 187.23 km high, does not mean one should then ignore the prospects that it DID fly into space. Since “all” it had to do was fly to 100 km, which was just a few km more than it often did when flown at an angle (maybe around 45 degrees or so) for horizontal range.

Actually, when flown against some targets that were closer than normal range, it may have flown a slightly steeper trajectory, so it may have exceeded 100 km altitude. I just do not know enough about how the V-2 guidance handled “range” to know whether they adjusted range by trajectory angle, or loaded it with less fuel, or fueled it the same very time but had the engine shut down early.

But even if that does not do it, that nothing that flew in Germany is valid, only what flew in the U.S., then there is this quote from the following page about White Sands tests:
http://www.designation-systems.net/dusrm/app4/v-2.html

“One launch in December 1946, which had reached an altitude of 187 km (116 miles), achieved the absolute altitude record for single-stage rockets until it was surpassed by a RTV-N-12 Viking on 7 August 1951.”

So, I am somewhat baffled why this Bumper-Wac is being bogusly promoted as the first rocket into space. It was not. It was probably the first rocket not built ENTIRELY in Germany to go into Space due to the US-built Wac upper stage that was added. And perhaps that is the clue right there. Not history, not science, but politics. So maybe I am not far off, maybe by 2011 the 50th anniversary of Shepard’s flight will be promoted as the “First Man in Space” (Can’t believe those Russians....).

Notable things about Bumper-Wac were these: First successful 2-stage rocket. A flight that significantly raised the Space Altitude record. And, a later Bumper-Wac happened to be the first rocket to be flown from a desolate crude swampy site near the Atlantic Ocean, named “Cape Canaveral”.

- George Gassaway
 

Gus

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I do not know why the achievements by VonBraun and other members of his team keep getting underplayed over time.
Because they were Nazis, George.

People remain conflicted, for good reason, over the achievements versus culpability of his team. There are many, particularly the 20,000 who died at Mittelwerk, who would see no reason to give Wernher and his team the benefit of the doubt, about anything. His achievements get downplayed over time because, the further we get from the cold war, people are less willing to excuse the expedience that allowed his engineering team a pass on having been part of a larger, pretty hideous, prior team.

That said, do I think the Bumper-Wac with the first rocket in space? No. I think that's bogus too.
 

WillMarchant

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I asked Mike Neufeld if he had any doubt about the altitudes that von Braun and Dornberger were reporting in 1942 and 1944. His reply:

No, the V-2 statistics are good. The problem is an old one, how do you
define the boundary of space. Up to a point, any number is pretty
arbitrary. Back in the late 40s and early 50s, the boundary was set
pretty high by some people, based on residual atmosphere at altitudes
we'd now call LEO territory. Especially in the late 50s and early 60s as
high-altitude rocket aircraft and early satellites came into use, it was
drastically defined downward. Because of the X-15, the US military set
50 miles as the criterion for astronaut wings. That's still the case,
also for the NASA astronaut corps' definition of when you get your gold
astronaut pin, as opposed to a silver one. But the FAI measure of 100 km
(62.1 miles) has become fairly standard--notably for X-Prize and space
tourism. By that measure the first successful V-2 launches that were in
the 90 km apogee area don't qualify, but the 1944 vertical shot does.
 

lessgravity

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This has been an interesting discussion. I originally posted the article based on a news feed release that many other media outlets also jumped on. I have decided that there is definitely an "Americanization" of this achievement being pushed. Pushed by whom? I'm not sure but even without data from the V2 flights I believe that Will's post from Neufield is correct-"the statistics are good". I plan to amend my article to include this info.
 

Fred22

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Because they were Nazis, George.

People remain conflicted, for good reason, over the achievements versus culpability of his team. There are many, particularly the 20,000 who died at Mittelwerk, who would see no reason to give Wernher and his team the benefit of the doubt, about anything. His achievements get downplayed over time because, the further we get from the cold war, people are less willing to excuse the expedience that allowed his engineering team a pass on having been part of a larger, pretty hideous, prior team.

That said, do I think the Bumper-Wac with the first rocket in space? No. I think that's bogus too.
This a very good summation of the why. I am very conflicted about Von Braun myself. I admire the saturn V but I am horrified about what went on very shortly before.
Cheers
fred
 
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