The V-2 | The World’s First Space Rocket
Germany’s Rocket Weapon
The V-2 ‘vengeance weapon’ became the world’s first guided ballistic missile when German forces used it to bomb allied cities during World War II. It would also become the first rocket to reach space when it reached an altitude over 100 km in June 1944. At the end of the war, the remaining V-2 rockets were captured by the US and USSR forming the basis of ICBM's and the Space Race.
Facts About Nazi Germany’s Rocket Weapon!
- The young German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun worked on the German Army’s V-2 program and would eventually (along with 100 other key personnel) work for NASA developing the rocket technology for the Apollo program!
- Test launches of V-2 rockets were made at Peenemünde in Northern Germany and after the war in the USSR, the White Sands Proving Grounds and Cape Canaveral by the U.S.
- The V-2 rocket was powered by a liquid-propellant rocket engine which fired for 65 seconds utilizing ethanol/water for fuel and liquid oxygen.
- The first successful flight of the V-2 was in October 1942, with the highest altitude reached, during the war, being 174.6 km (108.5 miles) in June 1944. This made the V-2 the first man-made object to reach space.
- Despite the V-2 only being perfected towards the end of WWII when the war was nearly lost, Hitler ordered that the V-2 attacks begin in retaliation for Allied bombing of German cities.
- The first V-2 attack began on September 8th 1944, with a total of 3,172 fired from various fixed or mobile launchers until the final attack on the 27th March 1945.
- The V-2 rocket would launch and be guided by a primitive system which could adjust in-flight. Post engine cut-off the V-2 would fall on a ballistic trajectory at supersonic speeds towards its target. People nearby would hear the sonic booms (of the rocket arriving) after the rocket had already crashed and exploded!
- Following Allied air raids to destroy V-2 production bases, production factories were moved underground. It’s believed 5,200 V-2 rockets were built during the war with 3,172 launched at Allied targets, particularly Antwerp and London.
- More prisoners of war, forced to work in labour camps producing the V-2, died than people killed by the rocket attacks.
- At the end of the war, the USSR and American forces raced to capture the V-2 technology and personal. The V-2 laid the foundation of the liquid-fueled missiles/rockets and modern day space exploration.
- The early American Redstone rockets which were used during the early Project Mercury missions was a direct descendant of the V-2!