Kuiper poses with two V2 missile engines.
Big thanks to the Stafford Air & Space Museum @staffordmuseum (Weatherford, OK) and U.S. Space and Rocket center @rocketcenterusa (Huntsville, AL) for granting Kuiper permission to visit.
At the end of WWII, the Allies captured over 400 tons of V2 rocket parts from the underground facility in which they had been manufactured (by slaves.) The two rocket engines here are real and thus were likely assembled from those very parts. The majority of the Ally-captured V2 equipment ended up here in the US, but a few test launches were performed by the British immediately after the war in what was known as (yes, really) Project Backfire.
(Enterprising author and former Army captain Farley Mowat claimed to have absconded with an entire V2 by painting it blue and disguising it as a submarine before shipping it back to 🇨🇦. However, I was unable to verify that the V2 on display at the 1950 Canadian National Exhibition was actually a result of such a caper.)
Both German rocket parts and German rocket scientists were sent to White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico (adjacent to White Sands National Monument.) There they assembled parts into rockets, and the first “static test” (i.e. rocket tethered to the ground) of the V2 on US soil occured on March 15, 1946. On April 16, 1946, the first V2 was launched in the US. And on October 24th, another V2 would capture the first ever picture of Earth from space.
The previously posted Redstone PGM-11 missile, which would later be modified to launch America’s first satellite as well as the first American astronauts, was a direct descendant of these V2s. It had a beefier, more efficient engine, but initial revs ran on the same fuel: 75% ethanol, 25% water, with liquid oxygen (“LOX”) as the oxidizer. The water helped keep the temperature down, and the tldr; of LOX is that you need O2 to burn stuff. There’s not very much O2 at high altitudes, so we had to BYOO2.
I have a great story about the next fuel we used with Redstone, which I will share later. It is about bagels and Hidden Figures, which are two of my favorite things. Do you have a favorite breakfast food? 😁
Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/Btk4-VxjWu5/