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Home > Early Days > Timeline of Rocket History > Rockets Enter the 20th Century

Rockets Enter the 20th Century (Early to Mid-20th Century)

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ROCKET EQUIPPED BI-PLANES Hale's story and others like it entertained readers, but World War I enlisted rockets once again for military purposes. French pilots rigged rockets to the wing struts of their airplanes and aimed them at enemy observation balloons filled with highly inflammable hydrogen.
WRIGHT BROTHERS FLIGHT On December 17, 1903, two brothers from Dayton, Ohio, named Wilbur and Orville Wright, were successful in flying an airplane they built. Their powered aircraft flew for 12 seconds above the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, making them the first people to pilot a heavier-than-air machine that took off on its own power, remained under control, and sustained flight.
GODDARD While engineers pursued many amazing developments in aviation during the first half of the 20th century, other Americans, like Robert H. Goddard, dedicated themselves to new achievements in the area of rocketry. In 1926, Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket and laid the foundation for a technology that would eventually take man to the moon and beyond. Fueled by liquid oxygen and gasoline, Robert Goddard's rocket flew for only 2.5 seconds, climbed 41 feet, and landed 184 feet away in a cabbage patch.
1932 Rocket Motor Design In addition to Dr. Goddard's pioneer work, American experimentation in rocketry prior to World War II grew, primarily in technical societies. This is an early rocket motor designed and developed by the American Rocket Society in 1932.
OBERTH The foremost authority on rocketry outside the United States was Dr. Hermann Oberth, a Hungarian-born German. In 1923, he published a book about rocket travel into outer space. Because of his important writings, many small rocket societies sprang up around the world. In the spring of 1930, a young Wernher von Braun assisted Oberth in his early experiments in testing a liquid-fueled rocket with about 15 pounds of thrust.
V-2 ROCKET Years later at their Peenemuende Research Facility in Germany, the s, under the technical direction of Von Braun, developed the V-2 Rocket. The V-2 became one of the best known of all early missiles. The 46-foot rocket utilized alcohol and liquid oxygen as fuel and could carry a 1,650 pound warhead 225 miles. Some historians have estimated that by the end of World War II, the Germans had fired nearly 3,000 V-2 weapons against England and other targets.
VON BRAUN TEAM As the war ended, the United States developed an interest in the technical capability of the Germans. A team of American scientists was dispatched to Europe to collect information and equipment related to German rocket progress. "Project Paperclip" enabled the German rocket specialists to come to the United States to initiate advances in American rocketry.
V-2 AT WHITE SANDS The German team of specialists was initially assigned to Fort Bliss Texas where they reassembled and tested V-2 rockets brought to America from Germany; later they came to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.
VON BRAUN IDEA FOR SPACE STATION In Huntsville, the German team, including an increasing number of American-born members, would develop plans for exploring space and would build the rockets that would serve as the foundation for the American space program for years to come.

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