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Notes on the V-2

In the spring of 1930, a young Wernher von Braun enrolled at the Berlin Institute of Technology and in his spare time assisted Oberth in his early experiments in testing a liquid fueled rocket stage with about 15 pounds of thrust. In September 1930, Oberth returned to a teaching post in Romania while Von Braun continued experiments under the sponsorship of the German Society for Space Travel.

During July and August 1932, the society impressed officers of the German Army Ordnance by successfully firing a rocket to a height of 200 feet. As a result, the German Army formalized the rocket development program by placing Captain-Doctor Walter Dornberger in charge of Research Station West at Kummersdorf.

For 5 years Wernher Von Braun served as chief of the research station where the forerunners of the famous V-2 (the liquid-fueled A-1, A-2, and A-3) rockets were developed.

During December 1934, the Germans launched two A-2 rockets to a height of 1.4 miles on the Island of Borkum in the North Sea.

A little over a year later, in February 1936, the Germans tested an A-3 rocket with 3,300 pound thrust. Three years later they successfully fired and recovered an A-5 development rocket with gyroscopic controls and parachutes, attaining an altitude of 7 1/2 miles and a range of 11 miles.

Von Braun's success in German rocketry continued. In 1937 he was named technical director of the Peenemuende Rocket Center on the Baltic Sea. There Von Braun and his growing team of specialists would work on the development of the V- 2. The first test of a V-2 failed on June 13, 1942. Success came, however, on October 3, 1942, when a 5 1/2 ton V-2 traveled 120 miles. On February 17, 1943, the V-2 traveled 121.8 miles. As World War II intensified, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill received a report on April 15, 1943, regarding the German experiments with long-range rockets. On July 7, Adolf Hitler assigned the highest priority to the German V-2 program. Some historians would later estimate that by the end of World War II, the Germans had fired nearly 3,000 V-2 weapons against England and other targets. For the Germans, success with the V-2 did not mean success against the Allies. But it did mean that Von Braun and his fellow German rocket specialists at Peenemuende had established the technological basis for experimentation with even more powerful rockets. When Von Braun and his team recognized that the war was ending and that Russian troops would soon occupy Peenemuende, they decided to evacuate the rocket development site. Traveling in caravans, by any number of means, the scientists headed south bluffing their way through German checkpoints, and eventually deciding to surrender to American forces.

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