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
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
Back To Top