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Home > Early Days of Rocket and Aeronautics > MSFC Goddard Rocket Replica Project > Historical Perspective

Historical Perspective

The influence of the Goddard Rocket on modern liquid rocket engine design can not be overstated. This first functional liquid rocket is comprised of the bare minimum of systems and components necessary to achieve operability.

Thus, in developing this rocket, Dr. Goddard also developed, refined and integrated together for the first time, all of the basic system elements and functions found in all modern-day liquid rocket engines, including the following:

  • Combustion chamber
  • Pressurized Tanks
  • Flow control devices
  • Hi Fidelity Valves
  • Nozzle
  • Fuel and oxidizer feed system Launch stand
  • Igniter and combustion devices
  • Handling of cryogenic liquids
  • Thermal protection, insulation
  • Launch sequence procedures

Wernher Von Braun and his colleagues in Germany were well aware of Goddard's brilliance and followed his work as closely as they could from afar. But it was not until after they came to America in 1945, the year Goddard died, to work for the U.S. Army that their indebtedness became obvious.

In 1957 a claim of patent infringement was made by Mrs. Esther Goddard on behalf of her late husband against the United States Government, specifically regarding the technologies being developed in building the Redstone and Jupiter missiles at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.

In response, a detailed engineering assessment was made of the 40 Goddard patents in question by the ARMY, (later NASA) engineers and indeed, it was found that there were many infringements. In 1960, the litigation was settled with a sizeable award from NASA to the Goddard Estate.

This legal action proves the direct link between the work of Dr. Robert H. Goddard in the 1930's and 40's and the work of Dr. Wernher Von Braun and his team at Marshall Space Flight Center 20 years later.


Esther C. Goddard and G. Edward Pendray, editors, The Papers of Robert H. Goddard, Volumes I-III, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1970

DISPOSITION FORM DD96, U.S. Army Redstone Arsenal, 1 July, 1957, "Infringement Claim - Mrs. Esther C. Goddard".

Milton Lehman, Dr. Robert H. Goddard : Pioneer of Space Research, Da Capo Press, 1988. Originally published as "This High Man," by Farrar, Straus and Company, in 1963.

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