As a part of NASA's 2003 Centennial of Flight celebration, engineers
and technicians at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville
Alabama, in cooperation with the Mississippi-Alabama AIAA Section,
have reconstructed several historically accurate replicas of Dr.
Robert H. Goddard's 1926 first liquid-fueled rocket.
The purposes of this Project are to clearly understand, recreate
and document the mechanisms and workings of the 1926 rocket for
years of exhibit and educational use.
Both flight and static display replicas have been constructed,
based on drawings and photographs of the time. These replicas
are as historically accurate as possible, both inside and out.
In some instances, the original designs had to be slightly modified
in order to satisfy modern safety and hazardous materials-handling
Not unlike an archeological effort, the Marshall team's reverse
engineering activity has illuminated and documented the historical
and technical significance of Dr. Goddard's accomplishments by
creating detailed engineering-quality drawings and specifications
describing the original rocket and how it was built, tested and
operated. Static hot-fire tests, and flight demonstration have
further defined and quantified the actual performance and engineering
challenges of this major segment in early aerospace history.
The detailed plans and specifications for Goddard's first rocket
developed by the Project have created a vital new resource about
the evolution of liquid rocketry with emphases on lessons learned
and systems engineering, something which will help future students
of aerospace engineering understand and appreciate the foundation
on which their work rests.
This Project is being managed like any other propulsion project
and is subject to all of the usual safety, design, test and flight
readiness critical design reviews. The rocket and components are
being tested on existing hot-fire test stands and other test facilities
at Marshall Space Flight Center.
The reconstruction of Robert H. Goddard's first liquid-fueled
rocket was not a trivial task, even for a team of modern, experienced
NASA propulsion engineers. It entailed a great deal of explosive
risk and should by no means ever be attempted by amateurs in an
In the process of completing this project, we have gained a great
deal of respect for Dr. Goddard's skills, ingenuity, persistence,
thoroughness and methodical approach. We realized in retrospect
the inherent personal risks he undertook using those components
and combustion devices. We also realized he must have been very
well supported by an excellent team of skilled technicians and
Most of all, we have learned that Dr. Goddard did not "tinker"
with rockets. His 1926 design was based on in-depth analytical
techniques and verified by months, if not years, of thorough,
No component on the 1926 Goddard rocket was superfluous, no part
was extraneous, no function irrelevant. The 1926 Goddard rocket
is the epitome of liquid rocket system design at its simplest.