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

Project Overview

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 requirements.

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 uncontrolled environment.

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 engineering experts.

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, methodical testing.

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.

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