Ballistic Missile - History of Ballistic Missile

Ballistic Missile

The first ballistic missile was the V-2 rocket, which was created in Nazi Germany during World War II. It was invented by Walter Dornberger and Wernher von Braun, and was first used in 1944, to attack London, England. Between the first launch and the end of the war in Europe, over 3000 V-2 rockets were fired against Allied cities. A decade later, the Soviet Union and the United States had designed Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), which were able to reach the other side of the world.

A "ballistic" missile needs to be guided for short periods of its flight, but it mainly follows a ballistic flightpath. This means that its trajectory is most affected by gravity. Ballistic missiles are designed to be launched at such a high angle that they leave the atmosphere before returning to Earth. Even V-2 rockets would reach the edge of space.

  • What made the V-2 rocket different from earlier missiles was that it used a liquid fuel. Rockets that use solid fuel, like gunpowder, need to draw in a large amount of oxygen from the air around them. Instead, the V-2 contained a tank of very cold, liquefied oxygen to burn the fuel. The liquid that was burned was a mix of alcohol and water.

  • When World War II was near an end in Europe, Wernher von Braun and Walter Dornberger surrendered to the United States military. Other engineers who worked on the V-2 construction were captured, and taken to the United States and the Soviet Union. Many V-2 parts were collected, and brought back to the allies' home countries.

  • Wernher von Braun, Walter Dornberger, and many others were taken to the United States in a mission called Operation Paperclip. They were set to work designing missiles and rockets, including ones for the NASA space program.

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