Although the United States lagged far behind in rocket development by the end of World War II, it has worked desperately to catch up. On the following pages are some of the rockets developed since that time; not all of them, but a representative sample. These rockets are the great-grand-daddy's of the first space rockets; they resemble the rockets of the future in much the same way that the Wright Bros.' plane at Kitty Hawk resembles the B-52.

WAC Corporal

The WAC CORPORAL, first man-made object to enter outer space, got its name from the fact that it was obviously superior to its predecessors, developed by Army Ordinance and the California Institute of Technology, and known, successively, as Private A., Private F., and "the baby WAC."

CONSTRUCTION: Straight tubular shape, large conical nose section and three fins, 16 feet long, diameter one foot. Take off weight (without booster) 665 pounds. Thrust is 1500 pounds for a duration of 45 seconds. Fuel is aniline plus 20 per cent furfural alcohol. A modified "Tiny Tim" is used as booster.

FIRING: First tests of the WAC CORPORAL were carried out at the White Sands Proving Grounds, New Mexico, between September 26 and October 25, 1945. Vertical distance was 43.5 miles (with booster).

On February 24, 1949, at White Sands, the WAC CORPORAL attached to a German built V-2 rocket, reached a height of 250 miles above sea level, traveling at 1.39 miles per second. The entire trip took 6-1/2 minutes from firing. Known as "Project Bumper" the test was made by the Army and the General Electric Co. Subsequent WAC CORPORAL tests are being made at the Bahamas.


The GAPA gets its name from the initials of its designation "Ground to Air Pilotless Aircraft" and it was first fired at Alamogordo, New Mexico on July 23, 1947, following 15 months development by Boeing Aircraft Co. under contract from the U.S. Army Airforce. The program was terminated in December 1949.

CONSTRUCTION: Pencil slim, ten feet long, painted brilliantly in chessboard black and orange it was called "Old Needlenose" by the test crews that fired it. First equipped with standard Aerojet rocket units, then with a booster power unit, it was designed to reach "supersonic speeds" in a few seconds. Performance characteristics have not been released by the USAF.

FIRING: The Gapa was fired from a 40 foot steel tower, based in concrete with a remote control lighter for the booster units. "Scores" of the missiles are said to have been fired.

PURPOSE: To provide performance data on a ground to air missile capable of seeking out and destroying aircraft. Combined functions of interceptor and anti-aircraft defense.



Designated the XaaM-A-1 (Experimental air-to-air missile, Air Force, first model) the Firebird, built by Ryan Aeronautical Company was the first air-to-air missile announced by the Air Force. Its body is ten feet long and six inches in diameter, made of sheet aluminum, and its plastic wings are set on a double cruciform pattern. One of its most expensive features is its electronic brain and radar eyes, enabling it to "home in" on a target. It is used primarily for instrument testing.


In addition to developing "Tiny Tim" (now used as a solid fuel booster for the WAC Corporal) Naval Ordinance has produced the "Mighty Mouse", the first air-to-air rocket; "The Ram", an air-to-ground rocket and "The Lark" shown here as it appeared during tests at Inyokern, China Lake, California in the fall of 1949.


The NATIV gets its name from its designation as "North American Test Instrument Vehicle" and it was designed and built by North American Aviation under contract for the U.S. Air Force. Development began in 1947 and the first tests were made late in 1948 or early in 1949.

CONSTRUCTION: It has a diameter of 18 inches and a length of 13 feet with a needle nose, four moveable fins and a liquid fuel rocket motor.

PERFORMANCE: In tests at Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, New Mexico it attained a trajectory altitude of ten miles at "supersonic speeds."

PURPOSE: Not intended as a weapon, it was designed solely to "test vehicles for aerodynamic research" and "has contributed to the study of control systems for training rocket launching crews for the U.S. Air Force.



The "Corporal E" is a surface guided missile developed as a research instrument by the U.S. Army Ordinance. It is the fourth of a series that began with "Private A" and is a companion development of the "Nike", which was the first guided missile of any type designed and built wholly in the United States.


The VIKING was first called the "Neptune" and during one stage of its construction was known as the "Marco Polo." It was built by the G.L. Martin Co. for the U.S. Navy and its existence was first revealed in 1947 by "Aviation" magazine.

CONSTRUCTION: It is a straight cylinder with a diameter of 32 inches, topped by an ogival nose for instruments. Length is 45 ft., 3 in., span across fins is 98 inches. Carries variable payload of from 100 to 2000 lbs, with a take off weight of 9500 to 11,400 lbs., depending on payload. Thrust is 20,000 pounds, maximum acceleration is 10.9 gr. and the rocket motor burns for 75 seconds. Its theoretical maximum trajectory is 237.7 miles and its maximum velocity 8200 ft. per second. It burns alcohol, oxygen and hydrogen peroxide.

PERFORMANCE: No. 7 of the tested "Vikings" set a new altitude record for single stage rockets on August 7, 1951 when it attained 135 miles with a maximum speed of 4100 m.p.h.

Army Interceptor

Released by the Department of Defense on May 26, 1952 but taken prior to 1951, this is the latest and most mysterious of Army's anti-aircraft interceptors. Designated only as "experimental guided missile" it has been tested at White Sands proving ground, New Mexico. It has been given no name and there is no information released on its size, design, or performance. In the picture it look like a two-step or three-step job with a very large booster and a quite small, finned third stage.


designed and manufactured by the Glenn L. Martin Co. at Baltimore, Maryland, first tested at Holloman Air Force Base and now under advanced development at the U S A F Missile Test Center, Cocoa, Florida, the B-61 MATADOR is the equipment for the first pilotless bomber squadron ever to be activated.

CONSTRUCTION: Virtually no details have been given out except that the MATADOR is under production. Obviously it is not a very large plane, since it was shipped to Cocoa in box-cars. It's general design follows that of jet fighters, with sharply swept-back wings. It's speed would apparently be that of the F-86 Sabrejets, since they are used for tracking.

FIRING: A rocket booster provides initial thrust of "thousands of pounds" and fires "for a few seconds." After the booster drops off, jet motors cut in. It is launched at an angle to determine the flight trajectory.

Data entry and page scans provided by Judy Bemis

Data entry by Judy Bemis

Updated June 28, 2015. If you have a comment about these web pages please send a note to the Fanac Webmaster. Thank you.