More War Weapons
As the X-15 flights proceeded, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union were fast tracking their development of rockets that could prove to be the most devastating use of rockets in history—long range ballistic missiles. Both were developing two types of missiles. One with a relatively limited range for use in a European war—an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles or IRBM with a range of 1500 nautical miles.
The other was a much larger and more powerful missile that could span oceans—an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, or ICBM with a range of 5000 nautical miles.
Carrying a hydrogen bomb, either of these rockets could destroy a city.
The U.S. began its IRBM development with two rockets—the Air Force’s Thor and the Army’s Jupiter. Both used the same engine—the precursor to the H-1 with 150,000 pounds of thrust. Interestingly, the engines were uprated versions of an engine developed as the booster of a ram jet powered cruise missile—the Navaho. It never saw service because the ballistic missiles came into service quickly.
The Jupiter saw deployment first. It was in place during the Cuban missile crises. As a personal aside, we lived in Huntsville, AL at the time, just a block from Redstone Arsenal. The Jupiters, some no more than two blocks from our house, were erected and fueled, and targeted at Cuba. We weren’t sure, should they be launched, if the development would survive.
Shortly afterwards, the Pentagon limited the Army’s missiles to 200 mile distances, so the Jupiter was transferred to the Air Force. It continued service as a space launch vehicle for some time but Thor became the nation’s IRBM.
The U.S’s first ICBM was the Atlas, which would soon become its first manned space launch vehicle. This was followed quickly by the Titan I, a two stage rocket with a slightly larger payload. The Titan I was never put into use a space launcher, but its successor, the Titan II, became the launch vehicle for the Gemini spacecraft.
In part 2, we will look at today’s modern military rockets and their uses.