Wednesday, June 1, 2011
I suspect this was either Jupiter C RS-34 or RS-40, each the launch of a scale-model reentry vehicle to test this rocket as a ballistic missile. If correct, the launch date would be sometime in mid 1957. At this time, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) under Von Braun was openly offering to launch the first American satellite. They were not given the go-ahead until after Sputnik, and the actual launch of explorer was in early 1958. I personally love the rocket design because, after the large liquid first stage, there were three clusters of small solid rockets as stages 2 - 4. It was a giant spin table, a tub basically, of 11, 3, and 1 Sergeant motors. In this image, we may actually see Loki motors instead. As a kid, before learning about rocketry, I always wondered why the top of this rocket was spinning. The tub was spun up prior to launch to ensure stability during the short burn time of each later stage. This is a very simple design that is not suitable for precision orbits, but very much attractive to the kind of amateur rocketry going on today. Rockoon launches will probably benefit from a similar spin table design.