The scientific tourist #224 — V-2 rocket engine

On display at the U. S. Air Force Space and Missile Museum, in the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, here’s a V-2 rocket engine:

V2 rocket engine

The nozzle’s pointed up, BTW, if you’re having trouble getting yourself oriented.

That little model on the floor to the right is of a Bumper — an odd combination of a V-2 rocket used as a first stage, with a WAC Corporal sounding rocket used as the second stage. While the first six Bumper flights occurred at White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico, the last two Bumpers were (intentionally) low-elevation flights aimed at achieving maximum range — too great a range to be accommodated at White Sands. So they were fired at Cape Canaveral in 1950, becoming the first two rocket launches at the site (with hundreds more launches of a dizzying variety of rockets since).

The V-2 engine burned liquid oxygen and alcohol to produce a thrust of 56,000 pounds. It was the largest and most powerful rocket engine of its time, and the first large rocket engine to be fed its propellants by way of a pair of steam-driven turbopumps. Since the temperature inside the combustion chamber was high enough to melt steel, it was cooled both regeneratively (by circulating fuel through the engine walls) and via film cooling (using a thin layer of fuel to coat and cool the inner chamber walls). Turbopumps, regenerative cooling, and film cooling are all technologies still at work in modern rockets.

The V-2 (a.k.a. A-4) itself began test flights in 1942, with 3,225 of them being launched at allied sites during 1944 and 1945. But while the V-2 set the stage for the development of space programs (and weaponry) for the following decades, it was a failure at the time. Since most of the V-2s that saw use in WWII were built by slave labor, and the rockets themselves were notoriously inaccurate, the V-2 is thought to be the only major weapon system that caused more deaths in its production than its deployment. Meanwhile, the German V-weapon (both V-1 and V-2) development program cost 50% more than the Manhattan Project that produced the atomic bomb — a huge drain on Germany’s resources that could only have helped the allies.

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3 Responses to The scientific tourist #224 — V-2 rocket engine

  1. Harry Forsdick says:

    Is there a catalog of all of the Scientific Tourist posts you have made? I would like to put them on a map so that when we travel, I can easily see if we are near one of them.


    — Harry

    • Sam Wise says:

      Er… yes and no. You can get them listed by looking at the “Sci / Tech Tourism” category in the site’s sidebar. I haven’t categorized them by location, or attempted to map them, though — not *yet.*

      Give me a few days and I’ll see what I can come up with.

    • Sam Wise says:

      OK, a quick-and-dirty geographical hyper-index to Scientific Tourist posts is up now — it’s here.

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