U.S. fires first ballistic missile

Wernher von Braun, the Nazi scientist who later helped the U.S. to develop the Saturn rockets used in many of it spacecraft, was the first to develop a working, practical model of them. Von Braun’s research was helped along willingly by American physicist Robert Goddard, whose work on rockets was less appreciated in his own country, so the V-2 rockets that appeared in Germany by 1945 could not be matched by U.S. engineering for a solid two years (and then only with the help of von Braun and his associates.)

On this day, May 22, in 1947 the U.S. conducted the first successful test fire of a surface to air missile, the Corporal-E rocket, that somewhat matched the capabilities of the V-2.

The Corporal rocket, as well as its “Private” series predecessors, came from Project ORDCIT, an Army-backed program started at the California Institute of Technology’s rocket laboratory. California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories was contacted out to build and test the 11,000 pound, 45-foot long rocket.