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Germanys Vengeance: The V-2 Rocket

Steven Toth

Audience Analysis
The audience for this technical description will be amateur rocketeers and aerospace students. It will give a background and technical overview on the V-2 Rocket, one of the first rockets to be successfully mass produced. Because this is aimed mostly at a younger and less technically literate audience, the descriptions will have a wide assortment of laymans terms in them, as well as pictures to help guide the reader along. Therefore, the description would be very similar to an article in a popular science magazine or as a historical perspective piece common in some textbooks. This audience will most likely have a background in basic science or engineering, and will have a basic grasp upon most of the topics and processes presented in the description. Introductory level courses in chemistry and physics are more than enough to understand the text.

The V-2 was a liquid fueled rocket developed in Germany during World War II by a team headed by the famed Wernher von Braun. (The future developer of the Saturn V, the rocket that put man on the Moon) It was the most powerful and advanced rocket of its time, and after the war, a massive scramble was made by the victorious British, American, and Soviet armed forces to obtain any information related to its development and production. This included production sites, prototypes, papers, and scientists; these new resources were put to use in each countrys fledging ballistic missile programs. This particular rocket is particularly important because it was the first manmade object to enter outer space, which it did during testing in 1942. It was a direct forerunner of all future rocket development across the world. Captured German scientists developed the next generation of rockets right after the war for the victorious nations, eventually leading to intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads, as well as advanced launch vehicles for artificial satellites.

The Vergeltungswaffe-2, or Vengeance Weapon in German, stood about 46 feet tall and its fuselage was 5 feet across at its widest point. Before fueling, it weight approximated 10,000 lbs, and weighed several times that at launch. During its development, it was known that the

rocket would be flying at supersonic speeds, so special care had to be given to the shape of the rocket. It was modeled after a rifle bullet, an object known for its stable flight during supersonic conditions.

Figure 1: The V-2 Rocket Cross-Section (Wikipedia)

In order to receive flight information following test flights, the V-2 was equipped with one of the earliest telemetry devices, which used a radio transmission to relay position and acceleration readings back to the monitoring station at the launch site. The V-2 was powered by a combination of liquid alcohol and liquid oxygen which was pumped into the combustion chamber by two high-volume, yet low-weight pumps. These pumps were similar to those used in fire engines at the time and were powered by small steam turbines. Steam pressure was produced by a reaction of hydrogen peroxide and sodium

permanganate, which were housed in special tanks on the rocket itself. These two solutions were forced through the system by pressurized air, also stored in a tank aboard the vehicle.

The alcohol propellant and the oxidizer that fueled the rocket were fed from their holding tanks into a small precombustion chamber through 1,224 small nozzles that atomized each liquid. The atomization, similar to a bottle of perfume spray, allowed for proper mixing of the fuel, while the precombustion chamber helped lower the rocket engines operating temperature and reduce thermal damage on the fuel injection nozzles. The fuel would last about 60 seconds, but that would be long enough to propel the rocket upwards of 60 miles into the air while moving at about 4,400 feet per second. The combustion of the propellants raises the temperature of the engine to about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt steel. To reduce the chances of a catastrophic failure due to these large thermal stresses in the thrust nozzle, the alcohol fuel is circulated around the engines nozzle before it is burned in order to cool the engine down. This is very similar to how the cooling system in a car works.

Of course, to be effective in wartime, the rocket had to be controlled and guided into its target. Vanes made of graphite (to resist the extreme temperatures) were located on the fins and redirected the exhaust gases in order to direct the rocket during flight. These vanes were controlled by gyroscopes, a simple device, similar to a childs toy top that maintains orientation, mounted on an inertially fixed platform. This means that the platform would not move with respect with the ground, even as the rocket around it moved through its trajectory. This development allowed the rockets position and acceleration to be measured, and ensured that when the proper velocity needed to hit the target was achieved, fuel to the burn chamber would be cut off. The technology was developed in house, and its relative immaturity of this technology was evident, as it was unable to accurately strike a target from its launch site. From about 200 miles away, its impact area was approximately the size of a large city, while cruise missiles today can accurately target something the size of a standard window.

I Aim for the Stars

The V-2 was perhaps the most feared German weapon during the Second World War. It hit its targets at three times the speed of sound, allowing no advanced warning of its impending impact. Parts of London were destroyed by the rockets, and over 3,000 civilian lives were lost. The weapons were produced during the dying days of Nazi Germany, proclaimed as a wonder

weapon that would turn the tide of the war. To supplement German industrial production, concentration camp prisoners were used to produce a majority of these rockets.. Von Braun, hailed as a hero in the United States for his contributions to NASA, never could escape the stigma associated with these weapons. A British comedian, reviewing Von Brauns biography, I Aim for the Stars added in his critique the subtitle, but sometimes hit London. It is impossible to examine the V-2 without examining its negative associations with the Holocaust and the death of innocent civilians. However, its technical achievements paved the way for both the arms race and the space race in the Cold War. German scientists who helped develop the weapon laid the foundation for future Soviet and American technical breakthroughs and accomplishments, both on Earth and beyond.

www.v2rocket.com/ www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Evolution_of.../V-2/Tech26.htm www.astronautix.com/lvs/v2.htm www.stanford.edu/~xuanwu/v2/ http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/Wernher-von-Brauns-V-2-Rocket.html http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=894