First Rocket Flight From Cape Was Awesome

by Fred Hopwood

The first missile fired from Cape Canaveral took place the morning of July 21, 1950.

The following paragraphs recall the last few minutes of the history making flight.

For a time, it looked like the show was off. It seemed that fate would dog the area again and that Bumper 8 would share the luck of Bumper 7, which failed to fire on July 19. The rocket was fifty-six feet high and six feet in diameter and weighed fourteen tons. It was of German manufacture and known as a V-2.

It was postponed from 8 a.m. to 8:54 a.m. Fueling was finished at 8:27 a.m. Then the “X” count started. “X” minus twenty-two minutes,” droned the loudspeaker. Two red flares seared across the sky. Dismally,the control center said, “Hold at X minus two minutes.” Moans and grumbles were heard.

Then the count started once more. At 9:22 a.m., the weather began to close in.

Cumulus clouds – rain ahead – dotted the horizon. Another “hold” from control.

Then at 9:26 a.m., the flares started once more across the skies. This was it. Seconds ticked by. Then a red flash. Bumper, its WAC Corporal stage nosing cockily into the sky, began to stir. Dust and smoke puffed up. It sounded like a hollow, rolling clap of thunder. Moving slowly upward, the slender steel tube seemed to hover around one-hundred feet. Then, like the rocket it was, Bumper made for the clouds and dove through a hole at about 6,000 feet.

Observers watched the circle of red flame and then saw a feather of vapor outlined above the clouds. The sun caught the vapor trail and cast a shadow on the clouds; the course was almost due east.

Traveling at approximately 2,700 miles an hour, the V -2 bumped off the WAC Corporal aftereighty-three seconds of light. At that point, the V -2 was some fifteen miles from the Cape and around eight and a half miles above the Earth.

At 143 seconds, Col. Harold R. Turner, safety officer, gave the command to destroy the former Germanrocket. At 160 seconds after firing, flak from the V-2, exploded by small blocks of explosives, showered down on the ocean. By that time, the first stage of Bumper had traveled nearly forty-eight miles.

The WAC Corporal probably continued on another seventy-five miles, according to Turner. But no details were given about the WAC. Turner explained that information was secret. The test firing was for the purpose of examining high-velocity phenomena at low altitudes. Conclusions, obviously, weren’t available for public consumption.

The rocket firing, exclusive of base expenses, cost less than $100,000. Check that against today’s $25 million lift-offs.

Fred Hopwood, local Historian, now deceased, was a resident of Melbourne and employed at Patrick AFB.He wrote many articles about early Brevard County, some of which have been printed in previous MosquitoBeater Memory Books

Facebookby feather
Facebookby feather
%d bloggers like this: