Liquid-Propellant Rocket Development
by Robert H. Goddard, PhD
Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Volume 95, Number 3
Publication 3381, 1936
Robert Hutchings Goddard is widely regarded as "the father of modern rocketry." Born a the son of a machine shop owner in 1882, Goddard became a physics instructor at Clark University. As a young physics graduate student, he conducted static tests with small solid-fuel rockets, and in 1912 he developed the detailed mathematical theory of rocket propulsion. He continued these efforts and actually received two patents in 1914. One was the first for a rocket using solid and liquid fuel, and the other for a multistage rocket.
In 1915 he proved that rocket engines could produce thrust in a vacuum--proving that space flight was indeed possible. Goddard continued as a professor of physics at Clark, turning his attention to liquid rocket propulsion. In 1916 he applied to the Smithsonian Institution for assistance in 1916 and received a $5,000 grant. His research was ultimately published by the Smithsonian as the classic study, A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes, in 1919.
Dr. Goddard's greatest engineering contributions were made during his work in the 1920s and 1930s. On March 16, 1926, Goddard launched his first liquid-fuel rocket, a liquid oxygen and gasoline vehicle that rose 184 feet in 2.5 seconds. This event heralded the modern age of rocketry.
On 23 November 1929, Goddard met with Charles A. Lindbergh. Through the personal efforts of Lindbergh, Goddard received a $50,000 two-year research grant from the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation.
From 1930 to 1941, he launched rockets of increasing complexity and capability. He developed systems for steering a rocket in flight by using a rudder-like device to deflect the gaseous exhaust, with gyroscopes to keep the rocket headed in the proper direction.
Goddard's Roswell shop, erected September 1930
Dr. Goddard’s increasingly ambitious tests demanded more open space, so he took a leave of absence from Clark University and moved his experiments to the more open skies near Roswell, New Mexico. There, with his wife and a few assistants, Goddard conducted a remarkable, decade-long program of tests that resulted in flights of large, variable thrust, liquid-fueled rockets to heights of up to 2,300 m and speeds of over 800 km/hr. Some of his results are summarized in this classic text.
Testing gyro and directing vanes before launch from 20-ft tower
At Roswell, Dr. Goddard developed the first gyro-stabilization apparatus for rockets (1932), and first used deflector vanes in the blast of the rocket motor to stabilize and guide the rockets.
Roswell test site layout; laying cable from tower to 1000-ft shelter
By 1935, Goddard was testing 15-ft long liquid rockets, and on 8 March was the first to launch a supersonic liquid-propellant rocket. One of this tests reached an altitude of 7500 feet.
Barometer and camera retrieved intact after a 1929 flight; static test data recorder
Launch control shelter; observer with recording telescope
On 16 March 1936, the Smithsonian Institution published this document, as Volume 95 (Number 3) of the “Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections.” This important document covers the rocket development carried out in Roswell, New Mexico and contains his general plan for the developing a sounding rocket. The book includes the first public mention of Goddard's historic 1926 liquid-fueled rocket launch.
The culmination of this effort was a successful launch of a rocket to an altitude of 9,000 feet in 1941. Later that year joined the U.S. Navy, and spent the duration of World War II developing a jet-assisted takeoff (JATO) rocket to shorten the distance required for heavy aircraft launches. Some of this work led to the development of the “throttleable” Curtiss-Wright XLR25-CW-1 rocket engine, which later powered the Bell X-2 research airplane and helped overcome the transonic barrier in 1947. Goddard did not live to see this; he died in Baltimore, Maryland, on August 10, 1945.
Goddard developed and patented many of the technologies later used on large rockets and missiles--including film cooling, gyroscopically-controlled vanes, and a variable-thrust rocket motor--and these technologies contributed directly to the furtherance of rocketry in the United States.
Goddard kept most of the technical details of his inventions a secret and thus missed the chance to have the full influence his real abilities promised. At the same time, he was not good at integrating his inventions into a workable system, so his own rockets failed to reach the high altitudes he sought.
The book provides many insights into the mind and thinking of this important inventor. It's a "must have" for the library of every serious rocket scientist, engineer, and technician. If you want to learn rocket science from its roots, by all means study this important document!
Includes more than 20 photographs showing the rocket-launching site at Roswell, as well as equipment, rockets being launched, and more.
In 1960 the U.S. government recognized Robert Goddard's work when the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) awarded his estate $1 million for the use of his 214 rocketry patents. Although he did not live to see the space age begin, if any one man had a central role in its creation, it was Goddard.
This is a facsimile printing exactly as originally published by the Smithsonian in 1936. After several years of correspondence, we obtained from the Smithsonian archives a rare, high-resolution digital scan of Robert H. Goddard's original manuscript, and have printed it with a high-resolution laser printer on high-quality, bright-white, acid-free paper. It's quality bound for years of reference use. 30 pages, 8-1/2" x 5-1/2" size. $14.95
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We also offer other rare Goddard documents--including his dissertations for Masters and Doctorate degrees. These may be found here:
Robert H. Goddard: A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes (1919).
Robert H. Goddard's Masters Thesis: Theory of Diffraction (1910).
Robert H. Goddard's Doctoral Dissertation: Conduction of Electricity (1912).