Robert H. Goddard: Accomplishments of the Roswell Years (1930-1941)
by F.C. Durant, III
National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution
A comprehensive, well-illustrated technical history of Dr. Goddard's most advanced and exciting rocket experiments in New Mexico. Specifications, dimensions, performance data, and rare photos show how simple gyroscopes (and adjustable vanes in the exhaust flow) steered his rockets--and much, much more.
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.
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.
Goddard's Roswell shop, erected September 1930
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. 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. 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. 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.
Dr. Goddard's most ambitious, most advanced, and most exciting experiments were tested near Roswell, New Mexico, and this is the complete, detailed, and technical record of those projects. At Roswell, Goddard conceived and conducted a remarkable program of design, test, and flights of liquid propellant rockets. He built and equipped shop facilities, launching towers, control and tracking stations.
Well-balanced with text narratives, technical descriptions, and 83 rare historic photos, we highly recommend this book for the experimental "amateur" rocket scientist. (Goddard was indeed himself an "amateur" rocketeer, let's not forget.) More than just a history of this important research, the book holds a wealth of technical information that can be extremely useful to the modern inventor.
Many of the exceptional photographs in this unusual book have never before been published. Dr. Goddard himself took many of the photos, and his wife Esther took others. The text describes in detail:
Covers the entire life of Dr. Goddard, but goes into greatest detail about his first liquid-fuel rocket flight, and the Roswell tests that soon followed. Abundant details about the fabrication shop operations, static test setups, handling liquid oxygen, and building rocket engines of sheet metal. Goddard was working with a very tight budget of research money, from Daniel Guggenheim and the Smithsonian Institution, and built all his rockets from "minimalistic" materials. He had only the basic shop tools, and obtained most of his materials at the local hardware store.
- Gas-generator and turbine-powered centrifugal pump systems
- Gyro-stabilization systems utilizing retractable air vanes and rocket exhaust deflector vanes
- Flight tests of rockets as big as 22-ft (6.7 m) long and 18-in (46 cm) diameter
- Rocket motors with thrust ranges of 289 to 985 lbf (131-448 kgf)
- 31 test flights with gyro-stabilized and gimbaled motors
NB: ALL PHOTOS SHOWN HERE AT REDUCED SIZE & RESOLUTION!
Dr Goddard with a 12-inch diameter, hand-crafted engine
Many test and tracking instruments are also described. Each was ingeniously designed to operate using simple components. The test range firing circuits, tracking stations, and launch paraphenalia are all explained.
The first Roswell rocket, launched 30 Dec 1930; powered by gasoline and oxygen gas
It's 11-ft long, and used a 6-ft silk parachute; one quadrant was painted bright red
Details of primitive exhaust-vane control system
L: Engine for gyro-stabilized rocket (May, 1932); R: Steering-system bellows pump (1932)
Four-chamber engine setup, flown in 1936
L: 20-ft static-test tower near shop (1930); R: simple revolving drum engine thrust recorder for static tests
Mansur & Kisk, transferring liquid oxygen for a static test
L: Pressurizing system for static test (1935); R: Static test instrument panel (1935)
L: Nose cone, parachute, releasing device (1935); R: Clock mechanism on recording tleescope; observer indicating altitude trace
Moving rocket to launching tower, which was 15-mi away from the shop (1932)
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 80 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 reprint of the Smithsonian's 1973 original report, which is both hard-to-find and long out-of-print. It's quality bound for years of reference use. 108 pages, 8-1/2" x 5-1/2" size. $19.95
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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: Liquid-Propellant Rocket Development (1936).
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).