Packing a Wallops, 75 Years Ago Today

The first research sounding rocket launched from Wallops Island, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, was an experimental 17-foot Tiamat JB-3 “Jet-Bomb” on July 4, 1945. A Scout launch vehicle, it took off from an angled rack from the beach and used a 7-chamber custom booster developed by Hughes to get it off the ground. Tiamat went on to equip a few modified A-26 Invaders in 1946, sans booster, as an early air-to-air missile.

Since then, Wallops has been steady in the rocket-launching biz. Today, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility is NASA’s only owned and operated launch range.

As detailed by NASA: 

Since 1945, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility has launched more than 15,000 rockets from Wallops Island for science studies, technology development, and as targets for the U.S. military.

Wallops roots are based on this country’s need for missile research during World War II. The Langley Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, Va. was tasked with supporting this research. A place was needed on the water, near Langley and near a military facility. Wallops Island fit the bill. The first test rocket was launched on June 27, 1945. The first research rocket, a Tiamat, was launched several days later on July 4.

Today, Wallops still launches Antares rockets with Cygnus resupply pods to the International Space Station, among other bottle rockets.

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