The American Rocket Society, Reaction Motors, and the U. S. Navy

While JPL’s rocket development proceeded, there were several other efforts in the field of rocketry that contributed to the development of U. S. missile and launch-vehicle technology. Some of them started earlier than Malina’s project, notably those associated with what became (in 1934) the American Rocket Society. This organization, first called the American Interplanetary Society, had its birth on April 4, 1930. Characteristically, although Goddard became a mem­ber of the society, founding member Edward Pendray wrote, “Mem – 20 bers of the Society could learn almost nothing about the techni – Chapter 1 cal details of his work." Soon, society members were testing their own rockets with the usual share of failures and partial successes. But their work “finally culminated in. . . a practical liquid-cooled regenerative motor designed by James H. Wyld." This became the

first American engine to apply regenerative cooling (described by Oberth) to the entire combustion chamber. Built in 1938, it was among three engines tested at New Rochelle, New York, Decem­ber 10, 1938. It burned steadily for 13.5 seconds and achieved an exhaust velocity of 6,870 feet per second. This engine led directly to the founding of America’s first rocket company, Reaction Mo­tors, Inc., by Wyld and three other men who had been active in the society’s experiments. Also, it was from Wyld that Frank Ma – lina learned about regenerative cooling for the engines developed at what became JPL, one example of shared information contributing to rocket development.35

Reaction Motors incorporated as a company on December 16, 1941. It had some successes, including engines for tactical missiles; the X-1 and D-558-2 rocket research aircraft; and an early throttle­able engine for the X-15 rocket research airplane that flew to the edge of space and achieved a record speed of 6.7 times the speed of sound (Mach 6.7). Reaction Motors had never been able to develop many rockets with large production runs nor engines beyond the size of the X-15 powerplant. On April 30, 1958, Thiokol, which had become a major producer of solid-propellant rocket motors, merged with Reaction Motors, which then became the Reaction Motors Division of the Thiokol Chemical Corporation. In 1970, Thiokol decided to discontinue working in the liquid-propellant field; and in June 1972, Reaction Motors ceased to exist.36

Подпись: 21 German and U.S. Missiles and Rockets, 1926-66 Despite its ultimate failure as a business, the organization had shown considerable innovation and made lasting contributions to U. S. rocketry besides Wyld’s regenerative cooling. A second impor­tant legacy was the so-called spaghetti construction for combus­tion chambers, invented by Edward A. Neu Jr. Neu applied for a patent on the concept in 1950 (granted in 1965) but had developed the design earlier. It involved preforming cooling tubes so that they became the shells for the combustion chamber when joined to­gether, creating a strong yet light chamber. The materials used for the tubes and the methods of connecting them varied, but the firm used the basic technique on many of its engines on up through the XLR99 for the X-15. By the mid-1950s, other firms picked up on the technique or developed it independently. Rocketdyne used it on the Jupiter and Atlas engines, Aerojet on the Titan engines. Later, Rocketdyne used it on all of the combustion chambers for the Sat­urn series, and today’s space shuttle main engines still use the concept.37

Another important early contribution to later missile and launch- vehicle technology came from a group formed by naval officer Rob-

ert C. Truax. He had already begun developing rockets as an ensign at the Naval Academy. After service aboard ship, he reported to the navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics from April to August 1941 at “the first jet propulsion desk in the Ship Installation Division." There, he was responsible for looking into jet-assisted takeoff for seaplanes. He then returned to Annapolis, where he headed a jet propulsion project at the Naval Engineering Experiment Station (where Robert God­dard was working separately on JATO units nearby). Truax’s group worked closely with Reaction Motors and Aerojet on projects rang­ing from JATOs to tactical missiles. Among the officers who worked under Truax was Ensign Ray C. Stiff, who discovered that aniline and other chemicals ignited spontaneously with nitric acid. This information, shared with Frank Malina, became critical to JPL’s ef­forts to develop a liquid-propellant JATO unit. In another example of the ways technology transferred from one organization or firm to another in rocket development, once Stiff completed his five years of service with the navy, he joined Aerojet as a civilian engineer. He rose to become vice president and general manager of Aerojet’s liq­uid rocket division (1963) and then (1972) president of the Aerojet Energy Conversion Company. In 1969 he became a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (into which the American Rocket Society had merged) for “his notable contri­butions in the design, development and production of liquid rocket propulsion systems, including the engines for Titan I, II, and III."38