- On July 5, 1927, the Verein für Raumschiffahrt [VfR] (Society for Space Travel) was founded by
Johann Winkler in Breslau, Germany. Its membership included Klaus Riedel, Rudolf Nebel, and Max
- An association of German enthusiasts which formed in
1927 and carried out important development work on liquid-fueled rockets. The
stimulus for the society was the publication of Hermann Oberth’s
1923 book Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (The Rocket Into Interplanetary
Space). Impressed by Oberth’s mathematically-sound theories that space travel
was achievable, the founders of VfR set out to build the types of rockets he described.
The group grew in size to about 500 members, produced its own journal, Die
Rakete (The Rocket), and obtained permission to use an abandoned ammunition
dump in Reinickendorf, a suburb of Berlin, as test site for its projects. The
facility soon became known as the Raketenflugplatz (rocket airfield) and served
as an early proving ground for several men who would go on to play a key role
in the German Army’s World War II rocket program .
- The first successful VfR test firing with liquid fuel (five minutes) was at the Heylandt Works on January 25, 1930; and
additional rocket experiments were conducted at a farm near Bernstadt, Saxony.
- In September 1930, before Hitler came to power, the VfR contacted the German army for funding. Rockets where one of the few
fields of military development not restricted by the Versailles treaty at the end of the world war, 11 years earlier. They received
permission from the municipality to use an abandoned ammunition dump at Reinickendorf, the Berlin rocket launching site (German:
Raketenflugplatz Berlin). For three years the VfR fired increasingly powerful rockets of their own design from this location.
Following the unsuccessful Mirak rockets, the most powerful rocket of the Repulsor series (named for a spaceship in a German novel)
reached altitudes over 1 km (3,000 ft).
- In the Spring of 1932; Capt Walter Dornberger, his commander (Captain Ritter von Horstig), and Col Karl Heinrich Emil Becker
viewed a (failed) VfR firing; and Dornberger subsequently issued a contract for a demonstration launch. Wernher
Von Braun who was then a 19-year-old young student and had joined the group two years earlier was in favor of the contract.
The group eventually rejected the proposal and the dissension caused during its consideration contributed to the society dissolving
itself the following year.
- After a demonstration launch failed to impress attending officers, society
members knew their days at the Raketenflugplatz were numbered. Still, the Army
was impressed by von Braun and he was invited to write his graduate thesis on
rocket combustion at Kummersdorf. After Hitler came to power, Nazi Germany banned
all rocket experimentation or rocket discussion outside of the German military.
The rocket enthusiasts who had populated the Raketenflugplatz had to abandon their
work or continue it in the military. Hauptmann Dornberger was now able to successfully
recruit former members of the VfR, many of whom joined the Army organization at
- The only known VfR rocket artifact is a rejected aluminum Repulsor nozzle which member Herbert Schaefer took to the US when he
emigrated in 1935 and which he donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1978.