Verein für Raumschiffahrt (VfR)


  • 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 Valier.
  • 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 Kummersdorf.
  • 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.

Ref.: #95, #98 - update: 14.06.12 Home