American Interplanetary Society - ARS rockets


ARS nr2

Credit: Peter Alway


  • The world′s first liquid fuel rocket was built by the American Robert Hutchings Goddard. His work was largely ignored by the American government at first. Later, he and his team moved to the White Sands Proving Grounds near Roswell, New Mexico for test firing of their rockets.
  • On April, 4 1930, a dozen space enthusiasts gathered in New York to create the American interplanetary Society, modeled after the rocket societies of Europe, present where G. Edward Pendray, Daid Lasser, and others. Vice President Edward Pendray was charged with creating a rocket research program. While the group knew of Robert Goddard′s work in solid propellant rocketry, word had not gotten out that Goddard had flown liquid propellant rockets. So when Pendray had the opportunity to vacation in Europe in 1931, he took advantage of the trip to meet with the only group known to be working on liquid fuels, Germany's Verein fur Raumschiffahrt (Society for Space Travel, abbreviated VfR). Pendray was warmly welcomed by the group, and brought back detailed sketches of the VfR's Mirak rockets.
  • The ARS soon set to work duplicating the German efforts, and in November 12, 1932, ARS rocket No. 1 emerged from a member's basement machine shop. The rocket borrowed the VfR's 2-stick Repulsor design, and produced 27 kg (60 pounds) of thrust for 20-30 seconds, in which parallel oxygen and fuel tanks trailed behind the motor. After a static test on a New Jersey farm, the fragile machine was damaged in the test and not subsequently flown. The club decided to rebuild it into an improved, more robust rocket, ARS No. 2.
  • ARS No. 2 featured a 3" (76 mm) diameter by 6" (152 mm) long engine mounted between two aluminum tubes containing liquid oxygen and gasoline. A small hole in the tip of the nose cone permitted air-cooling of the engine. The oxygen tank was pressurized by gaseous oxygen boil-off, while pressurized nitrogen forced gasoline into the engine. Aluminum paint protected four balsa wood stabilizing fins from the blast of the rocket exhausts. On May l4, 1933 ARS experimenters, accompanied by two newsreel camera crews, carried their rocket to Great Kills, Staten Island beach for its first test flight.
  • After a brief static firing, the rocket was refilled with liquid oxygen and gasoline. Three minutes before launch, a fuse was lit under the nozzle. At the appointed moment of launch, an ARS member, sheltered in a dugout, pulled a cord leading to the propellant valves. The valve handle fell off. Another member ran from the dugout and re-attached the handle. Before he could return to the dugout, the valve man pulled the cord, and the rocket lifted off.
    Once it cleared the 15-foot (5 m) launch rail, ARS No.2 tumed into the wind, 90° from the planned seaward trajectory. The rocket was expected to reach an altitude of about a mile (1.6 km). But when the rocket reached 250 feet (75 m), the oxygen tank ruptured with a loud pop. The flaming remains splashed into the water, to be recovered by rowboat.
  • On April 6, 1934 it changed its name to the American Rocket Society.
  • The fourth liquid rocket was launched on September 9, 1934 from Marine Park, Staten Island, New York. It flew 407 meters downrange, landing in the New York Bay. It had a single thrust chamber with four canted nozzles. It was originally tested on June 10, 1934, but did not fly because the fuel ports were too small. H.F. Pierce of the American rocket Society launched a liquid fueled rocket to about 250 feet (76 meters) on May 9, 1937. The launch took place from Old Ferris Point, the Bronx, New York (Gatland 1989, p. 11). On December 10, 1938, the American Rocket Society tested a 90 pound (41 kg) thrust regeneratively cooled liquid rocket motor designed by James H. Wyld.
  • Then the society turned to creating improved engines and giving them static tests, often going to great lengths to avoid suspicious police and tire officials. With the onset WW II, the club gave up on experimentation and evolved into a professional society, producing a trade journal, and eventually becoming today′s American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
    Four members of the pre-war group went on to form Reaction Motors, Incogpgmted. After the war, Reaction Motors produced the powerplants for the X-l, X-15, MX-774, and Viking sounding rocket. While the ARS No. 2 was not a great accomplishment, the ARS program proved to be a valuable training ground for the nation′s rocket engineers.

American Interplanetary Rocket Society Rockets:

Veh. Launch Date Alt. (m) DR (m) Launch Site Status
1 12 Nov 1932     Stockton, NJ damaged in static test, not flown
2 14 May 1933 76   Great Kills, NY LOX tank exploded
4A 10 Jun 1934     Marine Park, NY did not fly
4B 09 Sep 1934   407 Marine Park, NY landed in New York Bay
5? 09 May 1937 76   Old Ferris Point, NY  

Ref.: Gatland (1989), #17, #516 - update: 26.07.15 Home