- In May 1944, the Army's Ordnance Department began a collaboration with a group of researchers at California Institute of
Technology (Caltech) interested in high altitude research. Caltech's GALCIT (Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California
Institute of Technology) proposed a U. S. program of missile development, and the Army
Ordinance department agreed to fund this project. The collaboration was finalized with a contract on Jun 22, 1947, and
became known as the ORDCIT Project.
- The first vehicle constructed was the 8 foot long Private A. Twenty-four Private A′s were fired from
California in December 1944. A modification of the design from four rear fins to two wings led to the development of the
Private F, 17 of which were fired in April 1945.
- By late 1944, it was clear from progress in the Private and Corporal missile programs that ORDCIT was well
situated to build a sounding rocket. Frank Malina, ORDCIT's director, and other Caltech workers had originally entered the
missile business with a sounding rocket in mind, so the sounding rocket, justified as a developmental version of the
Corporal missile, was proposed to the Army. The Army approved of this „little sister„ to the Corporal, and funded the
Wac Corporal (WAC either stood for Women's Army Corps. reflecting the little sister metaphor, or Without Attitude
Control, reflecting the simplicity of the rocket).
- The Corporal portion of the name was a
logical succession to the earlier Private series. A one-fifth scale Corporal was test fired, and the first full size
launches took place at White sands in September and October 11, 1945, reaching a maximum altitude of almost 70 km. The
WAC Corporal used a modified Tiny Tim solid fuel rocket developed by the Navy as an air-to-surface missile to boost the
vehicle out of the launch tower (Smithsonian Air and Space Museum WAC Corporal Display). The WAC Corporal thus became
the first American sounding rocket to reach significant altitude, designed to send meteorological and sounding
instruments into the atmosphere beyond the range of balloons. In sum, there were six launches of the WAC Corporal.