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New Mexico State University - All About Discovery
New Mexico State University


The first UAS Flight Test Center was created between the FAA and NMSU in 2008. This site was added to the six congressionally directed sites that were later selected in 2013.

PSL Alumni History Project - Rocketry: Peaceful Rocketry

WAC Corporal_3.jpg(pictured right: A Bumper-Wac on the launch pad at White Sands in the late 1940s. The first stage was a V-2; the second, a Wac Corporal.)

In 1945, the Navy Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd) began to consider possible peacetime uses of rockets for high-altitude research.  A group of physicists and engineers at BuOrd's Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) near Washington, D. C., were highly impressed by German rocketry, and were eager to build an American sounding rocket with which to explore the upper atmosphere.  This group consequently became the NRL Rocket-Sonde Research Branch on December 17, 1945.  Research groups were formed to study the ionosphere, the atmosphere, spectroscopy, and cosmic rays.  Their goal was to send 500 pounds of instrumentation to an altitude of 100 miles.

Parallel paths were formed

A rocket with the capabilities desired by the NRL Research Branch was not yet available and NRL scientists and engineers were unaware of the captured V-2s, consequently they made plans to design and build one.  These plans were temporarily delayed, when in January of 1946 they learned of the Army's planned V-2 firings.  Since there were no Army atmospheric research programs at that time, NRL was invited along with others, to assemble and fly whatever scientific instruments they wished.  On January 16, 1946, the V-2 Upper Atmosphere Research Panel was formed by approximately 50 scientists and engineers from around the country who met at the NRL to determine the best scientific usage of the V-2s. 

"WSPG's V-2 program was possibly the greatest display of inter-service peacetime cooperation yet experienced!"  B. McCune - Physical Science Laboratory's First 25 Years