Fritz von Opel
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|Fritz von Opel|
Fritz von Opel (right) at an international motorboat race, 1928.
|Born||4 May 1899
|Died||8 April 1971
|Parents||Wilhelm von Opel|
Fritz Adam Hermann Opel, since 1918 von Opel (4 May 1899, Rüsselsheim, Grand Duchy of Hesse - 8 April 1971), was the only child of Wilhelm von Opel, and a grandson of Adam Opel, founder of the Opel Company. He is remembered mostly for his spectacular demonstrations of rocket propulsion that earned him the nickname "Rocket Fritz".
Von Opel was born in Rüsselsheim and educated at the technical university of Darmstadt. After graduation, he was made director of testing for Opel and also put in charge of publicity. In the 1920s, he became interested in using rockets in publicity stunts for the company and sought advice from Max Valier of the newly formed Verein für Raumschiffahrt (VfR - "Spaceflight Society") and Friedrich Sander, a pyrotechnics manufacturer from Bremerhaven.
On 15 March 1928 von Opel tested his first rocket-powered car, the RAK.1 and achieved a top speed of 75 km/h (47 mph) in it, proving the concept. Less than two months later, he reached a speed of 230 km/h (143 mph) in the RAK.2, driven by 24 solid-fuel rockets.
Later that same year, he purchased a sailplane named the "Ente" (duck in German) from Alexander Lippisch and attached rocket motors to it, creating the world's first rocket plane on 11 June. The aircraft exploded on its second test flight, before von Opel had a chance to pilot it himself, so he commissioned in a new aircraft, also called the RAK.1 from Julius Hatry, and flew it at Frankfurt-am-Main on 30 September 1929. In the meantime, another mishap had claimed the RAK.3, a rocket-powered railway car powered by 30 solid-fuel rockets and which reached a speed of 254 km/h (157 mph).
On 25 April 1940 Fritz von Opel was removed from the Italian liner Conte di Savoia by British authorities at Gibraltar. After being detained at Gibraltar for 16 days, he was allowed to proceed to the USA.
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