|Mission type||Test launch|
|Spacecraft type||A-4/V-2[nb 1]|
|Launch mass||12,500 kg|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||20 June 1944|
|Launch site||Peenemünde Army Research Center|
|End of mission|
|Destroyed||20 June 1944|
MW 18014 was a German A-4/V-2 rocket[nb 1] test launch that took place on 20 June 1944, at the Peenemünde Army Research Center in Peenemünde. It was the first man-made object to reach outer space, attaining an apoapsis of 176 kilometers, which is above the Kármán line. It was a vertical test launch. Although it reached space, it was a sub-orbital spaceflight and therefore returned to Earth in an impact.
Early A-4 rockets, despite being able to reach altitudes of 90 km, had suffered from multiple reliability issues. For example, a design fault in the forward part of the outer hull caused it to regularly fail mid-flight, resulting in the failure of up to 70% of test launches. On one occasion, an A-4 rocket suffering from pogo oscillations during ascent veered 90 degrees off course then spiralled back down to its launch pit, killing the four launch troops inside.
The Peenemunde rocket team made a number of improvements to rectify the reliability issues during 1943 and the first half of 1944. Hindering the program were constant interference from the SS, Allied raids as part of Operation Hydra, attempts to privatise the program in June 1944, and a two-week detention of technical director Wernher von Braun on 15 March 1944.
Allied advances in Northern France and improvements to the Mittelwerk underground facility, where the A-4 rockets were produced, and improvements to the liquid propellant formula placed renewed emphasis on Von Braun to address the A-4's reliability issues.
MW 18014 was part of a series of vertical test launches made in June 1944 designed to gauge the rocket's behaviour in vacuum. MW 18014 broke the altitude record set by one of its predecessors (launched on 3 October 1942) to attain an apoapsis of 176 km.
MW 18014 is the first man-made object to cross the 100 km Kármán Line, which as of July 2019[update], is the currently accepted[nb 2] boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space. However, as the Kármán Line is an anachronistic definition, the Peenemunde rocket scientists did not celebrate the milestone at the time; unlike the V-4 [Rheinbote] launch, which was the first to reach the thermosphere.
- V-2 rockets were still known as A-4s until September 1944
- The FAI have proposed a meeting to revert the definition of outer space back to 80 km, which would mean the V-4 test missile would once again be the first man-made object in space
- The date of this launch is unknown because precise dates were not recorded by the rocket scientists during this phase
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