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SSM-A14/M8/PGM-11 Redstone
Redstone 09.jpg
Redstone number CC-56, Cape Canaveral, Florida, September 1958
Type Suface-to-surface missile
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1958-1964
Used by United States
Production history
Designer Army Ballistic Missile Agency
Designed 1950–1952

Army Ballistic Missile Agency

Chrysler Corporation
Produced 1952–1961
No. built

128 ABMA 27,

Chrysler 101
Variants Block I, Block II
Weight 61,207 pounds (27,763 kg) at ignition
Length 69.3 feet (21.1 m)
Diameter 5.83 feet (1.8 m)

Blast yield 3.5 mT or 500 kT
thermonuclear warhead

Engine Rocketdyne North American Aviation 75-110 A-7
78,000 lbs thrust at sea level for 121 seconds
Payload capacity 6,305 pounds (2,860 kg)
Propellant ethyl alcohol, liquid oxygen, hydrogen peroxide
Fuel capacity alcohol: 11,135 pounds (5,051 kg), liquid oxygen: 25,280 pounds (11,470 kg), hydrogen peroxide: 790 pounds (360 kg)
57.5 miles (92.5 km) to 201 miles (323 km)
Flight altitude 28.4 miles (45.7 km) peak minimum to 58.7 miles (94.5 km) peak maximum
Boost time 97 seconds to 117 seconds
Speed Mach 5.5 maximum at re-entry interface
Ford Instrument Company ST-80 inertial guidance
Carbon jet vanes, air rudders, spacial air jet nozzles, air vanes
Accuracy 300 metres (980 ft) CPE
guided missile platform launcher M74

First launched in 1953, the American Redstone rocket (Redstone missile) was a direct descendant of the German V-2. Redstone was used for the first live nuclear missile tests by the United States. It was also referred to as the Redstone MRBM (medium range ballistic missile), although in the true sense of the definition within the United States Department of Defense of MRBM: a missile with a maximum range between 1,000 km and 3,000 km, this was a misnomer.

The Redstone missile was in active service with The US Army from June 1958 to June 1964. Some Redstone missiles were modified in the mid to late 1960's for follow-on special test projects. For one such project the missiles were called Sparta rockets.

For its role as a US Army field artillery theatre ballistic missile, Redstone earned the accolade of being "the Army's Workhorse". For its roles in non-military applications, Redstone deservedly earned the nickname "Old Reliable".


As a ballistic missile[edit]

A product of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama, under the leadership of Wernher von Braun, Redstone was designed as a surface-to-surface missile for the U.S. Army. Chrysler Corporation was awarded the prime production contract and began missile and support equipment production in 1952 at the newly-renamed Michigan Ordnance Missile Plant in Warren, Michigan. The Navy-owned facility was previously known as the Naval Industrial Reserve Aircraft Plant used for jet engine production. Following the cancellation of a planned Navy jet engine program, the facility was made available to to the Chrysler Corporation for missile production. Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation Company provided the rocket engines; Ford Instrument Company, Division of Sperry Rand Corporation produced the guidance and control systems; and, Reynolds Metals Company fabricated fuselage assemblies as subcontractors to Chrysler Corporation.

Redstone was first deployed with troops of 40th Artillery Group (Redstone) to West Germany from Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama in June 1958. 40th Artillery Group units were stationed both in Bad Kreuznach and Wackernheim, West Germany until February 1964. A second Redstone missile Group, 46th Artillery Group (Redstone) was deployed to West Germany from Fort Sill, Oklahoma in April 1959. The 46th Group was stationed at Artillery Kaserne in Neckarsulm, West Germany until June 1964. The third Redstone missile Group, 209th Artillery Group (Redstone) was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma from 1958 to 1964. Primary mission of 209th Group was to support the two Redstone Groups stationed in West Germany; by supporting the annual service firings conducted by each of the 4 overseas firing batteries at the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), New Mexico, and by providing trained replacement personnel to the overseas Groups.

Each Redstone missile Group contained two firing batteries (Battery A and Battery B) for launching missiles, a Headquarters and Headquarters Battery for overall Group administration, an Engineering Company for the production of liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen, and an Ordnance Company for the issuance of missiles, warheads and fuel to the firing batteries; and, for maintenance and repair of missiles and equipment. A total of four mobile launchers and equipment, with one reload each, (a total of eight Redstone MRBM missiles) were deployed in the four firing batteries stationed in West Germany until the first half of 1964.

Redstone was capable of flights from 57.5 mi (92.8 km) to 201 mi (324 km). It consisted of a thrust unit for powered flight and a missile body for overall missile control and payload delivery on target. During powered flight Redstone burned a fuel mixture of 25% water-75% ethyl alcohol with liquid oxygen (LOX) used as the oxidizer. The missile body was comprised of an aft unit containing the instrument compartment, and the warhead unit containing the payload compartment and the radar fuze. The missile body was separated from the thrust unit 20 to 30 seconds after the termination of powered flight, as determined by the preset range to target. The body continued on a controlled ballistic trajectory to the target impact point. The thrust unit continued on its own uncontrolled ballistic trajectory, impacting short of the designated target. Redstone utilized a pre-programmed self-correcting fixed reference inertial guidance platform system for missile attitude and path control along a predetermined trajectory. The inertial guidance system was not dependent on any ground to missile links for missile control, and was immune from any known external jamming techniques.

Redstones could be armed with either a 500 Kt or a 3.75 Mt thermonuclear warhead. A Redstone rocket was used to launch two live nuclear tests that were detonated during the nuclear test series Operation Hardtack in August 1958, from Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean. On August 1 1958, Redstone #CC50 launched nuclear test Teak that detonated at an altitude of 77.8 km. On August 12 1958, Redstone #CC51 launched nuclear test Orange to a detonation altitude of 43 km. Both payloads were 3.75 Mt weapons; they were the first live nuclear missile tests by the United States.

The Jupiter IRBM (intermediate range ballistic missile) was a direct outgrowth of Redstone. Jupiter incorporated modified and improved versions of systems developed for and proven in use on Redstone. Modified Redstone missiles with longer thrust units for increased fuel and oxidizer capacities, and with solid upper stages added, were used in a series of nose cone development tests for the Jupiter IRBM. These modified Redstone missiles were called Jupiter-C rockets.

As a satellite launch vehicle[edit]

Many believe the U.S. could have beaten the Soviet Union into space if the ABMA had been allowed to attempt a satellite launch with the Jupiter-C rocket. A satellite could have been launched by a Jupiter-C in August 1956 if given the go ahead by U.S. government officials. The Eisenhower administration, however, wanted the first U.S. satellite to be launched by a civilian-developed rocket instead of a military missile. President Dwight D. Eisenhower primarily wanted to establish the right of flyover first, and felt that employing a military missile to place a satellite in orbit would prevent that from happening, as the use of a military missile would be construed as too threatening by other countries, primarily the USSR. The Vanguard rocket was being developed for this purpose. The Administration ordered Von Braun not to attempt any satellite launches. The Vanguard rocket failed on the first attempt to launch the Vanguard satellite in December 1957, crashing back to the pad and exploding. The Eisenhower administration then turned to the U.S. Army. The ABMA and von Braun were asked to launch a backup satellite as soon as possible. When the Jupiter-C was finally used to launch the Explorer I satellite in January 1958, its Jupiter-C launch vehicle was renamed the Juno I.

Redstone MRBM and Jupiter IRBM propellant tanks were clustered together along with eight Jupiter IRBM engines to form the first stage of the Saturn I and Saturn IB rockets. First developed by the ABMA, the Saturn rocket was later adopted by NASA. These were America's first large launch vehicles. The first of these was launched in 1961.

Modified Redstones (longer thrust units with larger fuel and oxidizer tanks) were also used in several suborbital launches in the United States Mercury program:

End of service[edit]

Redstone production by the Chrysler Corporation was halted in 1961. 40th Artillery Group was deactivated in February 1964 and 46th Artillery Group was deactivated in June 1964, as Redstone missiles were replaced by the Pershing missile in the U.S. Army arsenal. All Redstone missiles and equipment deployed to Europe were returned to the United States by the autumn of 1964. In October 1964 the Redstone missile was ceremoniously retired from active service at Redstone Arsenal.

In the late 1960s a series of surplus modified Redstone MRBM's were launched in Australia as part of a military test program of reentry vehicles. These Redstone missiles had solid fuel upper stages added to them. One of these Redstone missiles was used to launch Australia's first satellite, Wresat, in 1967. These series of Australian modified Redstone missiles were called Sparta rockets.


The Redstone in Grand Central Terminal.

Shortly after the launch of Sputnik, a Redstone missile was briefly placed in the lobby of Grand Central Terminal.

In the 1960s, in honor of Warren, New Hampshire native and sitting U.S. Senator, Norris Cotton, Henry T. Asselin donated a Mercury Redstone-3, similar to the Freedom 7 that carried New Hampshire native Alan Shepard, America's first man in space, to the town. The Redstone Rocket still occupies a prominent place in the center of the town.

Minor league baseball player and fastball pitcher Jeff Locke of Redstone, New Hampshire, a village in the town of Conway, New Hampshire, is nicknamed "The Redstone Rocket".[1]


  • Bullard, John W (October, 15 1965). History Of The Redstone Missile System (Historical Monograph Project Number: AMC 23 M). Historical Division, Administrative Office, Army Missile Command.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  • The Redstone Missile System. Fort Sill, Oklahoma: United States Army. August 1960. Publication L 619. 
  • Standing Operating Procedure For Conduct Of Redstone Annual Service Practice At White Sands Missile Range New Mexico. Fort Sill, Oklahoma: Headquarters, United States Army Artillery And Missile Center. March 31, 1962. 
  • Operator, Organizational, And Field Maintenance Manual - Ballistic Guided Missile M8, Ballistic Shell (Field Artillery Guided Missile System Redstone). September 1960. TM 9-1410-350-14/2. 
  • Field Artillery Missile Redstone. Department Of The Army. February 1962. FM 6-35. 
  • von Braun, Wernher. The Redstone, Jupiter and Juno.  Technology and Culture, Vol. 4, No. 4, The History of Rocket Technology (Autumn 1963), pp. 452-465.

External links[edit]

Category:Medium-range ballistic missiles Category:Space launch vehicles Category:Mercury program Category:National Historic Landmarks of the United States Category:National Register of Historic Places in Alabama