White Sands Missile Range

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White Sands Missile Range logo.jpgWhite Sands Missile Range (1960)[1]
New Mexico Joint Guided Missile Test Range (1947)
White Sands Proving Ground (1945)
Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range (1941)[2]
Part of United States Army Test and Evaluation Command
Located in the San Andres Mountains, the Oscura Mountains, the San Augustin Mountains, the Tularosa Basin, and the Chupadera Mesa in New Mexico
Tularosa-Basin-NM-USGS-map opaque.gif
Most of the northern Tularosa Basin (blue) is used for the WSMR (area within dashed perimeter), which encloses numerous areas that are not military land (e.g., the NPS's White Sands National Park), as well as USAF facilities.
White Sands Missile Range location.gif
WSMR location
Coordinates32°20′08″N 106°24′21″W / 32.33556°N 106.40583°W / 32.33556; -106.40583[3] Condron Army AirfieldCoordinates: 32°20′08″N 106°24′21″W / 32.33556°N 106.40583°W / 32.33556; -106.40583[3] Condron Army Airfield near the southernmost WSMR point
Site information
Controlled byUnited States Army
Site history
Built1948-07-09 cantonment completed[4]
1957-02: Launch Complex 37 completed
Built byOrdnance Corps[4]
Garrison information
BG Eric D. Little (2021–present)[5]
  • BG David C. Trybula (2019–2021)
  • BG Gregory J. Brady (2018–2019)
  • BG Eric L. Sanchez (2016–2018)
  • BG Timothy R. Coffin (2014–2016)
  • MG Gwen Bingham (2012–2014)[6]
  • BG John G. Ferrari (2011–2012)
  • BG David L. Mann (2008–2009)
  • BG Richard L. McCabe (2007–2008)

White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) is a military testing area operated by the United States Army. The range was originally established as the White Sands Proving Ground on 9 July 1945. White Sands National Park is located within the range.

Significant events[edit]

  • The first atomic bomb (code named Trinity) was test detonated at Trinity Site near the northern boundary of the range on 16 July 1945, seven days after the White Sands Proving Ground was established.[7]
  • After the conclusion of World War II, 100 long-range German V-2 rockets that were captured by U.S. military troops were brought to WSMR. Of these, 67 were test-fired between 1946 and 1951 from the White Sands V-2 Launching Site. (This was followed by the testing of American rockets, which continues to this day, along with testing other technologies.)
  • NASA's Space Shuttle Columbia landed on the Northrop Strip at WSMR on 30 March 1982 as the conclusion to mission STS-3.[8] This was the only time that NASA used WSMR as a landing site for the space shuttle.
The site of the 1945 Trinity explosion became part of WSMR.


  • On 15 May 1947 just after 4 PM, a V-2 fired from White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico veered off course and landed 4 miles northeast of Alamogordo, New Mexico.[9]
  • On 29 May 1947 at 7:32 PM, a German V-2 sounding rocket fired from White Sands Proving Ground veered off course, crashed and exploded on top of a rocky knoll 3.5 miles south of the Juárez, Mexico business district, leaving a 24-foot-deep by 50-foot-wide crater.[9][10]
  • On 11 July 1970, the United States Air Force launched an Athena sounding rocket, equipped with re-entry vehicle V-123-D, from the Green River Launch Complex in Utah. While its intended target was inside of WSMR, the rocket instead flew south and impacted 180–200 miles south of the Mexican border in the Mapimi Desert in the northeastern corner of the Mexican state of Durango.[11]


The largest military installation in the United States, WSMR encompasses almost 3,200 sq mi (8,300 km2) that includes parts of five counties in southern New Mexico:

  1. Doña Ana County
  2. Otero County
  3. Socorro County
  4. Sierra County
  5. Lincoln County

Nearby military bases[edit]

Nearby cities[edit]

National park and wildlife refuge[edit]

The following federally-protected natural areas are contained within the borders of WSMR:


Major highways[edit]

  • U.S. Highway 70 traverses the southern part of the range in a west-northeast direction and is subject to periodic road closures during test firings at the range.
  • NM 213 enters the range from the south from Chaparral, New Mexico and terminates at U.S. Highway 70.

Nearby airports[edit]

  • Las Cruces International Airport – No current regularly scheduled commercial passenger flights since 25 July 2005, when Westward Airways ceased operations. General aviation, New Mexico Army National Guard (4 UH-72 Lakota Helicopters), private charters and CAP use the airport, among others.
  • El Paso International Airport – Nearest airport with regularly scheduled commercial flights.

National Historic Landmarks[edit]

Designated historic sites on WSMR land include:

Current operations[edit]

Ground-based electro-optical deep-space surveillance telescopes performing space surveillance mission.

The White Sands Test Center, headquartered at the WSMR post area, has branches for manned tactical systems and electromagnetic radiation, and conducts missile testing and range recovery operations.[20] Other operations on WSMR land include:


  • 1930: Robert Goddard began rocket testing in New Mexico.
  • 1941-04-13: US World War II preparations established[14] the Army Air Base, Alamogordo:[24] 1942 Biggs Army Airfield construction began near El Paso (1947 Biggs AFB, 1973 Biggs AAF)--the region's nearby Deming AAF, Ft Sumner AAF, and South Aux Fid #1 transferred to "Army Div Engrs" in 1946.[25]
  • 1940s: When the range was formed, ranchers' land was leased and, in the 1970s, taken permanently to expand the area available for testing.[26]

USAAF ranges[edit]

White Sands Proving Ground[edit]

New Mexico Joint Guided Missile Test Range[edit]

White Sands Missile Range[edit]

External media
image icon 1945 WSPG
video icon 196x Big Picture: Tularosa Frontier
video icon Short Notice Annual Practice (minute 16:50)
video icon Countdown at White Sands


Las Cruces Public Schools operates White Sands School on the missile range property.[62]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "THE DUNES IN THE COLD WAR ERA". Archived from the original on 4 February 2009. Retrieved 3 December 2008.
  2. ^ a b "Chapter Four: Global War at White Sands 1940–1945". White Sands Administrative History. National Park Service. Retrieved 7 October 2008. Executive Order No. 9029
  3. ^ "Condron Army Airfield (2444053)". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 28 May 2014. (Doña Ana county—entered in the GNIS on 20 March 2011)
  4. ^ a b "Development of the Corporal: the embryo of the army missile program" (PDF). Army Ballistic Missile Agency. April 1961. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 March 2009.
  5. ^ "WSMR Official Website: Commanding Commander White Sands Missile Range".
  6. ^ "OACSIM - Leadership - ACSIM". www.acsim.army.mil.
  7. ^ SpacePorting Part III: US Spaceports [1]
  8. ^ "STS-3 Columbia Lands at the White Sands Missile Range, NM". 12 June 2015.
  9. ^ a b Jim Eckles (15 May 2022) Two crashes in two weeks: In 1947, rockets launched from White Sands landed in Alamogordo, Juárez
  10. ^ "Remember the time we bombed Mexico with German rockets?". Gizmodo. 11 May 2012.
  11. ^ "USAF Accidentally Launched Rocket into Mexico's Mapimi Desert 45 Years Ago". Unredacted.
  12. ^ http://fronteralandalliance.org/castner/media/ICRMP.pdf "This report inventoried and evaluated 150 Cold War era properties constructed between 1956 and 1961 at Orogrande Range Doña Ana Range, McGregor Range, North McGregor Range, and Meyer Target Range in New Mexico."
  13. ^ Rubenson, David; Robert Everson; Jorge Munoz; Robert Weissler (1998). McGregor Renewal and the Current Air Defense Mission. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-8330-2669-9. Retrieved 15 September 2008.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g "A Brief History of White Sands Proving Ground 1941–1965" (PDF). New Mexico State University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 October 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
  15. ^ Greenwood, Richard (14 January 1975). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Trinity Site". National Park Service. Retrieved 21 June 2009. and Accompanying 10 photos, from 1974. (3.37 MB)
  16. ^ "Trinity Site". National Historic Landmarks. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 15 February 2008. Retrieved 28 January 2008.
  17. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 23 January 2007.
  18. ^ "White Sands V-2 Launching Site". Aviation: From Sand Dunes to Sonic Booms. Retrieved 7 October 2008.
  19. ^ [full citation needed]Works by White Sands Missile Range Public Affairs Office at Project Gutenberg
  20. ^ "Time Magazine, "Recovery at White Sands"". 29 June 1962. Archived from the original on 3 February 2009.
  21. ^ "Welcome to WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE WSMR" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 March 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  22. ^ http://www.wsmr.army.mil/pao/FactSheets/hfame.htm
  23. ^ "Center for Countermeasures". Archived from the original on 6 April 2001. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  24. ^ "Official Home of the 450th Bomb Group Memorial Association". www.450thbg.com.
  25. ^ a b c d e f Mueller (1982). "Holloman Air Force Base". Air Force Bases as of 1982 (Report).
  26. ^ Gibbs, Jason (19 July 2014). "WSMR, DOD may take control of range's Northern Extension Area". Las Cruces Sun-News. The Las Cruces Sun-News. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2014.
  27. ^ a b Ordway, Frederick I, III; Sharpe, Mitchell R (1979). The Rocket Team. Apogee Books Space Series. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. pp. 290, 389. ISBN 1-894959-00-0.
  28. ^ a b c Ley, Willy (1958) [1944]. Rockets, Missiles and Space Travel (revised ed.). New York: The Viking Press. pp. 246, 253.
  29. ^ Bluth, John. "Von Karman, Malina laid the groundwork for the future JPL". JPL.
  30. ^ Hamilton, John A. Blazing skies: Air Defense Artillery on Fort Bliss, 1940-2009 ("Google eBook" of Government Printing Office document). ISBN 9780160869495. Retrieved 29 May 2014. Special Orders No. 143, Headquarters, Army Ground Forces, dated 6 July 1946, [established] the Antiaircraft and Guided Missile Center [from] the remnants of the Antiaircraft Artillery School, the Antiaircraft Replacement Training Center, Army Ground Forces Board No. 4,13 1st AAA Guided Missile Battalion, the 1852nd Area Service Unit, and remaining antiaircraft units, including three automatic weapons battalions and one gun battalion placed in the Army General Reserve.
  31. ^ McCleskey, C.; D. Christensen. "Dr. Kurt H. Debus: Launching a Vision" (PDF). p. 35. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 September 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2008.
  32. ^ Upper Air Rocket Summary: V-2 No. 4 (PDF) (Report). 29 May 1946. Archived (PDF) from the original on 29 May 2014. Retrieved 23 May 2014. General Electric Company provided gyros, mixer-computers, wiring, servo motors, and propellant piping to replace those German parts that had deteriorated with age. (also available at PostWarV2.com)
  33. ^ Hamilton, John A. Blazing skies: Air Defense Artillery on Fort Bliss, 1940-2009. Government Printing Office. ISBN 9780160869495. three officers and fifty-five enlisted men...worked closely with the German rocket scientists who were located in a six-acre ordnance area on the north side of the Fort Bliss cantonment. [The military unit went to WSPG] to provide the manpower to build the [V-2] missiles and erect them on test stands.
  34. ^ http://www.cecer.army.mil/techreports/ERDC-CERL_SR-06-53/ERDC-CERL_SR-06-53.pdf[permanent dead link][bare URL PDF]
  35. ^ Integration of the Holloman-White Sands Ranges, 1947-1952 (2nd Edition, 1957)
  36. ^ Mueller (1982). "Holloman Air Force Base". Air Force Bases as of 1982 (Report). p. 248.
  37. ^ Bushnell, David (25 August 1986). GAPA: Holloman's First Missile Program (Scribd.com image) (Report). Air Force Missile Development Center: Historical Branch. IRIS 00169113. Retrieved 11 August 2013. [1st ramjet GAPA] "was launched 14 November 1947 and the initial liquid-fuel variety 12 March 1948.8... The last of the GAPAs, number 114, was launched 15 August 1950, and the project officially terminated at Holloman the following month.11 (date identified at http://airforcehistoryindex.org/data/000/169/113.xml)
  38. ^ "A Brief History of White Sands Proving Grounds 1941-1965" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 October 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
  39. ^ "History of Holloman AFB Space Biology" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 May 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2014. test installation
  40. ^ Kennedy, Gregory P. (1983). Vengeance Weapon 2: The V-2 Guided Missile. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 62.
  41. ^ Egermeier, Robert P. (September 2001). "Former "Broomstick Scientist"". Aerospace America: 7.
  42. ^ Koppenshaver, James T. (30 January 1951). "Broomstick Sweepings" (PDF). Wind and Sand. pp. 1, 6. Retrieved 27 May 2014. late 1950…Fort White Sands…early in 1951
  43. ^ "The Milwaukee Journal - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com.[permanent dead link]
  44. ^ "W S P G Military Units Have New Designations" (PDF). Wind and Sand. 8 February 1957. Retrieved 27 January 2022 – via www.wsmrhistoric.com.
  45. ^ Leonard, Barry (c. 1986). History of Strategic and Ballistic Missile Defense: Volume II: 1956-1972 (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 December 2019. Retrieved 1 September 2012.[specify]
  46. ^ Piland, Doyle. "Way Back When..." (PDF). WSMR newsletter. Retrieved 11 April 2014. Launch Complex 38...Site preparation for the TTR [Target Tracking Radar] began in July 1959.... Site preparation for the Discrimination Radar was started in January 1961.
  47. ^ Site Plan: Nike Zeus Facilities ALA 5 (Map). reproduced in WSMR newsletter: Federal Government of the United States.
  48. ^ "New Device Will Plot All Planes". Alton Evening Telegraph. 20 August 1959. p. 29. Iconorama shows almost instantly the positions of aircraft thousands of miles away… Traces made by the planes being tracked are scribed on a coated slide by a moving stylus. … The slide plot measures only one inch square, yet overall error of the projected display is said to be about one part in 1,000. … Iconorama units already have been installed and operated at the Pacific Missile Range, Point Mugu Calif.; the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico; the Atlantic Missile Range at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and the Naval Research Laboratory
  49. ^ (5 June 1963) Kennedy visit leaves lasting impression at WSMR Archived 30 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  50. ^ Conduct of Redstone Annual Service Practice at White Sands Missile Range New Mexico, Fort Sill: Headquarters, United States Army Artillery And Missile Center (the Artillery and Missile Center at Ft Sill was redesignated the Field Artillery Center in 1969.)
  51. ^ "Nike R&D at White Sands, Multi-Function Array Radar, 1954-1970 (page 16)". nikemissile.org.
  52. ^ "WSTF Community". NASA. Archived from the original on 3 February 2009.
  53. ^ "Part I. History of ABM Development" (transcript at AlternateWars.com). Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  54. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1893&dat=19670602[dead link]
  55. ^ http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-81/pdf/STATUTE-81-Pg279.pdf "Two Rock Ranch Station, California: Supply facilities, $174,000."
  56. ^ Hoihjelle, Donald L. (February 1972). AN/FPS-16(AX) Radar Modeling and Computer Simulation (Report). WSMR Instrumentation Directorate.
  57. ^ "The Story of SIMTEL20". Archived from the original on 11 January 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  58. ^ "SAVE SIMTEL20!". Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  59. ^ "article". Aerospace America: B6. October 2004.
  60. ^ "NASA Building Test Pad at White Sands for New Spacecraft". redOrbit. 3 February 2008. Retrieved 12 September 2008.
  61. ^ NASA: Constellation Mission Project, Research, and Test Sites Overview
  62. ^ "Home". White Sands School. Retrieved 28 June 2022. #1 Viking St White Sands Missile Range, NM 88002

External links[edit]