Encyclopedia Astronautica
Viking



viking10.jpg
Viking 10
Credit: © Thomas Kladiva - Thomas Kladiva
The Viking sounding rocket, originally code-named Neptune, was conceived in 1945 by the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) as having the same altitude capability as the V-2 but only one third the mass. Martin was given the contract to develop the rocket, and Reaction Motors the engine. The advanced design featured a gimbaled pump-fed engine, a fuel tank integral with the fuselage. All rockets would be static-tested and certified before launch. The first launch was on 3 May 1949. Viking was abandoned in 1954 as too expensive, but Martin's experience on the design led to the first stage of the Vanguard orbital launch vehicle and the Titan ICBM.

From NASA SOUNDING ROCKETS, 1958-1968 - A Historical Summary, NASA SP-4401, 1971, by William R. Corliss

Back in December 1945 when the NRL Rocket-Sonde Research Branch was taking its first steps, the engineers in this embryonic organization had planned to build their own research rockets. The availability of the V-2s only delayed these plans. At the beginning of their search for the best rocket, NRL engineers C. H. Smith and Milton Rosen set a performance goal of 227 kg (500 lb) of payload at roughly 160 km (100 ml). They reasoned that some experimenters might be satisfied with the 45-kg (100-lb) payloads of the Aerobees then under development but that others needed something closer to the V-2 ton-size payloads. The rocket design finally selected was therefore much larger than the Aerobees on the drawing boards and understandably bore considerable resemblance to the V-2.

While the Aerobee received its technical direction from APL (the Laboratory was supported largely by Navy funds), NRL took charge of the Viking. The Navy was the key Government agency in sounding rocket development, although the Army and Air Force did play their roles, as mentioned in connection with the Wac Corporal and Aerobee-Hi. The two major contractors on the Viking were Glenn L. Martin Co., which won the competition for the prime contract in August 1946, and Reaction Motors, Inc., which built the rocket engine under a separate contract from the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics. Program direction at NRL was originally by C. H. Smith, under E. H. Krause; but in the fall of 1947, both Krause and Smith left to work on another project. Their places were taken by Homer E. Newell, Jr., and Milton W. Rosen, respectively.

The original Martin contract called for 10 Vikings. Altogether, 14 were built, with the last 2 assigned to tests in the Vanguard Earth-satellite program. There were many minor variations from vehicle to vehicle, but two major varieties are recognized: the type 7 and the type 9 Vikings. All rockets of type 7 were about 15 m (49 ft) high and weighed about 4500 kg (almost 5 tons) loaded. In contrast, the type 9 Viking was shorter (about 13 m (42 ft)) and much squatter; it was 50 percent heavier and could carry 450 kg (1000 lb) to 254 km (158 mi). In fact, the type 9 Viking looked less like a sounding rocket and more like a military missile. At one time, thought was actually given to converting the Viking to a submarine-launched missile.

Viking 1 was fired from White Sands on May 3, 1949; the 12th, the last of the sounding rockets, left its launch pad on February 4, 1955. Two particularly interesting launches were Viking 4, which was fired from the deck of the U.S.S. Norton Sound in the Pacific (Project Reach) and Viking 8, which broke away from its moorings during a supposed static test firing on June 6, 1952. It landed on the desert 8 km (5 mi) away.

The Vikings transported a great many experiments into the upper atmosphere and above - 254.3 km (158 mi) up for Viking 11 on May 24, 1954. They also took impressive high-altitude photographs of the Earth. But the Viking was too expensive and required too many ground personnel and facilities to make a practical sounding rocket. The most significant contributions from the Viking program were in technology. The Viking pioneered the gimbaled engine and paved the way for the Vanguard program with its first-stage powerplant.

More... - Chronology...


Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Viking American sounding rocket. The Viking sounding rocket, originally code-named Neptune, was conceived in 1945 by the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) as having the same altitude capability as the V-2 but only one third the mass. Martin was given the contract to develop the rocket, and Reaction Motors the engine. The advanced design featured a gimbaled pump-fed engine, a fuel tank integral with the fuselage. All rockets would be static-tested and certified before launch. The first launch was on 3 May 1949. Viking was abandoned in 1954 as too expensive, but Martin's experience on the design led to the first stage of the Vanguard orbital launch vehicle and the Titan ICBM. More...

Associated Launch Sites
  • White Sands White Sands Missile Range occupies an area 160 x 65 km in the Tularosa Basin of southern New Mexico, across the Sacramento Mountain range from Roswell. In the 1930's, Robert Goddard, after surveying weather conditions and population densities, had selected Roswell for his pioneering rocket tests. White Sands, a true desert area, was even more unpopulated than Roswell. German advances in rocketry during World War II impelled the US Army to begin programs to exploit this technology. The White Sands Proving Ground was established for testing German and American long-range rockets on 9 July 1945. Seven days later the first atomic bomb was exploded at Trinity Site, near the north boundary of the range. The first launch of a Tiny Tim rocket was on 26 September 1945. On 11 October a Tiny Tim boosted a WAC Corporal rocket from the tower. This was the first use of Launch Complex 33, later to be used for V-2, Nike, Viking, Corporal, Lance and Multiple Launch Rocket System testing. More...
  • Pacific Ocean Sounding rocket launches made from naval vessels in the Pacific accounted for 280 launches from 1949 to 2006, reaching up to 1000 kilometers altitude. More...
  • Cape Canaveral America's largest launch center, used for all manned launches. Today only six of the 40 launch complexes built here remain in use. Located at or near Cape Canaveral are the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, used by NASA for Saturn V and Space Shuttle launches; Patrick AFB on Cape Canaveral itself, operated the US Department of Defense and handling most other launches; the commercial Spaceport Florida; the air-launched launch vehicle and missile Drop Zone off Mayport, Florida, located at 29.00 N 79.00 W, and an offshore submarine-launched ballistic missile launch area. All of these take advantage of the extensive down-range tracking facilities that once extended from the Cape, through the Caribbean, South Atlantic, and to South Africa and the Indian Ocean. More...

Viking Chronology


1946 October 1 - . LV Family: Viking. Launch Vehicle: Viking.
  • Viking rocket project begun. - . Nation: USA. Summary: Reaction Motors began design and development of rocket engine for the Navy Viking sounding rocket..

1949 May 3 - . 16:14 GMT - . Launch Site: White Sands. Launch Complex: White Sands LC33. Launch Pad: ALA1. LV Family: Viking. Launch Vehicle: Viking. LV Configuration: Viking 1.
  • Viking 1 Aeronomy/Photography mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Apogee: 83 km (51 mi). Summary: Upper-air pressures and temperatures; earth photography research. Engine cut-out after 55 seconds. Launched at 0914 local time. Reached 80.5 km..

1949 September 6 - . 16:57 GMT - . Launch Site: White Sands. Launch Complex: White Sands LC33. Launch Pad: ALA1. LV Family: Viking. Launch Vehicle: Viking. LV Configuration: Viking 2. FAILURE: Failure.
  • Viking 2 Aeronomy/Photography mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Apogee: 57 km (35 mi). Summary: Upper-air pressures and temperatures; earth photography research. Engine cut-out early after 49 seconds. . Launched at 0957 local time. Reached 52 km..

1950 February 9 - . 21:44 GMT - . Launch Site: White Sands. Launch Complex: White Sands LC33. Launch Pad: ALA1. LV Family: Viking. Launch Vehicle: Viking. LV Configuration: Viking 3. FAILURE: Veered off-course; engine cut-off at T+60 seconds..
  • Viking 3 Solar/Photography mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Apogee: 80 km (49 mi). Summary: Solar and cosmic radiation; pressure-temperature; earth photography research. Veered off-course; engine cut-off at T+60 seconds. Launched at 1444 local time. Reached 80.5 km..

1950 May 12 - . 03:08 GMT - . Launch Site: Pacific Ocean. Launch Pad: 0.2 N x 161.4 W. Launch Platform: AVM1. LV Family: Viking. Launch Vehicle: Viking. LV Configuration: Viking 4.
  • Viking 4 Ionosphere/Aeronomy mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Apogee: 171 km (106 mi). Cosmic radiation; upper-air pressures and temperatures research. Ship launch. Launched at 1608 local time. Reached 169 km. NRL Viking No. 4 research rocket fired from the USS Norton Sound, near Jarvis Island in the Pacific (0.19 N 161.42 W), at the intersection of the geographic and geomagnetic equators. It set an altitude record for an American single-stage rocket and was the first firing of the Viking from shipboard.

1950 November 21 - . 17:18 GMT - . Launch Site: White Sands. Launch Complex: White Sands LC33. Launch Pad: ALA1. LV Family: Viking. Launch Vehicle: Viking. LV Configuration: Viking 5.
  • Viking 5 Ionosphere-solar mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Apogee: 174 km (108 mi). Summary: Ionosphere; solar radiation; pressure-temperature; earth photography research. Launched at 1018 local time. Reached 175 km..

1950 December 12 - . 07:04 GMT - . Launch Site: White Sands. Launch Complex: White Sands LC33. Launch Pad: ALA1. LV Family: Viking. Launch Vehicle: Viking. LV Configuration: Viking 6. FAILURE: Failure.
  • Viking 6 Ionosphere-solar mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Apogee: 64 km (39 mi). Summary: Upper-air pressure, density and composition; solar radiation; ionosphere research. Fin tore loose. Launched at 0004 local time. Reached 64.8 km..

1951 August 7 - . 18:00 GMT - . Launch Site: White Sands. Launch Complex: White Sands LC33. Launch Pad: ALA1. LV Family: Viking. Launch Vehicle: Viking. LV Configuration: Viking 7.
  • Viking 7 Ionosphere-solar mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Apogee: 219 km (136 mi). Upper-air pressure, density; solar and cosmic radiation research. Launched at 1100 local time. Reached 219 km. A Navy Viking 7 rocket set an altitude record for single-stage rockets and reaching a speed of 6,600 kph. This was the highest flight of the original airframe design.

1952 June 6 - . 17:30 GMT - . Launch Site: White Sands. Launch Complex: White Sands LC33. Launch Pad: NLA. LV Family: Viking. Launch Vehicle: Viking Type 9. LV Configuration: Viking Type 9 8. FAILURE: Failed on static firing. Accidentally launched during ground test..
  • Viking 8 test - . Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Apogee: 6.00 km (3.70 mi). Summary: Surge in thrust ripped rocket from the two bolts holding it to the pad and it flew horizontally across the launch site. Reached 6 km..

1952 December 15 - . 21:38 GMT - . Launch Site: White Sands. Launch Complex: White Sands LC33. Launch Pad: NLA. LV Family: Viking. Launch Vehicle: Viking Type 9. LV Configuration: Viking Type 9 9.
  • Viking 9 Solar mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Apogee: 217 km (134 mi). Summary: Solar and cosmic radiation; photography research. Ran out of fuel. Launched at 1438 local time. Reached 219 km..

1954 May 7 - . 17:00 GMT - . Launch Site: White Sands. Launch Complex: White Sands LC33. Launch Pad: NLA. LV Family: Viking. Launch Vehicle: Viking Type 9. LV Configuration: Viking Type 9 10.
  • Viking 10 Aeronomy/Ionosphere mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Apogee: 219 km (136 mi). Summary: Check power plant, controls, performance, and skin temperatures; upper-air pressure, density, winds, ionisation; cosmic rays; photography research. Launched at 1000 local time. Reached 219 km..

1954 May 24 - . 17:00 GMT - . Launch Site: White Sands. Launch Complex: White Sands LC33. Launch Pad: NLA. LV Family: Viking. Launch Vehicle: Viking Type 9. LV Configuration: Viking Type 9 11.
  • Viking 11 re-entry vehicle test flight - . Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Apogee: 254 km (157 mi). Summary: Re-entry nose-cone heat transfer experiment; photography research. Launched at 1000 local time. Reached 254 km. The rocket was turned by 180 degrees at apogee and the nose cone separated, diving back down into the atmosphere..

1955 February 4 - . 21:55 GMT - . Launch Site: White Sands. Launch Complex: White Sands LC33. Launch Pad: NLA. LV Family: Viking. Launch Vehicle: Viking Type 9. LV Configuration: Viking Type 9 12.
  • Viking 12 re-entry vehicle test flight - . Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Apogee: 231 km (143 mi). Summary: Re-entry nose-cone heat transfer experiment; photography; atmosphere research. Launched at 1455 local time. Reached 232 km..

1956 December 8 - . 06:03 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC18A. Launch Pad: LC18A. LV Family: Viking. Launch Vehicle: Viking Type 9. LV Configuration: Viking Type 9 13/TV0.
  • Vanguard TV0 test - . Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Apogee: 204 km (126 mi). First Vanguard test; re-entry studies; not a vertical firing. Launched at 0103 local time. First test rocket in the IGY-U.S. satellite program, a one-stage NRL Viking, attained an altitude of 176 km and a speed of 6,400 kph. Viking No. 13 carried a "minitrack" radio transmitter which was ejected at 80 km and tracked.

1957 May 1 - . 06:29 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC18A. Launch Pad: LC18A. LV Family: Viking. Launch Vehicle: Viking Type 9. LV Configuration: Viking Type 9 14/TV1.
  • Vanguard TV1 test - . Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Apogee: 195 km (121 mi). Summary: Test of Vanguard third-stage separation and firing at altitude.Launched at 0129 local time..

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