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WAC Corporal

File:Frank Malina with WAC Corporal rocket at White Sands.jpg
JPL director Frank Malina with a WAC Corporal rocket (minus the solid-fuel boosters).

The WAC or WAC Corporal was the first sounding rocket developed in the United States.[1] Begun as a spinoff of the Corporal program, the WAC was a "little sister" to the larger Corporal. It was designed and built jointly by the Douglas Aircraft Company and the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory.[2]

The WAC Corporal was a hypergolic liquid-fuel rocket. Fuming nitric acid was the oxidizer and a mixture of aniline and furfuryl alcohol (with the later addition of hydrazine) was the fuel. It was launched by a solid fuel Tiny Tim booster.

The first WAC Corporal dummy round was launched on September 16, 1945 from White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruces, New Mexico. After a White Sands V-2 rocket had reached Script error: No such module "convert". on May 10, a White Sands WAC Corporal reached Script error: No such module "convert". on May 22, 1946 — the first U.S.-designed rocket to reach the edge of space (under the U.S. definition of space at the time). On February 24, 1949, a Bumper (a German V-2 rocket acting as first stage) bearing a WAC Corporal at White Sands accelerated to Script error: No such module "convert". to become the first flight of more than five times the speed of sound.[3]

Scientists were later surprised when almost a year after the launch, tail fragments of the WAC Corporal rocket that reached Script error: No such module "convert". and an altitude of over Script error: No such module "convert"., were found and identified in the New Mexico desert near the launch site.[4]

A few WAC Corporals survive in museums, including one at the National Air and Space Museum and another in the White Sands Missile Range Museum.


The early U.S. rocket programs were named for enlisted ranks in the United States Army: Private, Corporal, and Sergeant. When, in the words of former JPL director William Hayward Pickering, researchers "came along with this sounding rocket which really didn't fit the pattern" of "getting bigger as you went along", the rocket "was named after the Women’s Army Corps (WAC)".[5][nb 1]


Overall dimensions

  • Diameter: Script error: No such module "convert".
  • Total length: Script error: No such module "convert".

Tiny Tim booster

  • Loaded weight: Script error: No such module "convert".
  • Propellant weight: Script error: No such module "convert".
  • Thrust: Script error: No such module "convert".
  • Duration: 0.6 s
  • Impulse: 133,000 N·s (30,000 lbf·s)

WAC Corporal sustainer

  • Empty weight: Script error: No such module "convert".
  • Loaded weight: Script error: No such module "convert".
  • Thrust: Script error: No such module "convert".
  • Duration: 47 s
  • Impulse: 298,000 N·s (67,000 lbf·s)


  1. The expansion "without attitude control" sometimes given for WAC may, in light of Pickering‘s explanation, be dismissed as a backronym, its best available attribution being to "some sources".[2]


  1. "NASA Sounding Rockets, 1958-1968: A Historical Summary, Ch. 2". NASA. 1971. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "WAC Corporal Missile". Boeing. 
  3. Canan, James W (November 2007), "A brief history of hypersonics", Aerospace America: 30 
  4. "Fragment of Rocket Sets New Mystery", Melbourne, Australia - The Age newspaper, Jan 31, 1950
  5. NASA (2001). "Bumper 8: 50th Anniversary of the First Launch on Cape Canaveral, Group Oral History, Kennedy Space Center, Held on July 24, 2000" (PDF). p. 13. 
  • Alway, Peter, Rockets of the World, Third Edition. Saturn Press: Ann Arbor, 1999.

External links