Historical Snapshot

The Douglas Aircraft Co. WAC Corporal started as the “Baby WAC,” only one-fifth the size of the final 21-foot (6.4-meter) WAC Corporal. Some sources indicate that the initials WAC stand for “Without Attitude Control,” because the rocket had no stabilization and guidance system.

Designed and built in a cooperative effort between Douglas Aircraft and the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory, in association with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology, its technology would lead to the Viking rockets and the Titan intercontinental ballistic missile.

Initial tests of the Baby WAC started in July 1945. Further basic airframe and control tests began Sept. 26, 1945, using the first 5-foot-long (1.5-meter-long) solid-fueled booster called “Tiny Tim,” which could produce 50,000 pounds (22,679 kilograms) of thrust. After it left the launch tower, its three tail fins stabilized the missile in flight. The nose cone separated near the end of the flight and floated to the ground for instrument recovery, using a built-in parachute.

The improved 1946 WAC B had a lighter engine, a modified structure and a new telemetry system. Between December 1946 and mid-1947, eight WAC B rockets were launched, after which the WAC Corporal program was terminated. In February 1948, the formal designation RTV-G-1 was assigned to the WAC Corporal, even though the program had already been completed. In mid-1951, this designation was changed to RV-A-1.

In June 1947, the Bumper program was formed, in which the WAC Corporal was combined with a German V-2 rocket to form the two-stage “Bumper WAC.” Douglas built the second stage and designed and built some required special V-2 parts. On Feb. 24, 1949, the Bumper WAC reached a record altitude of approximately 250 miles (402 kilometers), flying at a speed of 5,000 mph (8,046 kph). The following year, a Bumper WAC became the first rocket to be launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Technical Specifications

First flight Oct. 11, 1945
Model number RTV-G-1
Length 16 feet 2 inches; booster: 7 feet 11 inches
Diameter 12 inches
Weight 690 pounds; booster: 760 pounds
Speed 3,000 feet per second
Range 50 miles
Propulsion Sustainer: Aerojet liquid-fueled rocket, 1,500 pounds for 47 seconds; booster: Tiny Tim solid-fueled rocket, 50,000 pounds for 0.6 seconds