- Accept the Challenge
- About NRL
- Doing Business
- Public Affairs & Media
- Field Sites
- Visitor Info
- Contact NRL
V-2 Rockets - Both space-based astronomy and the U.S. Navy's space program were born in the V-2 rocket program. After World War II, the U.S. Army invited scientists to fill the space of the 2000-lb. Warhead with instruments. The Rocket Sonde Branch was established in January 1946 and by October of that year, their instrumentation brought back the first solar UV spectrogram.
Viking Program - In 1946, NRL directed the development of a new sounding rocket called Viking, and a total of 12 Viking rockets were launched from 1949 to 1954. NRL was first to measure temperature, pressure, and winds in the upper atmosphere and electron density in the ionosphere, and to record the ultraviolet spectra of the Sun.
Aerobee - NRL worked with the Applied Physics Laboratory to develop a scientific rocket called Aerobee, as a replacement for the German V-2s that were being used for research following World War II.
Rockoon - To study solar flares, which occur suddenly and unpredictably, NRL developed a small, simple rocket which was tied to a 150,000 cubic foot balloon. The balloon carried the rocket to a height of 25 km, where it hovered till fired by radio command at the first sign of a solar flare.
Nike Booster - NRL used Nike rockets to study the Sun during the International Geophysical Year (July 1957 to December 1958). During these studies, NRL scientists recorded the first measurements of ultraviolet and X-ray emissions during a solar flare.
Vanguard Project - Vanguard was the prototype for much of what became the U.S. space program. Between 1955 and 1959, NRL conducted the first American satellite program called Vanguard, and on March 17, 1958, the Vanguard I satellite was successfully launched into Earth orbit. Vanguard I orbits Earth today as the oldest man-made satellite and will remain in orbit well into the 22nd century.
NavSpaSur - NRL developed the Naval Space Surveillance System to detect and track satellites. NavSpaSur became operational in 1961 and remains an active part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command.