National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Aeronautics and Astronautics Chronology, 1945-1949

SOURCE: Eugene M. Emme, comp., Aeronautics and Astronautics: An American Chronology of Science and Technology in the Exploration of Space, 1915-1960 (Washington, DC: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1961), pp. 49-63.


January 20: Robert T. Jones, NACA Langley aeronautical scientist, formulated sweptback-wing concept to overcome shockwave effects at critical Mach numbers, and verified it in wind-tunnel experiments in March 1945 prior to learning of parallel German work. It was subsequently checked by the wing-flow technique before the first NACA report was issued in June.

January 24: Germans successfully launched A-9, a winged prototype of the first ICBM (the A-10) designed to reach North America. A-9 reached a peak altitude of nearly 50 miles and a maximum speed of 2,700 mph.

During January: JNW created Guided Missiles Committee to formulate broad program of research and development in the guided missiles field, the committee to consist of two members from OSRD, one from NACA, three from the Army, and three from the Navy.

During January: German Luftwaffe formed special squadron of 16 Me-262 jet fighters, each armed with twenty-four 55-mm high-explosive rockets, which operated with high success against Allied bomber formations.

February 20: The Secretary of War approved Ordnance plans for the establishment of the White Sands Proving Ground (WSPG).

During February: Project Nike initiated by Army Ordnance with the Western Electric Co. to explore a new air defense system against high-speed and high altitude bombers beyond the reach of conventional artillery.

---: AAF contracted with Bell for construction of three transonic flight research aircraft, to be powered by liquid rocket engines. Aircraft designated XS-1, and later X-1.

March 8: Navy rocket-powered Gorgon air-to-air missile launched from PBY-5A in first powered test flight off Cape May, N.J.

March 21: Navy initiated development of the Lark surface-to-air guided missile in BuAer contract with Fairchild Aircraft.

During March: "Summary of Airfoil Data," by Ira H. Abbott, A. E. von Doenhoff, and Louis Stievers of NACA Langley Laboratory, was issued, which was considered a classic reference summarizing NACA data on airfoil sections.

---: Project Paperclip to recruit German missile scientists was initiated in the Pentagon.

During Spring: Supplemental appropriation passed by Congress authorized expanded research on guided missiles at NACA Langley Laboratory, including establishment of a rocket launch facility at Wallops Island, Va.

April 1-13: 17 JPL Private F rockets were fired at Hueco Range, Fort Bliss, Tex.

During April: Aberdeen Proving Ground wind-tunnel tests of sweptback wing at Mach 1.72 carried out on the suggestion of Theodore van Kármán.

May 5: Russian ground forces occupied Peenemünde, Germany.

May 8: World War II ended in Europe.

---: At time of German collapse, more than 20,000 V-weapons, V-1's and V-2's had been fired. Although figures vary, best estimate is that 1,115 V-2 ballistic rockets had been successfully fired against England and 1,675 against continental targets. Great disparity between production figures and operational missions due to fact that series production and eveloment testing were performed concurrently, there being as many as 12 major modifications in basic design features.

May 10: Crash program to counter Japanese Baka (suicide) bomb, Naval Aircraft Modification Unit was authorized to develop Little Joe, ship-to-air missile powered with standard JATO unit.

During May: Boeing began development of Gapa (ground-to-air pilotless aircraft) antiaircraft missile for USAAF. Within 2 years 37 Gapa missiles had been fired and by October 1949 a total of 102 successful firings had taken place.

June 19: Dr. Frank L. Wattendorf, Engineering Division, Wright Field, and a member of AAF Scientific Advisory Group, recommended to Brig. Gen. F.O. Carroll, Chief, Engineering Division, that an Air Force Development Center, including facilities for development of supersonic aircraft and missiles, be built on a location away from Wright Field and near a large source of power.

June 25: Construction began at White Sands Proving Ground.

During June: Army Ground Forces Equipment Review Board concluded that increased emphasis should be placed on development of guided missiles.

---: XC-99, cargo version of B-36, made first flight.

July 4: Baby Wac rocket, one-fifth scale model of Wac Corporal proposal, flight tested at Camp Irwin by JPL.

---: First rocket launch at NACA's new Wallops Island facility for calibration of radar instrumentation.

July 13: White Sands Proving Ground (WSPG) was activated.

July 14: AAF A-20's from Hollandia set fire to Japanese oil fields at Boela, Ceram, in the first use of rocket bombs in the Southwest Pacific.

July 16: First test atomic devise exploded in New Mexico.

July 20: Navy Little Joe antiaircraft missile made two successful flights at Applied Physics Laboratory test station at Island Beach, N.J.

July 23: Life published drawings of a manned space station as envisioned by the German rocket scientists of Peenemünde.

During July: First launching of a two-stage rocket-propelled research model, the Tiamat missile, which employed six rockets as boosters, had automatic stabilization, its maneuvers were programed, and its testing was the first research program of the NACA's Wallops Island Station.

August 6: First atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

August 9: Second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

August 14: World War II ended with Japanese surrender.

---: Team of American scientists was dispatched to Europe to collect information and equipment relating to German rocket progress.

August 24: First successful use of a telemetry system in a rocket-propelled flight research model, the two-stage Tiamat at NACA Wallops Island, Va.

During August: First successful U.S. chemical gas, generator-driven, turbopump fed, regeneratively cooled rocket engine (XCALT-6000), delivered to AAF by Aerojet-General Corp.

---: Components for approximately 100 V-2 ballistic missiles were shipped from Germany to White Sands Proving Ground.

---: Joint Army-Navy Aeronautical Board established Research Committee to investigate and report on matters affecting research, development, and testing of aircraft, including liaison with NACA and industry, and to recommend action to foster aeronautical research and development.

September 8: William F. Durand, one of the original members of the NACA in 1915, retired.

September 20: First flight of airplane powered by propeller-turbine engines, made in England by experimental Gloster Meteor powered with Rolls Royce Trent-engines with five-bladed propellers.

September 26: The Navy publicly demonstrated the Ryan Fireball FR-1 at NAS Anacostia, the first propeller-and-jet-powered airplane designed for aircraft carriers.

---: Army Wac Corporal, first development flight, fired at White Sands, established U.S. record of 43.5 miles height, and was the first U.S. liquid-propellant rocket developed with Government funds (constructed by Douglas and Aerojet under JPL Project).

During September: First volume of the Toward New Horizons reports of the Army Air Forces Scientific Advisory Group (headed by Von Kármán), entitled Science: The Key to Air Supremacy, was submitted to the Commanding General of the AAF. These reports prepared by leading scientists are classic in their assessment of future developments emerging out of World War II advancements.

October 3: A Navy Committee for Evaluating the Feasibility of Space Rocketry (CEFSR) was established by BuAer. In November 1945, CEFSR recommended high priority for satellite development and estimated cost between $5 and $8 million.

October 11: First launch of full Wac Corporal (WAC-A) at WSPG attained an altitude of 235,000 feet.

October 18: NACA Langley's Pilotless Aircraft Research Division (PARD) launched the first successful drag research vehicle for wing and body research, forerunner of a large series of flight tests of various wings and bodies in a combination of transonic and supersonic speeds providing basic design information later applied on all later supersonic aircraft and missiles.

October 30: Chief of Army Ordnance invited Secretary of the Navy to utilize the White Sands Proving Ground (WSPG) as a test range for naval-guided missiles (BuOrd) and for pilotless aircraft (BuAer).

During October: Secretary of War Patterson approved plan to bring top German scientists to United States to aid military research and development. Small group of German rocket specialists brought to United States under Project Paperclip to work on missile development at Fort Bliss and White Sands Proving Ground.

---: Navy BuOrd established Guided Missiles, Jet Propulsion and Counter-measures Section in its Research and Development Division.

November 6: The first jet landing on an aircraft carrier was made by Ens. Jake C. West, USN, in an FR-1 Navy turbojet and conventional reciprocating-engine fighter.

November 7: Bell Aircraft Corp. announced successful test flights of a jet-propelled P-59 by remote control; television was used to read the instruments.

During November: Guided Missiles Committee of the Joint Committee on New Weapons and Equipment (JNW) drafted Dewey Report on "A National Program for Guided Missiles."

December 3: The first USAAF jet fighter unit, the 412th Fighter Group, received its first Lockheed P-80 aircraft at March Field, Calif.

December 9: First Stratovision flight test made at Middle River, Md., by Westinghouse Electric Corp. and Glenn L. Martin Co. Telecasts were made from the airplane flying in the stratosphere.

December 14: AAF contracted with Bell for development of three supersonic flight research aircraft, powered by liquid rockets. Designated XS-2, and later X-2.

December 17: Rocket-Sonde Research Branch constituted in Naval Research Laboratory to conduct scientific exploration of the upper atmosphere.

December 19: President Truman submitted his plan to Congress for the unification of the armed services.

During December: Office of Deputy Chief of Air Staff for Research and Development created in Hq. USAAF, headed by Maj. Gen. C. E. LeMay.

---: More than 100 German rocket scientists and engineers, who had agreed to come to the United States under Project Paperclip, arrived at Fort Bliss, Tex.

---: Navy BuAer awarded contract to Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at Cal Tech to conduct research whose findings were to be used in formulating policy for a projected high-altitude earth satellite vehicle.

During 1945: Abe Silverstein of Lewis Laboratory made basic application of ramjet technology to the problem of afterburner design, leading to the first full-scale afterburner tests.

---: New wind tunnels placed under construction at NACA's Ames Laboratory at Moffett Field, Langley Laboratory at Hampton, Va., and Propulsion Laboratory at Cleveland, to attain speeds of 1,400, 1,800, and 2,600 mph with sized throats.

---: German Heinkel He-162 Salamander or "Volksjaeger" jet fighter appeared operationally, while the prototype of a heavy jet bomber appeared in the Junkers Ju-287 (four-engine) with auxiliary take-off rockets, sweptforward wings, speed over 550 mph, and bomb load of 8,800 pounds.

End of 1945: Increase in speed of recipricating-engined fighter aircraft by 300 to 400 mph between World War I and World War II (speed being only one military criterion) was estimated to be 75 percent gain because of increased horsepower, 25 percent from aerodynamic improvement.

---: Dr. Jerome C. Hunsaker pointed out that U.S. aeronautical research effort during World War II was based upon short-range policy of about 90 percent for specific development problems applied to help win the war and 10 percent on basic research to gain needed knowledge. The national research effort has "concentrated on the improvement of aircraft in the production program."


January 2: Special investigation of high temperature aluminium alloys begun by J. C. McGee, Wright Field engineer, which led by June 1947 to useful alloy known as "ML," named after the Materials Laboratory.

January 10: An Army R-5, demonstrated by C. A. Moeller and D. D. Viner, set an unofficial world helicopter record by climbing to 21,000 feet at Stratford, Conn.

January 16: U.S. upper atmosphere research program initiated with captured German V-2 rockets. A V-2 panel of representatives of various interested agencies was created, and a total of more than 60 V-2's were fired before the supply ran out. The Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University then undertook to develop a medium-altitude rocket, the Aerobee, while the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) directed its efforts to the development of a large high-altitude rocket, first called the Neptune, later the Viking.

January 19: First glide flight of AAF-NACA XS-1 rocket research airplane (No.1 of the original three X-1's built), by Jack Woolams, Bell Aircraft test pilot, at Pinecastle Army Air Base, Fla.

January 26: Army announced creation by AAF of the First Experimental Guided Missiles Group to develop and test rocket missiles at Eglin Field, Fla.

---: Naval Aviation Ordnance Test Station was established at NAAS Chincoteague to develop aviation ordnance and guided missiles.

During January: First missile launched at Naval Air Facility, Point Mugu, Calif., a KVW-1 Loon, USN name for AAF robot bomb (JB-2) modeled on the German V-1.

February 3: Development of a plane with automatic devices to preset takeoff, flight, and landing, with the pilot doing nothing except monitoring the equipment, disclosed by AAF.

February 19: S. Paul Johnston appointed Director of the IAS to replace Lester D. Gardner, retiring after 15 years of service.

March 7: BuAer Committee for Evaluating the Feasibility of Space Rocketry (CEFSR) held joint meeting with AAF representatives to work out joint satellite development program based on BuAer proposal. Nothing resulted until a subsequent Project Rand report and Navy CEFSR proposal were presented to RDB, Committee on Guided Missiles, Technical Evaluation Group in March 1948.

March 11: First successful operation of afterburner at altitude conditions in America, in Lewis Altitude Wind Tunnel, and reported by Fleming and Dietz.

March 12: Chief of Naval Operations directed that Glomb, Gorgon II-C, and Little Joe guided missiles be discontinued and that Gargoyle, Gorgon II-A, and Dove be limited to test and research vehicles. He directed that Loon be continued as a possible interim weapon, the Bat be completed, and the Kingfisher, Bumblebee, and Lark be continued as high-priority missile developments.

March 15: First American-assembled V-2 static fired at White Sands Proving Ground.

March 22: First American rocket to escape earth's atmosphere, the JPL-Ordnance Wac, reached 50-mile height after launch from WSPG.

During March: Fleet Adm. William D. Leahy sent memorandum to the Secretaries of the War and Navy Departments on a national program for development of guided missiles.

---: AAF established Project Rand as separate department of Douglas Aircraft Co. plant at Santa Monica, Calif., to study supersonic aircraft, missiles, and earth satellites.

---: Navy successfully flight tested XSAM Talos surface-to-air guided missile.

---: USAAF established initial program on ballistic missile defense, a contract for study of interceptor weapon to cope with V-2-type missiles. In April a second contractor began study of defense against true ICBM.

April 1: Bell Aircraft Corp. contracted with AAF (under Project MX-776) to produce a 100-mile guided missile (later designated the Rascal).

April 16: First flight test of American-assembled V-2 rocket launched by the Army at White Sands Proving Ground, N. Mex. In July firings, Missiles Nos. 5 and 9 set new altitude records of slightly over 100 miles, while Missile 17 set velocity record of 3,600 mph.

April 17: Army Ground Forces submitted to the Guided Missile Committee a summary of its program on antiaircraft, assault, antiship, air-launched close support, and long-range strategic guided missiles.

April 19: Project MX-774 inaugurated by AAF with Consolidated-Vultee to study rocket capabilities with an ICBM as a final objective.

April 22: Glenn L. Martin Co. contracted with the AAF to produce (under Project MX-771) a surface-to-surface guided missile (later designated the Matador).

---: U.S. Weather Bureau in cooperation with Army, Navy, NACA, Air Transport Association, and several universities, began series of flights into thunderstorms with pilotless P-61 "Black Widows" and piloted sailplanes to obtain scientific data.

May 8: Chief of Naval Operations directed BuAer to make preliminary investigation of earth satellite vehicle, such an investigation to "contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the field of guided missiles, communications, meteorology, and other technical fields with military applications."

May 16: AAF established an Institute of Technology at Wright Field to graduate 350 officers annually.

May 17: Original design and development of Aerobee sounding rocket begun when contract was given to Aerojet Engineering Corp.

---: First flight of Douglas XB-43, light jet-propelled bomber.

May 28: AAF initiated study of use of atomic propulsion for aircraft, Project NEPA.

May 29: War Department Equipment Board concluded in its report that missiles would play a prominent role in future warfare. It established requirements for seven types of missiles, including a strategic ground-to-ground missile for use at ranges from 150 to several thousand miles.

June 6: Joint Army-Navy Research and Development Board created for purpose of coordinating all activities of joint interest in fields of aeronautics, atomic energy, electronics, geographical exploration, geophysical sciences, and guided missiles.

June 14: Navy established Naval Ordnance Missile Test Center at WSPG.

June 17: First meeting of the AAF Scientific Advisory Board met in the Pentagon, chaired by Theodore von Kármán.

June 19: NACA Langley's PARD launched first successful control-surface research vehicle at Wallps Island for evaluating controllability with a roll rate transmitter and Doppler radar.

---: AAF contracted with Sverdrup & Parcel, Inc., for study utility and cost requirements, and site surveys for both an AAF Air Engineering Development Center, and a NACA National Scientific Research Center.

June 24: Office of Naval Research approved program for high-altitude manned flight, Project Helios, based upon concept presented by Jean Piccard in February for using clustered plastic balloons.

During June: First U.S. airborne infrared tests by USAAF.

July 6: Antiaircraft and Guided Missile Center Activated at Fort Bliss, Tex.

July 9: Subcommittee of the Guided Missiles Committee of the JCS recommended that location be sought for a long-range missile proving ground.

July 21: First U.S. all turbojet to operate from an aircraft carrier, a McDonnell XFD-1 "Phantom" from the U.S.S. Franklin D. Roosevelt.

August 2: National Air Museum was established under the Smithsonian Institution by act of Congress.

August 6: Two unmanned B-17 drones flown from Hilo, Hawaii, to Muroc, Calif.

August 8: First flight of the XB-36, the development of which had begun in 1941.

August 17: Sergeant Lambert of Wright Field, Ohio, became the first person in the United States to be ejected from an airplane by means of emergency escape equipment (ejected from a P-61 airplane traveling 302 miles per hour at an altitutde of 7,800 feet).

August 26: Army Ground Forces informed Chief of Staff that development of certain missiles had reached a point where an assignment of operational responsibility was possible.

September 17: Experimental booster for Nike R&D system first tested at WSPG.

September 30: 13 engineers, instrument technicians, and technical observers were ordered TDY from Langley Laboratory to the Air Force test facility at Muroc, Calif., to assist in the X-1 flight research program. Named as the NACA Muroc Flight Test Unit, this group under Walter Williams was the origin of the NASA Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif.

October 1: Naval Air Missile Test Center, Point Mugu, Calif., was established to conduct tests and evaluations of guided missiles and components.

---: Navy Lockheed PV-2, Truculent Turtle, set a record of nonstop long-distance flight, completing an 11,236-mile trip from Perth, Australia, to Columbus, Ohio, in 55 hours 15 minutes.

October 7: First of three XS-1 (later X-1) rocket research airplanes moved from Bell Aircraft's Niagara Falls plant to Muroc, Calif.

October 11: First glide flight of XS-1 (No. 2) by Chalmers Goodlin, Bell test pilot, at Muroc, Calif.

October 24: V-2 rocket No. 13 launched from WSPG carried camera which took motion pictures of the earth at approximately 65 miles altitude (pictures covered 40,000 square miles.) Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab experiment.

During October: Army Ordnance initiated Bumper Project for development leading to a two-stage rocket test vehicle, which resulted in use of JPL WAC Corporal as second stage of a V-2.

During Fall: Reaction Motors began design and development of rocket engine for the Navy Viking sounding rocket.

During November: First snow from a natural cloud produced by V. Schaefer of General Electric, the experiment carried out by means of dry-ice pellets dropped from a plane over Greylock Mountain, Mass.

December 8: First successful powered (RMI XLR-11 rocket engine) flight of an XS-1, flown by Chalmers Goodlin, Bell test pilot, reached a speed of 550 mph. This was first U.S. aircraft designed for supersonic speeds.

December 17: Space biological research program was initiated at Holloman AFB, N. Mex., by the National Institutes of Health.

---: Velocity and altitude record for single-stage rocket (3,600 mph and 116 miles altitude) made by V-2 at WSPG.

During 1946: Signal Corps by radio-echo transmissions between the Earth and the Moon, proved radio transmission across space was feasible with moderate power.

---: Jet Propulsion Laboratory under Army Ordnance contract developed the field of solid-propellant rocketry such as castable propellants, case bonding techniques, and radial burning techniques.

---: Daniel Guggenheim Medal for 1946 awarded to Frank Whittle for development of jet propulsion engines.

---: Program of transonic and hypersonic free-flight research on ramjet and rocket-propelled test vehicles launched from piloted aircraft inaugurated at NACA Lewis Laboratory.

---: Commandant of the School of Aviation Medicine, Col. H. G. Armstrong, and the AAF Air Surgeon, Brig. Gen. M. C. Grow, proposed establishment of aeromedical center for research and teaching.

---: Office of Naval Research contracted with General Mills for construction of a cluster of 100 plastic balloons for high altitude atmosphere research (Project Helios).

During 1946-47: Transonic bump technique¾using floor- or wall-mounted airfoil surface in subsonic wind tunnel to get transonic flow¾developed in 7- by 10-foot wind tunnel at NACA Langley Laboratory. A similar development was conducted by Lockheed in the California Cooperative Tunnel during the same period. This technique was a logical step from the earlier wing-flow technique developed by the Langley Flight Research Division, and it permitted testing in the range of Mach numbers from low subsonic to Mach 1.2 until the slotted-throat transonic tunnel was developed and put into operation at Langely 2 years later.


January 8: First experimental operation of model slotted-throat wind tunnel. Langley Laboratory's Ray H. Wright, working theoretically, and Vernon G. Ward, working experimentally with a parasite tunnel attached to the Langley 16-foot high-speed tunnel, collaborated in an effort that resulted in establishment of transonic flow with the use of longitudinal slots in the walls of the throat of a conventional subsonic tunnel. Known as the slotted-throat technique, first major installation was made in the Langley 8-foot subsonic high-speed tunnel in December 1949, a breakthrough in wind tunnel technique.

January 23: Telemetry operated successfully in a V-2 firing at WSPG, Army Ordnance's Hermes telemetry system.

February 5: President Truman directed that production of nuclear weapons continue, following the recommendations of the AEC and the Secretaries of War and Navy.

February 12: Navy Loon launched from submarine Cusk at Point Mugu, first launching of a guided missile from a submarine.

February 17: Wac Corporal (WAC-B), fired from WSPG, attained an altitude of 240,000 feet.

February 20: First of a series of V-2 firings (No. 20) known as Blossom Project, tested ejection of canister and its recovery by parachute, containing fruit flies and various types of seeds exposed to cosmic rays.

March 4: Air operations in the Antarctic known as Operation Highjump ended. From December 24, 1946, Navy PBM's and R4D's logged 650 hours in photographic mapping of 1,500,000 square miles of the interior and 5,500 miles of the coastline, the equivalent of about half the area of the United States and its entire coastline.

March 6: First four-engine jet bomber, the XB-45 built by North American, made first test flight at Muroc, Calif., with George Krebs as pilot. Its engines were arranged in pairs in single nacelles in each wing.

March 7: USN V-2 flight from WSPG took first photograph at 100-mile altitude.

During March: First test flights of plastic balloons conducted by General Mills at Minneapolis, Minn., for ONR Project Helios.

---: AAF transferred facilities for testing guided missiles from Wendover Field in Utah and Tonopah in Nevada, to Alamogordo Field (subsequently renamed Holloman AFB) in New Mexico.

April 15: First flight of Douglas D-558-I research airplane successful, Gene May, Douglas test pilot, as pilot. Airplane developed was a Navy-NACA project and three were built.

April 24: French Government established rocket test range at Colomb Bechar, Algeria.

April 25: NACA Langley's PARD launched its first rocket-propelled model of a complete airplane for performance evaluation (AF XF-91), at Wallops Island. This was followed by flight tests of models of practically all Air Force and Navy supersonic airplanes.

April 30: Standard system of designating guided missiles and assigning popular names was adopted by the Army and Navy. Basic designation adopted was two-letter combination of the three letters A (Air), S (Surface), U (Underwater), the first letter indicating origin of missile, the second letter its objective, to be followed by the letter "M" for missile. Thus a surface-to-air missile was designated "SAM."

During April: First Deacon rocket launched at Wallops Island, which achieved a velocity of 4,200 feet per second.

May 21: NACA Langley Laboratory demonstrated practically noiseless airplane with five-bladed propellor and muffled exhaust.

May 27: Army Corporal E, first U.S. surface-to-surface ballistic guided missile, was fired with results exceeding expectations (a JPL project).

May 29: V-2 impacted 11/2 miles south of Juarez, Mexico, resulting in new safety measures at WSPG.

June 5: First AAF research balloon launch (a cluster of rubber balloons) at Holloman, by New York University team under contract with Air Material Command.

June 17: Princeton University started construction of 4,000-mph wind tunnel.

June 19: World speed record regained by United States when P-80R flown by Col. Albert Boyd attained 623.8 mph at Muroc, Calif.

June 30: In meeting at Wright-Patterson, AAF and NACA representatives agreed to divide responsibilities for X-1 flight testing: AF exploit maximum performance in a few flights; NACA acquire detailed research information.

July 1: Contract with Convair for MX-774 "Upper Air Test Vehicle," predecessor of the Atlas ICBM, was cancelled by the AAF.

July 3: Start of polyethylene balloon operations at Holloman, a 10-balloon cluster launched by New York University staff with a payload of less than 50 pounds, which reached an altitude of 18,500 feet.

July 9: Subsonic ramjet engine successfully flown in Navy Gorgon IV (PTV-2) in 28-minute flight test at Naval Air Missile Test Center.

July 18: President Truman designated a five-man Air Policy Committee, with Thomas K. Finletter of New York as Chairman, to submit by 1 January 1948 a broad plan to give the United States the "greatest possible benefits from aviation."

July 26: President Truman signed the Armed Forces Unification Act, creating a Department of the Air Force, coequal with Army and Navy, and creating a National Military Establishment under the Secretary of Defense. Stuart Symington sworn in as USAF Secretary and activities transferred to USAF effective 18 September, 1947.

During July: USAF relinquished responsibility for Army's missile program and Army assigned primary responsibility for it to Ordnance.

---: Soviet MiG-15 first flew but engine performance was unsatisfactory, a problem solved with purchase of 55 British Derwent V and Nene (4,500-pound thrust) engines, first placed in series production, then improved with the RD-45 engine (5,000-pound thrust) and the VK-1 (6,000-pound thrust) engine.

August 1-3: Boeing B-29 set a new official world "distance in a closed-circuit record" with a flight of 8,854.308 miles, Lt. Col. O. P. Lassiter as pilot.

August 8: A. L. Berger of Wright Field received the Thurman H. Bane Award for 1947 for work in developing new types of high-temperature ceramic coatings for use in aircraft engines.

August 16: Physicist Martin Pomerantz announced at Swarthmore College that he had sent a flight of four free balloons, carrying cosmic ray equipment, to a record height of at least 127,000 feet.

August 20: Comdr. T. Caldwell (USN) flew the Douglas D-558-I (No. 1) Sky-streak, powered by a General Electric TG-180 turbojet, to a new world's speed record of 640.7 mph. Five days later Maj. Marion Carl, USMC, added another 10 mph flying D-558-I (No. 2).

August 22: Dr. Hugh L. Dryden appointed Director of Aeronautical Research of the NACA, replacing Dr. George W. Lewis.

September 2-6: First Joint Technical Sessions by the royal Aeronautical Society, Great Britain, and the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, held in London.

September 6: German V-2 rocket launched from U.S. aircraft carrier Midway in Atlantic tests, exploding prematurely after a 6-mile flight.

September 22: Air Force C-54 completed first transatlantic robot-controlled flight from Stephenville, Newfoundland, to Brize Norton, England, a distance of 2,400 miles.

September 25: First flight under ONR Project Skyhook, an unmanned plastic balloon, from St. Coud, Minn.

---: First successful firing of Applied Physics Laboratory Aerobee research rocket at White Sands Proving Ground.

September 26: Maj. Gen. William E. Kepner, was named chief of the new atomic energy division of the USAF.

September 30: Research and Development Board (RDB) of DOD superseded Joint Research and Development Board, with Vannevar Bush named as Chairman.

During September: After completing studies, Project Rand reported that earth satellites were technically feasible.

October 1: First flight of the North American XF-86 Sabre Jet, classic sweptwing USAF fighter aircraft until the Century series.

October 9: General Electric engineers obtained first carefully instrumented heat-transfer data from supersonic flight when V-2 fired from WSPG attained 3,400 mph.

October 10: U.S. Patent Office issued patent on the Norden bombsight, which Carl L. Norden had applied for 17 years earlier.

October 14: The first supersonic flight in manned aircraft in level or climbing flight was made by Capt. Charles E. Yeager (USAF) at Muroc, Calif., in a rocket-powered NACA-USAF research plane, Bell XS-1, later the X-1 (M=1.06).

October 30: Dr. H. J. E. Reid, Engineer-in-Charge of the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory (1926-60), received the Medal of Merit from President Truman for wartime contributions to American airpower.

During October: Committee on Guided Missiles of RDB assigned responsibility for coordinating work on earth satellite program which had been conducted independently by each of the military services.

November 14: First complete Aerobee rocket was fired to a height of 190,000 feet from White Sands Proving Ground, N. Mex.

November 15: Air Force disclosed that the world's first ramjet helicopter, the McDonnell Flying Bike, had been successfully flown for 6 months.

November 26: First successful hypersonic-flow wind tunnel (11 inch) placed into operation at March 7 at Langley Laboratory.

November 28: Norton Sound was assigned to Operational Development Force for use as an experimental rocket-firing ship, alterations initiated at Naval Shipyard at Philadelphia in March 1948, and completed October 1, 1948.

December 10: Lt. Col. John P. Stapp (USAF MC), made his first rocket-propelled research sled ride.

December 17: USAF Boeing XB-47 Stratojet made first flight from Seattle to Moses Lake, first medium turbojet bomber and the first with engines (six) mounted on pylons.

December 23: Invention of transitor. (Smith, NYT 12/12/72, 45) see Master.

During 1947: USAF SAM initiated study of ecological conditions on other planets.

---: During a Politburo meeting reviewing the problem of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile, Premier Joseph Stalin reportedly stated that a transatlantic rocket capable of hitting New York City "would make it easier to talk with the gentleman-shopkeeper, Harry Truman, and keep him pinned down where we want him." This probably reflected the high priority accorded large rocket development in the U.S.S.R. at this time.


January 1: President's Finletter Commission submitted its comprehensive report entitled "Survival in the Air Age."

January 4: University of California announced completion of pilot model for low-pressure supersonic wind tunnel, while NACA Ames Aeronautical Laboratory placed its low-density wind tunnel into operation about this time.

January 12: Northrop Aircraft Co. announced that rocket-powered test vehicles at Muroc Air Base, Calif., had attained a speed of 1,019 mph.

January 15: Gen. H. S. Vandenberg, Vice Chief of Staff, USAF, approved policy calling for development of earth satellite components and the initiation of satellite development at the proper time.

January 30: Orville Wright died in Dayton, Ohio, at the age of 76, thus ending his 28 years as a member of the NACA. In his lifetime, the speed of the airplane had been increased from 0 mph to almost 1,000 mph.

February 4: First flight of reseach airplane Douglas D-558-II (No. 1), John Martin of Douglas as pilot. Airplane had both jet and rocket engines and was flown from ground takeoff.

February 6: Successful electronic flight control exercised on V-2 launch to a 70-mile altitude at White Sands, N. Mex., by General Electric technicians for Army Ordnance.

March 4: NACA's Flight Research Division pilot, Herbert H. Hoover, became the first civilian to fly supersonic, in the XS-1 (No. 2) at Muroc, Calif.

March 6: ONR Aerobee sounding rocket attained an altitude of 78 miles.

March 11-14: Key West Agreement formulated by military service chiefs which delineated respective service roles and missions. It did not clearly assign military aeronautical and rocket research and development responsibilities to the services.

March 18: V-2 Upper Atmosphere Research Panel, representing all U.S. interested agencies, was renamed the Upper Atmosphere Rocket Research Panel.

March 29: Technical Evaluation Group of the RDB, Guided Missiles Committee, after reviewing Navy CEFSR and USAF Project Rand satellite proposals, stated that "neither the Navy nor the USAF has as yet established either a military or a scientific utility commensurate with the presently expected cost of a satellite vehicle. However, the question of utility deserves further study and examination."

May 2: The Navy announced successful testing of a submarine capable of firing guided missiles.

May 3: Howard C. Lilly killed in takeoff of D-588-I (No. 2) research airplane at Muroc, the fist NACA test pilot killed in line of duty.

May 13: Two-stage Bumper-Wac fired at WSPG, the V-2 first stage reaching 70 miles and the Wac Corporal 79-mile altitude.

May 23: Army dedicated a continuous wind tunnel capable of 3,000 mph at Aberdeen, Md.

May 26: First North American NATIV missile launched at WSPG.

June 10: Air Force confirmed repeated attainment of supersonic speeds by X-1 (formerly XS-1) flown by Capt. C. E. Yeager.

June 26: Berlin airlift began, which continued until September 30, 1949, although the Russians ended their blockade of the city on May 12, 1949. 2,343,000 tons of supplies were airlifted on 277,000 flights.

During June: William H. Phillips of the Langley Flight Research Division published NACA report (TN-1627) which contained theoretical prediction of the then-not-recognized problem of roll coupling (sometimes referred to as "inertial coupling"). This phenomenon was to plague future high-speed aircraft with short wings and long fuselages, and almost 9 years passed before aerodynamicists were to use Phillips' theory to explain inertial coupling troubles.

During June: Bell Laboratories announced invention of the transistor of the point-contact type.

July 13: First Convair MX-774 (RTV-A-2) test rocket was successfully launched, first demonstrating use of gimballed engines and design features later incorporated in the Atlas ICBM. This was the first of three Convair-sponsored test flights.

July 26: Two separate rockets fired from White Sands, one a V-2 which reached an altitude of 60.3 miles, the other a Navy Aerobee which reached an altitude of 70 miles, carried cameras which photographed the curvature of the earth.

During August: Northrop F-89 Scorpion, an all-weather jet fighter with electronic intercept and fire control begun in 1946, first flew.

September 1: An XR-82 photographed a 2,700-mile strip of the United States from coast to coast in a single flight, using 390 individual frames and 325 feet of film.

September 5: Navy JRM-2 Caroline Mars carried a 68,282-pound cargo from Patuxent River, Md., to Cleveland, the heaviest payload ever lifted by an aircraft.

September 15: Committee on Guided Missiles of the Research and Development Board approved recommendation that Army Hermes project "be given the task of providing the National Military Establishment with a continuing analysis of the long-range rocket problem as an expansion of their task on an earth satellite vehicle."

---: A world speed record of 671 mph set by Maj. Richard L. Johnson, USAF, in F-86A at Muroc, Calif.

September 27: Second Corvair MX-774 test rocket fired.

September 28: An Army Signal Corps unmanned balloon, released at Belmar, N.J., set a 140,000-foot altitude record.

---: NACA Flight Propulsion Research Laboratory in Cleveland was redesignated the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory, in memory of Dr. George W. Lewis who died on July 12, 1948.

September 30: Third Bumper-Wac launch from WSPG, the V-2 reaching 93.4 miles, the Wac-Corporal not firing.

During September: Delta-wing Convair XF-92 first flew, the precursor of the F-102A.

October 13: First launching of a rocket-propelled "flying wind tunnel" model by NACA Langley's PARD at Wallops Island, to measure roll damping of wings at transonic speeds.

October 19: Photographs of the earth's surface taken from altitudes between 60 and 70 miles by cameras installed in rockets, were released by the Navy.

October 31: The Air Force revealed the use of ramjet engines for the first time on piloted aircraft, a modified F-80.

November 4: USAF announced formation of the Rand Corp., successor to Project Rand, to assemble most advanced scientific, technical, industrial, and military knowledge available and bring it to bear on major Air Force decisions.

November 10-12: The first symposium on aeromedical problems of space travel was held at the School of Aviation Medicine, San Antonio, Tex.

November 22: The Wright Kitty Hawk airplane arrived at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., after 20 years in the South Kensington Museum, London.

November 30: Curtiss-Wright demonstrated its new reversible-pitch propellers which enabled a C-54 to make a controlled descent from 15,000 to 1,000 feet in 1 minute 22 seconds.

December 2: Third Convair MX-774 test missile successfully fired.

December 11: Secretary of Defense established Weapons Systems Evaluation Group.

December 13: Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson directed a review of military missile programs, under the aegis of Air Force Secretary Stuart Symington.

December 14: Jet Propulsion Centers established at Princeton University and the California Institute of Technology by the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation to provide research facilities and graduate training for qualified young scientists and engineers in rocketry and astronautics. Robert H. Goddard Chairs were established at each center.

December 16: First flight of tailless X-4 (No. 1) research airplane completed, Northrop test pilot Charles Tucker as pilot. Two X-4's were built by Northrop and some 60 research flights were made by NACA at Muroc with the X-4 (No. 2) after about a dozen Air Force flights.

December 29: The first report of the Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, reported that the United States had been engaged in research on an earth satellite. The Report of the Executive Secretary of the Research and Development Board, contained as an appendix, stated: "The Earth Satellite Vehicle Program, which was being carried out independently by each military service, was assigned to the Committee on Guided Missiles for coordination."

During 1948: First turboprop airliner flown, the Vickers Viscount.

---: Human Centrifuge became operational at Aero Medical Laboratory at Wright Field.


January 7: X-1, flown by Capt. Charles E. Yeager, climbed 23,000 feet after launch at record rate of 13,000 feet per minute, at Muroc.

January 11: First launching of a rocket model employing known but nonaerodynamic torque from canted rocket nozzles, for determining damping in roll of wings, at NACA's Wallops Island, Va.

January 26: First guided-missile test ship, U.S.S. Norton Sound, launched its first missile, a Loon, off NAMTC, Point Mugu, Calif.

During January: Army established formal requirement for a surface-to-air missile system to combat ballistic missiles.

February 9: The Department of Space Medicine was established at the School of Aviation Medicine, Randolph AFB, Tex.

February 24: An Army JPL Bumper-Wac two-stage rocket (a Wac Corporal mounted on a V-2 first stage) attained a record altitude of 244 miles and record speed of 5,150 miles per hour over White Sands, N. Mex., yielding information about ion densities in the F-region of the ionosphere.

March 2: At Carswell Air Force Base, Tex., USAF Boeing B-50, Lucky Lady II, with Capt. James Gallagher as pilot, completed the first nonstop, round-the-world flight in history, having covered 23,452 miles in 94 hours 1 minute, and having been refueled in the air over the Azores, Arabia, the Philippines, and Hawaii.

March 4: Navy flying boat, Caroline Mars, set new world passenger-load record by carrying 269 persons from San Diego to San Francisco.

March 12: Development of a multichannel telemetering system announced by the Navy.

March 16: First experimental track-type landing gear delivered to USAF, received by 314th Troop Carrier Wing from Fairchild Aviation Corp. for installation on C-82 aircraft.

March 25: New world helicopter speed record of 133.9 mph at Niagara Falls, N.Y., claimed by XH-12 of Bell Aircraft Co.

March 26: USAF B-36 with six reciprocating and four jet engines made first test flight at Forth Worth, Tex.

March 30: The President signed a bill providing for construction of a "permanent" radar defense network for the United States.

During March: Concept of launching of small high-performance rockets suspended from a balloon above most of the atmosphere (later called "Rockoons"), developed by Cmdr. Lee Lewis, Cmdr. G. Halvorson, S. F. Singer, and J. A. Van Allen during Aerobee firing cruise of U.S.S. Norton Sound.

April 8: First successful rocket-propelled RM-10 research missile for drag and heat transfer studies at transonic and supersonic speeds, making use of skin calorimeter techniques, at Wallops Island, Va.

April 21: First European flight of aircraft powered solely with ramjet engine made in France, an air-launched Leduc which flew for 12 minutes. Rene Leduc had worked with ramjet design since 1935.

May 3: Naval Research Laboratory's Martin Viking rocket No. 1 fired at White Sands Proving Ground, N. Mex., reached an altitude of 511/2 miles and a speed of 2,250 mph; its payload contained upper air pressure and temperature experiments.

---: President Truman approved amendments to the basic legislation of 1915 covering "Rules and Regulations for the Conduct of the Work of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics," a basic statement of organizational responsibilities.

May 11: President Truman signed a bill providing a 5,000-mile guided-missile test range, which was subsequently established at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

May 13: Prototype of British Canberra medium jet bomber first flown, at Warton, England.

May 24-26: Second International Conference on Aeronautics, combining the Royal Aeronautical Society and the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, held in New York.

During May: Single-stage Russian rocket attained an altitude of 68 miles with an instrument payload of 264 to 286 pounds, according to Tass, March 27, 1958.

---: Pratt & Whitney submitted specifications for XJ57-P-1 turbojet engine, basic design for which had begun in 1947 and for which production began in February 1953. The J57 ultimately powered the B-52, YB-60, F-100, F-101; YF-105A, KC-135, Boeing 707, F4D, and A3D, as well as the SNARK (SM-62) missile.

---: NACA Ames Aeronautical Laboratory completed a 10- by 14-inch supersonic wind tunnel with top Mach number of 5, later increased to 6.3.

June 9: First use of small pulse rockets in flight as disturbing impulse for evaluation of dynamic stability in a model of the Rascal missile, at NACA's Wallops Island.

June 14: Second V-2 flight carrying a live AF Aero Medical Laboratory monkey, Albert II, attained an altitude of 83 miles; the monkey survived but died on impact.

June 27: Naval Ordnance Laboratory (NOL) at White Oak, Md., dedicated new aeroballistic facilities, which included supersonic and hypersonic wind tunnels (up to Mach 10) and the first pressurized ballistic range.

During June: NACA's first hovering flights of a simplified propeller vertical takeoff landing (VTOL) airplane model conducted at Langley Laboratory.

August 8: First operational emergency use of T-1 partial pressure suit by Maj. F. K. Everest (USAF) in X-1 aircraft at 69,000 feet; suit's automatic operation saved pilot and aircraft.

August 9: First use in United States of a pilot ejection seat, by Lt. J. L. Fruin (USN), from F2H-1 Banshee while making over 500 knots near Waterboro, S.C.

During August: Wernher von Braun named an Honorary Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society.

October 1: Long-Range Proving Ground at Cape Canaveral was activated.

October 27: The Unitary Wind Tunnel Act (63 Stat. 936) authorized the construction of $136 million of new NACA facilities, $10 million for wind tunnels at universities, $6 million for a wind tunnel at the David W. Taylor Model Basin, and $100 million for the establishment of the Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Center, at Tullahoma, Tenn., in recognition of the fact that industry could not subsidize expensive wind tunnels for research in transonic and supersonic flight.

November 3: Charles B. Moore (General Mills) made first manned flight in a polyethelene balloon over Minneapolis, Minn.

November 10: Piasecki HRP-2 passenger transport helicopter made first test flight.

November 21: USAF Sikorsky H-19 12-place helicopter made first test flight.

November 22: D-558-II Skyrocket exceeded the speed of sound at Edwards AFB, Calif. It was powered by both a Westinghouse J-34 turbojet engine and a Reaction Motors, Inc. rocket motor.

December 1: Supersonic wind tunnels, capable of 3,000-mph speeds, was dedicated at MIT.

December 2: First firing of USAF Aerobee research rocket (RTV-A-1a) at Holoman AFB, the development of which was initiated earlier in the year.

December 12: Last monkey, Albert IV, launched in V-2 series of tests at WSPG, a successful flight indicating no ill effects on monkey until impact of V-2.

December 22: North American YF-86D completed first flight test at Edwards AFB.

December 25: Air Force revealed development of stupalith, a ceramic which contracts when heated and expands when cooled, and which can stand heat of 2,000°, used on jet and rocket engines.

December 28: USAF reported that 2-year investigation had found that there was no such thing as a "flying saucer" and that Project Saucer at Wright-Patterson AFB had been discontinued.

During December: First continuous transonic flow established in NACA's Langley 8-foot high-speed wind tunnel with use of slotted-throat technique. (See January 8, 1947.) This was a major milestone in wind-tunnel technique.

During 1949: USAF Advisory Committee headed by Louis N. Ridenour recommended that Air Force research and development be consolidated into a single command.

---: First "probe and drogue" method of contact aerial refueling performed in England (developed by Flight Refueling, Ltd.). Early in year the USAF had issued requirement for development of a refueling method other than loop hose for use with single-seat jet fighter aircraft. After the nonstop round-the-world flight of the B-29 Luck Lady using the Boeing loop-hose method in March, Boeing developed the "boom technique."

---: Complete fixed-component combined loads testing machine was completed and operated at NACA Langley Laboratory, remaining in use through 1960. It was first machine capable of applying forces along each of three axes and moments about those axes (positive and negative), in any combination of forces and moments, each applied independently.

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Last Updated: January 27, 2005