National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Aeronautics and Astronautics Chronology, 1950-1954

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. 63-77.


January 10: U.S.S. Norton Sound began 19-day firing cruise in Alaskan waters, launching two Aerobees, one Lark and one Loon. Eight scientists connected with Aerobee upper atmosphere research program and Army, Navy, and Air Force observers made the cruise.

January 13: First successful automatic homing flight of Navy Lark (XSAM-N-4) launched at NAMTC, making simulated interception at a range of 17,300 yards at an altitude of 7,400 feet.

January 23: USAF established the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC).

January 29: Remains of Wac Corporal which reached 250-mile altitude on February 24, 1949, found on desert near WSPG.

January 30: President Truman announced his decision to go ahead on the hydrogen bomb development program.

During January: Contractor study launched by USAF which led to Bomarc interceptor missile.

February 9: Navy's Martin Viking No. 3 successfully launched to 50-mile altitude from White Sands.

February 10: Secretary of the Air Force directed that the Air Engineering Development Center be renamed the Arnold Engineering Development Center in honor of the late General of the Air Force, Henry H. Arnold.

February 17: V-2 reached an altitude of 92 miles in launch from WSPG.

March 2: First full-thrust test of 75,000 pound liquid rocket engine for the Navaho (XLR43-NA-1) conducted by North American at Santa Susana, Calif.

March 3: Sympsium on space medicine held by the University of Illinois at its Professional Colleges in Chicago.

March 15: The Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a basic decision on guided-missile roles and missions, gave the USAF formal and exclusive responsibility for strategic guided missiles.

March 24: First successful ramjet research model flown at Wallops Island by NACA Langely's PARD.

During March: Radiobiological Laboratory established at Austin, Tex., by the USAF School of Aviation Medicine and the University of Texas.

---: Hypersonic wind tunnel became operational at Wright-Patterson AFB.

April 1: Missile staff headed by Wernher von Braun was moved from White Sands to Army Ordnance's Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Ala.

May 3: Submarine Cusk launched a Loon guided missile and after submerging, tracked and controlled its flight to a range of 105 miles.

May 10: President Truman signed legislation creating the National Science Foundation.

May 11: NRL Viking No. 4 research rocket fired from the U.S.S. Norton Sound Near Jarvis Island in the Pacific, at the intersection of the geographic and geomagnetic equators, obtaining cosmic-ray and pressure-temperature data. It set a 106.4-mile altitude record for an American single-stage rocket and was the first firing of the Viking from shipboard.

May 12: Last flight of X-1 (No. 1) rocket research airplane, for RKO motion picture "Test Pilot," which was turned over to the National Air Museum at the Smithsonian on August 28th.

May 15: Navy announced completion of test chamber at the Ordnance Aerophysics Laboratory at Daingerfield, Tex., capable of conducting tests of full-scale ramjet engines up to 48 inches in diameter at simulated altitudes up to 100,000 feet.

May 19: First Army Hermes A-1 test rocket fired at WSPG.

During May: New York University research balloon released from Holloman AFB drifted 7,000 miles and was recovered in Myrdal, Norway.

---: USAF SAM scientists, Drs. Fritz and Heinz Haber, delivered paper on "Possible Methods of Producing the Gravity-Free State for Medical Research," suggesting aerodynamic parabolas with use of aircraft to obtain up to 30 seconds of relative weightlessness.

June 6: Ramjet missile launched which accelerated under ramjet power to Mach 3.1 at 67,200-feet altitude, at NACA Wallops Island.

June 13: Department of Defense assigned range responsibilities to the armed services: Army: White Sands, N. Mex., Proving Ground and nearby Holloman Air Force Base at Alamogordo; Navy: Point Mugu, Calif.: Air Force: Long-Range Proving Groud at Banana River, Fla. (now called Cape Canaveral).

June 23: First run of rocket-propelled research sled made on the 3,550-foot track at Holloman Air Force Base.

June 25: North Korea armed forces invaded South Korea.

During June: VfR, the German Rocket Society disestablished by Hitler in 1933, passed resolution calling for international conference of all astronautical societies.

---: Secretary of Defense created Guided Missiles Interdepartmental Operational Requirements Group.

July 1: Lacrosse guided-missile project, begun in 1947 by Naval Ordnance, transferred to the Department of the Army by the JCS.

July 5: James H. Doolittle named "aviator of the decade" (1940-49) by the Harmon International Aviation Awards Committee, while Jacqueline Cochran was "aviatrix of the decade."

July 21: First polyethylene balloon launched at Holloman by USAF personnel.

July 24: Bumper No. 8, a German V-2 with a 700-pound Army-JPL Wac Corporal, was fired from Long-Range Proving Ground at Cape Canaveral; the first-stage V-2 climbed 10 miles, separated from the second-stage Corporal which traveled 15 more miles. This was the first missile launch from Cape Canaveral (exploded).

July 29: Bumper No. 7 was the second missile launch from Cape Canaveral, reached highest velocity (Mach 9) attained by a manmade object to date.

August 1: Patrick Air Force Base, administrative headquarters of the AFMTC at Cape Canaveral, offiically named after Gen. Mason M. Patrick.

During Fall: Rand Corp. completed missile feasibility studies begun in 1949, which confirmed the military practicability of long-range rocket weapons.

August 31: Last of five Aeromedical Laboratory experiments (first four known as Albert series) fired by V-2 No. 51 from WSPG, which carried a nonanesthetized mouse photographed by a camera which survived impact.

September 22: Col. David C. Schilling and Lt. Col. William Ritchie flew two Republic F-84E jet fighters across the Atlantic nonstop, Schilling flying from London to New York with three in-flight refuelings, the first nonstop jet flight across the Atlantic, while Ritchie was forced to bail out over Newfoundland.

September 28: In a balloon launched at Holloman AFB, eight white mice survived an Aeromedical Laboratory flight to an altitude of 97,000 feet.

September 29: Record parachute jump from 42,449 feet made by Capt. R. V. Wheeler at Holloman AFB, N. Mex.

September 30: First International Congress on Astronautics held in Paris Proposed creation of a permanent federation of astronautical societies.

During September: USAF School of Aviation Medicine's Department of Space Medicine headed by Hubertus Strughold, formulated research concept of "atmospheric space equivalence."

October 24: Kaufman T. Keller, president of the Chrysler Corp., appointed to the newly created position of Director Guided Missiles for the U.S. Armed Forces.

October 25: The first Lark missile launched by Air Force from Cape Canaveral, the last of the three missiles launched in 1950 at the LRPG.

October 26: Army contracted with Douglas Aircraft for design, development, fabrication, and flight testing of rocket having Honest John specifications.

During October: Air Force announced program to replace all piston-engine aircraft with jet aircraft.

---: USAF canceled XF-85 parasite fighter project after flight test at Edwards AFB revealed that parasite fighter escort for B-36 was not feasible.

November 6-9: USAF School of Aviation Medicine and Lovelace Foundation sponsored a "Symposium on the Physics and Medicine of the Upper Atmosphere," at San Antonio, Tex.

November 8: First jet airplane dogfight when USAF Lockheed F-80 piloted by Lt. J. R. Brown downed a Russian-built MiG-15 over Korea.

November 21: Navy Viking No. 5 attained 108-mile altitude.

December 6: Establishment of Transonic flow in the Langley 16-foot high-speed wind tunnel following installation of a slotted-throat test section.

December 11: Navy Viking No. 6 in night firing attained only 40 miles altitude.

During December: Dr. Hugh L. Dryden, Director of NACA, awarded the Daniel Guggenheim Award for 1950 for outstanding leadership.

---: Construction started at Grand Bahama Island for the first tracking station on the Florida Missile Test Range, later the Atlantic Missile Range.

During 1950: NACA Langley's Pilotless Aircraft Research Division demonstrated low drag of thin delta wing (which led to F-102, F-106, B-58) with rocket-powered model flights.

---: Worldwide analysis of atmospheric turbulence and gusts was made at Langley Aeronautical Laboratory based on data taken with NACA-developed VG and VGH recorders on commercial airline operations on transpacific and South American routes.


January 16: Air Force established Project MX-1593 (Project Atlas), study phase for an intercontinental missile. Contract given Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft on January 23. This was the follow-on to Project MX-774 terminated in 1947.

January 31: F-51 set new London to New York speed record of 8 hours and 55 minutes.

During January: James Forrestal Center established at Princeton University as a jet-propulsion research center.

---: Westinghouse J-40 jet engine (7,500 pounds dry thrust) completed 150-hour Navy qualification test.

February 14: Republic F-84F with Wright J-65 Sapphire engine made first flight at Edwards AFB.

During February: Hiller Helicopters produced two-place helicopter powered by ramjet engines.

---: NACA Langley Research Center conducted first flights of man-carrying, jet-supported platform at Wallops Island in exploratory investigations. In these tests, a person was supported by a jet-thrust device attached to his feet.

March 6: Talos missile powered by ramjet engine launched at Naval Ordnance Test Station, and operated 2 minutes in longest full-scale ramjet flight yet achieved.

March 29: Navy Regulus (XSSM-N-8) operating under airborne command took off and landed at Edwards AFB, Calif.

March 31: Navy issued contract to Convair for the XFY-1, propellor-driven VTOL fighter.

During March: Pratt & Whitney began flight test of new 10,000-pound thrust J-57 jet engine, using converted B-50 as test bed.

April 2: USAF Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) became operational, to which was assigned: Air Development Force at Wright Field; AF Cambridge Research Division; AF Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB; and the Holloman AFB R&D establishment (later AFMDC). Later the Arnold Engineering Development Center (Tullahoma, Tenn.); AF Armament Center (Eglin AFB, Fla.); and the AF Special Weapons Center (Kirtland AFB, N. Mex.).

April 18: The first Aerobee research rocket containing a biomedical experiment was launched at Holloman AFB, N. Mex.

May 14: Air Force Missile Test Center (AFMTC) established at Long-Range Proving Ground, and assigned to the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC).

During May: Drs. H. Strughold, H. Haber, and F. Haber initiated first research program on weightlessness at the USAF SAM, a study (Task No. 7758-20) suspended in 1952, and reactivated by Dr. S. J. Gerathewohl on July 1, 1955.

June 11: Navy D-558-II Douglas Sky-rocket, flown by test pilot William Bridgeman, set a new unofficial airplane speed and altitude record at Edwards AFB, Muroc Dry Lake, Calif.; speed estimated at more than 1,200 mph; altitude estimated 70,000 feet.

June 17: Navy issued contract to Convair for development of delta-winged, hydro-ski-equipped research seaplane with fighter characteristics, subsequently known as XF2Y-1.

June 20: First launching of USAF B-61 Martin Matador pilotless aircraft at Missile Test Center.

---: Bell X-5 (No. 1) research airplane made first flight of 30 minutes at Edwards, Calif., with Jean Ziegler as pilot. This was first flight of an aircraft with variable-sweep, a USAF-NACA research project for investigation of various sweeps.

June 22: JPL fired first of a series of 3,544 Loki solid-propellant antiaircraft missiles at WSPG, the Army program ending after September 1955. Loki rocket was later used in ONR Rockoon upper atmosphere balloon-launched rocket research soundings.

June 25: USAF Arnold Engineering Development Center at Tullahoma, Tenn., dedicated by President Truman, to test and evaluate supersonic aircraft and guided missiles.

June 30: United States terminated its V-2 Program, 67 V-2's having been flown since the first American launch of a V-2 on April 16, 1946.

July 1: Navy Air Turbine Test Station commissioned at Trenton, N.J., to test and to evaluate turbojet, turboprop, ramjet, and pulse-jet engines, accessories, and components.

July 6: Air-to-air refueling of jet aircraft (RF-80) in combat zone accomplished in Korea, believed the first such hookup.

July 20: First flight of Consolidated XF-92A, a USAF and later a NACA research airplane (predecessor of the F-102) at Edwards AFB.

July 21: United States-United Kingdom agreement signed and went into effect permitting the extension of the U.S. missile range southeastward from Florida on its first leg through the Bahamas.

August 7: A Navy Viking 7 rocket set an altitude record for single-stage rockets, climbing to 136 miles and reaching a speed of 4,100 mph, at White Sands, N. Mex., highest flight of original airfram design.

---: D-558-II Skyrocket reached maximum speed of 1,238 mph, with William Bridgeman as pilot.

August 15: William Bridgeman flew the D-558-II Skyrocket to 79,494 feet, highest altitude attained by a human being to date.

August 29: First of USAF Aeromedical Laboratory balloon flights at White Sands.

August 30: First successful launching of NACA Langley's PARD of an underslung or "piggyback" rocket booster system, at Wallops Island, Va.

During August: X-1D airplane destroyed by explosion

September 3: The International Astronautical Federation was formed by scientists of 10 nations at the Second International Congress on Astronautics to coordinate responsibility on flights to the moon and planets. Predicted within the decade: a 50-ton earth satellite traveling 18,000 mph, orbiting earth at an altitude of 300 miles.

September 5: USAF awarded contract to Consolidated-Vultee to fly a B-36 with a nuclear reactor aboard, to be built by General Electric, for added boost.

September 20: USAF made first successful recovery of animals from a rocket flight when an instrumented monkey and 11 mice survived an Aerobee flight to an altitude of 236,000 feet from Holloman AFB.

September 28: Special meeting of the Air Force Council reviewed USAF R&D program and recommended to Chief of Staff Vandenberg the development of an intercontinental strategic weapons system.

During September: USAF directed all work in Project MX-1593 (Atlas) be for development of a rocket-powered ballistic missile.

October 4: M. K. Tikhonravov in New York Times said U.S.S.R. science made feasible space flight and creation of artificial earth satellite; reported U.S.S.R. rocket advance equaled or exceeded West.

October 10: JPL Corporal E-11 fired at WSPG, the basic configuration of the Army's Corporal tactical missile.

October 29: Firing of V-2, No. 66, at White Sands Proving Ground concluded U.S. use of these German missiles in upper atmosphere rocket research.

October 31: Responsibility for Hermes II transferred to Army Ordnance Guided Missile Center at Redstone Arsenal; Hermes II redesignated the RVA-A-3 test vehicle.

During October: International Council of Scientific Unions decided to hold Third International Polar Year, later to become International Geophysical Year in October 1952.

November 8: First successful launching of a research model propelled by the helium gun catapult, by Langley's PARD at Wallops Island.

November 9: X-1 (No. 3) rocket research airplane and its B-29 "mother" airplane were destroyed on the ground by explosion and fire.

November 13: First experimental investigation of transonic-type compressor was conducted at Lewis Laboratory, a break-through in compressor technology later utilized by virtually all advanced turbojet engines.

December 16: Navy Kaman K-225, modified as the first gas-turbine, shaft-powered helicopter, successfully completed flight test.

During December: Richard T. Whitcomb of NACA Langley Laboratory verified the "area rule" in NACA's new transonic wind tunnels which enabled significant gain in jet aircraft speeds with what became known as the "coke bottle" or "wasp waist" shape.

During 1951: NACA Lewis Laboratory completed first rocket combustion tests using the high-energy propellant liquid fluorine as an oxidant.

---: Production of J-65 Sapphire turbojet engine begun by Curtiss Wright, later fitted in some instances with afterburner in F-84F, B-57, FJ-3, F11F-1, and A4D-1.

---: USAF initiated development of liquid-propellant rocket engine with thrust of 150,000 pounds (XLR 43-NA-3).

---: NACA's A. Scott Crossfield first flew a series of aerodynamic parabolas to produce a short period of weightlessness, in a YF-84 at Edwards AFB, Calif. Maj. Charles E. Yeager (USAF) also flew some of these so-called "Keplerian trajectories."

___: Air passenger-miles (10,679,281,000) exceeded total passenger-miles traveled in Pullman cars (10,224,714,000), the first time in U.S. history.


February 25: Army Nike I first test fired at WSPG.

During February: Establishment of Atmosphere and Astrophysics Division within Naval Reserach Laboratory, headed by Dr. John P. Hagen.

March 18: First successful solid-fuel ramjet research model flown at NACA's Wallops Island.

March 23: Two-place glider altitude record of 44,000 feet claimed by L. Edgar and H. Klieforth, Sacramento, Calif.

During March: Theodore von Kármán named Chairman of NATO's Advisory Group for Aeronautical Research and Development.

April 15: First flight of YB-52, first all-jet heavy bomber.

April 21: BOAC De Havilland Comet inaugurated first jet passenger service, between London and Rome.

During April: DOD directed Research and Development Board to determine whether Air Force with 39 different aircraft types ordered in 1953 procurement program, and the Navy with 27 different types, were operating too many different types of aircraft.

May 3: First successful North Pole landing, by a ski-and-wheel USAF C-47.

May 7: First flight of USAF X-17 ramjet test vehicle.

May 16: Special Committee for the International Geophysical Year established by the International Council of Scientific Unions to coordinate the international IGY programs. This committee was known as CSAGI after the initials of its French name.

---: Navy Terrier missile completed development program with successful destruction of two F6F-5K target drones.

May 22: Air Force Aerobee rocket placed an aeromedical payload containing two monkeys and two mice to an altitude of 36 miles, which were recovered unharmed and without apparent ill effect.

May 26: Navy's first and for many years the world's largest wind tunnel was decommissioned at the Naval Gun Factory, Washington, D.C. Completed in 1914, the wooden 8- by 8-foot wind tunnel was used over 30 years.

June 17: Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory dedicated at NADC at Johnsville, Pa., which featured human centrifuge capable of producing accelerations of up to 40 g's.

June 18: H. Julian Allen of NACA Ames Laboratory conceived the "blunt nose principle" which submitted that a blunt shape would absorb only one-half of 1 perecent of the heat generated by the reentry of a body into the earth's atmosphere. This principle was later significant to ICBM nose cone and the Mercury capsule development.

June 20: Navy issued contract for construction of a transonic wind tunnel at the David Taylor Model Basin.

June 27: First glide flight of X-2 (No. 2) research airplane, by Jean "Skip" Ziegler, Bell test pilot.

During June: Goodyear delivered largest nonrigid airship built, the ZPN-1, to Lakehurst.

July 2: First AF fighter armed solely with rockets, a Lockheed F-94C jet, disclosed by USAF.

July 14: NACA's Executive Committee directed its laboratories to begin study of problems likely to be encountered in flight beyond the atmosphere, which in May 1954 resulted in decision in favor of manned research vehicle and NACA's proposal to the Air Force that such a vehicle be developed.

July 19: First successful flights of balloons at controlled constant altitudes in the stratosphere for periods of more than 3 days announced by the USAF.

July 22: First production-line Nike made successful flight.

July 26: Aerobee fired capsule containing two monkeys and two mice to approximately 200,000 feet at Holloman AFB, all recovered unharmed.

July 29: First Rockoon (balloon-launched rocket) launched from icebreaker Eastwind off Greenland by ONR group under James A. Van Allen. Rockoon low-cost technique was conceived during Aerobee firing cruse of the Norton Sound in March 1949, and was later used by ONR and University of Iowa research groups in 1953-55 and 1957, from ships in sea between Boston and Thule, Greenland.

July 31: First transatlantic helicopter flight, by two AF MATS sikorsky H-19's.

August 22: European Office, ARCD, established in Brussels to handle USAF European research contracts.

August 25-29: 3,700 Moslems airlifted to Mecca by 14 USAF C-54 transports.

August-September: Series of Rockoon launchings from Eastwind in high-altitude research by ONR group.

September 1: Third International Congress on Astronautics adopted a constitution for the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), at Stuttgart, Germany.

September 3: First fully configured Sidewinder air-to-air missile successfully flown at Naval Ordnance Test Station, Inyokern, the beginning of an extensive period of developmental testing.

September 18: Construction begun of Thule AFB in northwestern Greenland, 930 miles from the North Pole.

September 30: First launching of Bell Rascal XGAM-63 air-to-surface strategic missile.

During September: H. Julian Allen of NACA Ames Laboratory personally imparted his findings on the blunt nose cone directly to the missile industry, which first was disseminated in official report early in 1953, later as NACA TN4047.

October 20: First flight of Douglas X-3, a USAF-NACA research airplane (Flying Stiletto) completed, William Bridgeman as pilot.

October 23: Hughes XH-17 Flying Crane helicopter completed first official flight.

During October: Scope of International Polar Year broadened and its name changed to International Geophysical Year (IGY) by the International Council of Scientific Unions.

---: James P. Henry of the Aeromedical Laboratory at Wright-Patterson AFB published research on behavior of animals under subgravity conditions, for which he and his associates later received the Tuttle Memorial Award.

November 1: First hydrogen device exploded at AEC Eniwetok proving ground.

November 19: At Santa Susana, Calif., a complete liquid-rocket engine assembly (Navaho) having a thrust in excess of 100,000 pounds was fired for the first time.

---: North American F-86D established official speed record of 698.505 mph at Salton Sea, Calif., Capt. J. Slade Nash (USAF) as pilot.

November 26: Northrop B-62 Snark, a turbojet subsonic missile with 5,500 nautical-mile range, first launched from a zero-length launcher.

December 15: NLR Viking No. 9 research rocket launched to an altitude of 135 miles at White Sands, and Navy revealed that it had haunched rockets from balloons in the geomagnetic North Pole area for cosmic ray research.

During December: Republic XF-91 made its first supersonic rocket-powered flight (Reaction Motors 6,000-pound-thrust rocket engine) at Edwards AFB.

During 1952: Convair designers became interested in conical camber principle conceived by NACA Ames Laboratory scientist Charles F. Hall in 1949, verified by wind tunnel experiments 1950-57, and applied with success to the F-102 fighter and the B-58 bomber.

---: Transistors first placed in service in Bell Telephone System network as part of long-distance dialing service.

---: New optical and photgraphic methods for measuring rocket combustion temperatures and flow processes developed by NACA Lewis Laboratory.

---: NACA Lewis Propulsion Laboratory first identified high-frequency combustion-oscillations in jet engine afterburners, developed partial controls by 1954, and rational design solutions by 1958.

---: First actual animal experiments on weightlessness carried out in rocket launches by AF Aeromedical Laboratory at Holloman AFB, while E. R. Ballinger conducted first manned aircraft weightlessness experiments with instrumented humans at Wright-Patterson AFB.

---: NACA undertook studies of the problems of manned and unmanned flight in the upper atmosphere and at hypersonic speeds, such studies leading to the development of the rocket-propelled X-15 research airplane.


January 14-16: USAF scientific advisory panel concluded that unidentified flying objects (UFO's): (1) held no direct physical threat; (2) were not foreign developments; (3) were not unknown phenomena requiring revision of current scientific concepts; and (4) a rash of sightings offered a threat from skillful hostile propagandists.

January 22: First flight test of a complete airplane model designed by "area rule" concepts propelled to supersonic speeds by rocket boosters, at Langley Wallops Island, Va.

During January: 10- by 10-foot jet-engine test facility at Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory began operations.

February 1: Chance Vought delivered last propeller-driven fighter, the Navy F4U Corsair, the 12,571st built since first one flew in 1940.

February 13: First full guidance flight of Navy Sparrow III missile at Naval Air Missile Test Center.

February 19-26: Six Moby Dick balloon flights to study high-altitude winds flown from Vernalles NAS, Calif., by USAF Cambridge Research Center, each capsule also containing fruit flies.

February 21: First powered flight of the Bell X-1A research airplane was completed, Jean Ziegler as pilot.

February 26: Dorothy M. Simon, aeronautical research scientist with Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory, was recipient of 1952 Rockefeller Public Service Award "for the effective application of the physics and chemistry of combustion to flight research."

During February: U.S. National Committee for the IGY established by the National Academy of Sciences.

---: Rocket test stand capable of testing engines to 400,000 pounds of thrust activated at AF Flight Test Center (AFFTC).

---: J-57 engine with a thrust of 10,000 pounds placed into production (1941 Whittle turbojet engine had 850 pounds thrust).

During February: American Medical Association authorized American Board of Preventive Medicine to establish aviation medicine as a distinct specialty and to grant certification for those physicians properly qualified.

March 17: Single-stage, air-launched rocket research vehicle exceeded Mach 5 in NACA Lewis Laboratory flight test.

During March: Research on 1-million-pound thrust plus engine begun at Rocketdyne, the feasibility of which was established in March 1955.

During March: Boeing delivered last propeller-driven bomber, a RB-50H, to the USAF. More than 4,250 B-29 and B-50 Superforts were delivered to the AF in the last decade; more than 17,000 four-engined Boeing bombers since the first B-17 in 1935.

---: Lt. Col. John P. Stapp traveled at 421 mph on 3,500-foot track in rocket-powered sled.

April 9: Navy XF2Y-1 Sea Dart, an experimental delta-wing jet seaplane with hydroskis, made first flight at San Diego.

May 8: First launching of a cluster of three Deacon rockets as a booster at NACA's Wallops Island.

May 12: First Bell X-2 exploded during a captive flight killing Jean Ziegler, Bell test pilot, over Lake Ontario near Buffalo, N.Y.

May 18: Jacqueline Cochran became first woman to fly faster than the speed of sound, in a F-86.

May 25: USAF North American YF-100A made its first flight at Edwards AFB, the first service supersonic fighter.

June 5: Missile fired from the underground launching installation constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers, at WSPG.

June 16: Department of Defense Study Group on Guided Missiles established by the Armed Forces Policy Council under Secretary of Defense C. E. Wilson. This group made a technical evaluation of the missile programs of the military services. One of their recommendations was that a special evaluation of all Air Force strategic missiles be made. In the fall the Strategic Missiles Evaluation Committee, headed by John Von Neumann, made such an evaluation.

June 30: Department of Defense Reorganization Plan No. 6, transmitted by President Eisenhower to Congress under the Reorganization Act of 1949, abolished the Research and Development Board, the Munitions Board, the Defense Management Agency, and the Office of Director of Installations.

July 1: Fiscal year 1953, just concluded was first year that the United States spent as much as $1 million on strategic ballistic missile development.

July 15: First submarine launching of Regulus missile, from submarine Tunny off NAMTC.

July 27: Armistice signed in Korean war. USAF reported that 5th Air Force had shot down 984 Communist planes, including 823 MiG-15's. USAF lost 971 planes: 94 in aeral combat of which 58 were Sabrejets, 671 downed by ground fire, and 206 lost through other causes.

August 3: Fourth International Congress on Astronautics met at Zurich, at which S. F. Singer proposed Project House (Minimum Orbital Unmanned Satellite Experiment).

August 20: Redstone missile No. 1 was fired by Army Redstone Arsenal personnel at AFMTC, Cape Canaveral, Fla.

---: Longest nonstop flight by single-engined jet fighters, made by 17 USAF F-84G Thunderjets from Albany, Ga., to Lakenheath, England, a distance of 4,485 miles.

---: U.S.S.R. first announced H-bomb explosion, later reported by AEC to have occurred in U.S.S.R. on August 12.

---: First successful launching by NACA Langley's PARD of a hypersonic research vehicle for heat transfer studies consisting of a cluster of three Deacon first stage and HPAG rocket second stage, at Wallops Island, Va.

August 21: Flying Douglas D-558-II (No. 2) Skyrocket research aircraft which had been launched from a B-29 Superfortress at an altitude of 34,000 feet, Lt. Col. Marion E. Carl, USMC, attained an altitude of 83,235 feet at Edwards AFB, Calif.

August 28: At Santa Susana, Calif., a complete liquid-rocket engine assembly (Navaho) having a thrust in excess of 200,000 pounds was fired for the first time.

September 1: First aerial refueling of jet aircraft by jet tanker, a B-47 Stratojet by a KB-47B.

September 9: Trevor Gardner appointed to head a committee to eliminate interservice competition in the development of guided missiles by Secretary of Defense Wilson.

September 11: First successful interception by Navy Sidewinder missile at NOTS, Inyokern.

October 1: First Pilotless Bomber Squadron (light) established by USAF at AFMTC in Florida.

October 3: New world speed record of 753.4 mph in Douglas XF4D-1 Navy Skyray fighter, Lt. Comdr. J. B. Verdin as pilot.

October 14: Prototype of North America's B-64 Navaho, a X-10 ramjet guided missile, made its initial flight.

October 16: Test pilot Robert O. Rahn, flying a Douglas XF-4D Skyray fighter at Edwards AFB, Muroc, Calif., established a world closed-course speed record of 728.11 mph.

October 23: The Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Institute for Flight Structure established at Columbia University for research and graduate training in flight structures, including structures intended for space flight.

October 29: Flying a F-100 Super Sabre at Edwards AFB, Calif., Lt. Col. Frank K. Everest, USAF, set a speed record of 755.149 mph.

During October: Prototype Convair F-102A delta-wing fighter first flew, a supersonic fighter featuring the NACA "wasp-waist."

---: American Astronautical Society (AAS) founded.

November 19: First launching of a Nike-Deacon two-stage rocket for heat transfer studies at NACA Wallops Island.

November 20: In a D-558-II (No. 2) which had been launched from a B-29, NACA test pilot A. Scott Crossfield established an unofficial speed record of 1,328 mph at Edwards AFB, Calif., the first Mach 2 flight (2.01)

December 12: In a Bell X-IA which had been launched from a B-29, Maj. Charles E. Yeager, USAF, attained a speed of 1,612 mph at Edwards AFB, Calif., about Mach 2.5.

During December: Nike-Ajax battalion deployed on site in Washington-Baltimore area, the first operational surface-to-air missile system in the United States.

During 1953: Jet Propulsion Laboratory completed development of the Corporal I, the first U.S. surface-to-surface ballistic missile, and continued with Corporal II development. Army Ordnance also asked JPL to study application of large-scale solid propellant rockets for use as surface-to-surface guided missiles.

---: Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Co. developed power transistor (20 watts).

---: USAF initiated meteorological survey over the United States with large plastic balloons to obtain data on winds, temperatures, and cloud formations over 50,000 feet. This survey, known as "Moby Dick," was expanded later to include other select launching areas of the world. (See February 19.)

---: Dr Hubertus Strughold of SAM published The Green and Red Planet: A Physiological Study of the Possibility of Life on Mars.

---: Dr. E. G. Bowen of the Australian Radio and Physics Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization first propounded the theory that meteoric dust provides the nuclei for heavy rainfall. By 1956, he had collected worldwide statistics revealing correlation between heavy rainfall and showers of meteors through which the earth passed. In 1960, additional data were acquired with U-2 aircraft.


January 21: First atomic-power submarine, U.S.S. Nautilus, launched at Groton, Conn.

During January: Pan American World Airways took over operations and maintenance of the Florida Missile Test Range, under AFMTC; changeover completed in March.

February 10: Air Force Strategic Missiles Evaluation (Teapot) Committee under Dr. John von Neumann reported possibility of major technological breakthrough on nuclear warhead size and that other technical problems associated with development of ICBM's could be resolved in a few years. It recommended that a special Air Force development management group be established to accelerate the program.

February 12: First flight test of a high-energy fuel made by NACA Lewis Laboratory in an air-launched test vehicle.

February 17: American Astronautical Society (AAS) incorporated in the State of New York.

During February: First flight of XF-104, powered with J-65 engine (later powered with J-79 engine).

---: Rand Corp. report recommended that Atlas ICBM program efforts be increased and its characteristics relaxed to obtain an operationally useful ICBM at an earlier date.

March 1: United States exploded its first hydrogen bomb in the Marshall Islands, and its second on March 20.

March 17: President Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10521 on the "Administration of Scientific Research by Federal Agencies," which gave the National Science Foundation major responsibility on pure scientific research.

March 18: First launching of a cluster of four Deacon rockets as a booster vehicle, at NACA Wallops Island.

During March: Work on AM-2 propulsion system for Atlas by Rocketdyne was begun, drawing upon the experience in developing the regeneratively cooled chamber developed for the Navaho.

April 8: Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Guided Missiles was established in Headquarters USAF.

April 29: First launching of a three-stage rocket vehicle consisting of two Nike boosters in tandem and a Deacon rocket as a third stage, and also a first launching of a rocket booster system consisting of three "peelaway" Deacons as the first stage wrapped around a fourth Deacon as a second stage, and a HPAG rocket as a third stage, by NACA Langley's PARD at Wallops Island.

During April: Bell Laboratory announced invention of the silicon solar battery.

May 4: Third Symposium on Space Travel conducted at American Museum, Hayden Planetarium, New York. Harry Wexler of the Weather Bureau presented a proposal for a meteorological satellite program.

May 7: NRL Martin Viking No. 10, a single-stage research rocket, successfully fired to an altitude of 135 miles from White Sands with experiment instrumentation.

May 11: Start of 59-day special effort by ARDC, WADC, SAC, and Westinghouse combined forces to carry new radar set from initial design to flight-test status.

May 17-25: Navy nonrigid airship YZP6-2 established new world endurance record for unrefueled flight of 200 hours and 12 minutes, commanded by Comdr. M. H. Eppes (USN).

May 18: SUPER SKYHOOK, largest polyethylene balloon built to date, launched by General Mills for ONR and carried emulsions to 115,000 feet.

May 24: NRL Martin Viking No. 11 set an altitude record of 158 miles (834,240 feet) and attained a speed of 4,300 mph in a flight from White Sands Proving Ground, N. Mex.

May 27: President Eisenhower signed $5 million expansion bill for NACA to be used in research for ICBM fuel and high-speed seaplane fighters.

June 2: With test pilot J. F. Coleman at the controls, the Convair XFY-1, a vertical takeoff aircraft, made the first free vertical takeoff and landing at Moffett Naval Air Station, Mountain View, Calif.

June 4: Maj. Arthur Murray, USAF, piloted the X-1A research airplane, launched from a B-29 to a record altitude of slightly over 90,000 feet, highest so far attained by man.

June 21: USAF directed Air Research and Development Command to establish a special development-management group on west coast, with authority and control over all aspects of the program, to accelerate and reorient Project Atlas.

June 25: Project Orbiter outlined by informal committee of rocket specialists to launch a satellite into a 200-mile orbit with a Redstone missile and a Loki second stage, which became a joint Army-Navy study project after meeting at Redstone Arsenal on August 3.

July 1: USAF Western Development Division (became Air Force Ballistic Missile Division in 1957) established at Inglewood, Calif., under Brig Gen. Bernard A. Schriever, with authority to direct the ballistic missile development program authorized by June 1954 directives.

July 9: NACA met with USAF and Navy BuAer representatives to propose the X-15 as an extension of the cooperative rocket research aircraft program. The NACA proposal was accepted as a joint effort and a memorandum of understanding was signed on December 23 naming NACA as technical director of the project, with advice from a joint Research Airplane Committee.

July 15: First jet-powered transport built in the United States, the prototype for the military Stratotanker and later the Boeing 707, flight tested near Seattle, Washington.

July 25: NRL transmitted the first voice earth-to-earth meassages using the moon as a reflector of radio signals. This was later developed into the Communications Moon Relay (CMR) system, which was successfully used in November 1959 when solar disturbances in the ionosphere disrupted conventional high-frequency circuits between Washington and Hawaii.

August 1: Fifth International Congress on Astronautics began, at Innsbruck, Austria.

August 3: Navy F2Y-1 Sea Dart, a hydro-ski water-based fighter, exceeded the speed of sound at San Diego, Calif.

August 5: Bell X-2 (No. 2) flown on its first glide flight by Lt. Col. Frank K. Everest (USAF), at Edwards AFB.

August 7: The USAF revealed that the School of Aviation Medicine had previously received the "first piece of experimental equipment ever built specifically for the study of living conditions in space"¾a sealed cabin, to simulate the interior of a spaceship.

August 17: First firing of Lacrosse "Group A" missile at WSPG.

August 23: First NACA flight of X-3 research airplane made by Joseph Walker at Edwards AFB, the first of 20 NACA research flights in program which concluded on May 23, 1956.

August 24: First flight test of the Army Dart missile at WSPG.

August 26: The Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1955, appropriated $2 million to the National Science Foundation to support the U.S. IGY program sponsored and coordinated by the National Academy of Sciences.

---: Major Arthur Murray (USAF) flew the Bell X-1A to 90,000-feet altitude, at Edwards AFB.

September 24: U.S.S.R. established Ziolkovsky Gold Medal for outstanding contribution to interplanetary communications, an award to be given every 3 years.

September 26: Moscow radio reprted U.S.S.R. sent rockets to 240-miles height; claimed rocket for interplanetary travel designed and flight principles worked out.

September 29: Army Ordnance awarded contract for Redstone missile to Chrysler Corp.

October 4: At meeting in Rome, launching of scientific earth satellites recommended by the Special Committee for the IGY (known as CSAGI).

October 8: First powered flight of Bell X-1B completed, Maj. Arthur Murray as pilot.

October 9: $500 million was added to the current year's budget for the guided-missile program. (In fiscal year 1950 through 1954, $700 million was spent.)

October 14: NACA's PARD launched four-stage, solid-fuel rocket for heat transfer data to Mach 10.4, at Wallops Island, Va.

October 17: Piloting a Sikorsky XH-39, Warrant Officer Billy I. Wester, USA, established a world helicopter altitude record of 24,500 feet at Bridgeport, Conn.

October 18-19: At the suggestion of Theodore von Kármán and following a request of Gen. H. B. Thatcher, an Ad Hoc Committee of the Scientific Advisory Board met in the Pentagon to consider the application of nuclear energy to missile propulsion. In its report, the Committee "noted that there was an almost complete hiatus in the study of the nuclear rocket from 1947 following a report by North American Aviation, until a 1953 report by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Because the technical problems appear so severe, and because another 6 years of no progress in this area would seem to be unfortunate," the Committee felt that a continuing study both analytical and experimental, at a modest level of effort, should be carried on.

During October: NRL Aerobee fired at White Sands took photographs at 100-mile altitude, first picture taken of complete hurricane, off the Texas gulf coast.

During Fall: U.S.S.R. created the Soviet Interdepartmental Commission on Interplanetary Communications, an action announced on April 15, 1955.

November 2: Test pilot J. F. Coleman flying the Convair XYF-1, took off in vertical flight, then shifted to horizontal, and finally changed back to vertical for landing at San Diego, Calif.

November 18: Inertial guidance system for Navaho X-10 missile tested in first flight at Downey, Calif.

December 7: First successful recovery of a Navaho X-10 using fully automatic approach and landing system, made at Edwards AFB, Calif.

December 10: On a rocket-propelled sled run, Col. John P. Stapp, USAF (MC), attained a speed of 632 mph and sustained the greatest g-force ever endured by man in recorded deceleration tests.

December 16: USAF announced Atlas ICBM under construction by Convair.

December 21: Department of Defense in a two-sentence comment reported that studies continued to be made in the earth satellite vehicle program.

December 23: NACA-USAF-USN Memorandum of Understanding signed for "Joint Project for a New High Speed Research Airplane," which covered what became the X-15 program. Design competition was opened by the USAF during this month.

December 31: Army Ordnance terminated the Hermes project, during which development of high-performance liquid-fuel rocket and first stabilized platform inertial guidance equipment had been accomplished.

During December: "Man in Space" produced by Walt Disney.

During 1954: Baffles successfully used to counter high-frequency oscillations in rocket thrust chambers, for the first time at NACA Lewis Laboratory.

---: Project Stratolab utilizing plastic balloons for scientific observations in the stratosphere initiated by ONR.

---: School of Aviation Medicine (SAM) initiated studies at the University of Texas on the use of plants for the regeneration of air in a space cabin. SAM also established a veterinary science division to support medical research involving the use of animals.

---: Development of the silicon transistor, announced by several firms during the year, while the first large transistorized calculator was demonstrated by IBM.

---: Aeromedical Laboratory biological specimens were reflown on two separate plastic balloon flights for a total of 74 hours and 35 hours at an altitude between 82,000 and 97,000 feet, mostly above 90,000 feet, at Holloman AFB.

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Last Updated: January 27, 2005