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Preludes to U.S. Space-Launch Vehicle Technology: Goddard Rockets to Minuteman III 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0813031774
ISBN-10: 081303177X
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Editorial Reviews


Roger Launius concluded a full-page review of these two volumes with: "There is much to praise and little to criticize in these two fine volumes on the history of U.S. rocket technology. . . . They come as close to this ideal [a definitive history] as we are likely ever to see." Elsewhere, he says things like, "his [Hunley's]work is a benchmark in the process of the invention of spaceflight and its evolution throughout time" and "both works do a superb job of tracing the main lines of development of the major rocket technologies." --Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly, 15:4 2008

These two volumes constitute "a thoughtful review of the technological changes and their defining reasons rather than a recitation of program development events. The thoughtfulness comes via linkages. For example there's a description of the evolution from aniline-nitric acid propellants used in the WAC Corporal to the inhibited white fuming nitric acid propellant for Vanguard." The second volume in the set shows that rocketry consists "more of engineers doing than [of] scientists knowing." Nevertheless, the reader will encounter again and again the determination of the practitioners to find a workable solution that then goes on to be a fundamental step in the progress of rocketry." Both volumes show "that, with the right resources, humans can accomplish near magical travel away from Earth."

Book Description

A two-volume overview of U.S. missile and rocket technology
"Hunley makes the connection between military and civil space vehicles by informing readers that NASA's launchers were originally long-range military ballistic missiles."--Jacob Neufeld, editor in chief, Air Power History
"These two volumes tell the compelling story of the events, people, and technology that evolved from the missile programs to the U.S. space boosters that impact every aspect of our daily lives. They also delineate the successful management techniques that produced some of the most expensive and complex systems ever developed."--Robert L. Geisler, Air Force Propulsion Laboratory (retired)
For nearly fifty years, a wide range of missiles and rockets has propelled U.S. satellites and spacecraft into the sky. J. D. Hunley's two-volume work traces the evolution of this technology, from Robert Goddard's research in the 1920s through the development of the Titan missiles and launch vehicles in the 1960s to the refinement of the space shuttle in the 1980s.
With the first book devoted primarily to military hardware and the second to launch vehicle hardware, Hunley offers a sweeping overview of these impressive engineering innovations as well as insights into the dynamic personalities responsible for them. Together, the two volumes offer a unique, invaluable history of rocketry that should appeal to a wide range of scholars and space buffs.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida; 1st edition (May 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081303177X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813031774
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #639,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

J.D. Hunley, known to his friends as Dill, was chief historian for NASA Dryden Flight Research Center before his retirement in 2001. A Ramsey Fellow at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in 2001-2002, he has written widely about German history, the life and thought of Friedrich Engels, and aerospace history. Among other prizes, he was the winner of the 2006 History Manuscript Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics for what became "The Development of Propulsion Technology for U.S. Space-Launch Vehicles, 1926-1991," published by Texas A&M University Press and now available as an e-book at He received the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics 2010 Gardner-Lasser Aerospace History Literature Award for his two volume set: "Preludes To U.S. Space-Launch Vehicle Technology: Goddard Rockets to Minutemen III" and "U. S. Space-Launch Vehicle Technology: Viking to Space Shuttle," published by the University Press of Florida.
These three books about missiles and rockets not only explain the development of the technologies used in space-launch vehicles and missiles but also contain numerous anecdotes and sketches about the engineers who created the technologies and about the processes they used. For example, in developing the huge F-1 engine for the Saturn space-launch vehicle, with its 1.522 million pounds of thrust, engineers encountered major problems with what was called combustion instability (oscillations in the combustion chamber that could and did destroy the engine). Some 50 engineers and technicians from engine contractor Rocketdyne, NASA, universities, and the Air Force were assigned to a team to solve the problem. They included, among other experts, Rocketdyne's Dan Klute, who "had a special talent for the half-science, half-art of combustion chamber design." They knew from earlier rocket engines that the cause of the problem lay in the injectors for the propellants (kerosene and liquid oxygen), which had to mix precisely for smooth combustion. They tried perhaps 40 or 50 modifications of the design before they found a combination of features that worked, but they were never certain that the problem would not recur. Nevertheless, they went ahead with development, solving other problems as they occurred. The five F-1s in the Saturn first stage performed admirably in the July 16 to July 24, 1969, Apollo 11 mission that placed the first two astronauts on the Moon, a feat that had seemed impossible less than 10 years before that.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Haubrechts Patrick on September 16, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent two volumes book. It is one of the best about space technology, versus fundamental science.
It uses the story of rocket development to outline what modern engineering is all about. The author's choice to divide his subject in two volumes, space launchers versus military missiles, is a good choice, allowing to highlight differences and similarities.

The narrative and chronological style used in both volumes best shows the development of each technology over time. The author gives due credit to the extraordinary contribution to V. Braun, a bit too much to Goddard.

The book's organization by chapters, each describing a launcher family, makes any specialized or focused research easier.
The scope also extends about organizational and managerial influence on the development of a given technology, only when relevant, avoiding `old boys' futile personal career narratives.

My only regret is the lack of data recapitulation tables, by chapter, providing an exhaustive data presentation for the chapter.

It was worth bying.
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