The Rocket Age and the Space Age

V-2 and Sputnik

The V-2 rocket and a model of Sputnik 1.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The first successful launch of Germany’s A-4 ballistic missile and the orbiting of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik-1, took place 15 years and one day apart. The two achievements are related in more ways than their proximity on the calendar.

On Oct. 3, 1942, an A-4 developed by Wernher von Braun and his German Army team reached an altitude of 85 to 90 km (52.8 to 55.9 miles) after launch from Peenemunde on the Baltic Coast.

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Happy Birthday, V-2

Most history texts date the beginning of the space age to Oct. 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. I believe it actually dates back even further, to a picture perfect fall day almost exactly 15 years earlier in Nazi Germany.

It was on October 3, 1942,  that Wernher von Braun and his team launched the first successful ballistic missile at Peenemunde on the German Baltic coast. The rocket reached an altitude just short of 90 kilometers (56 miles), becoming the first human-made object to reach the fringes of space.

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