PGM-11 Redstone

The PGM-11 Redstone was the first large American ballistic missile. A short-range ballistic missile (SRBM), it was in active service with the United States Army in West Germany from June 1958 to June 1964 as part of NATO's Cold War defense of Western Europe. It was the first US missile to carry a live nuclear warhead, in the 1958 Pacific Ocean weapons test, Hardtack Teak. Chief Engineer Wernher von Braun personally witnessed this historic launch and detonation.[1]

SSM-A-14/M8/PGM-11 Redstone
Redstone No. CC-56, Cape Canaveral, Florida, 17 September 1958
Tactical ballistic missile
short-range ballistic missile
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1958–1964
Used byUnited States
Production history
DesignerArmy Ballistic Missile Agency
ManufacturerChrysler Corporation
No. built128 (ABMA: 27, Chrysler: 101)
(85 production models)
VariantsBlock I, Block II
Mass61,207 pounds (27,763 kg) at ignition
Length69.3 feet (21.1 m)
Diameter5.83 feet (1.8 m)

Blast yield3.5 megatons of TNT (15 PJ) or 500 kilotonnes of TNT (2.1 PJ)
thermonuclear warhead

EngineRocketdyne North American Aviation 75–110 A-7
78,000 pounds-force (350 kN) thrust at sea level for 121 seconds
Payload capacity6,305 pounds (2,860 kg)
Propellantethyl alcohol, liquid oxygen, hydrogen peroxide
Fuel capacityalcohol: 11,135 pounds (5,051 kg), liquid oxygen: 25,280 pounds (11,470 kg), hydrogen peroxide: 790 pounds (360 kg)
57.5 miles (92.5 km) to 201 miles (323 km)
Flight altitude28.4 miles (45.7 km) peak minimum to 58.7 miles (94.5 km) peak maximum
Boost time97 seconds to 117 seconds
SpeedMach 5.5 maximum at re-entry interface
Ford Instrument Company ST-80 inertial guidance
Carbon jet vanes, air rudders, spatial air jet nozzles, air vanes
Accuracy300 metres (980 ft) CEP
guided missile platform launcher M74

Redstone was a direct descendant of the German V-2 rocket, developed by a team of predominantly German rocket engineers brought to the United States after World War II as part of Operation Paperclip. The design used an upgraded engine from Rocketdyne that allowed the missile to carry the W39 warhead which weighed 6,900 pounds (3,100 kg) with its reentry vehicle to a range of about 175 miles (282 km). Redstone's prime contractor was the Chrysler Corporation.[2]

A major effort to improve Redstone's reliability produced one of the most reliable rockets of the era. Dubbed "the Army's Workhorse", it spawned an entire rocket family which had an excellent launch record and holds a number of firsts in the US space program, notably launching the first US astronaut. It was retired by the Army in 1964 and replaced by the solid-fueled MGM-31 Pershing. Surplus missiles were widely used for test missions and space launches, including the first US man in space, and in 1967 the launch of Australia's first satellite.


A product of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama under the leadership of Wernher von Braun, Redstone was designed as a surface-to-surface missile for the U.S. Army. It was named for the arsenal on 8 April 1952, which traced its name to the region's red rocks and soil.[3] Chrysler was awarded the prime production contract and began missile and support equipment production in 1952 at the newly renamed Michigan Ordnance Missile Plant in Warren, Michigan. The navy-owned facility was previously known as the Naval Industrial Reserve Aircraft Plant used for jet engine production. Following the cancellation of a planned jet engine program, the facility was made available to the Chrysler Corporation for missile production. Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation Company provided the rocket engines; Ford Instrument Company, division of Sperry Rand Corporation, produced the guidance and control systems; and Reynolds Metals Company fabricated fuselage assemblies as subcontractors to Chrysler. The first Redstone lifted off from LC-4A at Cape Canaveral on 20 August 1953. It flew for one minute and 20 seconds before suffering an engine failure and falling into the sea. Following this partial success, the second test was conducted on 27 January 1954, this time without a hitch as the missile flew 55 miles. After these first two prototypes were flown, an improved engine was introduced to reduce problems with LOX turbopump cavitation.

The third Redstone flight on 5 May was a total loss as the engine cut off one second after launch, causing the rocket to fall back on the pad and explode. After this incident, Major General Holger Toftoy pressured Wernher von Braun for the cause of the failure. The latter replied that he had no idea, but they would review telemetry and other data to find out. Toftoy persisted, asking "Wernher, why did the rocket explode?" An exasperated von Braun said "It exploded because the damn sonofabitch blew up!"

Von Braun pressured the ABMA team to improve reliability and workmanship standards, allegedly remarking that "Missile reliability will require that the target area is more dangerous than the launch area." Subsequent test flights went better and the Army declared Redstone operational in mid-1955. Testing was moved from LC-4 to the bigger LC-5 and LC-6.

In 1955, the Jupiter-C rocket (not to be confused with the later, unrelated Jupiter IRBM) was developed as an enhanced Redstone for atmospheric and reentry vehicle tests. It had elongated propellant tanks for increased burn time and a new engine that burned a fuel mixture known as hydyne and under the name of the Jupiter C/Juno 1 was used for the first successful US space launch of the Explorer 1 satellite in 1958.

The Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle was a derivation of the Redstone with a fuel tank increased in length by 6 feet (1.8 m) and was used on 5 May 1961 to launch Alan Shepard on his sub-orbital flight to become the second person and first American in space.[4] It retained the Jupiter C's longer propellant tanks, but went back to using ethyl alcohol/water for propellant instead of hydyne.

The Redstone program proved to be a bone of contention between the Army and Air Force due to their different ideas of nuclear warfare. The Army favored using small warheads on mobile missiles as tactical battlefield weapons while the Air Force, which was responsible for the ICBM program, wanted large cross-continental missiles that could strike Soviet targets and rapidly cripple the USSR's infrastructure and ability to wage war.

With the arrival of newer solid-fueled missiles that could be stored and not require fueling before launch, Redstone was rendered obsolete and production ended in 1961. The 40th Artillery Group was deactivated in February 1964 and 46th Artillery Group was deactivated in June 1964, as Redstone missiles were replaced by the Pershing missile in the U.S. Army arsenal. All Redstone missiles and equipment deployed to Europe were returned to the United States by the third quarter of 1964. In October 1964, the Redstone missile was ceremonially retired from active service at Redstone Arsenal.

From 1966 to 1967, a series of surplus modified Redstones called Spartas were launched from Woomera, South Australia as part of a joint U.S.–United Kingdom–Australian research program aimed at understanding re-entry phenomena. These Redstones had two solid fuel upper stages added. The U.S. donated a spare Sparta for Australia's first satellite launch, WRESAT, in November 1967.


Redstone was capable of flights from 57.5 miles (92.5 km) to 201 miles (323 km). It consisted of a thrust unit for powered flight and a missile body for overall missile control and payload delivery on target. During powered flight, Redstone burned a fuel mixture of 25 percent water–75 percent ethyl alcohol with liquid oxygen (LOX) used as the oxidizer. Later Redstones used Hydyne, 60% unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) and 40% diethylenetriamine (DETA), as the fuel.[5][6][7] The missile body consisted of an aft unit containing the instrument compartment, and the warhead unit containing the payload compartment and the radar altimeter fuze. The missile body was separated from the thrust unit 20–30 seconds after the termination of powered flight, as determined by the preset range to target. The body continued on a controlled ballistic trajectory to the target impact point. The thrust unit continued on its own uncontrolled ballistic trajectory, impacting short of the designated target.

The nuclear-armed Redstone carried the W39, either a MK 39Y1 Mod 1 or MK 39Y2 Mod 1, warhead with a yield of 3.8 megatons.[8][9][10][11]


 United States
United States Army
  • 40th Field Artillery Group 1958–1961 – West Germany[12]
  • 46th Field Artillery Group 1959–1961 – West Germany[13]
    • 2nd Battalion, 333rd Artillery Regiment
  • 209th Field Artillery Group – Fort Sill, Oklahoma
    • 4th Bn, 333rd Artillery Regiment

Surviving examples


  2. Redgap, Curtis The Chrysler Corporation Missile Division and the Redstone missiles, 2008 Orlando, Florida. Retrieved Oct 8 2010
  3. Cagle, Mary T. (1955). "The Origin of Redstone's Name". US Army, Redstone Arsenal. Archived from the original on 19 May 2000. Retrieved 9 October 2010.
  4. Turnill 1972, pp. 81–82, 147–8
  5. Sutton, George P. (2006). History of Liquid Propellant Rocket Engines. Reston, Virginia: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. p. 413. ISBN 1-56347-649-5.
  6. McCutcheon, Kimble D. The Redstone Engine. Huntsville, Alabama: Aircraft Engine Historical Society.
  7. Hullard,, John W. (1965). History of the Redstone Missile System. Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama: Army Missile Command. p. 66 (60).CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  8. Hansen, Chuck (1995). The Swords of Armageddon. Sunnyvale, California: Chucklea Publications. p. Volume VII Pg 297.
  9. Hansen, Chuck (1995). The Swords of Armageddon. Sunnyvale, California: Chucklea Publications. p. Volume VII Pages 293–299.
  10. Hansen, Chuck (1995). The Swords of Armageddon. Sunnyvale, California: Chucklea Publications. p. Volume VII Pg 299.
  11. "Redstone Missile (PGM-11)". US: Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center. Archived from the original on 29 May 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  12. 40th Artillery Group (Redstone)
  13. 46th Artillery Group (Redstone)
  14. "Redstone Missile". Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  15. Asselin, Ted (1996). The Redstone Missile – Warren, NH (PDF). Warren: Bryan Flagg. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 July 2006.
  16. "Permanent Exhibits". US Space and Rocket Center. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  17. "Battleship Park". Heroic Relics. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  18. "Displays". Air Force Space and Missile Museum. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  19. "Redstone Nuclear Warhead". Kansas Cosmosphere. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  20. "Bomarc, Mace, Snark, Redstone, Minuteman II missiles". National Museum of Nuclear Science and History. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  21. "Redstone". White Sands Missile Range Museum. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  22. "Space Flight". Evergreen Aviation Museum. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  23. "MSFC Rocket Garden". Heroic Relics. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  24. "KSC Mercury-Redstone Boosters". A Field Guide to American Spacecraft. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  25. "This Jupiter-C Rocket Sits Alongside Mr..." Project Habu. 11 April 2014. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  26. "Air Zoo". Heroic Relics. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  27. "Museum of Life+Science". A Field Guide to American Spacecraft. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  28. "Parque de las Ciencias Luis A. Ferré". A Field Guide to American Spacecraft. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  29. "Mercury-Redstone". A Field Guide to American Spacecraft. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  30. "US Space and Rocket Center". Heroic Relics. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  31. "Inside Kennedy Space Center's New Heroes & Legends Exhibits". Smithsonian Magazine. 22 November 2016. Retrieved 11 October 2017.


  • Bullard, John W (15 October 1965). History of the Redstone Missile System (Historical Monograph Project Number: AMC 23 M). Historical Division, Administrative Office, Army Missile Command.
  • The Redstone Missile System. Fort Sill, Oklahoma: United States Army. August 1960. Publication L 619.
  • Standing Operating Procedure For Conduct of Redstone Annual Service Practice at White Sands Missile Range New Mexico. Fort Sill, Oklahoma: Headquarters, United States Army Artillery And Missile Center. 31 March 1962.
  • Operator, Organizational, And Field Maintenance Manual – Ballistic Guided Missile M8, Ballistic Shell (Field Artillery Guided Missile System Redstone). September 1960. TM 9-1410-350-14/2.
  • Field Artillery Missile Redstone. Department of the Army. February 1962. FM 6–35.
  • Turnill, Reginald (May 1972). The Observer's Book of Manned Spaceflight. London: Frederick Warne & Co. ISBN 0-7232-1510-3. 48.
  • von Braun, Wernher. The Redstone, Jupiter and Juno. Technology and Culture, Vol. 4, No. 4, The History of Rocket Technology (Autumn 1963), pp. 452–465.
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