The launch procedure included a final test of the rocket motor. Alcohol and liquid oxygen were allowed to flow into the combustion chamber by the force of gravity, where they ignited on contact. This produced approximately 16,000 pounds of thrust, too little to move the rocket but enough to check that the motor was functioning properly. The propellent turbine was then activated, increasing thrust to 52,000 pounds, enough to immediately initiate a launch. The V-2 had an overall length of 46 feet, diameter of 5 feet 5 inches, and a fin span of 11 feet 8 inches, its motor developed 52,000 pounds of thrust for 68 seconds, and its launching weight was 28,413 pounds, including 19,575 pounds of liquid propellant. The rocket consisted of five major parts:
Nose Cone - During World War II, the nose cone held a German warhead containing almost a ton of explosives. At White Sands, the Army invited government agencies and universities to use the nose cone´s 20 cubic feet of space for scientific research, up to 2,000 pounds of scientific equipment, such as cameras, sensors, and on-board experiments, were carried aloft on each flight.
Control Section - This section contained gyroscopes for guiding the rocket in flight and the bottles of nitrogen gas that powered them. The gyroscopes produced electrical signals in the form of voltage proportional to the amount of correction needed to maintain a preset trajectory. The corrective signals were transmitted through an integrating computing element to steering vanes in the tail assembly.
Midsection - The propellant used in the V-2 consisted of alcohol and liquid oxygen, propellant tanks and associated valves and piping were located in the rocket´s midsection. Glass wool insulated the rocket from the extreme cold of the liquid oxygen.
Thrust Frame - The thrust frame held the propulsion unit, which consisted of a turbopump, steam-generating plant, heat exchanger, combustion unit, and associated piping. The turbopump was powered by steam generated from combining hydrogen peroxide and sodium permanganate, both of which were stored in tanks in this section and forced into the pump by compressed air.
Tail Assembly - The tail served to stabilize flight and steer the rocket, and consisted of the tail faring, four stabilizing fins with steering vanes, vane motors, and antennas.
In the entire experimental program, 68 percent of the V-2 flights were considered successful. However, much valuable information was gained from flights with known malfunctions and classified as failures.
In all, 67 V-2 rockets were assembled and tested at White Sands between 1946 and 1952, providing the U.S. with valuable experience in the assembly, pre-flight testing, handling, fueling, launching, and tracking of large missiles. The scientific experiments conducted aboard the V-2 yielded significant information about the upper atmosphere, and one series of tests, the "Blossom Project," carried out the first biological experiments in space. Landmark tests included:
V-2 No. 1: First firing, static test for 57 seconds; March 15, 1946
V-2 No. 2: First flight test, altitude 18,000 feet; April 16, 1946
V-2 No. 3: First high altitude flight, altitude 70 miles; May 10, 1946
V-2 No. 9: First separation of nose cone; July 30, 1946
V-2 No. 13: Motion pictures showing Earth´s curvature: October 24, 1946
V-2 No. 19: First auto pilot system used, forerunner of remote controlled rocket; Jan.23, 1947
V-2 No. 40: Photographs of 800,000 square miles of Earth´s surface; July 26, 1948
Several offshoot programs developed from the V-2 experimental program. They were the Bumper, Pushover and Sandy.
In late 1946 Army Ordnance started a development program leading to a two-stage rocket test vehicle. A WAC Corporal was mounted on the nose of a V-2 to form the first two-stage missile, known as the Bumper. The first Bumper was launched May 13, 1948.
Operation Pushover concerned the deliberate explosion of a fully tanked V-2 on a dummy shipdeck at White Sands to determine its effect on shipboard launching.
Operation Sandy was the code name for launching a V-2 from the deck of the aircraft carrier Midway. Preliminary tests were made and the missile assembled at WSMR. On September 6, 1947, for the first time, a large rocket was launched from a ship at sea.