February 14th 1951, early morning.
After nearly 1½ months, both bureaucracy have been solved, so the space centre can accept contracts, and the first test-rocket is ready. A simple unguided rocket containing scientific instruments that is aimed at space (that is, up) sits ready for launch.
A successful test to 12 km, with the small “Boomer 1” (which oddly did not go boom?).
The engineers did seem to place some of the stabilizing fins quite oddly, although the concept of using slightly off fins for spin stabilization did seem to work – mostly. Bill is still proud of the idea, which he claims came to him after his toy rocket crashed and flew much better after the crash (Boomer 1 was not crashed though).
Expensive simulations are conducted afterwards, to perfect the design of Boomer 2, which might just reach space – because apparently it’s higher than 12 km.
9 days later, “Vals Spirit” is ready for Valentina to take flight – or so everyone thought.
The craft wobbles from side to side on the runway, and never reach take-off speed. Valentina promptly redesigns the thing, swapping the engine with one 7 times as powerful, although the steering issue is not examined in detail – as Valentina put it herself “why bother? I’m gonna be flying, not driving?”.
Early March, the researchers presents their findings regarding supersonic flight, moving on to figuring out early avionics, expecting results within the year, maybe a bit earlier.
On 24/3 Boomer 2 is ready and roll-out begins – a 14 hour undertaking. Early morning 25/3, it is ready on the launchpad.
Simulations showed that it really ought to get well into space, but now comes the real test.
And the results are in! More than 200 km above the surface, faster than 2000 m/s (waay faster than a speeding bullet!), passing the Kerman line, and science – from space!
Aside from the fairing mishap, that prompted the flight crew to have most of the scientific data transmitted before re-entering the atmosphere – because, as Gene Kerman put it “we really should”, the flight went unexpectedly well (except the tumbling a bit in the early launch before the stabilization kicked in fully).
By the end of March, the programme have gained additional funding, with more than 100.000 specos in the bank account, and enough scientific data to keep the researchers working for years!
The plans for the second quarter of 1951 are already taking form, “Vals spirit”, in its updated version, needs to reach 4 km altitude, and possibly break the sound barrier? Although a new fancy jet-engine may be required for that! And we have that, but the second version of the plane is already under construction – and according to Jebediah “we should probably also solve that skirting thing on the runway”.
The third sounding rocket is planned for even greater heights, and must reach a full 500 km, just over twice that of Boomer 2 – Boomer 3 has great challenges indeed.
Different from Boomers 1 and 2, Boomer 3 will not be expected to return safely to the ground – if successful it really, really, should burn up upon re-entry according to the design engineers.
— Gene Kerman