Browse through the history of the area which makes up
the Missile Range. From the Native Americans, through the Old West ranching and mining era,
as well as, the Atomic and Missile age. Just click on the topics below to read and see
the varied history.
- - - A database containing information on all daily firings at White Sands
Proving Ground/White Sands Missile Range beginning with the first launch, a Tiny
Tim Booster, on 26 September 1945 and going through 21 December 1956, the last
firing during 1956. Unfortunately, beginning in 1957 and continuing
through the end of November of 1988, only monthly summary records
are available, as below.
A Firing Records Summary
database, which has a monthly summary by project for each year, beginning in
1945 and running through 1977, is available for access below.
We have Firing Record Summaries for
1978 through April 1989 and daily
mission schedules (includes firings) from 1989 through Fiscal Year 2005. These are available
for viewing only after Operational Security (OP-SEC) review of your request and
subsequent release by White Sands Missile Range.
- - - The V-2 Calibration Stand was used to fine tune the fuel pumping and
injection system of the V-2 Rocket motor. The Steam Turbine Pump operated at 5,000 rpm on two auxiliary
fuels, namely hydrogen peroxide (80 %) and a mixture of 66% sodium
permanganate with water 33%. This turbine moves two pumps that
inject the Methyl alcohol, at 58 kg/sec and liquid oxygen at 72 kg/sec
into the burn chamber. In order to make fine adjustments on the fuel
pumping and injector system, V-2s were placed in the Calibration Stand and
their fuel tanks filled with water. The pump ran as usual and
adjustments were made throughout the pump and injector system to optimize
rocket motor performance. The photos linked here show two views of
the Calibration Stand, one while it is actually being used.
Launch Complex 33, a National Historical Landmark and
a state of New Mexico Historical Monument - - where it all began! Soon after White Sands
Proving Ground was established, work began on a launch complex for testing the rocket and
missile technology being developed. On September 26, 1945, a Tiny Tim booster was fired at
the complex. This marked the first "hot firing" on the proving ground. On October 11 a
Tiny Tim boosted a WAC Corporal rocket from a launch tower at the complex. The WAC Corporal rocket motor
then took the second stage to a record altitude of 43.5 miles.
Later this launch complex was the focal point for V-2 firings and developmental testing
for such missiles as Nike Ajax, Nike Hercules, Viking, Corporal, Redstone, Lance,
Multiple Launch Rocket System, and Army TACMS. The complex is still in use today for initial
firings of many of the new missiles under development.
Complex 35, (LC-35) has been Navy territory since the very early days of
White Sands Proving Ground. Situated approximately 10 miles east of the
Headquarters Area, it is ideally located in the center of the launching areas
along Nike Avenue. The Navy came to White Sands in 1946, a year after WSPG was
established. Although there was no specific Navy program requiring launch
support facilities, Captain Robert McLaughlin said the Bureau of Naval Ordnance
recognized that guided missiles were going to become a vital part of Navy fleet
air defense in the future and he was ordered to develop a testing capability.
Click on the link above for a few pictures of LC-35 history.
The Broomstick Scientists.
Who were the Broomsticks? They were the guys who made up the 1st Ordnance
Guided Missile Support Battalion. They referred to themselves as the Broomstick
Scientists, a name they adopted after an envious Captain commented that he was
no more impressed with them than he would be with a bunch of broomsticks. He
did not approve of the ease that they climbed the promotion ladder due to their
civilian experience. They all had extensive engineering or scientific
backgrounds prior to being drafted, or in some cases, recalled to
active duty from the Reserves. It was made
up of personnel associated with a diversity of missile programs, the NIKE,
V-2, Hermes, LOKI, Terrier, Corporal, etc.
Fourth Ordnance Company (GM/DS).
The Fourth Ordnance Company was one of the first (if not the first) Tactical
Guided Missile Support unit stationed at White Sands Proving Ground (WSPG).
In addition to providing Direct Support for the Nike Ajax equipment located at
WSPG, they also provided a 10 man support team to Red Canyon Range Camp located
in the North-East corner of WSPG and operated by Fort Bliss. The company
was at WSPG during 1954 and 1955. They moved to Fort Bliss and became a
part of the 61st Ordnance Group in 1955. The 4th Ordnance Company was
later re-designated from a Guided Missile Direct Support Company to a Guided
Missile General Support Company and was posted to Miesau, West Germany, where
they provided support for Nike, Hawk and other missile systems, including
Patriot, into the 1990s.
Red Canyon Range Camp Red Canyon Range Camp was established by the Air Defense Center at Fort Bliss, Texas in
the Northeast portion of the then White Sands Proving Ground (WSPG), now White Sands
Missile Range (WSMR). This range camp was established in 1953 and was utilized for two
different purposes. First, after soldiers completed their individual training in their
respective Nike Ajax Air Defense specialties, they were assigned to units that were
forming to be deployed to a Nike Ajax site at various locations throughout the United
States. Once these units had all the required personnel assigned, the underwent Unit
Training to prepare them to function as an efficient Air Defense team. At the end of this
Unit Training, the graduation exercise was to proceed to Red Canyon Range Camp (RCRC) to
demonstrate their unit proficiency by preparing Missiles and Fire Control System, and
firing these missiles at Radio Controlled Arial Targets (RCATs). The second purpose was
Annual Service Practice (ASP). Units that were deployed throughout the U.S. returned to
RCRC annually to demonstrate their proficiency - or lack thereof. The ASP was essentially
the same as the Unit Training graduation firings.
This process continued through approximately the middle of 1959 when all of these
functions were transferred to McGregor Range, New Mexico much closer to Fort Bliss and
was owned/controlled by Fort Bliss.
For more details about the Army Nike training program and how Red Canyon
Range Camp fit into the process, visit the
Redstone Arsenal website and scroll
down to the "Nike Training" section.
Complex 37, originally referred to as Army Launch Area
Three, was built for testing the Nike Ajax and later the Nike Hercules Air
Defense Missile systems.
Launch Complex 38, originally referred to as Army Launch Area
Five, was built for testing the Nike Zeus Anti-Ballistic Missile system. The Zeus
system required more real estate and infrastructure than any single system ever tested at
White Sands Missile Range - before or since. Most of the buildings constructed housed
system radars and other equipment, some of which you can see by clicking the link above.
As the Zeus system transitioned into the Nike X system,
LC-38 retained only the facilities for assembly and check out of the Sprint Missile, the
Missile Control Building, and some limited office space. The Zeus Acquisition Receiver
building was modified by adding a structure on top for a phased array radar of another test
program. The Discrimination Radar (DR) and Target Tracking Radar (TTR) were used as a
part of a re-entry signature studies program.
In 1969, a new R&D air defense system, at the time referred
to as SAM-D, later re-designated "Patriot," started to take over most of the structures at LC-38
as the Sprint test program was winding down at White Sands and moving to Meck Island at
Kwajalein Missile Range in the Pacific. Patriot, the "Scud Buster" of Desert Storm, still
uses most of the structures built at LC-38 for the Zeus program.
Multi-function Array Radar I (MAR-I)
Located approximately 25 miles northeast of White Sands Missile Range
Headquarters about a mile off US Highway 70, MAR-I was developed as a part of
the Nike X Anti
Intercontinental Ballistic Missile system, under development in the early
1960s. The Nike X was a follow-on system to the Nike Zeus system which was
in research and development beginning in the late 1950s. This location is
now the High Energy Laser System Test Facility (HELSTAF) and has been expanded
significantly with the removal of the clutter fence and addition of several
500K Static Test Stand Located some 2.8 miles from the administrative area is
the 500K static test stand jutting out from the base slope of Soledad Peak like some
majestic, medieval, European castle. The 500,000 pound static test stand at one time
was the largest such facility in the world and was capable of testing motors for any
known or planned missile or rocket.
100K Static Test Stand
was completed in 1946 and deactivated in
1960. It was used to static fire the V-2 and later the Corporal at any angle
between vertical and horizontal. It could accommodate test packages measuring 8
feet in diameter and 50 feet in height.
Missile Dogs - Dogs proved better at locating fallen
missile parts than man or instruments in the 1960s at White Sands Missile Range. Before
firing, critical missile parts were sprayed with squalene, a shark liver oil almost
odorless to humans but easily detected by dogs. After the missile's general landing
area was located by radar, dogs and their handlers were driven out or dropped from
helicopters at the site and the dogs began sniffing. Usually they located their quarry
within an hour.
The Hembrillo Battlefield - On April 6 and 7, 1880, the
Hembrillo Basin, located in the mountains along the west side of what is now White Sands
Missile Range, became the battle ground for the largest battle of the Apache-Cavalry
Victorio War. Archaeologists from Human Systems Research, Inc., under contract to White
Sands Missile Range, mapped the battlefield by locating the clusters of empty cartridges
and stone breastworks used by the combatants. The story and maps of the battle sequence
were developed through historical and archaeological research from 1988 to 1998.
Canyon Mine Story & Photos - (*See Slide Show Below)
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the mountain range running the length
of White Sands Missile Range was the scene of many mining operations, both large
and small. Most of these operations had been abandoned prior to the
establishment of what was then White Sands Proving Ground. However, one of
those operations was still functioning for a for a few years after the Proving
Ground was established. This operations was in Texas Canyon, located in
the southwest corner of what is now White Sands Missile Range. Mr. Jim
Eckles of the White Sands Missile Range Public Affairs Office wrote an article
for the base newspaper, the Missile Ranger, which gives some interesting history
of the Texas Canyon mine. The article was written after a recent visit to
the mine area by Mr. Eckles. Along with the article, several photos of the
area are included, of the area and artifacts as seen today. Click Here for
Slide Show of Texas Canyon Photos All photos by Jim Eckles.