In order to give us additional training in the procedures we must master, two static
firings were conducted, identified as SF-1 (fired on July 2, 1951) and SF-2 (fired on
August 7, 1951). SF obviously denoting Static Fire. We would evaluate various parameters
of the missile such as fuel consumption, thrust, etc. These test missiles were constructed
without nose cones or tail fin assemblies. This produced anything but a sleek aerodynamic
configuration, in fact they were ugly ducklings. They were just main body sections
supporting the fuel tanks and the plumber's nightmare of a rocket engine stuck on the
The whole thing was mounted at a 30-degree angle with the vertical in a large static
test stand built into the side of a nearby mountain. Everyone referred to the stand as
Shangra-la, due to its resemblance to the structure in the movie Lost Horizons.
It's interesting to note that while we were a military organization, and with respect
to command responsibilities, Lieutenant Metzger and his superior, Lieutenant Colonel M. R.
Collins prevailed, the technical "boss" was Corporal Robert P. Alley. All, from Master
Sergeants on down, including myself a Staff Sergeant, looked to him for direction.
It was decided that the V-2 Section would assemble, test and launch a "training" missile
as a form of a final examination to establish that our apprenticeship had been successful.
This V-2 would carry no costly experiments,
The result was a V-2 identified as TF-I (Training Flight Number One), In order to give
the project more of a challenge the members of the Section, with approval from higher
authority, decided that they would shoot for a single stage missile altitude record.
Various modifications were made. Pressurized nitrogen was used within the rocket and
the bottles containing it were moved from the tail to the nose. This eliminated the need
for nose ballast to keep the center of gravity forward of the center of pressure. This
nose ballast was the result of our V-2 not being armed with a one ton high explosive
warhead as in the German military configuration. Other efforts were made to reduce the
missiles lift off weight in an effort to increase its altitude.
The V-2 had movable vanes on the outer tips of its fins; these were used for guidance
control when the missile was in the atmosphere, which would be for most of its flight when
used as a ballistic weapon. It also had movable solid carbon vanes projecting into the
rocket blast for the same purpose when it was in rarefied atmosphere.
With TF-1 we were obviously going to be operating outside the earth's denser atmosphere
since we were shooting for altitude rather that range. Therefore in order to further
reduce the weight of the V-2 the Section removed the mechanism that operated the tip vanes
and welded the vanes in place on the fins, relying only on the carbon vanes for control.
These carbon vanes would be the main control after the first seven seconds of vertical
flight. The components removed were four chain drives comparable to a bicycle chain and
included the chains, sprockets and shafts that connected to the four electric drive motors.
So far we have a significant weight savings, or in other words more altitude.