V2 Launching Site

Launch Complex 22 (Gantry Crane) with a Hermes A-1 missile

Photo courtesy of White Sands Missile Range Museum

The White Sands V-2 Launching Site, or Launch Complex 33, was developed specifically to accommodate V-2 rocket tests at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The launch complex has two important structures: the old Army Blockhouse and the launching crane, also known as the Gantry Crane. The Army Blockhouse was completed in late September 1945 and was primarily used as an observation point and laboratory in the pioneer development of the V-2 rocket in the United States. The Gantry Crane, a steel tower 75 feet tall and 25 feet wide, was constructed in November 1946 to launch the V-2 and Viking rockets. The German V-2 Rocket-Vergeltungswaffen-2, or "weapon of retaliation"--the most advanced rocket of its type, was developed to support the German war effort and by 1945 hundreds of these rockets were launched against Allied targets in England and on the continent of Europe. The American government in Operation Paperclip captured more than 100 V-2 rockets and numerous German scientists and engineers associated with the V-2 development program, including Dr. Werner Von Braun. The Army brought Dr. Von Braun and the captured V-2s to the newly opened White Sands Missile Range.

By March 1946 the first captured V-2 was static test fired at White Sands and in April 1946 the first V-2 was launched. From 1946 to 1951 the Army generated an increasing expertise in rocket technology and launched 67 V-2s from White Sands, establishing high altitude and velocity records that reached to the very edge of space. From these experiments emerged the first generation of American built rockets such as the Corporal, Redstone, Nike, Aerobee and Atlas. At the conclusion of the testing program for the V-2, the Army transferred its rocket team under Dr. Von Braun to the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, to continue work on basic research and prototype development of new rockets. Launch Complex 33 at the White Sands Missile Test Range tested and launched the very first generation of technologically sophisticated rockets that enabled Americans to probe to the very edge of space.

[photo] V2 Launch- -the blockhouse at Launch 33 is on right
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army

On the White Sands Missile Range the world's first nuclear device (code name "Trinity") was detonated on July 16, 1945. The Los Alamos Project of the Manhattan Engineer District of the War Department began in 1943 with its purpose the development and final manufacture of a nuclear instrument of war. The Trinity Site, within the White Sands Missile Range, is a National Historic Landmark.

White Sands V-2 Launching Site, a National Historic Landmark, is located at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The missile range is closed due to security concerns; interested parties who want to see the Launch Complex 33 should call the public affairs number at 505-678-1134 well in advance -- a guided tour is possible. The White Sands Missile Range Museum offers many exhibits tracing the history of missile and space flight testing. It is located between Las Cruces and Alamogordo, New Mexico, off US-70, US-82. The museum is open weekdays from 8:00am to 4:00pm and weekends from 10:00am to 3:00pm; closed major holidays. The Missile Park in front of the museum is open daily, dawn to dusk. For more information call 505- 678-8824 or visit the museum's website. Visitors may alse be interested in the nearby White Sands National Monument.