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The Sky Is No Limit

Daniel Redd

Sound | 1950s

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  •  NARRATOR: What’s it like 30, 50, or 70 miles up? Under the direction of Dr. Marcus O’Day of the Geophysics Research Division at the Air Force Cambridge Research Center, leading scientists from all over America are brought together to answer this question and to study such properties of the upper air as temperatures, pressures, winds, and composition. These answers are needed to improve our radio and radar systems, to solve supersonic flight problems, and to gain other important scientific knowledge. One of their tools is the aerobee rocket. 
  •  After many months of pains taking efforts, the equipment for this specific experiment arrives at the Air Force Missile Test Center, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. In this city of technicians and scientists in the vast waste lands of central New Mexico, parts of the aerobee are fitted together in preparation for the launching a few hours later. In the rocket assembly shop seen here, the main body of the rocket is carefully lowered onto the trailer which will carry it to the launching tower. Once there, technicians will add the instrument rack containing the complex equipment to be used in this experiment. 
  •  Dozens of aerobees—like this one—have been launched by all three armed services, each to add some new piece of information about the upper air. When the pieces are all assembled, our scientist will have answers to the problems to be overcome in our conquest of the upper air.  
  •  Here, the main body is carefully clamped into position on the trailer to prevent any damage in transit.  
  •  The trailer is then hooked to the tow truck and both the rocket and the crew are ready for the final trip to the launching site. 
  •  But let’s take a closer look at the aerobee, let’s see what makes it tick.  
  •  The booster is an auxiliary proportional unit containing a slow-burning powder, designed to give the tremendous push required to accelerate the rocket during the first thousand feet, then the burned-out booster falls away, and the rocket is on its own.  
  •  Next, the rocket motor, into which the fuel and oxidizer are fed under pressure to ignite and continue propelling the rocket. This motor is contained in the tail assembly. Fins noted in the diagram are to stabilize the rocket in flight, one fin is black in order that any roll of the rocket may be recorded by cameras. Ahead of the motors are tanks containing the oxidizer, fuel, and pressurizing gas.  
  •  The Nose Section is the business end of the aerobee. It contains the scientific instruments for the experiment, the telemetering beacon which sends readings back to the ground stations and a specially designed parachute to lower the nose section safely.  
  •  While the rocket is being moved to the launching site, scientists and technicians assemble the instruments rack to be carried by the rocket. 
  •  The purpose of today’s experiment is to measure temperatures and pressures of altitudes up to 60 miles. Ion gauges and other instruments are being installed for these measurements. 
  •  Long before the final check and the instrument rack is completed, the rocket arrives at the launching site. As fire prevention and safety crews arrive at the launching pad, the aerobee is moved into position for the raising. 
  •  Scientists bring the telemetering beacon up to the launching site where it’s carefully fitted into place.  
  •  The last bolts are tightened, and the beacon installation is completed. Then the instrument rack is attached, the technicians work slowly to prevent damage to the instrument because months of study and research has gone to their development and much depends on their performance.  
  •  Meanwhile, fueling crews down a mile from us with protective suits as they prepare to fuel the rocket. The bullet-like aluminum nose cone slides into position over the instrument rack and is firmly attached to the rocket body.  
  •  Bearings are fitted over the electrical control cables. This completes the assembly of the various components of the aerobee rocket. 
  •  Airtight rubber suits, necessitating a supply of bottled oxygen, are worn as protection against the dangerous fuels. Here, the suits are sprayed with water in order to lower the temperature inside.  
  •  When all is in readiness, the fuel truck is backed into position and the crew prepares to fuel the rocket. First, the cap is removed from the fuel tank. Next, the hose is unreeled, and the nozzle is screwed tightly into place. Then the fueling begins.  
  •  When the fuel tank is full, the hose is carefully removed and put away to prevent spilling of the dangerous fluid.  
  •  Then a danger sign is placed into position to show that the rocket contains fuel. Afterwards, the launching pad is sprayed with water to neutralize any spilled chemicals.  
  •  The process is duplicated in loading the oxidizer into the rocket with the same careful supervision.  
  •  Now, the rocket is ready to be raised to its launching position in the tower. The yoke is attached to the rail on which the rocket rests in preparation for the slow lifting process.  
  •  When the rocket is finally in launching position, clamps are removed and pull-away plugs are attached for the final instrument checks to be made by remote control by the blockhouse. 
  •  MALE SPEAKER: This is aerobee command to all stations. On my mark, the time will be x minus one hour—mark. 
  •  NARRATOR: Inside the blockhouse, scientists check their instrument panels, which indicates that the instruments in the rocket are operating properly.  
  •  These checks involve remote telemetering and tracking stations such as Skillet Knob, standing high above the floor of the valley, 60 miles to the north.  
  •  Twin Buttes, located 20 miles to the south.  
  •  Sacramento Peak 9,400 feet high and about 40 miles to the east. 
  •  And Tullow Peak, a small peak located 18 miles to the west. Here, banks and telemetering equipment receive and record signals from the rocket, this is the valuable records that the scientists will use in their study of the upper air. 
  •  As watching time grows near, we return to the blockhouse, which is the Control Center for the entire operation. Inside, scientists standby their instrument panels checking and rechecking to see nothing has gone wrong with the rocket instruments.  
  •  The firing officer clears the tower and orders the igniter attached to the booster.  
  •  His job accomplished, the last man leaves the tower. 
  •  MALE SPEAKER: This is aerobee command to all stations, on my mark, the time will be x minus four minutes—mark. 
  •  NARRATOR: The firing officer then orders that a red warning flare be fired to alert nearby tracking crews. Cameras, radar, telescopes, and observers. A weather balloon is released for a last wind check. 
  •  MALE SPEAKER: This is aerobee command to all stations on my mark the time will be x minus three minutes—mark. 
  •  This is aerobee command to all stations on my mark the time will be x minus two minutes—mark. 
  •  This is aerobee command to all stations on my mark the time will be x minus one minute—mark. 
  •  Thirty seconds. Twenty-five seconds. Twenty seconds. Fifteen, fourteen, thirteen, twelve, eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, fire, missile away! 
  •  NARRATOR: And now suddenly, at the end of months of planning and work, the rocket is extended, and the nose cone falls away parachuting the instruments to earth from 60 miles in the atmosphere. Dozens of tracking stations with specialized instruments carefully plot the gentle descent of the nose cone.  
  •  Impact is plotted, and a spotter aircraft is dispatched. It’s directed to the impact area where the pilot drops a red smoke bomb to guide recovery teams.  
  •  The nose cone will be carried back to the base to remove rocket borne recorders and to salvage other instruments for use in future aerobee rockets. 
  •  Back at the Air Force Cambridge Research Center, a group of scientists meet to discuss the results obtained by the latest aerobee rocket and to plan the experiments to be included in the next. We are one more step up the ladder of knowledge, a ladder that leads to conquering the air miles above us—for defense in time of war, for advancement in time of peace. This is just the beginning.  
  •  Scientists meet at the Air Force Cambridge Research Center to answer questions about the upper air 
  •  The aerobee rocket arrives at the Air Force Missile Test Center at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico 
  •   A closer look at the aerobee 
  •  Scientists assemble the rocket and prepare it for launching 
  •  Technicians perform final checks 
  •  Missile away! 
  •  Plotting the impact 
  •  Scientists discuss the results back in Cambridge 
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This industrial film produced by the United States Air Force captures the launching of an aerobee rocket at the Air Force Missile Test Center at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The footage shows the process of the launch experiment, from analysis back at the Air Force Cambridge Research Center in Massachusetts to assembling and launching the rocket to finally retrieving the missile and interpreting the data about the upper atmosphere it has collected. This film was produced by Texas native Robert Redd. Redd was the founder of Tele-Print, Inc., a Dallas-based digital media company, and a producer of many notable B-movies such as “Zontar, the Thing from Venus” (1966). Transcribed by Adept Word Management™, Inc.