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Beyond Low Earth Orbit program

V-2 rocket

Research into military use of long range rockets began when the studies of graduate student Wernher von Braun attracted the attention of the German Army. A series of prototypes culminated in the A-4, which went to war as the V-2. Beginning in September 1944, over 3,000 V-2s were launched by the German Wehrmacht against Allied targets, first London and later Antwerp and Liège. According to a 2011 BBC documentary, the attacks from V-2s resulted in the deaths of an estimated 9,000 civilians and military personnel, and a further 12,000 forced laborers and concentration camp prisoners died as a result of their forced participation in the production of the weapons.
By late 1941, the Army Research Center at Peenemünde possessed the technologies essential to the success of the A-4. The four key technologies for the A-4 were large liquid-fuel rocket engines, supersonic aerodynamics, gyroscopic guidance and rudders in jet control. At the time, Adolf Hitler was not particularly impressed by the V-2; he pointed out that it was merely an artillery shell with a longer range and much higher cost.
The V-2 was guided by four external rudders on the tail fins, and four internal graphite vanes in the jet stream at the exit of the motor. The LEV-3 guidance system consisted of two free gyroscopes (a horizontal and a vertical) for lateral stabilization, and a PIGA accelerometer to control engine cutoff at a specified velocity. The V-2 was launched from a pre-surveyed location, so the distance and azimuth to the target were known. Fin 1 of the missile was aligned to the target azimuth.
Two test launches were recovered by the Allies: the Bäckebo rocket, the remnants of which landed in Sweden on 13 June 1944 and one recovered by the Polish resistance on 30 May 1944 from Blizna and transported to the UK during Operation Most III. The highest altitude reached during the war was 174.6 kilometres (108.5 miles) (20 June 1944). Test launches of V-2 rockets were made at Peenemünde, Blizna and Tuchola Forest, and after the war, at Cuxhaven by the British, White Sands Proving Grounds and Cape Canaveral by the U.S., and Kapustin Yar by the USSR.
British intelligence sent false reports via their Double-Cross System implying that the rockets were over-shooting their London target by 10 to 20 miles (16 to 32 km). This tactic worked; more than half of the V-2s aimed at London landed outside the London Civil Defense Region. 459 Most landed on less-heavily populated areas in Kent due to erroneous recalibration. For the remainder of the war, British intelligence kept up the ruse by repeatedly sending bogus reports implying that the rockets were now striking the British capital with heavy loss of life.
After the US Army captured the Ludendorff Bridge during the Battle of Remagen, the Germans were desperate to destroy it. On 17 March 1945, they fired eleven V-2 missiles at the bridge, their first use against a tactical target. They could not employ the more accurate Leitstrahl device because it was oriented towards Antwerp and could not be easily adjusted for another target. Fired from near Hellendoorn, the Netherlands, one of the missiles landed as far away as Cologne, 40 miles (64 km) to the north, while one missed the bridge by only 500 to 800 yards (460 to 730 m). They also struck the town of Remagen, destroying a number of buildings and killing at least six American soldiers.