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Monthly Meeting Notification

SAMPE Orange County Meeting Notice

Wed., April 18, 2007

The History of the A-4 (V-2) Rocket

John Halchak, Director, Materials Engineering, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne


The German A-4 rocket, commonly known as the V-2, was the world's first true ballistic missile. It also was the first man-made vehicle to leave the earth's atmosphere, reaching an average altitude of 60 miles on each flight. Approximately 3172 of these missiles were launched at various targets in World War II. At a maximum velocity of 3600 miles per hour, they were not only unstoppable, but gave no warning before impact on their target. Although rushed into mass production, the V-2 was essentially a research vehicle, full of design and production flaws. The V-2 represents a leap in technology, achieved in a very short time, yet most of its design features are still common in the launch vehicles of today. Ironically, some of the V-2 features were derived from that of the American rocket pioneer, Robert H. Goddard.

V-2 production was performed largely with slave labor in a giant underground factory run by the dreaded Nazi SS. The human cost in the production of this rocket was horrendous. The engineers who designed the rocket, such as Werner von Braun and Arthur Rudolph, found themselves drawn into a Faustian web involving unspeakable human suffering over which they had no control, but for which they would later face recrimination.

Following the end of the war, the top German rocket engineers immigrated to the United States, where they became the nucleus for the American ballistic missile and space exploration programs. The Soviet Union also obtained its share of German rocket engineers, and it is now known that these people made significant contributions to the Soviet missile and space programs.


John Halchak is the Director, Materials Engineering department, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a division of United Technologies Corp., in Canoga Park. With over 44 years of experience in rocket engine materials, he has worked on virtually every major program for that company, including the Atlas, Gemini, Saturn V, Apollo, Minuteman, Delta, Peacekeeper, Space Shuttle, Aerospike, NASP, RS-68, X-33, and MB-60 programs.

He has been a witness to, and participant in, many historical events in the space program, and has accumulated information from many of the pioneers in rocket development, including some of the original German Peenemunde engineers. He is a graduate of Penn State's metallurgy department, a registered professional engineer, a Fellow of the ASM, and a recipient of the Astronaut Achievement Award, the Penn State David Ford McFarland Award, and the San Fernando Valley Engineers’ Council 2006 Distinguished Engineering Achievement Award.


The Jagerhaus in Anaheim, 2525 East Ball Road, just west of the 57 Freeway, on the North side of Ball.
Turn right at the first driveway. Phone 714-520-9500. GoogleMap Link


6:00 pm Social7:00 pm Dinner • 8:00 pm Speaker — Member or guest dinner $20.
Student (with student ID) dinner $10. No cost for Program only.

Reservations:: E-mail Darrell Reed, reed@ocmtestlabs.com , call 714-630-3003, x 211 or Fill out our Online Form
by Tuesday noon, April 17th.

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