The discovery of the potential of the rocket as a weapon by the Germans during the Second World War led, -after the war ended in Europe- to establishing a programme to develop such technology in the United States. As part of this research was created in July 1945 the White Sands Proving Ground, a test site located in a remote area of southern New Mexico. As soon as September was carried out the first launch of one of the V2 rockets captured to the Nazi regime.
Later renamed White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) it has become a multi-purpose test site whose main function is to provide support to missile development programs of the United States armed forces, NASA, government agencies and the private sector.
The site has an area of 3,200 square miles, making it the largest military installation in the entire US. For much of the postwar and Cold War WSMR served as a test site for the full spectrum of missile technology: the already mentioned V2, and early models of Nike, Viking, and Lance Corporal rockets.
Another notable point located within the boundaries of the complex is the so called "Trinity Site", the place where was detonated the first atomic bomb within the ultra-secret project "Manhattan". From the standpoint of biodiversity and landscape it has a remarkable point too, because within its boundaries lies the White Sands National Monument and the San Andreas wildlife refuge. Finally, it is worth to mention that WSMR is one of the alternative landing sites for NASA's Shuttle fleet.
In the context of its primary function, WSMR has often been used to launch stratospheric balloons or as a landing site for scientific loads, carried by balloons launched from the neighborg Holloman Air Force base or other sites nearby. Being a vast and desolate spot, since the dawn of the space programe it has been chosen to carry out various tests which involved the launch of all kinds of artifacts: space probes models, anthropomorphic dummies, etc. Even some test involved the use of special balloons -coated with a metal layer that gave them more radar reflectivity- as moving targets to test new systems for monitoring and controlling missiles.
The latest references to activities with balloons there dating from 1974 with the launch of a balloon during a launch campaign for the LACATE experiment a multiple atmospheric observing study carried out by NASA and other agencies.
Table of balloons launched from the White Sands Missile Range
|Date||Hour||Flight Duration||Experiment||Payload landing place or cause of the failure|
|2/12/1951|| ||~ 8 h||NUCLEAR EMULSIONS||--- No Data ---|
|2/27/1957|| ||---||PAYLOAD UNKNOWN||--- No Data ---|
|3/1/1957|| ||---||PAYLOAD UNKNOWN||--- No Data ---|
|4/18/1957|| ||---||PAYLOAD UNKNOWN||--- No Data ---|
|4/20/1957|| ||---||PAYLOAD UNKNOWN||--- No Data ---|
|9/27/1957|| ||---||ANTHROPOMORPHIC DUMMY||In Orogrande - New Mexico|
|10/8/1957|| ||---||ANTHROPOMORPHIC DUMMY||10 miles E of Picacho, New Mexico, US, US|
|5/20/1959||1:30 local||5 h||SKY-CAR (Fulgham - Kaufman - Kittinger)||NW of El Paso, Texas, US|
|8/21/1961||23:07 MST||6 h||INFRARED SPECTROMETER||S of Lordsburg, New Mexico, US|
|12/17/1963|| ||2 h||DYNAMIC TEST OF BALLOON ASCENT||--- No Data ---|
|9/3/1964|| ||2 h||CROSS CHECK OF ON-BOARD ACCELEROMETER, WSMR OPTICS & DIGITAL RADAR||--- No Data ---|
|2/13/1965|| ||30 m||TEST FLIGHT OF VITRO CORP. BALLOON RECOVERY SYSTEM||--- No Data ---|
|2/16/1965|| ||30 m||TEST FLIGHT OF VITRO CORP. BALLOON RECOVERY SYSTEM||--- No Data ---|
|2/18/1965|| ||20 m||TEST FLIGHT OF VITRO CORP. BALLOON RECOVERY SYSTEM||--- No Data ---|
|3/5/1965|| ||30 m||TEST FLIGHT OF VITRO CORP. BALLOON RECOVERY SYSTEM||--- No Data ---|
|3/9/1965|| ||20 m||BALLOON TEST 'C' LAUNCH SYSTEM||--- No Data ---|
|9/11/1968||5:58 mst||17 h||STRATCOM - I (Stratospheric Composition)||Near Twenty-Nine Palms, California, US|
|9/22/1969||6:36 utc||---||STRATCOM - II (Stratospheric Composition)||--- No Data ---|
|10/28/1970|| ||---||EPSILON AEROSOL SPECTROMETER||--- No Data ---|
|11/3/1970||11:55 mst||4 h 22 m||POLAR NEPHELOMETER||Near the New Mexico-Texas border, US|
|5/5/1974||01:00 local||~ 10 h||LACATE (Lower Atmospheric Composition and Temperature Experiment)||36 kms from the launch site.|
|9/15/1988|| ||---||ABLE III (Atmospheric Balloon Lidar Experiment)||Over White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, US, USA|