The so called ROCKOON (Rocket-Balloon) technique allowed small rockets to reach higher altitudes by sending it onboard a stratospheric balloon to an altitude of about 70.000 ft where it was fired either by an onboard timer, a pressure switch or by telecommand. The technique was first used in 1952 by Dr. James Van Allen then working at the State University of Iowa.
The main advantage of the rockoon combination was to let the rocket to pass throught the lower and thicker layers of the atmosphere without using its own propulsion power, which then allowed a higher apogee to be reched. The only setback was that once released, the balloons cannot be steered and consequently the rocket's launch direction nor imapct area can be predicted. Thus, for safety reasons, all the Rockoon missions were conducted from small vessels sailing in open waters. This possed an additional advantage as the ships could move with the wind to create a ""zero wind condition"" ideal to launch the balloons.
The first rockoon firings used a high-performance small vector known as DEACON. It was a vertically launched sounding rocket developed in 1947 by Allegany Balistics Laboratory for the Navy Bureau of Ordnance, and originally designed to carry a 50-pound instrument load to an altitude of about 20 miles. It had no internal controls or movable surfaces and was arrow stabillized by fins at the after end of the rocket. Propulsion was furnished by a JATO X220 solid propellant rocket motor. Its total length was 12.3 ft, diameter 6.5 inches and fin span was 38.9 inches. The Deacon was capable of attaining speeds about 3.000 mph, and altitudes in excess of 60 miles when fired from a balloon floating around 70.000 ft.
Balloon launched on: 8/6/1953 at 15:07 utc
Launch site: USS Staten Island (AGB-5)
Balloon launched by: General Mills Inc.
Balloon manufacturer/size/composition: Zero Pressure Balloon General Mills -- 55 foot
Flight identification number: GMI-1019
Landing site: Payload no recoverable
The purpose of the flight was to make measurements of cosmic radiation in the auroral zone.
The balloon was launched on August 6th, 1953 at 15:07 utc, from the deck of the U.S Coast Guard vessel Staten Island sailing at coordinates 64º20'N - 59º06'W. After reaching float altitude of 8.5 miles the rocket was fired at 16:51 utc. The apogee of the rocket was of 40.7 miles.
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