Page last updated 7 Mar, 2020
Twenty-three guided missile development flights for
Project Hermes were conducted at Complex 33 from 1947 to 1954. The first
Hermes experiments were conducted with modified V-2 rockets to test the
configuration of a ramjet propulsion system under development by Dr Von
Braun's group at Fort Bliss, Texas. The redesignated Hermes B-1 vehicle
featured outsize stabilizing fins in place of the standard V-2 tail section
and the nose was fitted with two canard fins to simulate the configuration
of the planned RTV-A-6 ramjet vehicle (nicknamed the "Organ"). In a related
experiment, the cylindrical ramjet diffuser (tail-pipe) for Organ was test
flown on two regular V-2 firings, Number 44 (November 1948) and Number
46 (May 1949).
Four Hermes B-1 rockets were flown from Complex 33 , none of which were noted in the contemporary records. The infamous V-2 that landed near Juarez, Mexico on May 29, 1947 was actually a Hermes B-1 vehicle, which was a classified project at that time. This V-2, and another that had landed east of the impact zone on the immediate implementation of stricter range safety procedures at White Sands.
The next variant to be tested was the Hermes A-1, a virtual clone of the German "Wasserfall" anti-aircraft rocket that featured four stumpy wings on the mid body of the missile. Five A-1 test vehicles built by GE were flown from Complex 33 between May 1950 and April 1951. The Hermes launch stand at Complex 33 was located about 75m east of the V-2 installation.
Hermes A-2 (RTV-A-10) was a large solid propellant missile, the first of its kind, which was test fired at Cape Canaveral in 1953. The Hermes C-1 design, a "paper study" that did not reach the hardware stage, eventually led to the development of the Redstone missile under the direction of Dr. Von Braun. Hermes A-3 (RTV-A-8) was flown seven times at White Sands starting from March 1953, to test inertial guidance systems and a higher specific impulse rocket motor that used in the V-2.
The test objectives of the final Hermes variant, the A-3B (XSSM-A-16), were essentially the same as for Hermes A-3A, except that a more powerful rocket motor was employed and a radar command guidance system was utilized, Six A-3B vehicles were flown from Complex 33 between May and November 1954. For the modest sum of $100 million Hermes bequeathed a technological legacy to American industry that included valuable experience in solid propellants, high performance liquid fuel rocket motors and radio and inertial guidance technologies.