Hermes Program

Page last updated 7 Mar, 2020

(All data on the Hermes was provided by Keith J. Scala and Joel W. Powel, via their paper on the Historic White Sands Missile Range)

    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.

Hermes II
May 30, 1947
Failure. Crashed in Mexico. Apogee: 50km (31 mi)
Hermes II
January 13, 1949
Failure. Apogee: 1.00 km (0.60 mi)
Hermes II
October 6, 1949
Failure. Apogee: 4.00km (2.4 mi)
Hermes A-1
May 19, 1950
Lost thrust at 10 seconds
Hermes A-1
September 14, 1950
Exploded at 81 seconds
Hermes II
November 9, 1950
Successful. Apogee: 150km (90 mi)
Hermes A-1 No.4
February 2, 1951
Hermes A-1 No.5
March 15, 1951
Hermes A-1
April 26, 1951
Hermes A-3A #1
March 13, 1953
Turbo-pump failure at 23 seconds
Hermes A-3A #2
June 13, 1953
Hermes A-3A #3
August 13, 1953
Hermes A-3A #4
October 5, 1953
Roll instability at 161 seconds
Hermes A-3A #5
October or November, 1953
Loss of control at 71 seconds (date N/A)
Hermes A-3A #6
November 20, 1953
Deviated from flight path
Hermes A-3A #7
January 15, 1954
Loss of control at 53 seconds
Hermes A-3B #1
May 11, 1954
Broke up at 192 seconds
Hermes A-3B #2 / A-16
July 20, 1954
Guidance failed at 165 seconds
Hermes A-3B #3
August 26, 1954
Range safety destruct at 30 seconds
Hermes A-3B #4
September 21, 1954
Broke up at 213 seconds
Hermes A-3B #5
October 19, 1954
Hermes A-3B #6
November 16, 1954
Final Hermes Flight; broke up at 204 seconds