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The V-1 rocket was flying bomb developed by the Germans. It is considered as the predecessor of the cruise missile and is seen as one of the first rockets to be used effectively in modern warfare. The rocket shows how German scientists were able to apply the principles of rocketry to create tools of war. This was something not achieved since the Chinese invented basic rockets.
The V-1 as befitted its revolutionary nature was known by many names. In some circles it was called a buzz bomb. The British knew the V-1 as the Doodlebug. The V-1 got its name because in German it means retaliation weapon 1. The V-1’s name says it all. It was designed to be a weapon to counter the progress made by the Allies during WWII.
The V-1 was the natural progression of remote controlled aircraft and surveillance planes built by the German Argos company. The main designer of the V-1 rocket was Fritz Gosslau. He initiated the design of the V-1 while he was still at Argos. He would go on to continue working on its development at the Air ministry. The V-1 was developed under the code name cherrystone. The V-1’s design called for a pulse jet power plant. The igniter for the propellant was an automotive spark plug. This was located behind the intake shutters.
The pulse jet engine allowed for the V-1 to take of at any speed however the design of the V-1’s body with its short combined with the low static thrust of the pulse jet made it prone to stalling. To compensate the German’s developed different launching mechanisms. One was a steam powered launcher. Another method was to launch the missile from bombers.
The biggest casualty of the V-1 during World War II was Great Britain. The first V-1 was launched at London on June, 13, 1944. This was one week after the Allied forced landed in Europe. Over the course of their use by the Germans 9,527 V-1’s were launched and at the peak 100 at a time were launched. It is estimated that casualties exceeded 20,000. However there was a bright point for the allies.
A major weakness of V-1’s was the guidance system. This relied on preset targets based on intelligence provided by agents inside Britain. However most of these agents were turned by the British and became double agents. This meant that the German military received false information on targets.
We’ve also recorded many related episodes of Astronomy Cast. Listen here, Episode 100: Rockets.