The NASA Goddard Visitor Center features a full-size rocket garden located outside of the facility that features many types of rockets, mock-ups, and old flight hardware. Every piece in the collection is a real NASA artifact that offers excellent photo opportunities. The Rocket Garden is also a great way to view the actual Goddard Space Flight Center, as the garden offers a sweeping panoramic view of the main campus. Below is some basic information about the various items in the Goddard Rocket Garden.
Apollo Spacecraft Capsule
This is a genuine non-flying “boilerplate” mock-up similar on the interior and exterior to the appearance, size and shape of the actual Apollo crew module. This example was most likely made and used for crew training purposes.
All of the sounding rockets on display are real flight hardware, though certain components have been removed for safety reasons. The sounding rockets lack launcher guides and fuel, and many are also missing stabilizing fins, which were detached due to their size and fragility. Many of the sounding rockets have been painted for display purposes and are not authentic to their original color schemes.
Cushcraft Dual Polarity Twin Beam 16-element Yagi 140-160 MHz Fixed Position Satellite Antenna
Black Brant VIII Sounding Rocket: This is a two-stage, general purpose launch vehicle developed by Bristol Aerospace of Winnipeg, Canada. NASA has used this rocket and similar versions to study solar/terrestrial electrodynamics and has even used these to gather dust from Comet Hale Bopp to use in other research studies. The first stage of this version is a government-supplied U.S. Army Nike M5 E 1 rocket booster, with replacement fin unit and special inter-stage adapter. The Army Radford Arsenal created many of these motors for the Nike-Ajax antiaircraft missile system. As motors “aged out” of the inventory, they were given to NASA for science research. The second stage is the Bristol Black Brant V c Motor. This sounding rocket has an altitude capability well over 230 miles as configured here. Weighing in at just shy of 6,400 pounds, similar models of this rocket are still in use today by NASA at Goddard's Wallops Flight Facility. This rocket can handle a payload up to 2,000 pounds and has a thrust of 48,700 pounds per 3.5 seconds and 17,025 pounds per 27 seconds for the first and second stages, respectively.
Brunswick Corporation/Aerolab/ARC Argo D-4 Javelin: A four-stage, high-altitude sounding vehicle originally developed to support America’s nuclear weapons test program, this rocket type became a preferred “ride” for many NASA solar physics experiments in the 1960s and 1970s. The first stage is an Army Honest John M-31 motor and fins. The exhaust plume from this 15-ft. motor typically stretched almost 300 feet. The second and third stages are Army Nike M5E1 motors with custom fin units. Lastly, the fourth stage is a spin-stabilized Allegheny Ballistics Lab X-248 motor and the payload shroud. As normally flown, the Javelin could exceed 600 miles of altitude with 150 pounds payload. The last of more than 70 of these vehicles flew in July 1976. Weighing in at 7,595 pounds, this rocket could generate thrusts of 82,000 pounds per 5 seconds, 48,700 pounds per 3.5 seconds and 3,150 pounds per 40 seconds, among the first, second/third, and fourth stages, respectively.
Nike/Thiokol-AstroMet Tomahawk: Another system using the ubiquitous Nike Ajax M5E1 booster motor. Special to this vehicle was its remarkable acceleration, achieving well over 1200 mph in less than four seconds of flight. At peak thrust, the flame stretched 150 feet behind the Nike motor. The ultimate altitude with a 100-pound payload could hit 150 miles or more. Firing-to-impact time was just over five minutes. This rocket was often used for astronomy, plasma physics and atmospheric dynamics studies. The last firing of this rocket type occurred in the mid-1990s. Weighing in at just 2,130 pounds, this rocket was able to generate 48,700 pounds per 3.5 seconds and 10,000 pounds per 9.5 seconds of thrust between the first and second stages, respectively.
Atlantic Research Corporation IRIS: Pre-dating the Goddard Space Flight Center's creation in 1958, the Naval Research Lab (NRL) proposed an end-burning solid fuel motor finless booster rocket to augment its Vanguard program. Just as flight development began, the NRL's Vanguard personnel and a core group from the sounding rocket program were transferred from NRL to the new NASA Beltsville Space Flight Center (Goddard's original name). This program moved with them. In flight-testing, the Iris rocket proved a disappointment. Goddard flew only four Irises before moving in other directions. The Iris is important to Goddard's history, as it was one of the first space vehicles flown under the original NASA Goddard banner. The Visitor Center’s Iris was a ground test rocket, which was originally seen in a striking black, white, and silver paint scheme. Our rocket was photographed behind Mrs. Esther Goddard as she dedicated the Goddard Space Flight Center in early 1959. This 1,218-pound rocket is the only known model of its type left in existence.
This very high gain directional antenna was used until the late 1980s to send signals to the pioneering Applications Technology Satellite-3 from a transmitter in the Visitor Center. The transmitter was removed when vacuum tubes to operate it became unavailable.
Douglas Aircraft/Aerojet/ABL Delta-B Satellite Launch Vehicle (Thor Delta)
This was a launch vehicle jointly developed by the Air Force and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. This rocket used the reliable Thor ballistic missile as a first stage. This was topped by an improved second and third stage from the Vanguard launch vehicle (the “Delta” stages). The Thor name was later dropped. As the "Delta" it has served America for more than four decades. It was used to launch many of the most famous early Goddard missions, from the TIROS weather satellites to the SYNCOM and RELAY communications spacecraft. It also launched most of the famous Explorer family of basic research satellites. Delta’s latest model can lift well over 20 times the original payload of the version we display. The Delta-B displayed at the Visitor Center is a type of mechanical systems test unit. While not a flight vehicle, most of its hardware is real. In the early 1960s, it served as the centerpiece for the U.S. Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. Weighing in at 114,170 pounds, the rocket was able to generate 175,000 pounds of thrust during its first stage, while generating 7,575 pounds per 170 seconds and 2,760 pounds per 42 seconds in its second and third stages, respectively.
Delta Payload Shroud
This unit protected the third stage and payload of the Thor Able and Delta B model vehicles from mechanical and heating damage during launch. It was designed to jettison during the second stage climb out to reduce weight. This item is actual flight hardware, not a mock-up.
Compiled by Alan Williams, Goddard Visitor Center.
"Rockets of the World" by Peter Always, First Edition, 1993, Saturn Press.