Opel-RAK carsThe world's first rocket-propelled car was driven by Kurt C. Volkhart to a top speed of 75 km/h (47 mph) on Mar. 15, 1928, at Opel's track near Rüsselsheim. The experimenters then decided to replace the standard car they'd been using with a vehicle specially designed for 400-pound Sander rockets.
The new car, called the Opel-RAK 1, was a converted racer whose conventional engine was replaced by six Sander rockets and then by eight. On April 12, 1928, successful runs were made at speeds of up to 55 mph over 2,000- to 3,000-foot distances at Rüsselsheim. Then a 12-rocket experiment was made, and though five rockets failed to ignite, the car reached more than 70 mph. The Opel-RAK 1 was followed by the Opel-RAK 2, which was fitted with short, inverse wings to hold it to the ground as it sped along. Opel-RAK 2, fitted with 24 rockets and with Opel himself at the wheel, sped down a track in Berlin on May 23, 1928, at a speed of 143 mph (230 km/h).
These tests were followed by the RAK 3 railway-car experiments in June and October 1928. The first, conducted between Celle and Burgwedel, were powered by 24 large powder rockets that accelerated the car to well over 100 mph. The second series of tests, using 30 solid rockets, was held between Blankenburg and Halberstadt. One run was successful, reaching a speed of 157 mph (254 km/h); the other, with a larger and heavier payload, was not.
Early rocket plane experiments
The RAK 1 had a sailplane wing, under which a pod was suspended to house the pilot and 16 Sander black powder rockets. The tailplane was mounted on booms behind the wing and up out of the way of the rocket exhaust. Opel successfully piloted it over 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) in 75 seconds of flight, but landed hard, damaging the aircraft beyond repair. Opel planned to build a second rocket plane, but apparently lost interest before the project was completed.
Source: History of Rocketry & Space Travel by Wernher von Braun and Frederick I. Ordway, III. Thomas Y. Crowell: NY (1966).
Related category HISTORY OF ROCKETRY
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