Von Opel, Fritz Adam Hermann (1899–1971)
German automotive industrialist and grandson of Adam Opel, founder of the
Opel car company, who took part, with Max Valier
(of the newly formed Verein für
Raumschiffahrt) and Friedrich Wilhelm Sander,
in experiments with rocket propulsion for automobiles and aircraft, earning
himself the nickname "Rocket Fritz." On Mar. 15, 1928, Kurt Volkhart tested
the world's first rocket-propelled car, the Opel-RAK
1 and achieved a top speed of 75 km/h (47 mph) in it, proving the concept.
On May 23 of that year, he reached a speed of 230 km/h (143 mph) in an improved
version, the RAK 2, driven by 24 solid-rockets. Later that same year, Opel
purchased a sailplane named the Ente from Alexander Lippisch and attached
rocket motors to it, creating the world's first rocket plane on Jun. 11.
The aircraft exploded on its second test-flight, before Opel had a chance
to pilot it himself, so he commissioned a new aircraft, also called the
RAK 1 from Julius Hatry, and flew it at Frankfurt-am-Main
on Sep. 30, 1929. On Sep. 30, 1929, Opel piloted the second rocket airplane
to fly, another Hatry glider fitted with
16 solid-fuel rockets.
Fritz von Opel was born in Rüsselheim and educated at the technical university
of Darmstadt. After graduation, he was made director of testing for Opel
and also put in charge of publicity – hence his involvement in rocket
publicity stunts. He left the Opel company and Germany in 1929.
ENGINEERS AND SPACE SCIENTISTS