Lippisch Ente

Lippisch Ente

Powered by two slow-burning Sander rockets, the Ente traveled three-quarters of a mile in slightly more than 60 seconds in tests on 11 June 1928.

Ente rocket-owered plane

The Lippisch Ente was the world's first rocket plane. It was adapted from the Ente (German for "duck") sailplane that had been designed by Alexander Lippisch.


In March 1928, car-maker Fritz von Opel, pyrotechnics manufacturer Friedrich Sander, and rocketry advocate Max Valier visited the Wasserkuppe, a mountain that had become the focus of German gliding, to look into the possibility of fitting rockets to an aircraft. There, they encountered some of Lippisch's revolutionary gliders, which because of their tail-less designs suggested themselves to rocket propulsion. Lippisch was able to demonstrate how models of his aircraft would fly with small rockets installed in them. In June, von Opel, Sander, and Valier returned and bought one of his aircraft, the Ente, a canard design.


Two black powder rockets were installed, to be electrically fired from a switch in the cockpit. A counterweight system was also devised and placed under the cockpit floor that would automatically adjust the aircraft's center of gravity as the fuel of the rockets was burned up. The rockets were intended to be fired one after the other, to provide continuous thrust for as long as possible and each had a burn time of around 30 seconds. Fritz Stamer, who had long been a test pilot for Lippisch's designs was selected to fly the aircraft. On 11 June 1928, after one false start, the aircraft took off and flew a 1,500-m (4,900-ft) circuit of the Wasserkuppe's landing strip.


On the second flight, the team decided to try firing both rockets together for increased thrust over a shorter period. Something went wrong, however, and rather than burning properly, one of the rockets exploded, punching holes in both wings and setting the aircraft alight. Stamer was nevertheless able to bring it down from a height of around 20 m (65 ft) before abandoning the Ente, which was burned beyond any hope of salvage.