Even in these days of the Internet, sending paper mail by airplane remains a major part of everyday life. The early efforts to build upon airmail and experiment with rocket mail, however, never quite caught on.
There had been earlier efforts at home and abroad, usually over short distances and using handcrafted rockets. It all came to a head in 1959, however, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) decided
to try it out.
The rocket chosen for this job was Thor, a 55-ton intermediate-range ballistic missile
developed by the U.S. Air Force. Thor was a single-stage rocket, with a range of 1,500 miles. On November 27, 1957, the government gave the go-ahead for production.
The launch duly took place on May 21, 1959, from Cape Canaveral. It was the 44th flight of a Thor. NASA increased its range to 6,000 miles by adding the second stage of a Vanguard rocket. The resulting combination was called a “Thor-Able” rocket.
By John Lockwood
Read the article from the August 2016 issue of Flight Journal, click here.