French officer and rocket pioneer. Barre became interested in astronomy as a teenager, publishing an article on parabolic mirrors in 1923. Chosing a professional military engineering career, he still continued his studies in astronomy. Barre attended a symposium on 8 June 1927 where Robert Esnault-Pelterie explained his dream of reaching outer space using rocket propulsion. Barre was galvanized and feverishly sketched a design for an interplanetary manned spacecraft and started a correspondence with Esnault-Pelterie that would total 300 letters over six years.
By November 1930, Esnault-Pelterie the theoretician, and Barre the practical military engineer, had persuaded the Ministry of War to fund development of a sounding rocket as a first step. Their research laboratory opened on 25 September 1931. Only three weeks later Esnault-Pelterie lost four of his fingertips in an explosion at the lab. Work continued, but by the fall of the following year the Army decided that it was wasting the time of a valuable officer. Barre was transferred to other duties and had less time for research. Only the intervention of Esnault-Pelterie with General Weygand resulted in the work of the laboratory being continued.
Experimental work continued on establishing the optimum propellant combinations and ratios for liquid rocket motors. Barre obtained funding for development of rocket-augmented anti-aircraft artillery shells, which he calculated would double the performance of conventional shells. Five test shots of the design were carried out in February-April 1937.
In July 1939 Barre proposed a tube-launched 240 mm rocket with a range of 101 km, compared to 53 km for a conventional artillery shell of the same gauge. The French Army found the concept technically unfeasible and rejected the proposal. Barre again found himself moved to other duties. However supporters within the Army covertly provided him premises and staff to continue his research.
By 15 January 1941 Barre completed a comprehensive report on the military potential of rocketry. He sketched out ballistic missiles with 1000 km range, powered by liquid oxygen/gasoline engines. Armor-piercing rockets would reach 2000 m/s and defeat any tank armor. Anti-aircraft rockets would intercept aircraft in half the time. Rocket-boosted bombs would destroy enemy emplacements. Air-augmented rockets would reach even higher range and efficiencies but would require extensive research to handle pressure and humidity variations.
Barre's report worked its way through the wartime bureaucracy, finally reaching the Minister of State for War on 23 June 1941. It was immediately classified top secret, and Barre was given 300,000 francs to start research. In order to keep the work from the notice of the occupying Germans, it was officially for development of automotive gas generators.
By November 1941 Barre conducted his first engine test of his EA-1941 surface-to-air rocket at Lazarc. The engine ran for 42 seconds before exploding. Additional funds were provided, and the EA-1941B was run on 17 March 1942 for 5 seconds before exploding, but producing a thrust of 719 kgf. A second test the following day produced 650 kgf for only four seconds before exploding. Thermal transfer from the engine to the missile structure was found to be the cause, and changes were made. Testing was moved to Vancia, outside of Lyons, and the test bench itself was rebuilt. Following short tests in July and August, the EA-1941 finally ran at 655 kgf for 11 seconds in a full-duration run on 24 September 1942. Barre felt the missile was ready for flight test, but this would have to be done in Algeria. By 8 November 1942 a third of the test material was being unloaded in Oran, and the team and the rest of the material was ready to embark at Marseilles. Then news comes of the Allied landings in North Africa. The flight tests were immediately called off, and the team hid all materials in Algeria and France. At the end of 1942, the Germans occupied Vichy France and all further work on the project was suspended.
Barre thereafter occupied himself in assessing nuclear thermal and ion propulsion for interplanetary spacecraft. He joined the French Resistance. The Allies expressed interest in the EA-1941, so in October 1943 Barre microfilmed the drawings of the rocket and smuggled them to Britain. The Gestapo detained some members of Barre's team. One of them ironically died in a concentration camp where the inmates were assigned to V-2 rocket production.
After the liberation of Paris, Barre was immediately put to work again on the EA-1941. All of the hidden materials were returned to Lyons and it was decided to conduct test launches from Toulon. The first launch of the EA-1941 finally took place on 15 March 1945. The rocket, intended to take a 25 kg payload to 100 km altitude, veered off course and crashed after 5 seconds of flight. A second attempt the next day resulted in the rocket exploding on the launch pad, destroying it.
By May and June 1945 Barre accompanied Henri Moureau on several trips to occupied Germany that recover tons of V-2 equipment, parts, and drawings. The incredible technical advance the V-2 represented was clear, and the French government decided to leapfrog Barre's development and have Germans develop a 'Super V-2' for France.
Barre returned to test launches of the EA-1941 at Toulon on 6 July 1945. Three launch attempts were made, none entirely successful, but the last reached 1400 m/s and was believed to have crashed into the ocean 60 km from the launch pad. Three further attempts on 18 July resulted in only two firings, neither of which leave the launcher. Nevertheless these results were sufficiently encouraging for SAGEM to be given a contract to produce Barre's design for an improved EA-1946 rocket, dubbed Eole.
SAGEM undertook rigorous engineering test and analysis of the EA-1941's fuel feed systems and combustion processes to identify the sources of the rocket's problems. The key issue was finally found to be burn-through and loss of a portion of the inner wall of the combustion chamber, which blocked the nozzle exit. Ironically the last EA-1941 was ground run for full duration in the summer of 1946 without incident. However plans to develop it further as a sounding rocket are abandoned.
Barre becomes involved in advanced studies for the Army of nuclear weapons and ramjets. The French government dropped plans for development of the Super V-2, but development of both the EA-1946 and the German teams' Veronique rocket were continued at a low funding level. Bench test of the EA-1946 finally began at LRBA at Vernon in February 1949, but the engine exhibited combustion instability, which results in an enormous explosion on 6 January 1950. It was decided that the problem could not be solved using gasoline propellant. A switch to ethanol, as used on the V-2, was made. After several unsuccessful tests, the new engine performed acceptably on 15 February 1951, producing 2.4 metric tons of thrust. By the seventh test on 25 September 1951 the engine reached 9.59 metric tons thrust and an exhaust velocity of 2110 m/s. The second ground test of a complete Eole rocket on 3 April was successful, clearing the way for flight tests at the French launch site of Hammaguir in the Sahara.
Launches at Hammaguir were delayed by problems with transporting liquid oxygen over the rough roads and weather conditions in Algeria. Reservoirs adequate for use in Europe were too poorly insulated for the desert, and European vehicles were not up to Algeria's roads.
After several months of delays, the first launch attempt was made on 22 November 1952. The rocket lost its stabilization fins and exploded after seven seconds of flight. The failure was attributed to tracer flares fitted to the fins. The tracers were omitted and a second launch attempt was made two days later. This rocket again lost its fins, but continues an altitude of 2.95 km. It was determined that the fins were not able to withstand going through the sound barrier.
The experiences in the desert spelled the end of the Eole program. The German team at LRBA, using storable propellants in their Veronique rocket, were experiencing none of the problems liquid oxygen posed for the Eole. The military did not see any future use for cryogenically fueled rockets. The Eole project was shut down, and Barre did not participate directly in future rocketry development in France. He was retained as a consultant for SEREB and SNECMA in the 1960's, when the French military decided to use only solid propellant missiles. Barre received numerous awards and honors before his death.
Birth Place: French.