Walter R. Dornberger was Wernher von Braun's military superior during the German rocket development program of World War II. He oversaw the effort at Peenemuende to build the V-2, fostering internal communication and successfully advocating the program to officials in the German army. He also assembled the team of highly talented engineers under von Braun's direction and provided the funding and staff organization necessary to complete the technology project. After World War II Dornberger came to the United States and assisted the Department of Defense with the development of ballistic missiles. He also worked for the Bell Aircraft Co. for several years, helping to develop hardware for Project BOMI, a rocket-powered spaceplane.
Birth Place: German.
Meanwhile the results of the air war over London showed that the A4 could be an economic weapon. Bombers were averaging only 5 to 6 missions, dropping only 6 to 8 tonnes of bombs before being shot down. Once the loss of trained flying crews was considered, the bomber cost 30 times more than the A4 to deliver a tonne of explosives on London compared to the expendable A4 at its production price of 38,000 Marks. But time was being lost in convincing others in the German leadership that the missile should be put into production.
There was never any doubt that manned space travel was Von Braun's life goal. The technology needed for manned flight presented many such technical challenges. He realised early on that only multi-staged liquid propelled rockets could achieve his dream. Rockets certainly needed lighter propellant tanks, but there was a practical technical limit to this, and in any case, there still had to be a payload. Von Braun knew that liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen was the ultimate propellant combination, but also that learning how to handle liquid hydrogen would be a long-term affair. A one-year study at the Technische Hochschule in Dresden and Peenemuende showed that other propellant combinations could produce no more than a 20% improvement in specific impulse compared to the existing V-2 technology. Therefore a multistage rocket was the only way to achieve orbital spaceflight.
In order to productionise the A4 design, Degenkolb began authorising many detailed changes. He didn't understand that every change had to be proven in test first, and only incremental steps could be taken. Stahlknecht had planned to produce 300 A4 missiles per month by January 1944, and 600 per month by July 1944. Degenkolb unrealistically decreed that 300 per month be achieved by October 1943, and 900 per month by December 1943.
When they were finally ushered into his presence, Dornberger was shocked at the terrible and changed appearance of the Fuehrer. The team begins their briefing, in the presence of Hitler, Keitel, Jodl, Butale, and Speer. The presentation began with a film of preparations and launch of an A4 on the 3 October 1942. Von Braun narrated the film, which had proven a real crowd-pleaser in the past. It showed the A4 in production at the vast assembly hall at Peenemuende, the vertical roll-out, the huge launch complex, and finally launch. Von Braun then presented a model and plans for the hardened production/launch bunker that was being built on the English Channel.
Hitler loved the bunker model, and declared he wanted to build not one, but three such facilities. Dornberger argued that mobile launchers would be militarily less vulnerable and less costly, but Hitler was unconvinced. The 7 m thick bunker walls, he declared, would 'draw every allied bomber like flies to honey. Every bomb they drop there will be one that does not fall on Germany'. Hitler asks if the payload can be increased to 10 tonnes (in order to accommodate a nuclear warhead) or if a 2,000 per month production rate was possible (in order to make mass attacks on Britain with conventional explosive or chemical payloads). Dornberger replies that it would take four to five years to develop a missile with greater payload, and that production was limited by the German industrial capacity for alcohol (used as fuel in the missile).
Dornberger noted that they did not dream of the possibility of short-term availability of nuclear energy in 1936, when the specifications for the missile were set. In any case, after the loss of the heavy water plant in Norway, it would take years to develop nuclear weapons. Hitler was visibly upset that the V-2 would not turn out to be a war-deciding weapon. But Dornberger pointed out it was a great psychological weapon - unstoppable, something against their which there was no defence.
Hitler stated that 'I have only had to excuse myself to two men in my life - and one of them was von Brauchtisch, who always championed the importance of your work, and the other is you. If we had this weapon in 1939, Britain would have conceded, and there would have been no war.
Hitler finally ordered that the V-1 and V-2 missile programs be given the highest priority in the defence ministry. Immediately needed staff and material began flowing into the program. Saur immediately ordered a production goal of 2,000 missiles per month, despite the fact that there was no prospect of producing enough alcohol fuel or training enough launch crews to actual fire the missiles at such a rate. However, there was no disagreement, since any industry leader who did not commit to meeting this production goal was threatened with immediate replacement. German alcohol production would mean the maximum number that could ever be fired was 900 per month.
This entire process was going on while production was ramping up at the underground facility at Mittelwerk. There was pressure from the highest quarters to get the missile fielded and attacks on England underway. Every change resulting from these tests and research meant that the production line at Mittelwerk had to be stopped, and retrofits made to undelivered missiles.