Encyclopedia Astronautica

Credit: © Mark Wade
Seminal German surface-to-air missile, tested during World War II, but never operational. The V-2-configuration rocket was copied in the USA as the Hermes and in the USSR as the R-101. In Russia it also became the starting point for the R-11/R-17 Scud surface-to-surface missile.

Work began on the Wasserfall missile in 1941, originally as an anti-aircraft version of the A4 surface-to-surface missile. On 25 September 1942 Goering authorized development of four types of surface to air missiles: unguided rockets (Taifun), target-seeking guided rockets (Enzian); operator optically-guided rockets (Rheintochter and Schmetterling); and radar-guided rockets (Wasserfall).

The final specifications of 2 November 1942 called for an interceptor missile with a top speed of Mach 2, able to hit airborne targets flying at up to 900 kph at 5 to 20 km altitude within a radius of 50 km. First versions were to use radio command guidance, to be followed by a self-guiding radar system in later models. The pressure-fed engines used Nitric acid/Tonka propellants. Orders were placed for 5,000 rockets, but production was never even begun due to protracted development. The name translates as 'Waterfall'.

Failures: 1. Success Rate: 50.00%. First Fail Date: 1944-02-29. Last Fail Date: 1944-02-29. Launch data is: incomplete. Standard warhead: 300 kg (660 lb). Maximum range: 26 km (16 mi). Boost Propulsion: Storable liquid rocket, 1850 kg propellant. Maximum speed: 760 kph (470 mph).

Status: Retired 1944.
Gross mass: 3,500 kg (7,700 lb).
Payload: 300 kg (660 lb).
Height: 7.70 m (25.20 ft).
Diameter: 0.89 m (2.90 ft).
Span: 2.34 m (7.67 ft).
Thrust: 78.00 kN (17,535 lbf).
Apogee: 18 km (11 mi).
First Launch: 1944.02.29.
Last Launch: 1944.10.30.
Number: 3 .

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
See also
  • A4 The V-2, known as the A4 to its developers, was the basis for most of the rocketry that exists in the world today. It was ineffective as a weapon of war, but represented a quantum leap in technology. The A1, A2, A3, and A5 were steps in the development of the missile. Later versions - the A6 through A12 - were planned to take the Third Reich to the planets. More...
  • missile Guided self-propelled military weapon (as opposed to rocket, an unguided self-propelled weapon). More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • Wehrmacht German agency overseeing development of rocket engines and rockets. Wehrmacht, Germany. More...

  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page (launch records), Harvard University, 1997-present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • Yeftifyev, M D, Iz istorii sozdaniya zenito-raketnovo shchita rossii, Vuzovskaya kniga, Moscow, 2000. Web Address when accessed: here.

Associated Launch Sites
  • Peenemuende First launch site in the world, used for development of the V-1, A-4/V-2, Wasserfall, and other missiles. Among many major facilities, engine test stands were built that were capable of accommodating planned engines for the A-10 intercontinental missile. 296 known launches were made from the site between 1937 and 1945. More...

Associated Stages
  • Wasserfall-1 Nitric acid/Tonka propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 3,500/1,700 kg. Thrust 80.00 kN. More...

Wasserfall Chronology

1944 February 29 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. Launch Complex: Peenemuende GWO. Launch Pad: GWO?. Launch Vehicle: Wasserfall. LV Configuration: Wasserfall 2. FAILURE: Failure.
1944 March 8 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. Launch Complex: Peenemuende GWO. Launch Pad: GWO?. Launch Vehicle: Wasserfall. LV Configuration: Wasserfall 3.
  • Test mission - . Nation: Germany. Agency: Wehrmacht. Apogee: 1.00 km (0.60 mi).

1944 October 30 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. LV Family: V-2. Launch Vehicle: Wasserfall.
  • Wasserfall test - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Dornberger; Goering. Apogee: 18 km (11 mi). Range: 26 km (16 mi). The Wasserfall surface to air missile was launched from a table, as was the V-2. The missile was optically steered to its target, and had a potential range of 26 km and ceiling of 18 km, with a flight speed of 600 m/s. Goering observed the first launch from Test Stand IX. He was immensely fat, wearing a fantastical outfit, downing pills every five minutes, and uninterested in the proceedings. Dornberger ruefully noted that the Reich is losing the war due to the leadership's shortsightedness. They had not accepted Von Braun's rocket plans in 1939 or the Panzerfaust in 1942. They only became interested in the latter when the first American bazooka fell into German hands in Tunisia.

1944 October 30 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. Launch Vehicle: Wasserfall.
  • - . Nation: Germany. Apogee: 17 km (10 mi).

1944 December 31 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. LV Family: V-2. Launch Vehicle: A4b; Taifun; Wasserfall.
  • Peenemuende rocket team faces the New Year - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Hitler. It was for them a depressing time. The V-2 came too late to affect the outcome of the war. The years 1939-1942, when Hitler had blocked development and production of the V-2, were lost years. By this time, the Peenemuende staff was allocated as follows: 135 were working on Taifun anti-aircraft barrage rocket; 1940 were working on the V-2; 1220 were working on the Wasserfall surface-to-air missile; 270 were working on the A4b winged V-2; and 660 were in administrative positions. Meanwhile Kammler was constantly underway, trying to deploy the wonder weapons he believed would save the Reich. He could only be met at one-hour meetings at autobahn intersections, on his way from one place to another.

1945 January 27 - . Launch Vehicle: Schmetterling; Wasserfall; X4.
  • First meeting of Arbeitstab Dornberger in Berlin - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Dornberger. The group's first priority was to evalute the prospects for rapid development of an effective surface-to-air missile to combat the incessant Allied bombing raids. It had to be beam-riding instead of optically guided, in order to be effective at night and in bad weather. The group found there was no single 'wonder weapon' that would end the war in a few months. But Kammler still believed the Reich still could hold out for six months, enough time to develop and deploy a new weapon. Dornberger's team disagreed, but they had to try nevertheless. Therefore the Schmetterling, Wasserfall, and X4 missiles went into simultaneous final development and production. But realistically none of them could be mature enough to be sent to the front until early 1946. If the Reich could hold out that long, then it was possible it could slowly win back territory.

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