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Me-163
Part of German Rocketplanes Family
German winged rocketplane. The rocket-powered Messerschmitt Me-163 was the world's first and only operational pure rocket fighter and represented the culmination of Alexander Lippisch's years of research in rocketplanes, tail-less aircraft, and delta wings. As a weapon, the Me-163 had tremendous speed but very limited range. However the concepts developed by Lippisch contributed to the Space Shuttle and Buran orbiters of a quarter century later.

Status: Cancelled 1945. Payload: 250 kg (550 lb). Thrust: 16.60 kN (3,732 lbf). Gross mass: 3,955 kg (8,719 lb). Height: 5.92 m (19.42 ft). Diameter: 2.75 m (9.02 ft). Span: 9.33 m (30.61 ft). Apogee: 12 km (7 mi).

The Me-163 had the following characteristics:

Single-seat interceptor
Powerplant: one 1,700 kgf thrust Walter 109-509A-2 rocket motor
Max. Speed: 960 km/hr; cruise 800 km/hr; landing speed 80 m/s
Range: 80 km during a 7.5 minute flight time. 12 km altitude reached in 3.3 minutes
Dimensions: span 9.33 m; length 5.70 m
Takeoff mass: 3995 kg loaded with 2 x Mk 118 x 60 rockets

Payload: 250 kg (550 lb) to a 12 km altitude.



Family: European Rocketplanes, Rocketplane, Winged. People: Lippisch. Country: Germany. Spacecraft: Junkers 'Junior'. Launch Sites: Kummersdorf, Peenemuende. Bibliography: 17, 394, 693, 8414.

1928 June 11 - . LV Family: German Rocketplanes. Launch Vehicle: Me-163.
  • First manned rocket-powered aircraft flight. - . Crew: Stamer. Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Lippisch, Opel, Stamer.

    A rocket-boosted glider is flown by Friedrich Stamer from the Rhoen Mountains in Western Germany. The development was funded by Opel, the canard-layout glider designed by Hans Lippisch, and the powder rockets developed by Sander. As in the Opel ground vehicles, a boost rocket (360 kgf for 3 seconds) was to accelerate the glider down the launch ramp. A sustainer rocket (20 kgf for 30 seconds) would keep the aircraft in flight. It was hoped to develop a method of launching gliders that would allow the pilot to get airborne without assistance - that did not require a tow aircraft or the eight-man crew needed to pull back the rubber band on existing rail launchers. Tests with smaller motors in models showed the high-thrust motors were too powerful, so the full-scale tests used a standard rubber-band rail launcher with only the low thrust motors installed. After two attempted flights, Stamer finally made a successful flight, firing two 20 kgf motors one after the other. The glider flew about 1.5 km in 70 seconds. On the second flight the first motor exploded, setting the aircraft on fire. Stamer landed successfully but further attempts were abandoned.


1929 September 30 - . LV Family: German Rocketplanes. Launch Vehicle: Me-163.
  • Opel Sander Rak 1 flies. - . Crew: Opel. Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Lippisch, Opel.

    Opel sponsored resumption of tests of rocket-boosted gliders near Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. These involved a design by Lippisch, boosted by 16 powder rockets of 23 kgf each. With Opel at the controls, the glider successfully launched itself from a 20-m long rail launcher, and he flew the aircraft for ten minutes. However the landing went badly - the design had a landing speed of 160 kph, and with a total weight of 270 kg, a high wing loading. Opel survived but the glider had to be written off. This was Opel's last involvement with rocketry. General Motors, the majority owner of the Opel company, prohibited further rocketry work after the stock market crash. Fritz von Opel left the country and moved to Switzerland.


During 1935 - . LV Family: German Rocketplanes. Launch Vehicle: Me-163.
  • Me-163 rocket engine development begins. - . Nation: Germany.

    There was no interest within the German Aviation Ministry at that time in rocket engines as primary propulsion for a combat aircraft. Due to the rocket engine's high fuel consumption, it was seen as only useful in providing Jet Assisted Takeoff for conventional propeller aircraft.


During 1936 - . Launch Site: Kummersdorf. Launch Complex: Kummersdorf. LV Family: German Rocketplanes. Launch Vehicle: Me-163.
  • First test of liquid rocket engine intended for use on aircraft - . Nation: Germany. Spacecraft Bus: German Rocketplanes. Spacecraft: Junkers 'Junior'.

    A 300 kgf engine was installed in a Junkers 'Junior' aircraft fuselage at Kummersdorf. This was the first rocket engine installation in an aircraft. But the problem to be solved was how to ensure continuous operation of the engine during aircraft manoeuvres. The rocket team finally built a big carousel, capable of testing the engine installation at up to 5 G's.


July 1938 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. Launch Complex: Peenemuende. Launch Vehicle: V-2.
  • Rocket fighters - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Dornberger. Spacecraft: He-122, He-176, Me-163.

    The first rocket fighter, the He-176, powered by a Walther engine, was tested at Peenemuende. In competition, Dornberger's team developed a 120-second duration engine to power the He-122. However loss of control in unpowered flights of the latter resulted in it crashing and being eliminated from further consideration. Dornberger's team left further rocket fighter engine development to Walther, and concentrated on the A4 and follow-on ballistic missiles.


During 1939-1940 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. Launch Complex: Peenemuende. LV Family: German Rocketplanes. Launch Vehicle: Me-163.
  • JATO tests at Peenemuende - . Nation: Germany.

    From 1939-1940 a series of rocket engine tests to support development of a JATO pod were conducted from Peenemuende-West with a He-111. It was found that liquid oxygen was not an appropriate oxidiser for civil use, so the engineers at Walther - Kiel introduced hydrogen peroxide as an alternate. The Walther engine was simpler than the rocket team's prototype, could produce 1000 kgf for 300 seconds, and was capable of taking a rocket fighter to 12 km altitude within two minutes from engine start.


1941 September 1 - . LV Family: German Rocketplanes. Launch Vehicle: Me-163.
  • Me-163A first flight. - . Nation: Germany.

    Messerschmitt Me-163A powered by "cold" H. Walther rocket successfully flown at Augsburg, Germany, development of which had begun in 1937, but "cold" engine proved unreliable. Flights were also made in October which reached speeds of 1,003 km/hr, or Mach 0.85.


1943 June 1 - . LV Family: German Rocketplanes. Launch Vehicle: Me-163.
  • First Me-163B flight. - . Nation: Germany. Messerschmitt Me-163B rocket interceptor powered by Walther "hot" engine successfully flown at Bremen, Augsburg, and near Leipzig, Germany. Over 300 Me-163B's were produced by Junkers by the end of 1944..

1944 August 1 - . LV Family: German Rocketplanes. Launch Vehicle: Me-163.
  • Me-163B first operational use. - . Nation: Germany. German Me-163B Komet rocket-powered fighters first attacked American bomber formations over Europe. The Me-163 had sweptback wings, Walther liquid-fuel rocket motor, speed of 590 mph, and powered flight duration of 8-10 minutes..


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