Army Ballistic Missile Agency

Army Ballistic Missile Agency

The Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) was the agency formed to develop the US Army's first intermediate range ballistic missile. It was established at Redstone Arsenal on February 1, 1956 and commanded by Major General John B. Medaris with Doctor Wernher von Braun.

In March, 1958 ABMA was placed under the new Army Ordnance Missile Command (AOMC) along with Redstone Arsenal, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, White Sands Proving Ground and the Army Rocket and Guided Missile Agency (ARGMA). [cite web
url =
title = Redstone Arsenal Complex Chronology, Part II: Nerve Center of Army Missilery, 1950-62 - Section B: The ABMA/AOMC Era, 1956-62
work = Redstone Arsenal Historical Information
publisher = United States Army
accessmonthday = 28 June
accessyear = 2006
] General Medaris was placed in command of AOMC and BG John A. Barclay took command of ABMA.

The Redstone missile was the first major project assigned to ABMA. After the US Naval Research Laboratory's Project Vanguard was chosen by the DOD Committee on Special Capabilities, over the ABMA's proposal to use a modified Redstone ballistic missile as a satellite launch vehicle, ABMA was ordered to stop work on satellites and focus, instead, on intermediate missiles.

Von Braun, disobeying orders, continued work on the design for what became the Jupiter-C IRBM. This was a three-stage rocket, which, by "coincidence", could be used to launch a satellite in the Juno I configuration. In September 1956, the Jupiter-C was launched with a 30 lb (14 kg) dummy satellite. It is generally believed that, at this time, the ABMA could have put a satellite into orbit had the US government allowed ABMA to do so. A year later, the Soviets launched Sputnik 1. A Redstone based Jupiter-C launched Explorer 1 on 31 January 1958.cite news |work=TIME Magazine |title=Reach for the Stars|url=,9171,862899-1,00.html |date=1958-02-17] Redstone was later used in Project Mercury and as part of the Saturn I launch vehicle.

In 1956, studies began for a replacement for the Redstone missile. Initially called the Redstone-S (solid), the name was changed to Pershing and a contract was awarded to The Martin Company, beginning a program that lasted 34 years.

In 1958 AMBA's scientific and engineering staff, including Von Braun and Arthur Rudolph, were transferred to the newly created NASA, and the facilities on the southern half of Redstone Arsenal became Marshall Space Flight Center. Medaris took command of AOMC in 1958 and BG John A. Barclay became the ABMA commander. In 1961 the AOMC space related missions and most of its employees, facilities and equipment were transferred to NASA. BG Richard M. Hurst took command from May 1960 until December 1961 when both ABMA and ARGMA were abolished and the remnants were folded directly into AOMC. AOMC was restructured into the new US Army Missile Command (MICOM) in 1962.


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