Alpha Draco

Alpha Draco
Alpha Draco
Alpha Draco.jpg
The Alpha Draco test vehicle
Type Experimental rocket
Place of origin  United States
Service history
In service 1959
Used by United States Air Force
Production history
Designed 1957-1958
Manufacturer McDonnell
Number built 3
Length 46.1 feet (14.05 m)
Diameter 31 inches (790 mm)

Engine First stage, Thiokol TX-20
50,000 lbf (222 kN)
Second stage, Thiokol TX-30
12,300 lbf (54.8 kN)
Wingspan 7.1 feet (2.16 m)
Propellant Solid fuel
240 miles (390 km)
Flight ceiling 100,000 feet (30,000 m)
Speed Mach 5+

The Alpha Draco missile, also known as Weapons System 199D (WS-199D), was an experimental missile developed by McDonnell Aircraft in the late 1950s to investigate boost-glide reentry. Three test flights were conducted in 1959, of which two were successful.


Design and development

As part of the WS-199 project to develop new strategic weapons for the United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command, McDonnell Aircraft developed the Alpha Draco missile between 1957 and 1959. The purpose of the rocket was to establish whether a strategic missile using the "boost-glide" principle of propulsion could be practically used.[1]

The Alpha Draco missile was a two-stage vehicle, the first stage comprising a Thiokol TX-20 solid-fuel rocket of the type used in the MGM-29 Sergeant theatre ballistic missile, and the second stage using a Thiokol TX-30 solid-fuel rocket. The payload vehicle was aerodynamically shaped, using the lifting body principle to provide aerodynamic lift;[2] following burnout of the first stage, the vehicle would coast for a short time before ignition of the second stage,[1] burnout of the second stage was followed by the vehicle entering the glide phase of flight, which would be terminated by a dive upon the target.[3]

Operational history

Three test launches of the Alpha Draco vehicle were conducted during 1959,[2] the missile being launched from a land-based gantry. The initial flight, on February 16, was successful; the second flight, one month later, also fulfilled its test goals. The final launch of the Alpha Draco on April 30, however, suffered a flight-control failure and was destroyed by range safety command.[3] With the expenditure of the third and final vehicle, the program came to a halt,[1] the project's cost having come to a total of approximately $5 million USD, the knowledge gained in the project proving invaluable to the development of re-entry vehicles for future intercontinental ballistic missiles.[3]

See also

Related development


  1. ^ a b c Parsch 2005
  2. ^ a b Yenne 2005, p.67.
  3. ^ a b c Yengst 2010, pp.38-39.
  • Parsch, Andreas (20058). "WS-199". Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  • Yengst, William (2010). Lightning Bolts: First Manuevering Reentry Vehicles. Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing & Enterprises. ISBN 978-1-61566-547-1. 
  • Yenne, Bill (2005). Secret Gadgets and Strange Gizmos: High-Tech (and Low-Tech) Innovations of the U.S. Military. St. Paul, MN: Zenith Press. ISBN 978-0-7603-2115-7. 

External links

Media related to Alpha Draco at Wikimedia Commons

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