White Sands Missile Range

Summary

White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) is a United States Army military testing area and firing range located in the US state of New Mexico. The range was originally established as the White Sands Proving Ground on 9 July 1945. White Sands National Park is located within the range.

White Sands Missile Range logo.jpgWhite Sands Missile Range (1960)[1]
New Mexico Joint Guided Missile Test Range (1947)
White Sands Proving Ground (1945)
Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range (1941)[2]
Part of United States Army Test and Evaluation Command
Located in the San Andres Mountains, the Oscura Mountains, the San Augustin Mountains, the Tularosa Basin, and the Chupadera Mesa in New Mexico
Tularosa-Basin-NM-USGS-map opaque.gif
Most of the northern Tularosa Basin (blue) is used for the WSMR (area within dashed perimeter), which encloses numerous areas that are not military land (e.g., the NPS's White Sands National Park), as well as United States Air Force facilities.
White Sands Missile Range location.gif
WSMR location
Coordinates32°20′08″N 106°24′21″W / 32.33556°N 106.40583°W / 32.33556; -106.40583[3] Condron Army AirfieldCoordinates: 32°20′08″N 106°24′21″W / 32.33556°N 106.40583°W / 32.33556; -106.40583[3] Condron Army Airfield near the southernmost WSMR point
Site information
Controlled byUnited States Army
Websitewww.wsmr.army.mil
Site history
Built1948-07-09 cantonment completed[4]
1957-02: Launch Complex 37 completed
Built byOrdnance Corps[4]
Garrison information
Current
commander
BG Eric D. Little (2021–present)[5]
Past
commanders
  • BG David C. Trybula (2019–2021)
  • BG Gregory J. Brady (2018–2019)
  • BG Eric L. Sanchez (2016–2018)
  • BG Timothy R. Coffin (2014–2016)
  • MG Gwen Bingham (2012–2014)[6]
  • BG John G. Ferrari (2011–2012)
  • BG David L. Mann (2008–2009)
  • BG Richard L. McCabe (2007–2008)

Significant eventsEdit

  • The first atomic bomb (code named Trinity) was test detonated at Trinity Site near the northern boundary of the range on 16 July 1945, seven days after the White Sands Proving Ground was established.[7]
  • After the conclusion of World War II, 100 long-range German V-2 rockets that were captured by U.S. military troops were brought to WSMR. Of these, 67 were test-fired between 1946 and 1951 from the White Sands V-2 Launching Site. (This was followed by the testing of American rockets, which continues to this day, along with testing other technologies.)
  • NASA's Space Shuttle Columbia landed on the Northrop Strip at WSMR on 30 March 1982 as the conclusion to mission STS-3.[8] This was the only time that NASA used WSMR as a landing site for the space shuttle.
 
The site of the 1945 Trinity explosion became part of WSMR.

IncidentsEdit

Just after 4 PM on 15 May 1947, a V-2 fired from White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico veered off course and landed 4 miles northeast of Alamogordo, New Mexico.[9] At 7:32 PM two weeks later, a German V-2 sounding rocket fired from White Sands Proving Ground veered off course, crashed and exploded on top of a rocky knoll 3.5 miles south of the Juárez, Mexico business district, leaving a 24-foot-deep by 50-foot-wide crater.[9][10] On 11 July 1970, the United States Air Force launched an Athena sounding rocket, equipped with re-entry vehicle V-123-D, from the Green River Launch Complex in Utah. While its intended target was inside of WSMR, the rocket instead flew south and impacted 180–200 miles south of the Mexican border in the Mapimi Desert in the northeastern corner of the Mexican state of Durango.[11]

GeographyEdit

As the largest military installation in the United States, WSMR encompasses almost 3,200 sq mi (8,300 km2) including parts of Doña Ana, Otero, Socorro, Sierra, and Lincoln counties in southern New Mexico.

Nearby military basesEdit

Holloman Air Force Base borders WSMR to the east; and WSMR borders the 600,000-acre (2,400 km2) McGregor Range Complex at Fort Bliss to the south (southeast Tularosa Basin and on Otero Mesa) making them contiguous areas for military testing.[12][13]

Nearby citiesEdit

WSMR is located between Las Cruces, New Mexico to the west, Alamogordo, New Mexico to the east, and Chaparral, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas to the south.

National park and wildlife refugeEdit

White Sands National Park and the San Andres National Wildlife Refuge are federally-protected natural areas contained within the borders of WSMR.

TransportationEdit

Major highwaysEdit

New Mexico State Road 213 enters the range from the south from Chaparral, New Mexico and terminates at U.S. Highway 70, which traverses the southern part of the range in a west-northeast direction and is subject to periodic road closures during test firings at the range.

Nearby airportsEdit

El Paso International Airport is the nearest airport with regularly scheduled commercial flights. There have been no regularly scheduled commercial passenger flights from Las Cruces International Airport since 25 July 2005, when Westward Airways ceased operations; although General aviation, New Mexico Army National Guard (4 UH-72 Lakota Helicopters), private charters and CAP, among others, still use the airport.

National Historic LandmarksEdit

The Trinity Site, selected in November 1944 for the Trinity nuclear test conducted on 16 July 1945[14], was designated a National Historic Landmark district on 21 December 1965,[15][16] and added to the National Register of Historic Places on 15 October 1966.[17] The White Sands V-2 Launching Site used for a V-2 static test firing on 15 March 1946, and for the first US V-2 launch on 16 April 1946, received landmark designation on 3 October 1985.[18]

Current operationsEdit

 
Ground-based electro-optical deep-space surveillance telescopes performing space surveillance mission.

The White Sands Test Center, headquartered at the WSMR post area, has branches for manned tactical systems and electromagnetic radiation, and conducts missile testing and range recovery operations.[19] "WSMR Main Post" includes several smaller areas such as the housing area, golf course, "Navy Area", and "Technical Area"[20] The WSMR Museum offers tours and exhibits including a V-2 rocket returned in May 2004 after restoration. The White Sands Missile Range Hall of Fame inducts members such as the first range commander, Colonel Harold Turner (1945–1947), in 1980.[21] A recreational shooting range just inside the "El Paso gate" on the south is outside of the Post Area.

The 1972 DoD Centers for Countermeasures (CCM) evaluates precision guided munitions and other devices in electronic counter- and counter-countermeasures environments.[22] Other operations on WSMR land include the Launch Abort Flight Test Complex for the Pad Abort-1, the White Sands Launch Complex 37 built for Nike Hercules tests, the White Sands Launch Complex 38 built for Nike Zeus tests with Launch Control Building now used for Patriot missile firings, the North Oscura Peak facility of the Air Force Research Laboratory Directed Energy Directorate, and the 1963 NASA White Sands Test Facility's ground station for Tracking and Data Relay Satellites, and the SDO ground station with two 18 m (59 ft) antennas.

ChronologyEdit

  • 1930: Robert Goddard began rocket testing in New Mexico.
  • 1941-04-13: US World War II preparations established[14] the Army Air Base, Alamogordo[23]
  • 1942: Biggs Army Airfield construction began near El Paso (1947 Biggs AFB, 1973 Biggs AAF)--the region's nearby Deming Army Air Field, Ft Sumner Army Air Field, and South Aux Fid #1 transferred to "Army Div Engrs" in 1946.[24]
  • 1940s: When the range was formed, ranchers' land was leased and, in the 1970s, taken permanently to expand the area available for testing.[25]

USAAF rangesEdit

White Sands Proving GroundEdit

  • 1945-02-20: The Secretary of War approved establishment of WSPG.[28]: 246 [27]
  • 1945-04-01: The first Private F launch[29] was at WSPG. (Not Fort Bliss's Antiaircraft and Guided Missile Center, which was established 6 July 1946.)[30]
  • 1945-06-25: WSPG construction began with drilling of water wells.[14]
  • 1945-07: First of 300 railroad cars of German V-2 components began to arrive at Las Cruces, New Mexico.[28]: 246 
  • 1945-09: The blockhouse at Army Launch Area 1 (later Launch Complex 33) was completed.[14]
  • 1945-09-16: First WAC Corporal test firing.[28]: 253 
  • 1945-11: GE contractors began to identify, sort, and reassemble V-2 components in Building 1538 (Assembly Building 1).
  • 1946: 35 of the Operation Paperclip scientists from Germany were working at WSPG.[31]
  • 1946-05-29: The 4th U.S. V-2 launch was tracked by two White Sands based AN/MPQ-2 stations.[32]
  • 1946 summer: New WSPG quarters were completed and the Medical Detachment and 3 batteries moved from Ft Bliss.[33]
  • 1946-09: First static firing of a Nike missile was at WSPG.[34]

New Mexico Joint Guided Missile Test RangeEdit

  • 1947 (late): AMC shifted Army Air Force guided missile programs to Alamogordo in March 1947 and established inter-service New Mexico Joint Guided Missile Test Range at the end of the year[35]
  • 1947-11-14: The USAF's Alamogordo Guided Missile Test Base (AGMTB) had its first ramjet-configured GAPA missile launch (39th for GAPA).[36]
  • 1948–05-13 to 1949-04-21: First six flight attempts for the Project Bumper two-stage V-2 SRBM/WAC Corporal two-stage research vehicles as the world's first "high-speed" multistage rockets to be launched.[37]
  • 1948-07: USAF Project MX–774 commenced with the first RTV-A-2 Hiroc launch (from Launch Complex 33)[38]
  • 1949-03: Holloman's 2754th Air Force Base unit gained "control of [the WSPG] support airfield, Condron Field…from Biggs Army Air Field at Fort Bliss."[14]
  • 1949: German scientists transferred from New Mexico to Alabama (Dr. Ernst Steinhoff transferred from WSPG to Holloman's Air Development Center.)
  • 1949-07: The range's Four Bits Peak Instrumentation Annex was assigned to the air force base (disposed on 30 September 1960).[24]
  • 1951-07: The AGMTB became a sub-base of Florida's Air Force Missile Test Center until 31 August 1952.[39]
  • 1951-08-22: Broomstick Scientists in a unit of the 9393 Technical Service Unit conducted their first launch: the "TF-1" V-2 rocket.[40][41] (Broomstick Sweepings publication ended after a 22 January 1952 general order transferred "1st Ord. GMS Bn." soldiers to Detachment No. 1, Station Complement.)[42]
  • 1952-05-27: An aggregated 2,394,384 acres (4,680 sq miles) was set aside for the "Alamogordo bombing range, White Sands proving ground, and the Fort Bliss antiaircraft range".[43]
  • 1952-09-01: Merger of Holloman bombing range and smaller White Sands Proving Grounds (WSPG) into WSPG[44][35]
  • 1952-11: The range's Red Butte Instrumentation Annex was assigned to Holloman AFB (disposed on 22 November 1963).[24]
  • 1953-06: USS Desert Ship (LLS-1) (Launch Complex 35) was built to test the Navy RIM-8 Talos missile.[14]
  • 1957-02: The 9393rd Technical Unit, Ordnance, became the U.S. Army Garrison.[45]
  • 1957-03-13: Nike Hercules satisfactory launch from White Sands[46][47]

White Sands Missile RangeEdit

External media
Images
  1945 WSPG
Video
  196x Big Picture: Tularosa Frontier
  Short Notice Annual Practice (minute 16:50)
  Countdown at White Sands

EducationEdit

Las Cruces Public Schools operates White Sands School on the missile range property.[67]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ White Sands Administrative History (Report). National Park Service. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Chapter Four: Global War at White Sands 1940–1945". White Sands Administrative History. National Park Service. Retrieved 26 November 2022. Executive Order No. 9029
  3. ^ "Condron Army Airfield (2444053)". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved 28 May 2014. (Doña Ana county—entered in the GNIS on 20 March 2011)
  4. ^ a b "Development of the Corporal: the embryo of the army missile program" (PDF). Army Ballistic Missile Agency. April 1961. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 March 2009.
  5. ^ "Leadership White Sands Missile Range". U.S. Army. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  6. ^ "LTG Gwen Bingham". Association of the United States Army. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  7. ^ "White Sands Missile Range". Astronautix.com. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  8. ^ "STS-3 Columbia Lands at the White Sands Missile Range, NM". NASA. 30 March 1982. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  9. ^ a b Jim Eckles (15 May 2022) Two crashes in two weeks: In 1947, rockets launched from White Sands landed in Alamogordo, Juárez
  10. ^ "Remember the time we bombed Mexico with German rockets?". Gizmodo. 11 May 2012.
  11. ^ Barclay, Michael (13 July 2015). "USAF Accidentally Launched Rocket into Mexico's Mapimi Desert 45 Years Ago". Unredacted. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  12. ^ Rubenson, David; Robert Everson; Jorge Munoz; Robert Weissler (1998). McGregor Renewal and the Current Air Defense Mission. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-8330-2669-9. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  13. ^ "U.S. Army Fort Bliss Training Center" (PDF). Western Regional Partnership. 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g "A Brief History of White Sands Proving Ground 1941–1965" (PDF). New Mexico State University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 October 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
  15. ^ Greenwood, Richard (14 January 1975). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Trinity Site". National Park Service. Retrieved 21 June 2009. and Accompanying 10 photos, from 1974. (3.37 MB)
  16. ^ "Trinity Site". National Historic Landmarks. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 15 February 2008. Retrieved 28 January 2008.
  17. ^ "National Register Information System – Trinity Site (#66000493)". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 23 January 2007.
  18. ^ "White Sands Missile Range Fact Sheet" (PDF). NASA. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  19. ^ "Time Magazine, "Recovery at White Sands"". 29 June 1962. Archived from the original on 3 February 2009.
  20. ^ "Welcome to WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE WSMR" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 March 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  21. ^ "White Sands Missile Range Hall of Fame". White Sands Missile Range Museum. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  22. ^ "Center for Countermeasures". Archived from the original on 6 April 2001. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  23. ^ "A Brief History of White Sands Proving Ground, 1941-1965". WSMR Museum. 21 September 2020. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  24. ^ a b c d e Mueller (1982). "Holloman Air Force Base". Air Force Bases as of 1982 (Report).
  25. ^ Gibbs, Jason (19 July 2014). "WSMR, DOD may take control of range's Northern Extension Area". Las Cruces Sun-News. The Las Cruces Sun-News. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2014.
  26. ^ "Executive Order 9029: Withdrawing Public Lands for Use of the War Department as a General Bombing Range; New Mexico". National Archives. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  27. ^ a b Ordway, Frederick I, III; Sharpe, Mitchell R (1979). The Rocket Team. Apogee Books Space Series. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. pp. 290, 389. ISBN 1-894959-00-0.
  28. ^ a b c Ley, Willy (1958) [1944]. Rockets, Missiles and Space Travel (revised ed.). New York: The Viking Press. pp. 246, 253.
  29. ^ Bluth, John. "Von Karman, Malina laid the groundwork for the future JPL". JPL.
  30. ^ Hamilton, John A. Blazing skies: Air Defense Artillery on Fort Bliss, 1940-2009 ("Google eBook" of Government Printing Office document). ISBN 9780160869495. Retrieved 29 May 2014. Special Orders No. 143, Headquarters, Army Ground Forces, dated 6 July 1946, [established] the Antiaircraft and Guided Missile Center [from] the remnants of the Antiaircraft Artillery School, the Antiaircraft Replacement Training Center, Army Ground Forces Board No. 4,13 1st AAA Guided Missile Battalion, the 1852nd Area Service Unit, and remaining antiaircraft units, including three automatic weapons battalions and one gun battalion placed in the Army General Reserve.
  31. ^ McCleskey, C.; D. Christensen. "Dr. Kurt H. Debus: Launching a Vision" (PDF). p. 35. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 September 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2008.
  32. ^ Upper Air Rocket Summary: V-2 Number 4 (PDF) (Report). Defense Technical Information Center. 29 May 1946. p. 332. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  33. ^ Hamilton, John A. Blazing skies: Air Defense Artillery on Fort Bliss, 1940-2009. Government Printing Office. ISBN 9780160869495. three officers and fifty-five enlisted men...worked closely with the German rocket scientists who were located in a six-acre ordnance area on the north side of the Fort Bliss cantonment. [The military unit went to WSPG] to provide the manpower to build the [V-2] missiles and erect them on test stands.
  34. ^ Fort Bliss Main Post Early Cold War BASOPS Building Inventory and Evaluation, 1951-63 (PDF) (Report). U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. December 2006. p. 37. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  35. ^ a b Mueller (1982). "Holloman Air Force Base". Air Force Bases as of 1982 (PDF) (Report). USAF Office of Air Force History. p. 248. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  36. ^ Bushnell, David (25 August 1986). GAPA: Holloman's First Missile Program (Scribd.com image) (Report). Air Force Missile Development Center: Historical Branch. IRIS 00169113. Retrieved 11 August 2013. [1st ramjet GAPA] "was launched 14 November 1947 and the initial liquid-fuel variety 12 March 1948.8... The last of the GAPAs, number 114, was launched 15 August 1950, and the project officially terminated at Holloman the following month.11
  37. ^ "Bumper Project". White Sands History – Fact Sheets and Articles. US Army. Archived from the original on 10 January 2008. Retrieved 2 December 2007.
  38. ^ "A Brief History of White Sands Proving Grounds 1941-1965" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 October 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
  39. ^ "History of Holloman Air Force Base Space Biology" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 May 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2014. test installation
  40. ^ Kennedy, Gregory P. (1983). Vengeance Weapon 2: The V-2 Guided Missile. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 62.
  41. ^ Egermeier, Robert P. (September 2001). "Former "Broomstick Scientist"". Aerospace America: 7.
  42. ^ Koppenshaver, James T. (30 January 1951). "Broomstick Sweepings" (PDF). Wind and Sand. pp. 1, 6. Retrieved 27 May 2014. late 1950…Fort White Sands…early in 1951
  43. ^ "Public Land Order 833". Federal Register (PDF) (Report). 27 May 1952. p. 4822. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  44. ^ Integration of the Holloman-White Sands Ranges, 1947-1952 (2nd Edition, 1957)
  45. ^ "W S P G Military Units Have New Designations" (PDF). Wind and Sand. 8 February 1957. Retrieved 27 January 2022 – via www.wsmrhistoric.com.
  46. ^ "Nike Hercules". Astronautix.com. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  47. ^ Leonard, Barry (c. 1986). History of Strategic and Ballistic Missile Defense: Volume II: 1956-1972 (PDF). p. 308. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 December 2019. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  48. ^ Piland, Doyle. "Way Back When..." (PDF). WSMR newsletter. Retrieved 11 April 2014. Launch Complex 38...Site preparation for the TTR [Target Tracking Radar] began in July 1959.... Site preparation for the Discrimination Radar was started in January 1961.
  49. ^ Site Plan: Nike Zeus Facilities ALA 5 (Map). reproduced in WSMR newsletter: Federal Government of the United States.
  50. ^ "New Device Will Plot All Planes". Alton Evening Telegraph. 20 August 1959. p. 29. Iconorama shows almost instantly the positions of aircraft thousands of miles away… Traces made by the planes being tracked are scribed on a coated slide by a moving stylus. … The slide plot measures only one inch square, yet overall error of the projected display is said to be about one part in 1,000. … Iconorama units already have been installed and operated at the Pacific Missile Range, Point Mugu Calififornia; the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico; the Atlantic Missile Range at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the Naval Research Laboratory
  51. ^ Conduct of Redstone Annual Service Practice at White Sands Missile Range New Mexico, Fort Sill: Headquarters, United States Army Artillery And Missile Center (the Artillery and Missile Center at Ft Sill was redesignated the Field Artillery Center in 1969.)
  52. ^ "Nike R&D at White Sands, Multi-Function Array Radar, 1954-1970 (page 16)". Nike Historical Society. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  53. ^ "Remarks Upon Arrival at the Missile Range, White Sands, New Mexico". The American Presidency Project. 5 June 1963. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  54. ^ Townsend, Neil A (March 1973). "Little Joe Test Program". Apollo Experience Report - Launch Escape Propulsion Subsystem (PDF) (Report). NASA. p. 14. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  55. ^ "Local Men Visit Zeus at White Sands". Wilmington News-Journal. 27 November 1963. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  56. ^ "Part I. History of ABM Development" (transcript at AlternateWars.com). Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  57. ^ Mark Paine. "Sprint". Nuclearabms.info. Retrieved 28 August 2022.
  58. ^ "Public Law 90-110-October 21, 1967" (PDF). U.S. Congressional Record. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  59. ^ Hoihjelle, Donald L. (February 1972). AN/FPS-16(AX) Radar Modeling and Computer Simulation (Report). WSMR Instrumentation Directorate. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  60. ^ "The Story of SIMTEL20". Archived from the original on 11 January 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  61. ^ "82nd Aerial Target Squadron QF-106 Drone Pacer Six". F-106 Delta Dart Association. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  62. ^ "White Sands Missile Range AIAA Historic Aerospace Site". the Historical Marker Database. 6 October 2019. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  63. ^ "NASA Building Test Pad at White Sands for New Spacecraft". RedOrbit. 3 February 2008. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  64. ^ "NASA Constellation Mission Project, Research, and Test Sites Overview". NASA. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  65. ^ "Orion Pad Abort 1 Test a Spectacular Success". NASA. 6 May 2010. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  66. ^ Romero, Leah (25 May 2022). "Starliner lands on 'bull's-eye' at White Sands Missile Range". Las Cruces Sun News.
  67. ^ "White Sands School Homepage". White Sands School. Retrieved 26 November 2022. #1 Viking St White Sands Missile Range, NM 88002

External linksEdit

  • White Sands Missile Range Museum
  • Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. NM-1, "White Sands Missile Range, White Sands, Dona Ana County, NM", 128 data pages
  • HAER No. NM-1-A, "White Sands Missile Range, Trinity Site", 106 photos, 11 measured drawings, 116 data pages, 8 photo caption pages
  • HAER No. NM-1-B, "White Sands Missile Range, V-2 Rocket Facilities", 72 photos, 6 measured drawings, 117 data pages, 5 photo caption pages