KING OF GODS: The Jupiter Missile Story
Eighth in a Series Reviewing Jupiter's Place in Space
by Ed Kyle, Updated 8/15/2011
Jupiter displayed at its old MFL Cape Canaveral
launch site was recently restored. Mobile service tower in background has been
The Jupiter missile program's most important legacy was
how it spawned the creation, and supported the growth, of the Army Ballistic Missile
Agency and its contractor team during the dawn of the space-age. From a small cadre,
ABMA rapidly expanded to thousands of employees working an expanding budget. The
Agency won an important post-Sputnik project named "Juno V", based on knowledge,
facilities, and even hardware from Jupiter, that became Saturn I. ABMA became NASA's
Marshall Space Flight Center, which developed Saturns I, IB, and V, rockets that helped
astronauts walk on the Moon.
Jupiter spawned Jupiter-C, a multistage rocket designed
to test nose cone heat sheilds that subsequently launched Explorer I, the first U.S.
satellite. California's U.S. Army Jet Propulsion Lab created the upper stage cluster and
was the lead contractor for the satellite. Like ABMA, JPL would join NASA, where it
would use its new satellite skills to make history.
Jupiter hardware was found at the core of the Saturn
I/IB first stage, where a Jupiter-based tank served as the backbone, the keel, of the
cluster booster's first stage. NASA launched 19 of the big rockets between 1961 and
1975. Five carried astronauts on missions for the Apollo, Skylab, and Apollo-Soyuz
Test Project programs.
Jupiter and Juno II displayed at Huntsville Space and Rocket Center,
Jupiter missiles themselves only stood active duty for a
couple of years before being abruptly retired in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crises.
Since the Juno II satellite launcher program was over by then, preventing use of
the retired missiles for space launches, most of the Jupiters were ultimately scrapped.
About 55 Jupiter missiles remained at the time of retirement, with 45 standing on
ready launch sites. Today, nearly one-dozen remain on display.
The most oft-seen Jupiters are at visitor centers or
museums near Kennedy Space Center and Marshall Space Flight Center.
A Jupiter missile and a Juno II stand next to the SA-D5
Saturn I Block II dynamic booster at the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center in Alabama.
Both seem to have real guidance sections and the Juno II appears to have an
authentic upper stage fairing.
Juno II display at KSC Vistitor's Center, Florida
A Juno II display has long stood at the KSC visitor's
center. It has what appears to be a dummy upper stage fairing on top of its guidance
section. Like many such displays, it uses a paint scheme that never appeared on
Jupiter at Air Force museum in Dayton, Ohio
Another frequently-viewed Jupiter is on display inside
the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. This beautifully-restored Jupiter does
not appear to have a real tactical guidance unit or nose cone. It is the only
Jupiter displayed indoors, and thus may turn out to be the
view of the Cape Canaveral Jupiter as it appeared during the 1990s. Since
restoration, this missile has been stored inside Cape Canaveral's Hanger R.
Less often-seen Jupiters stand inside bases where public
access is limited. One was at the Cape Canaveral museum on the grounds of the former
ABMA Missile Firing Lab at LC 26. This Jupiter, which has a partially open
propulsion section covered by plexiglass, was recently restored and was recently seen
stored inside Hanger R at the Cape.
Jupiter displayed with ABMA missiles and rocket at MSFC. These
were all Army, Von Braun team vehicles.
Another Jupiter stands at the "rocket garden"
inside MSFC grounds, next to other Army missiles and rockets. Here it can be
compared with V-2, Redstone, Jupiter-C, and Saturn I (SA-D). This display became off
limits to public view after the 9/11 attacks.
at Air Power Park in Hampton, Virginia
A real Jupiter missile in need of restoration stands at
Air Power Park in Hampton, Virginia. It exhibits details that some other displayed
Jupiters lack. Propellant fueling couplers are still in place, as are aft unit roll
on transporter at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico during the mid-1990s. This missile has
not been displayed for years, but may soon reappear.
Another real Jupiter, in very good condition, was
displayed, horizontally on a tactical transporter trailer, at the Atomic Museum at
Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico during the 1990s. This Jupiter has not been
seen in recent years, but may be returned to public view with the completion of a new
Museum outside the base gates.
Another Jupiter stands on the grounds of the South
Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, South Carolina. Parents tell their
children to "meet me at the missile" in case they get lost during the
Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia, a town famous for its railroad history,
has a Jupiter missile for some reason. The missile seems out of place in that
railroad context, but looks to be in good condition.
A final Jupiter, or parts of two Jupiters, is displayed
at the Frontiers
of Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas, Texas. This odd display consists of a
Jupiter missile with an unusual paint job with its engine removed, sitting next to the
thrust section of another Jupiter that still has its engine. A previous museum may
have collected these pieces with the intention of combining the parts to make one whole
Jupiter, but that has never happened.
The precise provenance of each displayed Jupiter is
uncertain. Several may originate from the first group of five IOC missiles (Nos.
101-105) which served as training missiles at Redstone Arsenal. Others are likely
tactical IOC missiles returned from service in Europe. Some may have been built for
ground test purposes only. Examples of both ABMA-built and Chrysler-built missiles
Today, only 55 years after the Jupiter program began,
such details of its history are yet to be sorted out.