article by science fiction writer Arthur
C. Clarke, of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame, suggesting the use of surplus German V2 rockets for launching
scientific payloads into space, and also describing how an "artificial satellite" could be caused to circle the
earth "perpetually" was published in the October 1945 edition of Wireless World magazine.
Many thanks to RF Cafe visitor Terry W., from the great state of Oklahoma for sending a scan of the article!
Peacetime Uses for V2
V2 for Ionosphere Research?
By Arthur C. Clarke
One of the most important branches of
radio physics is ionospheric research and until now all our knowledge of conditions in the ionosphere has been
deduced from transmission and echo experiments. One of the more modest claims of the British Interplanetary
Society was that rockets could be used for very high altitude investigations and it will have escaped your
readers' notice that the German long-range rocket projectile known as V2 passes through the E layer on its way
from the Continent. If it were fired vertically without westward deviation it could reach the F1 and
probably the F2 layer.
The implications of this are obvious: we can now send instruments of all kinds into the ionosphere and by
transmitting their readings back to ground stations obtain information which could not possibly be learned in any
ether way. Since the weight of instruments would only be a few pounds - as compared with V2's payload of 2,000
pounds - the rocket required would be quite a small one. Its probable takeoff weight would be one or two tons,
most of this being relatively cheap alcohol and liquid oxygen. A parachute device (besides being appreciated by
the public!) would enable the rocket to be reused.
This is all immediate post-war research project, but an
even more interesting one lies a little farther ahead. A rocket which can reach a speed of 8 km/sec parallel to
the earth's surface would continue to circle it forever in a closed orbit; it would become an "artificial
satellite." V2 call only reach a third of this speed under the most favourable conditions, but if its payload
consisted of a small one-ton rocket, this upper component could reach the required velocity with a payload of
about 100 pounds. It would thus be possible to have a hundredweight of instruments circling the earth perpetually
outside the limits of the atmosphere and broadcasting information us long as the batteries lasted. Since the
rocket would be in brilliant sunlight for half the time, the operating period might be indefinitely prolonged by
the use of thermocouples and photoelectric elements.
of these developments demand nothing new in the way of technical resources; the first and probably the second
should come within the next five or ten years. However, I would like to close by mentioning a possibility of the
more remote future - perhaps half a century ahead.
An artificial satellite at the correct distance from
the earth would make one revolution every 24 hours; i.e., it would remain stationary above the same spot and would
be within optical range of nearly half the earth's surface. Three repeater stations, 120 degrees apart in the
correct orbit, could give television and microwave coverage to the entire planet. I'm afraid this isn't going to
be of the slightest use to our post-war planners, but I think it is the ultimate solution to the problem.
AHTHUR C. CLARKE, British Interplanetary Society.