October 1945 Wireless World cover
October 1945 Wireless World table of contents
This article by science fiction
C. Clarke, of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame, suggested the use of surplus German
V−2 (Vergeltungswaffe 2;
i.e., Retribution Weapon 2) rockets for launching scientific payloads into space
rather than for launching terrorizing attacks on European cities. The October
1945 publishing date was after Germany had surrendered in the spring of that
year and Allied forces were rounding up war criminals and confiscating documents
and equipment. Clarke describes how
an "artificial satellite" could be caused to circle the earth "perpetually" and was
published in the October 1945 edition of Wireless World magazine. The
V−2, along with the V−1 "Buzz Bomb,"
were launched from within Germany and caused massive structural damage and human
death and suffering. For war progenitor and aggressor, Germany, to call it a retribution weapon
gross misnomer, especially considering it was the second time (WWI and
in three decades that the country had attempted to bring Europe under its
dominance with brutal assualts.
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.
Both 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.
Arthur C. Clarke, British Interplanetary Society.
Posted December 12, 2019(original 7/5/2011)