MW 18014

MW 18014 was a German A-4/V-2 rocket[nb 1] test launch that took place on 20 June 1944,[1][2][3] at the Peenemünde Army Research Center in Peenemünde. It was the first man-made object to reach outer space, attaining an apogee of 176 kilometers, which is above the Kármán line.[4] It was a vertical test launch. Although the rocket reached space, it did not reach orbital velocity, and therefore returned to Earth in an impact, becoming the first sub-orbital spaceflight, depending on definition.

MW 18014
Mission typeTest launch
Apogee176 km[1][2]
Spacecraft properties
SpacecraftMW 18014
Spacecraft typeA-4/V-2[nb 1]
ManufacturerMittelwerk GmbH
Launch mass12,500 kg
Start of mission
Launch date20 June 1944
Launch sitePeenemünde Army Research Center
End of mission
Destroyed20 June 1944


Early A-4 rockets, despite being able to reach altitudes of 90 km, had suffered from multiple reliability issues.[5] For example, a design fault in the forward part of the outer hull caused it to regularly fail mid-flight, resulting in the failure of up to 70% of test launches.[5] On one occasion, an A-4 rocket suffering from pogo oscillations during ascent veered 90 degrees off course then spiralled back down to its launch pit, killing four launch troops on site.[5]

The Peenemünde rocket team made a number of improvements to rectify the reliability issues during 1943 and the first half of 1944. Hindering the program were constant interference from the SS, Allied raids as part of Operation Hydra, attempts to privatise the program in June 1944,[5] and a two-week detention of technical director Wernher von Braun on 15 March 1944.[6]

Allied advances in Northern France and improvements to the Mittelwerk underground facility, where the A-4 rockets were produced, and improvements to the liquid propellant formula placed renewed emphasis on Von Braun to address the A-4's reliability issues.[5]

Records brokenEdit

MW 18014 was part of a series of vertical test launches made in June 1944 designed to gauge the rocket's behaviour in vacuum.[3] MW 18014 broke the altitude record set by one of its predecessors (launched on 3 October 1942[7]) to attain an apogee of 176 km.[3]

MW 18014 was the first man-made object to cross into outer space, as defined by the 100 km Kármán Line. This particular altitude was not considered significant at the time; the Peenemünde rocket scientists rather celebrated the V-2 launch in October 1942, first to reach the thermosphere.[7] After the war, the World Air Sports Federation (FAI) defined the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space to be the Kármán line.

A subsequent V-2 launched as part of the same series of tests would break MW 18014's record, with an apogee of 189 km. The date of that launch is unknown because rocket scientists did not record precise dates during this phase.[3]


  1. ^ a b V-2 rockets were still known as A-4s until September 1944


  1. ^ a b M.P. Milazzo; L. Kestay; C. Dundas; U.S. Geological Survey (2017). "The Challenge for 2050: Cohesive Analysis of More Than One Hundred Years of Planetary Data" (PDF). Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop. Planetary Science Division, NASA. 1989: 8070. Bibcode:2017LPICo1989.8070M. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  2. ^ a b Bright, Michael; Sarosh, Chloe (2019). Earth from Space. Introduction: Ebury Publishing. ISBN 9781473531604. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  3. ^ a b c d Wade, Mark. "Peenemuende". Archived from the original on 2005-04-25. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  4. ^ Williams, Matt (2016-09-16). "How high is space?". Universe Today. Archived from the original on 2017-06-02. Retrieved 2017-05-14.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Chronology - Quarter 1 1944". 2010-04-08. Archived from the original on 2010-04-08. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  6. ^ "Highlights in German Rocket Development from 1927–1945". MSFC History Office. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. Archived from the original on 2012-06-01. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  7. ^ a b Dornberger, Walter (1952). V-2. New York: Viking. English translation 1954.