Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Appendix 4: Undesignated Vehicles
Copyright © 2004-2006 Andreas Parsch

Cooper Development Asp / Ascamp / Nike-Asp / Terrier-Asp

In 1954/55, Grand Central Rocket Co. designed a solid-propellant motor to replace the Deacon motor, which was used successfully both alone and in the Nike-Deacon sounding rocket, but that contract went to Thiokol with their Cajun motor (see Nike-Cajun). Grand Central's motor however was a higher-performance design, and was picked up by Cooper Development Co. (CDC) to create the Asp (Atmospheric Sounding Projectile) single-stage sounding rocket under contract from the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Ships.

Photo: U.S. Navy

The Asp was launched from a monorail launcher of variable inclination, and carried a telemetry transmitter and a payload of about 9-11 kg (20-25 lb) in its nose section. A characteristic feature of the rocket were the triangular tail fins of very low aspect ratio. The fins were fitted with flares to facilitate optical tracking of the rocket.

The first Asp test flight occurred on 27 December 1955. After additional test flights to verify aerodynamic characteristics and performance in early 1956, the Navy launched 40 Asps during the thermonuclear tests of Operation Redwing between May and July that year. The rocket was used for measurements inside the clouds of the nuclear explosions, and some of the Asps were equipped with recovery systems to return cloud material for detailed analysis. The Asp was again used, presumably for similar purposes, during Operation Plumbbob from May to October 1957. After these firings the single-stage Asp wasn't used any more.


In 1958, Cooper Development Co. was contracted to build high-altitude sounding rockets for the forthcoming thermonuclear weapon tests. CDC built a two-stage vehicle consisting of an Asp first stage and a JPL Baby Sergeant (designated RM-3141 when built by CDC) second stage. Additionally, a semi-automatic launcher was designed, because the launch site would be too close to the test site for a manual firing sequence.

The U.S. Navy eventually launched a total of 27 Ascamp rockets to support the Hardtack series of nuclear tests in August 1958. This was the only usage of this type of rocket.

Nike-Asp (Aspan)

Just like so many other rocket motors in the 1950s/60s, the Asp was also mated with a Nike booster to create a two-stage high-altitude sounding rocket. Cooper Development built the Nike-Asp (a.k.a. Aspan for "Asp and Nike") under contract from the Naval Research Laboratory's (NRL) rocket group. The first launch occurred in September 1957.

With a payload of about 30 kg (65 lb), the Nike-Asp could reach a maximum altitude of about 220 km (135 miles). The highest recorded Nike-Asp flight reached 286 km (178 miles). During 1958 and 1959, the rocket was used by the Navy for research in solar physics by taking images of the sun in the X-ray and UV spectra, which are blocked by the earth's atmosphere. On 12 October 1958, six Nike-Asps were launched from a ship in the Pacific to take X-ray shots of the sun during a total eclipse. Between January 1958 and August 1961, the USAF also launched at least 16 Nike-Asps. The majority of these were aeronomy missions from Eglin AFB.

Photo: U.S. Navy

In 1959, the NRL's rocket group was transferred to the newly-founded NASA. NASA continued to use the Nike-Asp on a small scale until February 1963, but it preferred the Nike-Cajun and Nike-Apache configurations. In total, at least 78 Nike-Asps were launched by all users of the rocket.

Terrier-Asp (Tarp)

In September 1959, the U.S Navy launched a single Terrier-Asp (a.k.a. Tarp) sounding rocket on a mission to test an UV scanner. The two-stage rocket was about 10 m (33 ft) long, and reached an apogee of about 100 km (60 miles). In March 1962 and December 1963, the Navy launched Marquardt Terrier-Asp IV (a.k.a. Vista-300) rockets on two test missions, which reached an altitude of about 150 km (90 miles). The Asp IV was a derivative of the Asp with lower thrust but longer duration (12.7 kN (2850 lb) for 12s), and redesigned fins. Apart from these three launches, no other Terrier-Asp rockets were fired.


Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!

Data for Asp, Ascamp, Nike-Asp:

Length3.89 m (12 ft 9 in)5.58 m (18 ft 3.5 in)7.92 m (26 ft 0 in)
Finspan51 cm (20 in)1st stage: 51 cm (20 in) 1st stage: 1.52 m (60 in)
2nd stage: 51 cm (20 in)
Diameter16.5 cm (6.5 in)1st stage: 16.5 cm (6.5 in)
2nd stage: 16.5 cm (6.5 in)
1st stage: 42 cm (16.5 in)
2nd stage: 16.5 cm (6.5 in)
Weight110 kg (245 lb)160 kg (350 lb)680 kg (1500 lb)
Speed> 5630 km/h (3500 mph)?7820 km/h (4860 mph)
Altitude30 km (18.6 miles)> 100 km (60 miles)220 km (135 miles)
Propulsion *Grand Central motor; 26 kN (5850 lb) for 5.3 s 1st stage: Grand Central motor; 26 kN (5850 lb) for 5 s
2nd stage: CDC RM-3141 Baby Sergeant; kN (1700 lb) for 6.3 s
1st stage: ABL XM5 (Nike); 217 kN (48700 lb) for 3.5 s
2nd stage: Grand Central motor; 26 kN (5850 lb) for 5 s
* All stages are solid-propellant rockets

Main Sources

[1] Peter Alway: "Rockets of the World", Saturn Press, 1999
[2] Frederick I. Ordway III, Ronald C. Wakeford: "International Missile and Spacecraft Guide", McGraw-Hill, 1960
[3] Mark Wade: Encyclopedia Astronautica
[4] Jonathan McDowell: Launch Vehicles Database
[5] Richard B. Morrow, Mitchell S. Pines: "Small Sounding Rockets", Small Rocket Press, 2000

Back to Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Appendix 4

Last Updated: 17 January 2006