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

Thiokol/Sandia Tomahawk
(used as upper stage)

The TE-416 Tomahawk solid-fueled rocket motor was developed by Thiokol in the early 1960s for the Sandia National Laboratory. Only very few Tomahawks were launched as single-stage rockets by Sandia and NASA, but the motor was successfully used as the upper stage of a large number of sounding rocket configurations. Although primarily used by NASA, three combinations were also launched by the U.S. Air Force.


The first choice for a solid-fueled booster for sounding rockets in the 1960s was the M5 Nike stage. Sandia used the Tomahawk from the beginning as a Nike-boosted rocket, and the first Nike-Tomahawk flew on 25 July 1963. The rocket could lift a payload of 45 kg (100 lb) to 370 km (230 miles) or 115 kg (255 lb) to 215 km (134 miles) altitude. The USAF launched 38 Nike-Tomahawks between April 1967 and November 1983, mainly on aeronomy and plasma physics missions. The last of almost 400 Nike-Tomahawk launches by any user was a NASA flight in November 1995.

Photo: NASA

Ute-Tomahawk, Paiute-Tomahawk

Thiokol built the TU-715 Ute and TU-716 Paiute (sometimes spelled Payute) motors apparently specifically for use by the USAF as a booster stage for the Tomahawk. The Ute motor had a diameter of 40.6 cm (16 in), was 16 m (52.5 ft) long, and could produce a thrust of 85 kN (19100 lb) for 4.6 seconds. The Paiute was a derivative of the Ute with a longer motor casing and (presumably) a different propellant type. It could generate a thrust of 186 kN (41800 lb) for 3.7 seconds.

The USAF's Cambridge Research Lab launched 38 Ute-Tomahawks between 16 November 1971 and 23 January 1976 to a maximum altitude of 235 km (146 miles). 33 Paiute-Tomahawk combinations were fired between 15 April 1972 and 26 October 1981, the highest altitude being 288 km (179 miles).


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

Data for Nike-Tomahawk:

Length9.37 m (30 ft 9 in)
Diameter1st stage: 41.9 cm (16.5 in); 2nd stage: 23 cm (9 in)
Finspan1st stage: 1.51 m (59.6 in); 2nd stage: 0.93 m (36.6 in)
Weight990 kg (2180 lb)
Altitude370 km (230 miles)
Propulsion1st stage: ABL M5 Nike solid-fueled rocket; 217 kN (48700 lb) for 3.5 s
2nd stage: Thiokol TE-416 Tomahawk solid-fueled rocket; 53 kN (11900 lb) for 9.5 s

Main Sources

[1] Peter Alway: "Rockets of the World", Saturn Press, 1999
[2] Mark Wade: Encyclopedia Astronautica
[3] Jonathan McDowell: Launch Vehicles Database

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

Last Updated: 30 November 2004