Post-War Developments: 1946-1956

North American Aviation ... Rocket Engines

In 1951, North American began to develop booster and sustainer engines for the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile, as well as the Thor and Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

The company's Missile and Control Equipment organization, headquartered at Downey, Calif., had contracts to build the liquid-propellant Redstone engine for the U.S. Army and several small liquid and solid propulsion systems to serve during the Korean War. In 1953, the company's Rocket Engine Advancement Program provided design criteria for high-thrust liquid oxygen-kerosene rocket engines, the basis for later development of the Atlas engine.

In 1955, the company established Rocketdyne as a separate division to design, develop and manufacture large, liquid-propellant rocket engines at Canoga Park in Los Angeles. During 1956, Rocketdyne delivered its first Atlas, Thor and Jupiter engines. A Redstone engine sent a Jupiter C spacecraft to an unprecedented altitude of 682 miles. Through to the end of the century, Rocketdyne engines powered every space program in the United States.

At the same time North American established the Atomics International division for programs in nuclear research, the Autonetics Division to build electromechanical systems, including guidance systems and computers, and the Missile Development division, later the Space and Information Systems division, for vehicle system programs.

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