MW 18014
Mission typeTest launch
Apogee176 km (109 miles)[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

MW 18014 was a German A-4 test rocket[nb 1] launched on 20 June 1944,[1][2][3] at the Peenemünde Army Research Center in Peenemünde. It was the first human-made object to reach outer space, attaining an apogee of 176 kilometres (109 mi), well above the Kármán line that was established later as the lowest altitude of space.[4] It was a vertical test launch, and was not intended to reach orbital velocity, so it returned and impacted Earth, making it the first sub-orbital spaceflight.


Main article: V-2 rocket

Early A-4 rockets, despite being able to reach altitudes of 90 km, had suffered from multiple reliability problems.[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 as many as 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 problems during 1943 and the first half of 1944. Hindering the program were Allied raids as part of Operation Hydra, attempts to privatise the program during June 1944,[5] frequent interference from the SS, and a two-week detention of technical director Wernher von Braun on 15 March 1944.[6]

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

Records exceeded

MW 18014 was part of a series of vertical test launches made during June 1944 designed to gauge the rocket's behaviour in vacuum.[3] MW 18014 exceeded 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 human-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 test launch V-4 in October 1942, first to reach the thermosphere.[7] After the war, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (World Air Sports Federation) defined the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space to be the Kármán line.

A subsequent A-4/V-2 launched as part of the same series of tests would exceed 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

See also


  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. 1989. Planetary Science Division, NASA: 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 2012-03-20. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  7. ^ a b Dornberger, Walter (1952). V-2. New York: Viking. English translation 1954.