White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) is a United States Army military testing area and firing range located in the US state of New Mexico. The range was originally established in 1941 as the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range, where the Trinity test site lay at the northern end of the Range, in Socorro County near the towns of Carrizozo and San Antonio. It then became the White Sands Proving Ground on 9July 1945.
After the conclusion of World War II, 100 long-range German V-2 rockets that were captured by U.S. military troops were brought to WSMR. Of these, 67 were test-fired between 1946 and 1951 from the White Sands V-2 Launching Site. (This was followed by the testing of American rockets, which continues to this day, along with testing other technologies.)
On 15 May, 1947, a V-2 rocket fired from WSMR veered off course and landed 4 miles (6.4 km) northeast of Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Exactly two weeks later, on May 29, 1947, a modified V-2 sounding rocket veered off course and crashed on top of a rocky knoll about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) south of the Juárez business district, leaving a 24 feet (7.3 m) deep by 50 feet (15 m) wide crater.
On 30 March 1982 NASA's Space Shuttle Columbia landed on the Northrop Strip at WSMR as the conclusion to mission STS-3. This was the only time that NASA used WSMR as a landing site for the space shuttle.
El Paso International Airport is the nearest airport with regularly scheduled commercial flights. There have been no regularly scheduled commercial passenger flights from Las Cruces International Airport since 25 July 2005, when Westward Airways ceased operations; although General aviation, New Mexico Army National Guard (4 UH-72 Lakota Helicopters), private charters and CAP, among others, still use the airport.
The White Sands Test Center, headquartered at the WSMR post area, has branches for manned tactical systems and electromagnetic radiation, and conducts missile testing and range recovery operations. "WSMR Main Post" includes several smaller areas such as the housing area, golf course, "Navy Area", and "Technical Area" The WSMR Museum offers tours and exhibits including a V-2 rocket returned in May 2004 after restoration. The White Sands Missile Range Hall of Fame inducts members such as the first range commander, Colonel Harold Turner (1945–1947), in 1980. A recreational shooting range just inside the "El Paso gate" on the south is outside of the Post Area.
1942: Biggs Army Airfield construction began near El Paso (1947 Biggs AFB, 1973 Biggs AAF)--the region's nearby Deming Army Air Field, Ft Sumner Army Air Field, and South Aux Fid #1 transferred to "Army Div Engrs" in 1946.
1940s: When the range was formed, ranchers' land was leased and eventually condemned by eminent domain
In the 1970s, more land was taken permanently to expand the area available for testing.
1947 (late): AMC shifted Army Air Force guided missile programs to Alamogordo in March 1947 and established inter-service New Mexico Joint Guided Missile Test Range at the end of the year
1947-11-14: The USAF's Alamogordo Guided Missile Test Base (AGMTB) had its first ramjet-configured GAPA missile launch (39th for GAPA).
1948–05-13 to 1949-04-21: First six flight attempts for the Project Bumper two-stage V-2 SRBM/WAC Corporal two-stage research vehicles as the world's first "high-speed" multistage rockets to be launched.
1948-07: USAF Project MX–774 commenced with the first RTV-A-2 Hiroc launch (from Launch Complex 33)
1951-08-22: Broomstick Scientists in a unit of the 9393 Technical Service Unit conducted their first launch: the "TF-1" V-2 rocket. (Broomstick Sweepings publication ended after a 22 January 1952 general order transferred "1st Ord. GMS Bn." soldiers to Detachment No. 1, Station Complement.)
1952-05-27: An aggregated 2,394,384 acres (4,680 sq miles) was set aside for the "Alamogordo bombing range, White Sands proving ground, and the Fort Bliss antiaircraft range".
1952-09-01: Merger of Holloman bombing range and smaller White Sands Proving Grounds (WSPG) into WSPG
1952-11: The range's Red Butte Instrumentation Annex was assigned to Holloman AFB (disposed on 22 November 1963).
1983 thru 30 September 1993 - WSMR hosted the Simtel collection, the largest collection of free software and freeware available to the public on the ARPANET and Internet. It began as a copy of an MIT collection of CP/M software, and expanded to collect free software for other operating systems as well.
1991 (late): Convair QF-106 Delta Dart drones based at Holloman Air Force Base began operating as Full-Scale Aerial Targets over WSMR.
^Hamilton, John A. Blazing skies: Air Defense Artillery on Fort Bliss, 1940-2009("Google eBook" of Government Printing Office document). ISBN9780160869495. Retrieved 29 May 2014. Special Orders No. 143, Headquarters, Army Ground Forces, dated 6 July 1946, [established] the Antiaircraft and Guided Missile Center [from] the remnants of the Antiaircraft Artillery School, the Antiaircraft Replacement Training Center, Army Ground Forces Board No. 4,13 1st AAA Guided Missile Battalion, the 1852nd Area Service Unit, and remaining antiaircraft units, including three automatic weapons battalions and one gun battalion placed in the Army General Reserve.
^Hamilton, John A. Blazing skies: Air Defense Artillery on Fort Bliss, 1940-2009. Government Printing Office. ISBN9780160869495. three officers and fifty-five enlisted men...worked closely with the German rocket scientists who were located in a six-acre ordnance area on the north side of the Fort Bliss cantonment. [The military unit went to WSPG] to provide the manpower to build the [V-2] missiles and erect them on test stands.
^ abMueller (1982). "Holloman Air Force Base"(PDF). Air Force Bases as of 1982 (Report). USAF Office of Air Force History. p. 248. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
^Bushnell, David (25 August 1986). GAPA: Holloman's First Missile Program(Scribd.com image) (Report). Air Force Missile Development Center: Historical Branch. IRIS 00169113. Retrieved 11 August 2013. [1st ramjet GAPA] "was launched 14 November 1947 and the initial liquid-fuel variety 12 March 1948.8... The last of the GAPAs, number 114, was launched 15 August 1950, and the project officially terminated at Holloman the following month.11
^"Bumper Project". White Sands History – Fact Sheets and Articles. US Army. Archived from the original on 10 January 2008. Retrieved 2 December 2007.
^Piland, Doyle. "Way Back When..."(PDF). WSMR newsletter. Retrieved 11 April 2014. Launch Complex 38...Site preparation for the TTR [Target Tracking Radar] began in July 1959.... Site preparation for the Discrimination Radar was started in January 1961.
^Site Plan: Nike Zeus Facilities ALA 5 (Map). reproduced in WSMR newsletter: Federal Government of the United States.
^"New Device Will Plot All Planes". Alton Evening Telegraph. 20 August 1959. p. 29. Iconorama shows almost instantly the positions of aircraft thousands of miles away… Traces made by the planes being tracked are scribed on a coated slide by a moving stylus. … The slide plot measures only one inch square, yet overall error of the projected display is said to be about one part in 1,000. … Iconorama units already have been installed and operated at the Pacific Missile Range, Point Mugu Calififornia; the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico; the Atlantic Missile Range at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the Naval Research Laboratory