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Opel-Sander-Hatry Rak.1
Lippisch Ente



A number of designs were built with money provided to the VfR (Society for Space Travel) in Germany in the late 1920s, by the publicity -seeking automobile tycoon Fritz von Opel. First to fly was the tail-first Ente (duck) designed by Professor A M Lippisch, pilotd by Fitz Starrier, it made a rocket propelled flight of about 4,000 ft (1220 m) lasting some 70 seconds, on 11 June 1928. However, it was virtually uncontrollabe and made only two further tests.

Fritz von Opel had performed a number of publicity stunts involving rocket-powered cars for his Opel motor car company. Along with Friedrich Sander, a pyrotechnics manufacturer and Max Valier, a rocketry advocate, Opel concocted a scheme to attach two rockets to an Alexander Lippisch designed tail-less glider. In the summer of 1928, the three men brought the glider, called "Ente" to Wasserkuppe and hired Fritz Stammer to test it.

Two black powder rockets were attached to the skids on the underside of the fuselage. They were to be electronically fired from a switch in the cockpit. In order to adjust the center of gravity as the powder burned, a counterweight system was positioned under the floor. The rockets were timed to be fired one after the other to provide continuous thrust. Each rocket was intended to burn for about thirty seconds.

The Rak.1, designed by Hatry and flown by von Opel, took off from a raised track on 30 September 1929. After one false start, the rocket fired and the aircraft roared across the grassy field and into the air. Stammer reached an altitude of 1,500 meters (4,900 ft.), circled the mountain and landed safely.
On the second flight, the team decided to fire both rockets simultaneously thereby doubling the thrust for a 30 seconds burn. At the instant of launch, one rocket fired, but the other one appeared to sputter and as the plane left the ground, it exploded. The blast tore holes in both wings and set them on fire. Amazingly, Stammer brought the burning aircraft back to ground from an altitude of about 65 feet and quickly abandoned it. The aircraft was a total loss, as was Fritz von Opel's dream of rocket-powered gliders.


Attained speed: 95 mph (153 kph).
Distance flown: approx 5,000 ft (1,525m).
Accommodation: Crew of 1.


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