It is well known that Wernher von Braun and his V2 missile was the foundation of the American Space program but that was not the only rocket that the germans were developing.
Starting in 1942, after the United States have joined the agression against the Third Reich and the Germans believed it was time to develop weapons that could strike back and hit the Americans back home. The “America bomber” project was started which focused on a long range, piston engine bomber that could cross the Atlantic ocean. This project ultimately delivered two working prototypes, the Messerschmitt Me 264 and Junkers Ju 390, which actually took to the air but never tried to cross the Atlantic.
A far more ambitious plan was launched by Eugen Sänger and Irene Bredt, they envisaged a piloted rocket bomber that could take off from a V-1 like ramp and then almost go into orbit before being able to bomb any city on earth. A very long glide would take it back to it’s landing site after which it could be used again.
According to Popular Science the key to his design’s success was its shape. Small wings, a pointed front, thin leading edges, and a flat bottom made for a vehicle that could skip off the lower layers of the atmosphere like a stone skipping across a still pond. The flight would only be partially powered; rocket propulsion would launch it on an arcing trajectory, and thanks to its flat bottom, it would skip and glide unpowered to its destination with a pilot at the helm.
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The germans gave this rocket bomber the code name “Slibervogel” or Silver Bird. Unfortunately, even the Germans thought this plan too ambitious and only a scale model was ever built before this plan went into the drawer for good.
Sänger kept working for the gernabs and his prime achievement was the development of the Škoda-Kauba Sk P.14 Ram Jet as part of the Third Reich defense effort against the devastating allied bombing raids. Only parts of the aircraft had been built when the project was terminated because the war ended.
Škoda-Kauba Sk P.14.01 ramjet-powered emergency fighter
It is May 1945, Germany has been defeated and the former Allies are now trying to get their hand on as much of the National Socialist developed technology as they can.
After the war ended Eugen Sänger and Irene Bredt worked for the French and helped set up the French Space agency. He was smart enough to see that working for Staling wasn’t his thing when they tried to kidnap and or convince him to come work for the USSR. He died in 1964 in Berlin, Germany.