Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Appendix 4: Undesignated Vehicles
Copyright © 2004 Andreas Parsch

University of Michigan/NACA Nike-Deacon

In January 1945, the U.S. Army's Allegheny Ballistics Laboratory (ABL) began the design of a series of new solid-propellant rocket motors. These motors were to use the newly invented core-burning scheme, which made thinner and therefore lighter casings possible. One of the new motors was the 6.25-in diameter Deacon. The program was stopped at the end of the war, but NACA was interested in using the already constructed motors. The rocket motors were fitted with nose cones and four tail fins, and in early 1947 the first complete Deacon rocket flew. Hundreds of Deacons were subsequently fired by NACA, mainly for aerodynamic testing of scale-models of supersonic aircraft and missile designs. Many Deacons were carried aloft on balloons (such rockets were known as "rockoons") and used for high-altitude research.

In the early 1950s, the primary U.S. sounding rocket was the Aerobee series, but this was liqued-fueled and therefore relatively complicated to handle. Scientists at the University of Michigan's HAEL (High Altitude Engineering Laboratory) much preferred to use solid-fueled rockets to increase the number of flight experiments. The Deacon was a suitable vehicle, but the "rockoon" scheme to bring it to an initial altitude could not provide predictable launch conditions. The solid-propellant booster of the Army's SAM-A-7 Nike missile was a much better solution, and beginning in 1954, HAEL and NACA constructed the Nike-Deacon (a.k.a. DAN - Deacon And Nike) two-stage solid-fueled sounding rocket. It was first flown in a USAF test launch on 8 April 1955.

Photo: Fred Bartman, via Peter Alway

The Nike-Deacon was the first of a long line of Nike-boosted sounding rockets. However, less than 20 Nike-Deacons were launched, including thirteen by the Naval Research Lab for research on solar UV and X-ray radiation. In fact, the Nike-Deacon concept was so successful, that NACA wanted a truly modern upper stage for Nike to replace the WWII-era Deacon motors. Therefore, the Nike-Deacon was almost immediately succeeded in both civilian and military use by the Nike-Cajun rocket.


Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!

Data for Nike-Deacon:

Length7.77 m (25 ft 6 in)
Diameter1st stage: 41.9 cm (16.5 in); 2nd stage: 15.9 cm (6.25 in)
Finspan1st stage: 1.59 m (62.5 in); 2nd stage: 0.69 m (27 in)
Weight700 kg (1540 lb)
Speed5950 km/h (3700 mph)
Altitude130 km (80 miles)
Propulsion1st stage: ABL M5 Nike solid-fueled rocket; 246 kN (55000 lb) for 3 s
2nd stage: ABL Deacon solid-fueled rocket; 25 kN (5700 lb) for 4 s

Main Sources

[1] Peter Alway: "Rockets of the World", Saturn Press, 1999
[2] Frederick I. Ordway III, Ronald C. Wakeford: "International Missile and Spacecraft Guide", McGraw-Hill, 1960
[3] Jonathan McDowell: Launch Vehicles Database

Back to Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Appendix 4

Last Updated: 30 November 2004