Air Force missile pioneers gathered Dec. 16 at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first successfully launched Thor missile. Nearly 30 members of the Thor Association attended the event, toured the Thor’s restored launch pad where many of them once worked, and shared stories. The Thor missile was the Air Force’s first operational intermediate-range ballistic missile. It paved the way for the Delta series of space launch vehicles still in use today. The Thor program went from contract award in December 1955 to initial operational capability in June 1959. “What made Thor unique was the fact that it was operated by a military launch group,” said Frank Trainer, a missile maintenance technician and former Thor member from the base’s 392nd Missile Training Squadron. He added, “It was the first launch solely made by a ‘blue suit’ team.” (Includes Vandenberg report by A1C Steve Bauer)
Reports of production troubles on the SpaceX rocket that could contend for military cargo deliveries happened to coincide with a different company’s concept receiving an early nod—one that might not require a rocket at all.