The Aerobee rocket was a small (8 m) unguided suborbital sounding rocket used for high atmospheric and cosmic radiation research in the United States in the 1950s.
It was built by Aerojet General. The company began work in 1946 and test fired the first complete Aerobee from the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico on November 24, 1947. It reached an altitude of 34.7 miles (55.8 km).
The rocket was two stage with a solid-fuel boost and a nitric acid/aniline sustainer. The rockets could reach around 230 km (a later variant exceeded 400 km). Instrumentation usually provided constant telemetry and was recovered by parachute. For accurate pointing special gimbal mounts were developed.
Aerobees were launched from 53 m tall launch towers to provide the necessary stability until the rockets gained enough speed for their fins to be effective in controlling attitude. Launch towers were built at White Sands Missile Range, Fort Churchill, Wallops Island, and aboard the research vessel USS Norton Sound. The Aerobee could take a 68 kg payload to an altitude of 130 km.
The first instrument-carrying Aerobee was the A-5, launched on March 5, 1948 from White Sands, carrying instruments for cosmic radiation research, reaching an altitude of 117.5 km. When the last Aerobee flew at White Sands in 1958, around 165 (including variants) had been successfully fired at that location. Variants of the Aerobee were launched in 1968 and 1969 for research relating to the Apollo program. The Aerojet engineers also developed the Aerobee-Hi (first launched in 1955).