The little-known story of the Rocketbelt

The Rocketbelt , or Man-rocket , is a kind of backpack capable of making a human fly. This device was designed by Wendell F. Moore for the United States Army. However, the project was abandoned after the production of a few prototypes. The invention was considered a waste, as it required 19 liters of hydrogen peroxide as fuel to complete only 20 seconds of flight.

On June 8, 1962, the device was displayed in front of hundreds of officers at the Fort Eustis military base. It was also presented to President John F. Kennedy at the Fort Bragg military base. Every demonstration was an achievement, but the military broke the contract.

The Little Known Story Of The Rocketbelt
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Development of the thruster began in 1953, when Moore was working as an engineer at Bell Aerosystems. He wanted to realize the dream of an individual flight with a small aircraft with a vertical landing and takeoff capability.

An ephemeral success

In the late 1960s, an accident that happened during a test drive forced Moore to stop, but engineer Harold Graham took it all over. With some improvements, the craft was able to do more complex maneuvers like flying in a circle and turning in place.

During the flight, the pilot was required to wear a protective suit made of heat resistant materials. The point is, the engine exhaust and pipes are extremely hot. He also wore a helmet with hearing protection because of the deafening noise the device emitted.

Despite the success, the rocketbelt quickly fell into oblivion. Its use had limits. Nevertheless, it served in a James Bond film (Thunderball) and in a television soap opera (Lost in Space) . A show presenting him at the opening of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles was also successful.

A source of inspiration for rocket designers

The first copy is now in the National Air and Space Museum. Another is kept at the National Air and Space Museum, near Dulles Airport. The latter is kept at New York University, Buffalo's Department of Industrial Engineering and Systems.

In 2009, William P. Suitor published a book called "Rocketbelt Pilot's Manual" which explains in detail the operation, maintenance and fueling of this aircraft.

Note that, in a way, rocket designers were all inspired by the Rocketbelt that was developed by Wendell Moore.

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