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THE ROCKET BELT

     The Rocket Belt is a low-power rocket propulsion device that allows an individual to safely travel or leap over small distances.     The concept of this device evolves from the 1920s when "Buck Rogers,” science fiction comic strip hero, used one as future travel.

 promo pictue of Guy Williams from tv series with rocket belt

Guy Williams from
the 1960s television
series "Lost in Space"

   Development of a real rocket belt began in the late 1940s when Thomas Moore experimented with a rocket pack designed for individual flight.  Moore demonstrated it for the first time in 1952 at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, lifting into the air for just a moment.

demonstration of jet belt at Ft Eustis

 

   In 1958, Harry Burdett and Alexander Bohr demonstrated their Jumpbelt at Fort Benning, Georgia, allowing an individual to leap 20 feet into the air and run 100 yards in 9.3 seconds.

 
Development of the Rocket Belt

   The early experiments of Moore, Burdett and Bohr prompted the US Army to seriously study them as potential aids to combat soldiers in tight tactical situations.

   In 1959, the Army contracted Aerojet-General to conduct feasibility studies on a Rocket Belt, and contracted Bell Aerosystems to develop a Small Rocket Lift Device (SRLD).  Wendell Moore was named Bell's Technical Director for the project.

 test flight at Ft Bragg, NC

Harold Graham, Ft Bragg, NC,
12 Oct. 1961

   Moore flew the initial tethered flights at the Bell plant in Buffalo, NY, until he injured his knee and Harold Graham took over.  Graham flew  his first test flight in April 1961, flying 7-10 mph for 13 seconds over a distance of 112 feet. 

  

Flying the Rocket Belt

   The operator was strapped into a form-fitting fiberglass corset that distributed most of the pack's fully fueled 120-pound weight to the hips.  Throttle and yaw were controlled by motorcycle-type rotating grips.  To move forward or backward, the pilot simply leaned to redirect the nozzles' thrust.

diagram of rocket belt

Hydrogen peroxide is forced under pressure into a gas generator where it contacts a silver screen catalyst bed and decomposes into superheated steam.

   The steam escapes through two rocket nozzles providing the thrust.  Main thrust is directed downward while jetavators induce yaw control.

 

specifications of rocket belt

Public Demonstrations of the Rocket Belt

   Harold Graham's first public demonstration was at Fort Eustis, VA, on June 8, 1961.  Other public flights with other test pilots took place in Washington, DC, and at Fort Bragg, NC.

Bill Suitor testing the rocket belt in Washington, DC
Bill Suitor, Washington D.C., 1967
Pete Kedzierski testing the rocket belt at Ft Eustis, VA
Peter Kedzierski,
Ft. Eustis, VA
Haald Graham testing the rocket belt
Harold Graham
Harald Graham testing the rocket belt
Harold Graham
  Harald Graham testing the rocket belt
Harold Graham

  
Commercial Popularity

  The Rocket Belt became fairly famous.  It had a small role in the James Bond movie "THUNDERBALL" in 1965, and a similar design was featured in Disney's "THE ROCKETEER" in 1991.

 movie poster of James Bond with rocket belt

Sean Connery, THUNDERBALL

movie poster from the movie 'The Rocketeer'

Disney’s THE ROCKETEER

 

   Despite its popularity, the rocket belt was limited in its potential uses to the Army due to limited fuel storage.  As a result, the Army turned its attention to missile development, and the Rocket Belt project was discontinued.

Pete Kedzierski with rocket belt at Ft Eustis

The Rocket Belt on display in the Transportation Museum is the one flown by Peter Kedzierski, during his demonstration at Fort Eustis.

 

 

 

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