@OrganicMarble's answer links to NASA Sounding Rockets, 1958-1968, A Historical Summary and in Appendix A starting on page 79 it lists:

Farside: A type of rockoon developed by Aeronutronics Systems, Inc. The rocket consisted of 4 Recruits plus 1 Recruit plus 4 Asps plus 1 Asp. Fired from a General Mills balloon at about 30 km (19 mi), it was used to probe at very high altitudes. Could lift 1.8 kg (4lb) to 6437 km (4000 mi). Project Farside fired six rockets in the fall of 1957.

How were these ten stages configured? I can imagine several ways of doing it.


2 Answers 2


Sadly, it didn't have 10 stages, only 4. 10 motors though.

Project Farside was an attempt to reach extreme altitudes with the rockoon concept. Using a four-stage solid-propellant rocket...

enter image description here (Image source)

It appears to be

  • Stage 1 - 4 Recruits clustered in parallel
  • Stage 2 - 1 Recruit
  • Stage 3 - 4 Asps clustered in parallel
  • Stage 4 - 1 Asp

Source - same document, p.27

This website states that the upper stages were "Arrow II" motors. It also states that the rocket was launched through the ball**n at an altitude of 19 miles, and could reach an apogee of 2000 miles(!) - other sources say "approaching 4000 miles (!!)"

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ ...Does this site censor the word "balloon" for some reason? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 18:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Not as a general rule. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ I ran across a whole bunch more material today and have posted as a supplemental answer. So I've just asked Where is Farside's 4th stage? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented May 19, 2019 at 8:13

OrganicMarble's answer nicely summarizes the rocket. Here is some additional information I happened to run across today.

There is some quite nice vintage footage of a Farside Rocket Launch found in The Rocketry Blog post Farside Rocket – Flight of a Rockoon.

The post also shows this image, the Rockoon in it's ground launching jig is shown at bottom left:

enter image description here

From DesignationSystems.net's Aeronutronics Farside

Farside rocket

Source, Photo: via Ordway/Wakeford

In 1957, Aeronutronic Systems built the Farside (sometimes spelled Far Side) research rocket under contract from the USAF's Office of Scientific Research. The goal of Project Farside was to send a small scientific payload to an altitude as high as possible with then existing solid-propellant rocket technology. The altitude goal was tentatively set at 6400 km (4000 miles).

The Farside rocket was a four-stage vehicle using existing solid-propellant motors. The first stage consisted of four Thiokol Recruit rockets, the second stage used a single Recruit, the third stage used four Grand Central Arrow II motors (a development of the Loki), and the fourth stage was a single Arrow II. For an initial boost in altitude, the whole rocket was carried aloft by a very large (106000 m3 (3750000 cu.ft)) balloon. Farside was suspended in vertical attitude in an aluminum structure below the balloon, and at an altitude of 30 km (19 miles), it was fired straight through the balloon. The first two stages were stabilized by aerodynamic fins, while the 3rd and 4th stage were spin-stabilized. After burnout of the final stage, the nose cone had reached a speed of almost 29000 km/h (18000 mph) at 122 km (76 miles) altitude. The payload weighed about 1.4-3.3 kg (3-5 lb), and could obtain and transmit data on particle and electromagnetic radiation, the magnetic field, and interplanetary gases and dust.

Length        7.3 m (24 ft)
Diameter        ?
Weight        890 kg (1970 lb)
Speed         29000 km/h (18000 mph)
Altitude      >3200 km (2000 miles)
Propulsion    1st stage: 4x Thiokol Recruit solid-fueled rocket; 167 kN (37600 lb) each for 1.56 s
              2nd stage: Thiokol Recruit solid-fueled rocket; 167 kN (37600 lb) for 1.56 s
              3rd stage: 4x Grand Central Arrow II solid-fueled rocket; 10.1 kN (2270 lb) each for 1.78 s
              4th stage: Grand Central Arrow II solid-fueled rocket; 10.1 kN (2270 lb) for 1.78 s

Main Sources

  1. Frederick I. Ordway III, Ronald C. Wakeford: "International Missile and Spacecraft Guide", McGraw-Hill, 1960
  2. Mark Wade: Encyclopedia Astronautica
  3. Jonathan McDowell: Launch Vehicles Database

From the RocketryForum.com 2011 thread Project Farside:

enter image description here

enter image description here

First through fourth stages? (click for full size)

Farside rockoon 2nd stage Farside rockoon 4th stage

Farside rockoon 1st stage Farside rockoon 3rd stage

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I wonder if this was the inspiration for the old Estes model rocket Farside? It had three stages, the most I remember for any of the Estes kits. vintageestesrockets.com/k-kit-registry/kits/… $\endgroup$ Commented May 19, 2019 at 13:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble I'd never heard of a three stage Estes rocket, thanks! It's possible it was at the model shop I used to visit and I just missed it, I usually just browsed the beginners models. I could never get the fins to stay straight when I glued them, so I never saw the point in trying something fancy. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented May 19, 2019 at 14:08

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