Monday, May 25, 2015

The Ill-Fated History of the Jet Pack

Bell No. 2 Rocket Belt on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center.
Credit: National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Most of us have had dreams about being able to fly. In fact dreams of flying may well be the most common of all dreams. Soaring with the birds is something man has always aspired to. From Jules Verne to the Jetsons we envisioned a future of untethered flight using personal devices. What happened to that vision?

By the late 1950s Wendell F. Moore of Bell Aerosystems had developed the SRLD, the Small Rocket Lift Device, a backpack that could carry a single soldier into battle - but only if that battle was about a block away. By 1962 the Bell team had a patent, and a flying rocket belt but they proved hard to build, maintain and control, expensive to fuel and relatively dangerous.

In the mid-1990 the American Rocket Belt Corporation built a rocket belt that extended the time aloft from 20 seconds or so to around 30. But the partnership dissolved under murky circumstances.
So we're still not using jetpacks and rocket packs to zip through the air but you can see the Bell rocket belt in the new traveling exhibition, Above and Beyond, opening at NASM in August.

More: Smithsonian

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