Véronique (rocket)

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Preparation of a Véronique-AGI rocket circa 1962.
Country of originFrance
Height6 to 11.7m (Véronique 61M)
Diameter0,55 m
Mass1 to 2 tons
Launch history
StatusSucceeded by the Diamant rocket
Launch sitesCIEES, Guiana Space Centre
First stage
Thrust20 to 60 kN (Véronique 61M)

Véronique was a French liquid-fuelled sounding rocket of the 1950s. It was the first liquid-fuel research rocket in Western Europe.[1]

Véronique was a French-led project that had its roots in the German V-2 rocket, and was partially developed by German scientists who had worked in Peenemünde. It was a successor to the cancelled Super V-2, the Véronique was built between 1950 and 1969 in several versions, of which the versions P2, P6 and R were only experimental models. They were made in Vernon, Eure. The name Véronique is a portmanteau of Vernon-électronique, and is also a common French first name.[2]

On 20 February 1959, the first Véronique launch was performed, although it was recorded as a failure. One day later, the second launch took place, which attained an altitude of 84 miles (135 km). The last Veronique-61 was launched on 31 May 1974. The programme was eclipsed by new rockets, such as the wholly indigenous Diamant launcher.



In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, various nations were keen to incorporate recent military advances into their own armed forces; the newly liberated nation of France was no exception.[3] Akin to the American's Operation Paperclip, France recruited various scientists and skilled personnel from the former Axis countries, particularly those with knowledge of advanced aerospace technologies. Amongst these were in excess of 30 staff that had formerly worked at Peenemünde, the hub of the Nazi German rocket programme that produced the V-2 rocket.[3]

During mid-1946, France embarked on development of a V-2 derivative, popularly referred to as the Super V-2.[3] This programme involved two distinct phases, the first being the establishment of appropriate facilities to produce V-2 components – this was partially achieved via the acquisition of most of the components for roughly 30 V-2s, either from subcontractors in France or sourced from the French zone of occupation in Germany. Surveys for a suitable launch facility in Algeria were also conducted, opting for a site near Colomb-Bechar (CIEES).[3]

However, major problems with the Super V-2 programme had become clear by early 1947.[4] France's allies were unwilling to supply V-2 components, yet establishing a completely independent production of all components in France was estimated to take at least five years, by which point the Super V-2 was expected to have become obsolete. Thus, it was decided that two separate programmes would be pursued; in addition to work on the Super V-2, a purely French derivative, initially referred to as project 4212, would be designed by a separate team.[5] During 1948, the Super V-2 project was abandoned in favour other efforts, cumulating in project 4213, a one-tenth scale rocket that was given the name Veronique, a portmanteau of Vernon et electronique.[6]

During March 1949, work formally commenced on Veronique.[7] The project had the primary objective of delivering a flight test vehicle for liquid rocket engine development; a secondary purpose was the launching of scientific payloads at high altitudes. Principal responsibility for manufacturing was held by the Laboratoire de recherches balistiques et aérodynamiques (LRBA).[7]

Into flight[edit]

DEFA Veronique rockets
Véronique rocket habitat
Véronique rocket at Musée de l'air et de l'espace

Partial system tests were conducted in 1951 and early 1952 (Veronique P and R (Réduite)).[7][8] However, it was not until May 1952 that the first full-scale Véronique-N (Normal) was launched.[8] It was powered by a single liquid-fuelled rocket motor with a thrust of four tonnes; its fuel was a combination of kerosene and nitric acid.[7] Veronique employed a unique wire-guidance system that used four 55 m cables attached to its fins immediately upon launch. Initially, the rocket motor suffered from combustion instability, which became a leading cause of early launch failures; furthermore, the maximum altitude of 65 km was found to be insufficient for many scientific purposes.[7]

Accordingly, it was decided to undertake a lengthy development programme throughout the 1950s which produced numerous other models were produced for specific purposes.[7] The Véronique AGI (Année Géophysique Internationale) was developed as a sounding rocket, a total of 15 such rockets were constructed using subsidies provided by the French National Defense Scientific Action Committee.[8] This model was largely similar to the Véronique-N, had had a reduced empty weight, and a simplified engine that used turpentine fuel in place of kerosene.[7] A lengthened model, the Véronique NA (Normale Allongée),[8] enabled an altitude of 135 km to be reached; it also features a modified engine injector that had greater stability. A pair of Véronique P2 test vehicles were produced to experiment with the wire-guidance system.[7]

The definitive version was the Veronique-61 (1961),[8] which featured substantial improvements such as a 50% increase in thrust. It was a far larger rocket, capable of carrying a 60 kg payload to an altitude of 315 km.[7] A lengthened version, the Veronique-61M (Modifié),[8] was also produced, suitable for carrying payloads of up to 100 kg.[9] On 8 June 1964, the first was launched; the last Veronique-61 was launched on 31 May 1974. Of the 21 launches performed, 20 were considered to be failures to varying degrees.[9]

Amongst the tests in aid of scientific research that were conducted using the rocket were a series of biological experiments involving live animals.[10] On account of the available payload capacity and thrust output available via Véronique, the use of larger animals was not possible, thus rats and cats were used; these were carried within a sealed container within the rocket's nose cone which was designed to be retrievable and for the return of its occupant alive. One consequence of these flights was the only recorded launch of a cat into space.[11]

By 1965, the Véronique had begun to be eclipsed by a newer rocket, which was also entirely indigenously designed, the Diamant expendable launch system.[12]


Five Veronique versions were developed:[8]

Type Mass Length Diameter Thrust Duration Payload Apogee
Veronique N 1,100 kg
(2,400 lb)
6.5 m
(21 ft 4 in)
55 cm
(22 in)
40 kN
(9,000 lbf)
32 seconds 60 kg
(130 lb)
70 km
(43 mi)
Veronique NA 1,435 kg
(3,164 lb)
7.3 m
(23 ft 11 in)
45 seconds 60 kg
(130 lb)
135 km
(84 mi)
Veronique AGI 1,342 kg
(2,959 lb)
7.3 m
(23 ft 11 in)
49 seconds 60 kg
(130 lb)
210 km
(130 mi)
Veronique 61 1,932 kg
(4,259 lb)
9.5 m
(31 ft 2 in)
60 kN
(13,000 lbf)
54 seconds 60 kg
(130 lb)
315 km
(196 mi)
Veronique 61M 2,050 kg
(4,520 lb)
11.7 m
(38 ft 5 in)
56 seconds 100 kg
(220 lb)
325 km
(202 mi)


Veronique rockets were launched from 1950 to 1975:[8]

Date Site Vehicle Mission Results
02 Aug 1950 Suippes Veronique R1 Technology Success? (3 m)
04 Aug 1950 Suippes Veronique R2 Technology Success? (8 m)
06 Apr 1951 Vernon Veronique P2 Technology Success
02 Oct 1951 Suippes Veronique R3 Technology Success? (15 m)
03 Oct 1951 Suippes Veronique P5/1 Technology
04 Oct 1951 Suippes Veronique P5/2 Technology
05 Oct 1951 Suippes Veronique R4 Technology Success (1800 m)
06 Oct 1951 Suippes Veronique R5 Technology Success (1820 m)
25 Jan 1952 Le Cardonnet Veronique P6/1 Technology Success
26 Jan 1952 Le Cardonnet Veronique R7 Technology Partial Success - Nosecone not jettisoned
28 Jan 1952 Le Cardonnet Veronique P6/2 Technology Success
28 Jan 1952 Le Cardonnet Veronique R6 Technology Success (1100 m)
30 Jan 1952 Le Cardonnet Veronique R8 Technology Success
20 May 1952 CIEES Veronique N1 Technology Failure (19 km)
21 May 1952 CIEES Veronique N2 Technology Failure (14 km)
22 May 1952 CIEES Veronique N3 Technology Success (60 km)
08 Nov 1952 CIEES Veronique N4 Technology Failure (10 km)
09 Nov 1952 CIEES Veronique N5 Technology Failure (<1 km)
13 Nov 1952 CIEES Veronique N7 Technology Failure (4 km)
16 Nov 1952 CIEES Veronique N6 Technology Failure (6 km)
17 Nov 1952 CIEES Veronique N9 Technology Failure (10 km)
18 Nov 1952 CIEES Veronique N8 Technology Failure (7 km)
18 Apr 1953 CIEES Veronique N11 Technology Failure (3 km)
21 Apr 1953 CIEES Veronique N10 Technology Success (45 km)
20 Feb 1954 CIEES Veronique NA15 Technology Failure (29 km)
21 Feb 1954 CIEES Veronique NA14 Technology Success(135 km)
17 Oct 1954 CIEES Veronique NA13 Technology Failure (39 km)
29 Oct 1954 CIEES Veronique NA12 VLF transmission Success (104 km)
07 Mar 1959 CIEES Veronique AGI18 Na release Failure
10 Mar 1959 CIEES Veronique AGI17 Na release Success
12 Mar 1959 CIEES Veronique AGI16 Na release Success
23 Feb 1960 CIEES Veronique AGI23 Scientific Failure
02 Mar 1960 CIEES Veronique AGI22 Na release Success
05 Mar 1960 CIEES Veronique AGI21 Na release Success
13 Jun 1960 CIEES Veronique AGI20 Na release Success
16 Jun 1960 CIEES Veronique AGI19 Na release Success
18 Jun 1960 CIEES Veronique AGI25 Explosivee Success
22 Jun 1960 CIEES Veronique AGI26 Explosive Success
11 Feb 1961 CIEES Veronique AGI27 Scientific Success
13 Feb 1961 CIEES Veronique AGI28 Scientific Failure
15 Feb 1961 CIEES Veronique AGI29 Scientific Success
18 Feb 1961 CIEES Veronique AGI30 Scientific Failure
22 Feb 1961 CIEES Veronique AGI24 Biology Success (110 km)
10 Jun 1961 CIEES Veronique AGI31 Double explosive Success
24 May 1962 CIEES Veronique AGI39 Explosive Success (168 km)
31 May 1962 CIEES Veronique AGI38 Explosive Success
01 Jun 1962 CIEES Veronique AGI41 Double explosive Success
04 Jun 1962 CIEES Veronique AGI42 Double explosive Failure
06 Jun 1962 CIEES Veronique AGI43 Explosive Success
15 Oct 1962 CIEES Veronique AGI37 Biology Success (120 km)
18 Oct 1962 CIEES Veronique AGI36 Biology Partial Success (110 lm)
19 Oct 1962 CIEES Veronique AGI44 Technology Success (135 km)
22 Oct 1962 CIEES Veronique AGI46 Technology Success (120 km)
23 Oct 1962 CIEES Veronique AGI32 Diffuse solar radiation Success (175 km)
29 Oct 1962 CIEES Veronique AGI34 VLF transmission Success (180 km)
20 Apr 1963 CIEES Veronique AGI35 Ionosphere Success (175 km)
23 Apr 1963 CIEES Veronique AGI49 Ionosphere Success (140 km)
01 May 1963 CIEES Veronique AGI45 Ionosphere Success (160 km)
10 May 1963 CIEES Veronique AGI48 Solar corona (UV) / Ptr Partial Success (135 km), no recovery
18 Jun 1963 CIEES Veronique AGI33 Electron density Partial Success (160 km)
19 Jun 1963 CIEES Veronique AGI40 Electron density (38 km), Destroyed at 34 sec
18 Oct 1963 CIEES Veronique AGI47 Biology Success(155 km)
24 Oct 1963 CIEES Veronique AGI50 Biology Failure(88 km)
14 Apr 1964 CIEES Veronique AGI51 FU110 Atomic H (Ly-alpha), Solar X-rays Partial Success (119 km)
08 Jun 1964 CIEES Veronique 61/75 FU120 Technology Success(260 km)
13 Jun 1964 CIEES Veronique 61/76 FU120 Technology Success(260 km)
04 Nov 1964 CIEES Veronique AGI53 FU110 Atomic H (Ly-alpha), Solar X-rays Success(152 km)
08 Nov 1964 CIEES Veronique AGI52 FU111 UV Solar Astronomy / Ptr Success(98 km)
12 Feb 1965 CIEES Veronique AGI56 FU100 Technology / Ptr Failure (95 km), untimely fairing jettison
27 May 1965 CIEES Veronique 61/79 FU144 Atomic H (Ly-alpha) (70 km)
22 Oct 1965 CIEES Veronique AGI54 FU115 Electron density Success (210 km)
28 Oct 1965 CIEES Veronique AGI55 FU115 Electron density Success (210 km)
24 Mar 1966 CIEES Veronique 61M/80 FU155 Technology Success (209 km)
04 Apr 1966 CIEES Veronique 61M/78 FU145 Technology (Attitude control) (23 km)
06 Apr 1966 CIEES Veronique AGI57 FU126 Solar corona (UV) / Ptr Success (130 km)
27 Jun 1966 CIEES Veronique AGI60 FU154 Technology (recovery) Success (123 km)
01 Oct 1966 CIEES Veronique 61M/77 FU145 Technology + Ionosphere / Stab Partial Success (166 km)
24 Nov 1966 CIEES Veronique 61M/82 FU158 Technology (recovery) Partial Success (230 km)
09 Dec 1966 CIEES Veronique AGI59 FU149 Ion Density, mass spectrometry Success (122 km)
11 Jan 1967 CIEES Veronique 61M/84 FU161 X-ray and UV astronomy / Stab Success (158 km)
13 Jan 1967 CIEES Veronique AGI63 FU160 Solar corona (UV) / Ptr Success (123 km)
17 Jan 1967 CIEES Veronique 61M/85 FU145b X-ray and UV astronomy / Stab Success (205 km)
24 Feb 1967 CIEES Veronique 61M/81 FU176 Technology (recovery) Success (200 km)
17 Mar 1967 CIEES Veronique AGI64 FU174 Solar corona (UV) / Ptr (32 km)
24 Mar 1967 CIEES Veronique 61M/86 FU156 Ionosphere + Biology Success (365 km)
29 Mar 1967 CIEES Veronique 61M/87 FU156 Ionosphere + Biology Success (305 km)
04 Apr 1967 CIEES Veronique 61M/88 FU178 X-ray and UV astronomy / Stab Success (196 km)
09 Apr 1968 Kourou Veronique AGI62 FU184 Technology (sea recovery) Success (113 km)
25 Jul 1968 Kourou Veronique 61M/89 FU185 Technology + X-ray astronomy / Stab Partial Success (185 km), no recovery
18 Dec 1968 Kourou Veronique 61M/83 FU159 UV astronomy / Stab Partial Success (162 km), no recovery
22 Dec 1968 Kourou Veronique 61M/90 FU159 X-ray and UV astronomy / Stab Partial Success (188 km), no recovery
20 Feb 1969 Kourou Veronique AGI61 FU170 CIRCE, Mass spectrometry Failure(103 km), untimely fairing jettison
08 Jun 1971 Kourou Veronique 61M/93 FU194 GESAIR, Ionosphere + Biology Success (206 km)
12 Jun 1971 Kourou Veronique 61M/94 FU194 GESAIR, Ionosphere + Biology Success (211 km)
16 Dec 1971 Kourou Veronique 61M/92 FU208 CISASPE, Ionosphere (active sounding) Success (227 km)
17 Apr 1973 Kourou Veronique 61M/ FU200 3SUV, UV solar astronomy / Ptr Success (200 km)
31 May 1975 Kourou Veronique 61M/ FU216 FAUST, UV astronomy / Stab (172 km)

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Ley, Willy (June 1964). "Anyone Else for Space?". For Your Information. Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 110–128.
  2. ^ Wade, Mark. "Véronique". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Archived from the original on 7 November 2016. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d Reuter 2000, p. 179.
  4. ^ Reuter 2000, pp. 179–180.
  5. ^ Reuter 2000, p. 180.
  6. ^ Reuter 2000, pp. 180–181.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Reuter 2000, p. 181.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Serra, Jean-Jacques (2008-06-14). "Veronique and Vesta". Rockets in Europe. Archived from the original on 2007-10-20. Retrieved 2023-08-26.
  9. ^ a b Reuter 2000, pp. 181–182.
  10. ^ Burgess and Dubbs 2007, pp. 220–222.
  11. ^ Burgess and Dubbs 2007, pp. 222–228.
  12. ^ Reuter 2000, p. 182.