Jupiter displayed at its old MFL Cape Canaveral launch site was recently restored. Mobile service tower in background has been disassembled.
The Jupiter missile program’s most important legacy was how it spawned the creation, and supported the growth, of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency and its contractor team during the dawn of the space-age. From a small cadre, ABMA rapidly expanded to thousands of employees working an expanding budget.
The Agency won an important post-Sputnik project named “Juno V”, based on knowledge, facilities, and even hardware from Jupiter, that became Saturn I. ABMA became NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, which developed Saturns I, IB, and V, rockets that helped astronauts walk on the Moon.
Jupiter spawned Jupiter-C, a multistage rocket designed to test nose cone heat sheilds that subsequently launched Explorer I, the first U.S. satellite. California’s U.S. Army Jet Propulsion Lab created the upper stage cluster and was the lead contractor for the satellite. Like ABMA, JPL would join NASA, where it would use its new satellite skills to make history.
Jupiter hardware was found at the core of the Saturn I/IB first stage, where a Jupiter-based tank served as the backbone, the keel, of the cluster booster’s first stage. NASA launched 19 of the big rockets between 1961 and 1975. Five carried astronauts on missions for the Apollo, Skylab, and Apollo-Soyuz Test Project programs.
Jupiter missiles themselves only stood active duty for a couple of years before being abruptly retired in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crises. Since the Juno II satellite launcher program was over by then, preventing use of the retired missiles for space launches, most of the Jupiters were ultimately scrapped. About 55 Jupiter missiles remained at the time of retirement, with 45 standing on ready launch sites. Today, nearly one-dozen remain on display.
The most oft-seen Jupiters are at visitor centers or museums near Kennedy Space Center and Marshall Space Flight Center.
A Jupiter missile and a Juno II stand next to the SA-D5 Saturn I Block II dynamic booster at the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center in Alabama. Both seem to have real guidance sections and the Juno II appears to have an authentic upper stage fairing.
A Juno II display has long stood at the KSC visitor’s center. It has what appears to be a dummy upper stage fairing on top of its guidance section. Like many such displays, it uses a paint scheme that never appeared on flight vehicles.
Another frequently-viewed Jupiter is on display inside the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. This beautifully-restored Jupiter does not appear to have a real tactical guidance unit or nose cone. It is the only Jupiter displayed indoors, and thus may turn out to be the longest-lived.
Another view of the Cape Canaveral Jupiter as it appeared during the 1990s. Since restoration, this missile has been stored inside Cape Canaveral’s Hanger R.
Less often-seen Jupiters stand inside bases where public access is limited. One was at the Cape Canaveral museum on the grounds of the former ABMA Missile Firing Lab at LC 26. This Jupiter, which has a partially open propulsion section covered by plexiglass, was recently restored and was recently seen stored inside Hanger R at the Cape.
Another Jupiter stands at the “rocket garden” inside MSFC grounds, next to other Army missiles and rockets. Here it can be compared with V-2, Redstone, Jupiter-C, and Saturn I (SA-D). This display became off limits to public view after the 9/11 attacks.
A real Jupiter missile in need of restoration stands at Air Power Park in Hampton, Virginia. It exhibits details that some other displayed Jupiters lack. Propellant fueling couplers are still in place, as are aft unit roll thrusters.
Jupiter on transporter at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico during the mid-1990s. This missile has not been displayed for years, but may soon reappear.
Another real Jupiter, in very good condition, was displayed, horizontally on a tactical transporter trailer, at the Atomic Museum at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico during the 1990s. This Jupiter has not been seen in recent years, but may be returned to public view with the completion of a new Museum outside the base gates.
Another Jupiter stands on the grounds of the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, South Carolina. Parents tell their children to “meet me at the missile” in case they get lost during the fair.
The Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia, a town famous for its railroad history, has a Jupiter missile for some reason. The missile seems out of place in that railroad context, but looks to be in good condition.
A final Jupiter, or parts of two Jupiters, is displayed at the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas, Texas. This odd display consists of a Jupiter missile with an unusual paint job with its engine removed, sitting next to the thrust section of another Jupiter that still has its engine. A previous museum may have collected these pieces with the intention of combining the parts to make one whole Jupiter, but that has never happened.
The precise provenance of each displayed Jupiter is uncertain. Several may originate from the first group of five IOC missiles (Nos. 101-105) which served as training missiles at Redstone Arsenal. Others are likely tactical IOC missiles returned from service in Europe. Some may have been built for ground test purposes only. Examples of both ABMA-built and Chrysler-built missiles likely remain.
Today, only 55 years after the Jupiter program began, such details of its history are yet to be sorted out.