Thor Able


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Type: Space launch vehicle
Designation: Thor Able / Thor Able I / Thor Able II
Serial Number: 56-6796
Payload: Nose cone experiments, space probes, satellites
Agency: U.S. Air Force, NASA
Contractor: Douglas Aircraft Company
Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Operations: 1958-1960


Introduced in 1958, Thor Able was the first variant of the Thor Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) to be used as a space launch vehicle. Originally designed to support testing of military and civilian high-speed re-entry vehicles, Thor Able was modified to carry small payloads into space.

Commercial Thor-based rockets were renamed Delta in 1960, so Thor Able represents the first generation of the Delta rocket family. Indeed, the modern Delta II and Delta III were direct descendants of the Thor Able.


Using a modified Thor missile as first stage plus second and third stages adapted from the Vanguard rocket program, the Thor Able was used during flight tests of re-entry hardware for U.S. Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) programs.

The first flight tests of nose cones simulating ICBM ranges and speeds were conducted using Thor Able rockets, contributing to a broader knowledge of re-entry vehicle dynamics. While Thor Able re-entry vehicle tests reached altitudes high enough to be considered space missions, the rocket also carried out satellite launching duties.

The Redistribution and Marketing Branch at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, provided the museum display in December 1966. The Thor Able was set in place at the museum on 2 March 1967.

The Able upper stage was removed for restoration in May 2012. The Thor booster was removed on 24 May 2013 and transported to Hangar C. Restoration work was completed in June 2013 and the completed vehicle was moved into Hangar C.

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Other Missile & Rocket Artifacts