Science: Gas Guidance

To casual kibitzers at Cape Canaveral, the Polaris missile that took off from a dry-land pad and soared successfully downrange may have represented simply one more test shot. To U.S. Navy technicians, the deadly bird signaled the start of a new era in U.S. rocketry. A revolutionary new control system guided its second stage.

Standard weapon of U.S. nuclear submarines, the Polaris burns solid fuel, and it cannot be steered, as liquid-fuel rockets are, by swiveling the whole combustion chamber. Instead, Polarises now at sea use jetavators¬ómovable nozzles inserted in their jet streams to deflect them and thus keep the rocket on...

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