Topaze (rocket)

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Topaze is the designation of a French sounding rocket. The Topaze was developed by several French companies, notably Nord Aviation and Sud Aviation, [1] and built by SEREB (a joint venture of Nord and Sud, now known as Aérospatiale) and was the first guidable French sounding rocket. The Topaze was launched 14 times from the CIEES launch site in Hammaguir, Algeria, by ONERA. [2]

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Sounding rocket Rocket carrying scientific instruments

A sounding rocket, sometimes called a research rocket, is an instrument-carrying rocket designed to take measurements and perform scientific experiments during its sub-orbital flight. The rockets are used to carry instruments from 30 to 90 miles above the surface of the Earth, the altitude generally between weather balloons and satellites; the maximum altitude for balloons is about 25 mi (40 km) and the minimum for satellites is approximately 75 mi (121 km). Certain sounding rockets have an apogee between 620 and 930 miles, such as the Black Brant X and XII, which is the maximum apogee of their class. Sounding rockets often use military surplus rocket motors. NASA routinely flies the Terrier Mk 70 boosted Improved Orion, lifting 600–1,000-pound (270–450 kg) payloads into the exoatmospheric region between 60 and 125 miles.

Nord-Aviation was a state-owned French aircraft manufacturer. It was created on October 1, 1954 upon the acquisition of SFECMAS by SNCAN. The name Nord is also used as a generic name to refer to the Pingouin light aircraft.

There were two versions of the Topaze: [2]

Kilogram SI unit of mass

The kilogram or kilogramme is the base unit of mass in the International System of Units (SI). Until 20 May 2019, it remains defined by a platinum alloy cylinder, the International Prototype Kilogram, manufactured in 1889, and carefully stored in Saint-Cloud, a suburb of Paris. After 20 May, it will be defined in terms of fundamental physical constants.

Pound (mass) unit of mass in imperial, US customary, and avoirdupois systems of units

The pound or pound-mass is a unit of mass used in the imperial, United States customary and other systems of measurement. Various definitions have been used; the most common today is the international avoirdupois pound, which is legally defined as exactly 0.45359237 kilograms, and which is divided into 16 avoirdupois ounces. The international standard symbol for the avoirdupois pound is lb; an alternative symbol is lbm, #, and or ″̶.

Mile Unit of length

The mile is an English unit of length of linear measure equal to 5,280 feet, or 1,760 yards, and standardised as exactly 1,609.344 metres by international agreement in 1959.

There were six launches between 19 December 1962 and 24 October 1963, reaching an apogee of 80 km (49 mi). [3]
This version was launched eight times between 21 December 1963 and 21 May 1965, with apogees ranging from 60 km (37 mi) to 110 km (68 mi). [3]

The Topaze was also used as the second stage of the Diamant rocket, the launch vehicle for France's first satellite, the Asterix-1, and the Saphir rocket. [3]

Diamant French expendable satellite launcher

The Diamant rocket was the first exclusively French expendable launch system and at the same time the first satellite launcher not built by either the United States or USSR. As such, it has been referred to as being a key predecessor for all subsequent European launcher projects.

Saphir (rocket)

Saphir VE231 was a French sounding rocket. It was part of the "pierres précieuses" family of launch vehicles. Saphir was used between 1965 and 1967 and had a payload capacity of 365 kilograms (805 lb). The rocket could reach a maximum altitude of 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) and produced thrust of 280 kilonewtons (63,000 lbf) at launch. Saphir had a launch mass of 18,058 kilograms (39,811 lb), a diameter of 1.40 metres and a length of 17.77 metres (58.3 ft).

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Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle expendable system for launching satellites, developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation

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Soyuz (rocket family) Russian and Soviet rocket family

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Aerobee sounding rocket

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Black Brant (rocket) Family of Canadian-designed sounding rockets

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Taepodong-1 was a three-stage technology demonstrator developed by North Korea, a development step toward an intermediate-range ballistic missile. The missile was derived originally from the Scud rocket and was tested once in 1998 as a space launch vehicle. As a space launch vehicle, it was sometimes called the Paektusan 1.

S-Series (rocket family)

S-Series is a fleet of sounding rockets funded by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) that have been in service since the late 1960s. Manufactured by IHI Aerospace and operated by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS). The nomenclature of the S-Series rockets is the number of "S"s indicates the number of stages, and the following number details the diameter of the craft in millimeters. For example, the S-310 is a single stage rocket with a diameter of 310 mm.

Javelin (rocket) American sounding rocket

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Nike Hydac is the designation of an American sounding rocket with two stages, based upon the Nike Ajax system. The Nike Hydac was launched 87 times from many missile sites. Such sites were White Sands Missile Range, Poker Flat Research Range, Kwajalein Missile Range, Cassino Site - Rio Grande Airport, Brazil, and from North Truro Air Force Station in Massachusetts during Operation Have Horn in 1969.

Nike Hawk is the designation of an American sounding rocket. It has an apogee of 160 km, a liftoff thrust of 217 kN, a total mass of 1100 kg and a total length of 9.00 m. It is a two-stage rocket made from a Nike and a Hawk anti-aircraft missile, and was designed to launch a 90-kg research payload to an altitude of 160 km.

The RX-250-LPN is an Indonesian sounding rocket, part of the RX rocket family. It was launched six times between 1987 and 2007.

Saturn V-A was a proposed American orbital launch vehicle. It was studied by Marshall Space Flight Center in 1968. the Saturn V-A was identical to the Saturn INT-20, except it consisted of an ordinary S-IC first stage and S-IVB second stage. For deep-space missions, a Centaur third stage could also have been used.


VSB-30 - "Veículo de Sondagem Booster – 30" or "Foguete Suborbital VSB-30" is the designation of a Brazilian sounding rocket, which replaced the Skylark rocket at Esrange.

Sputnik (rocket) small carrier rocket

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Saturn V American human-rated expendable rocket

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Terasca sounding rocket, U.S. Navy, 1959

Terasca, or Terrier-ASROC-Cajun, was an American three-stage sounding rocket developed and launched by the United States Navy. Derived from a combination of the Terrier, ASROC and Cajun rockets, three launches were attempted during 1959, but only one was successful.

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The Star is a family of American solid-fuel rocket motors used by many space propulsion and launch vehicle stages. It is used almost exclusively as an upper stage.

The Algol family of solid-fuel rocket stages and boosters built by Aerojet and used on a variety of launch vehicles. It was developed by Aerojet from the earlier Jupiter Senior and the Navy Polaris programs. Upgrades to the Algol motor occurred from 1960 till the retirement of the Scout launch vehicle in 1994.

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Emeraude (rocket)

Émeraude VE121 was a large French sounding rocket of the 1960s. It built on the experiences of the Véronique and Vesta programs, and though it was only used for one year, it tested important technologies that were used in later French launch vehicles, from the Topaze and Saphir sounding rockets to the Diamant, the multi-stage orbital rocket that was used to launch France's first satellite, the Asterix-1. Emeraude was launched exclusively from the Centre interarmées d'essais d'engins spéciaux (CIEES) launch site in Hammaguir, Algeria. Its codename, VE121, means Vehicle Experimental; 1 stage, liquid propellant, guided.


  1. News Digest. // Aviation Week & Space Technology, January 7, 1963, v. 78, no. 1, p. 37.
  2. 1 2 "News Digest". Aviation Week & Space Technology. Vol. 78 no. 1. January 7, 1963. p. 37.
  3. 1 2 3 Wade, Mark. "Topaze". Astronautix. Retrieved 28 April 2018.