White Sands Missile Range Main Entrance and Missile Park, New Mexico


White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) at nearly 4,000 square miles, is one of the largest military facilities in the country. At its main gate is a missile park and a museum. It is primarily a test range with the main function of supporting missile development and test programs for the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), other government agencies and private industry. Like most large military installations in the West, White Sands was created during World War II. It was officially established on July 9, 1945, one week before the world's first nuclear explosion, the Trinity test, was performed at its northern end. Over the years, most of the missile systems in the U.S. arsenal were tested at WSMR, including the V-2, Nike, Viking, Corporal, Lance and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems. The range has developed launch facilities in other areas of New Mexico, Utah, and Idaho for long-range testing. In such tests, missiles from these locations fly over the countryside and impact on White Sands. White Sands also provides an alternate landing site for the space shuttle program. In 1982 the orbiter Columbia landed on the range's Northrop Strip after its third flight into space. The WSMR employs more than 8,000 people, and is under operational control of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (TECOM), located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. There are several impact ranges on WSMR, some with elaborate mock airfields, and impact areas with circular targets up to 10,000 feet. Seven of these are “Phase I Impact Areas”, used to test inert warheads, with only live detonators. Two are live payload areas, used for testing fully tactical high-explosive warheads. There are several special purpose areas, which include the Denver Area, with a 40 foot drop tower, and the Rhodes Area, which has test beds for live high explosive tests, things like bullet impact tests. The ABC-1 impact area is used for testing target engagement capabilities of submunitions, and has a 5,000 foot cleared area, racetrack, and tank staging area.