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The Monica rockets

Monica I Monica I

With a view to prepare the French contribution to the International Geophysical Year, CASDN (Comité d'Action Scientifique de Défense Nationale) had ordered in 1952 from DEFA (Direction des Etudes et Fabrications d'Armement) the adaptation of 15 of LRBA's Veronique sounding rockets. Unfortunately, at the beginning of 1954 the political and financial situation of France imposed severe budget restrictions, and the DEFA was obliged to stop temporarily its work on the Veronique program.
In order to satisfy requests from scientists, CASDN proposed to entrust the adaptation of a smaller, low-cost solid propellant rocket, to the ATEF company (Association Technique pour l'Etude des Fusées).

At the end of the 1940's, SEPR undertook development of a small meteorological sounding rocket named SEPR 35. It was to be a 3-stage solid rocket using propellants available at that time. The booster (EDB propellant) was to deliver 450 daN for 3 seconds and the upper stages (APK propellant ) 50 daN for 15 and 5.5 seconds respectively.
When the first French composite propellant (Plastolite) became available in 1952, Service des Poudres and SEPR considered its use for powering the meteorological sounding rocket. The new version, built by the ATEF company (directed by Robert Pilorget, a former SEPR engineer) was to use three grains belonging to the new propellant technologies: Melanie (Plastolite), Theodore and Oreste (Epictète), the names of which formed the acronym METEO.

In 1954, ATEF received a first order from STAé (Service Technique de l'Aéronautique) for 50 ATEF-14 rockets. This vehicle kept the general shape and stabilizing fins of the former meteorological rocket SEPR 35. During the third launch campaign occurred in June 1955, the rocket was renamed Monica.
The experiments considered by CASDN required the use of more powerful rockets than the initial versions. Fifteen Monica belonging to these new versions (Monica IV and V) equipped with larger upper stages were ordered in 1956.

The Monica vehicles were developed from a limited number of grains. The motor casings showed a diameter of 160 mm (Melanie, Prosper) or 130 mm (Theodore, Oreste). For example:
- Monica I: Melanie-Theodore-Oreste,
- Monica II: Melanie-Theodore-Theodore,
- Monica III: 2Melanie-Prosper-Theodore,
- Monica IV: Melanie-Prosper-Prosper (or 2Melanie-Melanie-Prosper)
- Monica V: 2Melanie-Prosper-Prosper.

The Monica rocket program met with many difficulties during its development. These rockets had a high length/diameter ratio that made it unstable. In addition, in spite of the introduction of improved versions, the performance (15 kg payload) was rapidly considered as insufficient.
When the Veronique program restarted (1959), and a new solid rocket family was developped for CNET use by Sud-Aviation (1961), the Monica program was finally canceled. Nevertheless, the first-stage Melanie grain continued to be used for several years for powering smoke-producing rockets (ATEF-64), targets (ATEF-72), amateur rockets (ATEF-74) and upper stages of ONERA test vehicles (Daniel, Antarès, Bérénice).

Tableaux
a/ Monica motors grains characteristics
b/ Monica rockets caracteristics
c/ Schematic drawings of Monica rockets
d/ Monica rockets launches
Listing from Hervé Moulin and Philippe Varnoteaux data


a/ Monica motors grains characteristics
TypeLength
(mm)
Diameter
(mm)
Propellant mass
(kg)
Total impulse
(daNs)
Burning time
(s)
Melanie 106516015 31005
2Melanie*217016030 62005
Prosper 118016023.5470010
Theodore 815 1309.4 180010
Oreste 490 1303.6 680 8
* The exact name of the long Melanie (twice the propellant mass) is unknown


b/ Monica rockets characteristics
TypeIIIIIIIVV
Length (mm) 30503375484551156270
Total weight (kg)62 71 118 123 154
Payload weight (kg)15 15 15 15 15
Peak altitude (km)53 103 145 94 160
* Total length of the rockets depend of the nosecone length and the presence or not of parachute container.


c/ Schematic drawings of Monica rockets
Serie Monica


d/ Monica rockets launches
Lists under construction (probably incomplete) - Informations or corrections are welcome
DateNbrTypeSiteUser
Feb 1955?ICBEtests
Mar 1955?ICBEtests
Jun 1955?ICBEtests+Vassy
Oct 1955?ICBEtests
Jan 19564ICBEtests+Vassy
May 1956≥2IIDLtests+Vassy
Feb 1957≥2?IDLVassy
May 1957≥2?IDLVassy
Oct 1959≥2IV,VIDLVassy
Feb-Mar 1960≥2IV,VHMGVassy
Jun 19602?VHMGVassy, Blamont
Feb 19611?V?Vassy
Jun 19611?V?Vassy
Note 1: CBE: Colomb Bechar; IDL: Ile du Levant; HMG: Hammaguir


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Please contact Jean-Jacques Serra <JJ.Serra@wanadoo.fr> for comments, corrections or questions