It is with great regret that we note the passing of early rocket pioneer Mr. Alfred Zaehringer. Mr. Zaehringer passed away on March 26th at the Henry Ford Hospice in Troy Michigan at the age of 86. He had been fighting cancer for several years.
During World War II Alfred Zaehringer witnessed the awesome power of the Nazi's V-2 rocket as it leveled homes and businesses in London, then in 1945 he was on hand once again as V-1 and V-2 missiles were used against the Allied forces at Remagen, site of the famous bridge crossing over the Rhine into Germany. During these final engagements of World War II Zaehringer would also witness the first jet and rocket aircraft as they struggled to protect Germany in the last few months of the war.
After the war he earned his engineering degree, he then formed the Detroit Rocket Society (DRS) and was first to coin the term "Rocket Science". He subsequently became editor of "Rocketscience" the DRS Journal. Contributors to his journal "RocketScience" included Professor Hermann Oberth (one of the fathers of rocketry), Krafft Ehricke (designer of the Centaur liquid hydrogen stage), Eugen Sanger (father of the rocket plane), Heinz Koelle (Director of Advanced projects for NASA) and ex-Peenemunde engineer Hans Kaiser.
Mr. Zaehringer's first professional rocket experience came at the University of Michigan, where he dealt with anti-missile and rocket programs. Then he joined the fledgling Thiokol Chemical Company and became chief test engineer. Following this he went on to the Grand Central Rocket Company, where he worked on the upper stage motor for America's first satellite. Next, he formed the American Rocket Company, where he worked on a number of rocket systems. During the Apollo program, he worked on up-rating the Saturn C-5 for the proposed manned Mars program. Moving to Martin, he was with the solid rocket management group that studied solid strap-ons and their effects on large launch vehicles.
Coming back to LTV Aerospace in Michigan, Mr. Zaehringer worked on the solid propellant gas generator for the Lance battlefield missile. He then moved to the Ford Motor Company where he did engineering work on EGR valves, fuel injectors, and fuel vapor management.
After retiring in 1995, Mr. Zaehringer continuously devoted his time to writing about rocket science and space. He was a member of the National Space Society and the British Interplanetary Society. Author of seven books in the US and in Europe, his book on Soviet space technology hit book shelves on the same day that Yuri Gagarin went into orbit. Mr. Zaehringer correctly predicted that the next formidable member of the Space Club would be China (China put a man into orbit in October 2003). Along with other space pioneers, his name is on the Stardust microchip and will be in space forever.
Apogee Books published two books by Mr. Zaehringer. "Rocket Science" (2004) and "The Journal of the Detroit Rocket Society" (2008).