This website has been created to be a provenance for Hydra-Sandhawk, a very unique and interesting sounding rocket program using submerged sounding rockets. Hydra-Sandhawk was the last of a series of water launched sounding rocket projects. It’s been more than 54 years since Hydra programs began at the Naval Missile Center, Pt. Mugu, CA. Memories have faded and many of its personnel are very likely no longer with us. Even the Naval Missile Center’s name and mission are long gone.
This website is based on memories and on some non-rigorous internet research. It is not meant to be a technical reference. However, there are some very interesting pictures available on the website. Unfortunately, no drawings or related information are known to have survived. If you do have related information, or photos, please go to the comments section and contact me.
Many dedicated engineers and technicians contributed to Hydra programs over the years. Navy Project Hydra development began at Pt. Mugu in 1958 with the work of Lieut. Commander John E. Draim and Lieut. Charles E. Stalzer. These gentlemen validated all the basic concepts in launching submerged, solid propellant rockets. Project Hydra ended in 1965 and Lieut. Commander Draim left the Naval Missile Center and went on to pursue his career with other Hydra applications. Captain Draim was involved in various Hydra water launched rocket and missile proposals including sea launched MX and Aquarious.
Hydra-Iris, a mission specific program for the Atomic Energy Commission and Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, followed the successful Project Hydra development work at the Naval Missile Center. William J. Bolster became the Hydra-Iris project engineer. “Billy” Bolster was involved in several Hydra-Iris launch expeditions in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Billy Bolster was a true rocket engineer. He became the primary designer and manager of the new Hydra-Sandhawk program. This involved his ground up design of a totally new Hydra-Sandhawk floating launcher system and flight vehicle. Billy Bolster went on to pursue additional sounding rocket work with NASA Goddard. Roger Sanders took over engineering program responsibilities at the Naval Missile Center for Hydra-Sandhawk production, testing and deployment. Dedicated ordinance technicians were a very important part of the entire Hydra-Iris and Hydra-Sandhawk programs. They included Lou Haake, Ben Wherry and Ed Pokarth.
Hydra-Sandhawk had two partially successful launch expeditions launching X-Ray payloads to apogees of about 170 miles. Out of atmosphere coning angle issues and the rapid development of X-Ray satellites in the early 1970s lead to the elimination of further Hydra-Sandhawk launches.