Development of the Redstone rocket engine began in November of 1944, when the US Ordnance Department entered into a research and development contract with the General Electric Company for the study and development of long-range missiles that could be used against ground targets and high-altitude aircraft. The Redstone was a direct descendent of the Navaho booster, which was itself derrived from the German V2 rocket engine.
The first 12 Redstones were built at the Redstone Arsenal in 1952, and the contract was transfered to the Chrysler Corporation. In August 1953, a Redstone flew 8,000 yards in its first test flight. Over the next five years, 37 additional Redstones were test fired. The first orbiting US satellite, Explorer 1, was launched in January 1958, using a Jupiter C rocket powered by a Redstone engine. Astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space when he was launched on a suborbital flight by a Redstone rocket engine in May 1961. In 1964, the Army started phasing out the Redstone as a tactical system in favor of the speedier, more mobile Pershing missile system. It was officially retired at a ceremony at Redstone Arsenal on 30 October, 1964.
The Redstone was 70 feet long and almost 6 feet in diameter. It produced a thrust of 75,000 pounds.