240. Memorandum From Kistiakowsky to Eisenhower1

[Facsimile Page 1]


  • Problems involved in the Minuteman Program

This missile is in several respects a more advanced concept than the Polaris missile and, therefore requires considerable development work before it can become operational.

The main technical problems are:

Development of satisfactory solid propellant grams (that for the first stage weighing about 10,000 lbs) for the three stages which will [Typeset Page 1006] stand long term at air launching sites and truck or rail transportation.Also the development of the interior case insulation for the first stage to protect it against heating.
Development of the swivel nozzles for the first-stage engine which will survive the erosive action of hot gases and will control the direction of the thrust.
Development of a miniaturized inertial guidance system which will not only be accurate enough but will remain so after years of sitting in the hardened sites, with the gyroscopes running all the time.

It is my considered opinion that all these problems will be eventually solved.

The provision of more money could speed up the development somewhat, but not much however, because a number of problems must be solved consecutively and because of limitations on the technical talent available.

(d) In a different class is the problem of the correct design of the overall weapon system. It has already been demonstrated that the Minuteman missile can be launched from a hole in the ground (“In-Silo” launch) and this is not of serious concern. [Facsimile Page 2] However, the planning of the communications and command structure for the Minuteman force is still in preliminary stages and shows a tendency to grow in complexity so that the overall costs of the system tend to increase. Thus a year or two ago the estimate was $0.5M per missile. The latest figure I heard was $1.5M per missile and it is likely to inflate further.

G.B. Kistiakowsky
  1. Source: Problems involved in the Minuteman program. No classification marking. 2 pp. Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries.