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Verein für Raumschiffahrt

Members of the VfR, circa 1930. Those pictured include Rudolf Nebel (far left, in white coat), Hermann Oberth (in hat), Klaus Riedel (holding rocket in foreground), Wernher von Braun (behind Reidel, in knickerbockers)

The Verein für Raumschiffahrt (VfR - "Spaceflight Society") was an association of amateur rocket enthusiasts active in Germany from 1927 to 1933. It brought together many of the engineers who would make important contributions to early spaceflight.

The society was founded in Breslau on July 5 1927 by Johannes Winkler, and amongst the first members were Max Valier, Willy Ley, and Walter Neubert. They were later joined by Klaus Riedel, Rudolf Nebel, Wernher von Braun, Hermann Oberth, Walter Hohmann, Hermann Noordung, Kurt Hainisch, Eugen Sänger, Rolf Engel, and eventually had a membership of some 500 people. The society produced a periodical, Die Rakete (The Rocket).

In 1930, the VfR was able to purchase a plot of land outside Berlin which they dubbed their Raketenflugplatz (Rocket airfield). Over the course of three years, they would fire increasingly powerful rockets of their own design from here, beginning with the unsuccessful Mirak series and then the successful Repulsor series. The most powerful of the latter family of rockets reached altitudes over 1 km (3,000 ft).

As well as conducting their rocketry experiments, the society also sought to promote the idea of space travel. To this end, Oberth worked as a consultant on Fritz Lang's early science-fiction film Frau im Mond (The Woman in the Moon) and Valier assisted in Fritz von Opel's rocket-powered publicity stunts for the Opel company.

In 1932, still in search of funding, the society approached the German army and arranged a demonstration, in which the rocket failed. Nevertheless, Captain Walter Dornberger, in charge of the army’s rocket programme, was sufficiently impressed by the VfR's work to offer the group money for their experiments in exchange for secrecy and a focus on the military applications of their rockets. The group eventually rejected the proposal, and the dissention caused during its consideration contributed to the society dissolving itself the following year. The society's demise at this point was also the result of an inability to find funding, and Berlin's civic authorities becoming concerned with rocketry experiments so close to the city.