The Redstone had a liquid-fueled engine which burned alcohol and liquid oxygen to produce about 75,000 pounds (333,617 newtons) of thrust. It was nearly 70 feet (21 meters) long and slightly under 6 feet (1.8 meters) in diameter. At burnout, or when the propellant was exhausted, it had a speed of 3,800 miles per hour (6,116 kilometers per hour). For guidance, it used an all-inertial system featuring a gyroscopically stabilized platform, computers, a programmed flight path taped into the rocket before launch, and the activation of the steering mechanism by signals in flight. For control during powered ascent, the Redstone depended on tail fins with movable rudders and refractory carbon vanes mounted in the rocket exhaust.
The first Redstone missile was launched from the military's missile range at Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 20, 1953. Though it traveled only 8,000 yards (7,315 meters), it was considered a success and 36 more models were launched through 1958, when it was put into U.S. Army service in Germany.
On January 31, 1958, a modified four-stage Redstone rocket, known as Jupiter-C, lifted the first American satellite, Explorer 1, into orbit. A Redstone rocket also launched the Mercury capsules on their sub-orbital flights in 1961, inaugurating America's human spaceflight program.