The Rocket Performance Computer was produced by E H Sharkey of the RAND Corporation in December 1958. The package consists of an eighteen page booklet and a 100mm [4″] diameter plastic calculator. The calculator is described as being intended for rapidly calculating approximate solutions for single stage rockets [though it can also be used for multi stage rockets by adding solutions to single stage calculations].
Though Moon Escape, Mercury and Pluto are printed on the calculator the references in the booklet are to calculating payloads and ranges for IRBMs [Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles] and ICBMs [Intercontinental Ballistic Missile].
The Cold War was in progress when the computer was produced. In 1957 the Strategic Air Command had started a 24/7 nuclear alert in anticipation of a Soviet ICBM surprise attack capability and the Soviets had launched the Sputnik satellite. The Soviets had produced the first ICBM and put the first satellite in orbit.
The computer appears to have been intended for use by engineers working on both military and space programs.
A RAND Rocket Performance Computer, described as being in mint condition and with its eighteen page manual, was sold on eBay for US$406 in June 2012. A second was sold for $520 in September 2013 and a third in mid October for $335. An eBay sale in October 2013 only reached $102.50. All these were described as being in mint condition and had their manuals.
For more posts about Space Age calculators click on the Space Age Calculators category on the right.