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Guide to the Vernon L. Rogallo Papers, 1948-1992
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biographical History
  • Indexing Terms
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement of the Vernon L. Rogallo Papers

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Vernon L. Rogallo Papers
    Date (inclusive): 1948-1992
    Collection Number: PP14.02
    Creator: Rogallo, Vernon L.
    Extent: Number of containers: 7

    Volume: 5 cubic feet
    Repository: Ames Research Center, Ames History Office
    Moffett Field, California 94035
    Abstract: The Vernon L. Rogallo Papers feature technical publications, memoirs, albums, photographs, and artifacts related to Rogallo's employment as an engineer for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) Ames Aeronautical Laboratory and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Ames Research Center, as well as his family's aerobatic kite flying team "The Rockets," which was a vehicle to publicize the Flexikite. The Flexikite, which was based on Vernon's brother Francis's own design and aptly named the "Rogallo Wing," was marketed and distributed on the West Coast by Vernon.
    Language: English

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright does not apply to United States government records. For non-government material, researcher must contact the original creator.

    Preferred Citation

    NASA Ames History Office, NASA Ames Research Center. Moffett Field, California. PP14.02, Vernon L. Rogallo Papers, 1948-1992, [Container number]: [Folder number]. [Identification of item]. [Date, if available].

    Abbreviated Citation

    NASA ARC. PP14.02, [Container number]: [Folder number]. [Identification of item]. [Date, if available].

    Administrative Information

    Separated Material

    Various NASA publications such as educational material on aeronautics and the Space Age, fact sheets on various NASA space programs, photographic prints featuring Gemini and Apollo crew, pre launch and space walks, as well as duplicate NASA Technical Note reports were separated and transferred to the NASA Ames Research Center Technical Library and History Office Archives Reference Collection (AFS1070.8A). A sample of the red nylon parachute material used to make the uniforms was retained.

    Acquisition Information

    Donated by Phoebe J. Flynn on March 5, 2014.

    Biographical History

    Vernon L. Rogallo graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1942 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. In October, shortly after graduating, Rogallo was employed by Hughes Aircraft in Culver City, California where he was in charge of range studies for the Spruce Goose until June 1944. In April 1948 Rogallo joined the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) at Moffett Field, California. He was employed at Ames for nearly 21 years. From 1948 to 1958 he worked as an aeronautical research scientist and project engineer in the 40 x 80-foot wind tunnel where his research led to numerous published technical papers, and paved the way for some of his later inventions, such as a propeller blade loading control. After the establishment of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the absorption of NACA in 1958, Rogallo, started working in the instrumentation division. It was there he developed instruments for biomedical, aeronautical, and space research applications until his retirement in September 1969. Rogallo is best known for his work during this period, specifically his adaptation of a Momentum Transducer into a Ballistocardiograph, a device that still endures today for its medical application as an instrument to measure ballistic forces on the heart. While working on the Ballistocardiograph, Rogallo earned the nickname "egg man" of Ames due to his use of the highly sensitive instrument to measure the heartbeat of avian embryos. At least six of Rogallo's inventions at Ames were awarded patents including: Propeller Blade Loading Control (1964), Null-Type Vacuum Microbalance (1965), Thermo-Protective Device for Balances (1965), Force Transducer (1967), Apparatus and Methods for Measuring Energy of Light Beams and Ion Beams (1968), and the Ballistocardiograph (1969).
    Vernon's brother, Francis, also a mechanical and aeronautical engineer employed by NACA and NASA, worked out of Langley Field in Virginia. Francis was responsible for a wing design commonly referred to as the "Rogallo Wing" which had applications for both aviation and recreation. Francis's design was originally conceived as a possible landing system for the Gemini space capsule. Francis and his wife Gertrude designed an aluminized Mylar kite they called the "Flexikite" which became the forerunner of today's hang gliders and paragliders. Vernon was so excited about the new kite's possibilities that he became the West Coast distributor and started a family aerobatic kite flying team called "The Rockets." The Rockets consisted of Vernon, his wife June, his three daughters Phoebe, Diana, and Mary, and even the family dog Chalky. Donning matching team uniforms that June made from red nylon parachute material and armed with a suitcase filled with kites, the Rogallo's would present kite-flying demonstrations around the Bay Area as onlookers watched in awe.
    During his retirement Rogallo pursued research into unconventional aircraft designs such as the forward swept wing, as well as the use of unducted fans on modern aircraft. Due to the rampant theft of bicycles in the Bay Area, Rogallo also invented a u-style bicycle lock in 1970, one of the first of its kind. Vernon Rogallo passed away in McMinnville, Oregon in 2005.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms may be used to index this collection.

    Corporate Name

    Ames Research Center
    United States. National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics
    United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Personal Name

    Rogallo, Vernon L.
    Rogallo, Francis M. (Francis Melvin), 1912-2009


    Flexible wings
    Stunt Kites

    Geographic Names

    Moffett Field (Calif.)

    Scope and Content

    The Vernon L. Rogallo Papers span from 1948 to 1991 with the bulk of material being from 1951-1970. The collection contains: research publications, articles, an Ames retirement album, snapshots, photographs, negatives, a VHS videocassette, memorabilia, and artifacts such as an aluminum propeller used in wind tunnel tests, and numerous examples of the various kites based on the Rogallo wing design. The collection is arranged in two series. The first focuses on Rogallo's contributions to engineering and his time at NACA Ames Aeronautical Laboratory and NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. The second focuses on the implementation of the "Rogallo wing" design (designed by Vernon's brother Francis) as a hobby stunt kite, and Vernon's family aerobatic kite flying team "The Rockets." The bulk of the material includes a newspaper article as well as the numerous press photographs and corresponding negatives taken for the article. Also included are memoirs about the Rogallo family including Francis.

    Arrangement of the Vernon L. Rogallo Papers

    The Vernon L. Rogallo Papers were received in no discernible original order, so an arrangement was imposed. The records are arranged in two series. The contents of Series I are grouped by Rogallo's research and inventions, followed by photographs and memorabilia. Each group is then arranged chronologically. The contents of Series II are grouped by format.
    The papers are arranged into two series:
    • Series I, Engineering Papers, 1948-1992
    • Series II, The Rockets: The Rogallo Wing and Flexikites, 1954-1991