The Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) was formed to develop the US Army's first large ballistic missile. The agency was established at Redstone Arsenal on 1 February 1956, and commanded by Major General John B. Medaris with Wernher von Braun as technical director.
The Redstone missile was the first major project assigned to ABMA. The Redstone was a direct descendant of the V-2 missile developed by the von Braun team in Germany during World War II. After the US Naval Research Laboratory's Project Vanguard was chosen by the DOD Committee on Special Capabilities, over the ABMA's proposal to use a modified Redstone ballistic missile as a satellite launch vehicle, ABMA was ordered to stop work on launchers for satellites and focus, instead, on military missiles.
Von Braun continued work on the design for what became the Jupiter-C IRBM. This was a three-stage rocket, which, by coincidence, could be used to launch a satellite in the Juno I configuration. In September 1956, the Jupiter-C was launched with a 30-lb (14-kg) dummy satellite. It was generally believed that the ABMA could have put a satellite into orbit at that time, had the US government allowed ABMA to do so. A year later, the Soviets launched Sputnik 1. When the Vanguard rocket failed, a Redstone-based Jupiter-C launched America's first satellite, Explorer 1, on 31 January 1958. Redstone was later used as a launch vehicle in Project Mercury. Redstone was also deployed by the U.S. Army as the PGM-11, the first missile to carry a nuclear warhead.
Studies began in 1956 for a replacement for the Redstone missile. Initially called the Redstone-S (solid), the name was changed to MGM-31 Pershing and a contract was awarded to The Martin Company, beginning a program that lasted 34 years.
In early 1958, NACA's "Stever Committee" included consultation from the ABMA's large booster program, headed by Wernher von Braun. Von Braun's Group was referred to as the "Working Group on Vehicular Program."
In March 1958, ABMA was placed under the new Army Ordnance Missile Command (AOMC) along with Redstone Arsenal, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, White Sands Proving Ground, and the Army Rocket and Guided Missile Agency (ARGMA). General Medaris was placed in command of AOMC and BG John A. Barclay took command of ABMA.
On 1 July 1960, the AOMC space-related missions and most of its employees, facilities, and equipment were transferred to NASA, forming the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). Wernher von Braun was named MSFC director.
BG Richard M. Hurst took command of ABMA from May 1960 until December 1961 when both ABMA and ARGMA were abolished and the remnants were folded directly into AOMC. In 1962, AOMC was restructured into the new US Army Missile Command (MICOM).
Medaris is credited with stating that "if rockets had biblical names, the V-2 would be called Adam."