One of the most important American rocket groups formed in 1935–36 in Pasadena, California. Frank Malina emerged as the leader of a small band at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) under the famous aerodynamicist Theodore von Kármán. For their dangerous experiments with rocket propellants, they were soon nicknamed the “Suicide Squad.”
In 1942 von Kármán, Malina, and others founded Aerojet Corporation to mass produce takeoff-assist rockets for heavily loaded airplanes. The Caltech group soon became the Jet Propulsion Laboratory—avoiding the term “rocket,” which many still considered a Buck Rogers fantasy.