London was the target for the V2 rockets

Towards the end of the second world war, Germany launched their V2 rockets at London in a last ditch attempt to turn the tide of the war.
Dr Wernher Von Braun
The German scientist who had been used by the nazis to develop these rockets was Dr Wernher Von Braun.
When told of the first V2 hitting London, Von Braun remarked "The rocket worked perfectly except for landing on the wrong planet". Von Braun's dream was to launch his rockets into space but the nazis wanted him to build their weapons of terror.

At the end of the war, Von Braun and his team of rocket engineers surrendered to the Americans and were put to work on the American missile program.
The nuclear age had begun and America and Russia were locked in the Cold War. Both sides realized the importance of rockets to deliver nuclear warheads so Von Braun again found himself designing military hardware.

He still had ambitions for building space rockets and he realized that the army's Redstone rocket could be modified to launch a small satellite. He argued his case but his ideas fell on deaf ears.

In Russia, Von Braun's opposite number, Sergei Korolev had the same idea of launching a satellite on a modified version of the R7 rocket. However Korolev's superiors were prepared to listen.

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