On December 21,1957, the Central Committee of the Communist Party, Soviet Union, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the U. S. S. R., and the U. S. S. R. Council of Ministers issued a proclamation in connection with the outstanding achievements that marked the 40th year of existence of the Soviet Government. The proclamation ended with the following announcement:

Thus the official cloak of anonymity was draped collectively over the men and institutions that accomplished, with dramatic suddenness, man's first concrete step in the conquest of space. This announcement, in a sense, epitomizes the extreme caution with which the Soviets have handled the subject of rocket development since the mid-1930's when, after the first liquid-propellant meteorological research rockets were fired by Russian enthusiasts, the Soviet Government quickly realized the enormous military potential of the rocket and organized a Government-sponsored rocket research program, with its attendant security restrictions.

Russia has a rich historical background in astronautics that began at the end of the 19th century with the works of I. V. Meshcherskii on the dynamics of bodies of variable mass and the publications of K. E. Tsiolkovskii on principles of rocket flight. Early Russian rocket enthusiasts made many fundamental contributions to this new technology.



Tsiolkovskii, the father of (and to the Soviets, the patron saint of) the science of astronautics, has been fairly well represented by rocket historians in Western literature. Not so, however, his contemporaries - F. A. Tsander, who developed the idea of utilizing as fuel the metallic structural rocket ship components which were no longer necessary and who in 1932 built and successfully tested a rocket motor operating on kerosene and liquid oxygen; Yu. V. Kondratyuk, who proposed the use of ozone as an oxidant and developed the idea of aerodynamically braking a rocket returning from a voyage in space; N. A. Rynin, who during the period 1928-32 published a monumental 9-volume treatise on astronautics; Ya. I. Perel'man, the great popularizer of astronautics- and I. P. Fortikov, the organizer.

Until the door was shut on the publication of original material in 1935, rocket developments in the Soviet Union, especially those connected with the exploration of the stratosphere, were discussed quite freely. As early as 1929, an organization known as GIRD (after the initials of the Russian words for "group studying reactive motion") was formed by a number of scientists and engineers whose primary interest was in rocket engines and propellants. The papers written by various members of this organization contain a wealth of evidence of native competence in the various aspects of rocketry and space flights and clearly indicate that the Russians possessed a relatively high degree of technical sophistication more than two decades ago. 1 The GIRD publications included contributions by I. A. Merkulov, Yu. A. Pobedonostsev, and M. K. Tikhonravov, who are still very active in the field of rocket propulsion and space flight.

By 1929, V. P. Glushko, now a corresponding member of the U. S. S. R. Academy of Sciences, was already designing rocket engines, and from 1931 to 1932 he conducted test-stand firings with gasoline, benzene, and toluene as fuels, and with liquid oxygen, nitrogen tetroxide, and nitric acid as oxidants. The only liquid-propellant rocket engines mentioned by code designation in the Russian literature are the OR-2 engine, designed by F. A. Tsander, which in 1933 developed a thrust of 110-pounds operating on gasoline and liquid oxygen; the ORM (experimental rocket engine) series, designed by Glushko, of which the ORM-52 in 1933 developed a thrust of 660 pounds operating on kerosene and nitric acid; and the aircraft-thrust-augmentation rocket engines - RD-1, RD-2, and RD-3 which developed thrusts of 660, 1,320, and 1,980 Pounds, respectively (194146). L. S. Dushkin designed an engine that propelled a meteorological rocket designed by M. K. Tikhonravov to an altitude of 6 miles in 1935. Dushkin later designed an engine that developed a thrust of 330 pounds for a rocket plane (glider) built under the direction of S. P. Korolev and successfully flight-tested in 1940.

Realizing the enormous military potential of the rocket, the Soviet Government had organized, by 1934, a Government-sponsored rocket-research program-only 5 years after Germany had embarked on its rocket program but 8 years before similar systematic Army-sponsored research began in the United States. Stalin's personal interest in the development of long-range, rocket-propelled guided missiles is

1 E. g., Proceedings of the All-Union Conference on the Study of the Stratosphere, March 31-April 6,. 1934, U. S. S. R. Academy of Sciences, 1935. and collections of papers titled "Rocket Technology" and "Jet Propulsion," Union of Scientific Technical Publishing Houses, 1935, 1936. Unfortunately, few, if any, of the latter items reached the United States.


discussed in the book Stalin Means War by Col. G. A. Tokaev, formerly chief of the aerodynamics laboratory of the Moscow Military Air Academy, who defected from the Soviet Zone of Germany to Great Britain in 1948.

After World War II, the Russians thoroughly and systematically exploited German rocket powerplants and guidance and control equipment; they then reestablished the German state of the art as it had existed in 1945 by appropriating most of their rocket-test and production facilities and personnel. (It is interesting to note that, although most of the Germans were repatriated in 1952, a group of electronic experts was not repatriated until 1958.) The Soviets not only increased the thrust of the V-2 rocket engine from 55,000 to 77,000 pounds by increasing the propellant flow rate 2 - thereby extending the range of the missile from 200 to 700 miles-but also developed a super-rocket engine with a thrust of 265,000 pounds. They were also interested in designing a rocket engine with a thrust of 551,000 pounds, probably as an improvement on the powerplant the Germans had envisioned for their A-10 rocket. Events since August 1957 seem to indicate that the German A-9/10 project reached fruition in the Soviet ICBM.

These developments indicate that the Russian effort has been more than an extension of previous German work; to all indications it is based on independent thinking and research. This is not surprising, since Russia has its share of exceptionally capable technical men such as Semenov (the recent Nobel prizewinner in chemistry) and Zel'dovich, Khristianovich, and Sedov - to mention but a few in the fields of combustion theory and fluid dynamics.

By 1949 the Soviets had embarked on an upper atmosphere research-rocket program that involved the recovery by parachute, first of test-instrument containers and later of experimental animals. Papers dealing with this program were presented by S. M. Poloskov and B. A. Mirtov and by A. V. Pokrovskii in Paris in December 1956. According to a Tass report dated March 27,1958, the single-stage rocket initially used (in May 1949) attained an altitude of 68 miles with an instrument payload of 264 to 286 pounds. With improved techniques, larger payloads were sent to higher altitudes. Thus, in May 1957, a single-stage geophysical rocket raised an instrument payload of 4,840 pounds to an altitude of 131 miles, while on February 21,1958, an improved single-stage geophysical rocket raised an instrument payload of 3,340 pounds to a record altitude of 293 miles. In each case the payload was recovered by parachute. On August 27,1958, a single-stage geophysical rocket launched in the Soviet Union reached an altitude of 279 miles with a payload of 3,720 pounds. Besides instruments for studying the upper atmosphere, the rocket carried two dogs in a special pressurized capsule. Both instruments and dogs were successfully recovered.

One of the meteorological rockets developed by the Soviets, which has been used since 1950, was described in detail by A. M. Kasatkin at the CSAGI Washington conference on rockets and satellites early in October 1957. It consists of a solid-propellant booster rocket 4.5 feet long and weighing 517 pounds that burns 180 pounds of powder in 2

2 A similar development in this country led to the 75,000-Pound-thrust rocket engine for the Redstone missile.

37162 °-59-15


seconds, and a 23-foot long sustainer rocket having a starting weight of 1,495 pounds and a kerosene and nitric acid engine that develops a thrust of 3,000 pounds for 60 seconds At an altitude of about 43 males, the sustainer rocket separates into 2 parts, the upper part with instruments attaining an altitude of 50 to 55 miles. Both parts descend by parachute and are recovered.

The existence of an official Soviet space-flight program may be traced to a significant statement by Academician A. N. Nesmeyanov in his address to the World Peace Council in Vienna on November 27, 1953. Speaking on the problems of international cooperation among scientists, he said: "Science has reached a state when it is feasible to send a stratoplane to the Moon, to create an artificial satellite of the Earth." 3 As president of the U. S. S. R. Academy of Sciences, Nesmeyanov was, of course, familiar with all aspects of Soviet scientific progress; his statement clearly implied that Russian progress in rocket propulsion as of 1953 had made feasible such feats as launching an Earth satellite and flying to the Moon.

There is considerable evidence of early acceptance of the science of space flight by the Soviet hierarchy. It is not without significance that volume 27 of Bol'shaya Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya (Large Soviet Encyclopedia), published in June 1954, contained an article entitled "Interplanetary Communications" by M. K. Tikhonravov. 4 As of the end of 1957 there was no corresponding entry in any of the Western encyclopedias. Interestingly, the New York Times began to index articles on space ships and space flight under the term "Astronautics" only after the White House announced on July 29, 1955, that the United States intended to launch an Earth satellite.

Soviet interest in space flight was further revealed by the fact that on September 24, 1954, the Presidium of the U. S. S. R. Academy of Sciences established the K. E. Tsiolkovskii Gold Medal for outstanding work in the field of interplanetary communications, to be awarded every 3 years beginning with 1957. At about the same time, the Presidium established the permanent Interdepartmental Commission on Interplanetary Communications to "coordinate and direct all work concerned with solving the problem of mastering cosmic space." Academician L. I. Sedov, a topnotch hydrodynamicist, was appointed chairman, and M. K. Tikhonravov-who designed and successfully launched liquid-propellant atmospheric research rockets in 1934-was appointed vice chairman.

in addition to the ICIC, an Astronautics Section was organized early in 1954 in Moscow at the V. P. Chkalov Central Aeroclub of the U. S. S. R. Its goal was "to facilitate the realization of cosmic flights for peaceful purposes." Its charter members included Chairman N. A. Varvarov, Prof. V. V. Dobronravov, Design Engineer I. A. Merkulov, Stalin Prize Laureate A. D. Seryapin, Prof. K. P. Stanyukovich, Yu. S. Khlebtsevich, and International Astronautics Prize Winner, A. A. Shternfel'd.

Although the White House announcement of July 29, 1955-that the United States intended to launch an Earth satellite sometime during the International Geophysical Year (1957-58)-led to

3 Pravda, November 28, 1953.

4 In Russian the term "interplanetary communications" is synonymous with "astronautics" and "space fight."


considerable speculation concerning the Soviet position and capability in this field of technology, the imperturbable Russians, as usual, did not commit themselves. Possibly they were only too well aware of the United States Earth satellite vehicle program, the existence of which was first publicly announced by Secretary of Defense Forrestal in December 1948.

A notable event occurred in the week following the White House announcement. The Sixth International Astronautical Congress sponsored by the International Astronautical Federation convened in Copenhagen, Demark. It was notable because, unlike previous meetings, it was attended by two Soviet scientists, Academician L. I. Sedov, Chairman of the U. S. S. R. Academy of Sciences Interdepartmental Commission on Interplanetary Communications, and Prof. K. F. Ogorodnikov, a professor of astronomy at Leningrad State University, who was an exchange professor at Harvard in 1937.

The Russians were observers at the Congress and did not participate in any formal discussion of the papers. Sedov, however, did hold a press conference on August 2 at the Soviet Legation in Copenhagen, but unfortunately some of the statements attributed to him were garbled in the western press. Three days later, on August 5, Pravda published an official version of the press conference in which Sedov indicated that-

It is interesting to compare this obviously edited official Soviet version of the press conference with the unedited version published in the Western press 2 days earlier. Later, after his return to Moscow, Sedov's impressions of the Astronautical Congress appeared in the Soviet press.

Six months later, in February 1956, the Russians held a conference at Leningrad State University to discuss problems of the physics of the Moon and the planets. More than 50 scientists participated. The two principal topics for discussion were (1) the questions of planetology connected with the problems of astronautics and, primarily, the question of the state of the Moon's surface, and (2) the exchange of opinions and plans for observations of the coming great opposition of Mars in September 1956. Prof. N. P. Barabashev, conference chairman and director of the Khar'kov University Observatory, pointed out that the importance of planetology was growing substantially in connection with the demands of cosmonautics and that, at the same time, the responsibility of planetary, and especially lunar, investigators


was increasing. M. K. Tikhonravov, Vice Chairman of the Commission on Interplanetary Communications, enumerated the basic questions to which astronauts expect answers from the science of planetology.

At the Conference on Rockets and Satellites, held on September 11, 1956, during the fourth general meeting of the (Comité Spécial de l'Année Geophysique Internationale (CSAGI) in Barcelona, Spain, there occurred a prime example of official Soviet reticence to make factual pronouncements concerning rocketry and space flight.. In presenting the general description of the Soviet Union's rocket and satellite program to an audience that was eagerly awaiting the Prussian announcement, Academician I. P. Bardin, Chairman of the U. S. S. R. IGY National Committee and a Vice President of the U. S. S. R. Academy of Sciences, read the following statement in Russian: 5

Needless to say, this unexpected and vapid statement left the assembled throng with a sense of complete frustration. No mention of it appeared in the Soviet press for more than 2 weeks. Finally, on September 26, a TASS report, captioned "Preparation for the International Geophysical Year" and bearing no dateline, appeared on page 4 of Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star). The report quoted Academician Bardin as saying that-

5 Dr. V. A. Troitskaya, scientific secretary of the Soviet National Committee, read the accompanying English version immediately after Bardin's original statement.


The Bardin item is in keeping with the generalized nature of Soviet reports and articles concerning their satellite plans and specifications. Stereotyped statements and reports are apparently a matter of policy. This was admirably summarized by an American IGY scientist who (according to an Associated Press dispatch datelined Washington, October 2, 1957) said that Russian delegates had told him repeatedly that they consider it-

By 1956 the U. S. S. R. Academy of Sciences felt the need to apply for membership in the International Astronautical Federation The application was voted on favorably during the Seventh International Astronautical Congress in Rome in September of that year. Moreover, the Soviet Union's lone observer-delegate to that Congress-L. I. Sedov-was elected a vice president of the Federation.

More than a year passed, however, before the Soviet Union complied with the bylaws of the International Astronautical Federation and submitted, through Sedov, a description (that is, an equivalent of a constitution ) of the Academy's Interdepartmental Commission on Interplanetary Communications and a list of its members.

The main purpose of the commission, it seems, is to assist in every way possible the development of Soviet scientific-theoretical and practical work concerning the study of cosmic space and the achievement of space flight. Its specific duties and functions are manifold and involve the initiation, organization, coordination, and popularization of the problems of space flight, as well as the propagandization of the successes achieved.

The list of 27 members of the Commission is a very impressive one. It includes eight academicians, some of Russia's-and the world's- top scientists. There is no question of the stature in world science of such men as P. L. Kapitsa, the famed physicist, N. N. Bogolyubov, the mathematical genius who is said to be the Russian counterpart of the late John von Neumann, V. A. Ambartsumyan, the noted Armenian astrophysicist, and others. Although most of the members of the Commission are pedagogy that is, connected with some institute of higher learning, a number of them wear several hats, including military hats. Academician A. A. Blagonravov, for example, is a lieutenant general of artillery and is a specialist in automatic weapons. G. I. Pokrovskii is a major general of technical services and an explosives expert. V. F. Bolkhovitinov holds the rank of major general and is a professor of aeronautical engineering at the Military Air Academy. Yu. A. Pobedonostsev is a colonel, a professor of aerodynamics at Moscow State University and a specialist in gas dynamics. It is quite evident that the military is well represented in the Interdepartmental Commission on Interplanetary Communications.

Because of the Soviets' extreme reluctance to reveal their activities in the field of astronautics, the myriad articles on the problems of space flight that appeared in the popular press prior to the end of 1956 presented, for the most part, well-known information from the Western press with only occasional broad hints as to developments in



the Soviet Union. Soviet technical journals, however, continued- as they had in the past-to present articles of considerable interest and merit, especially in the fields of flight mechanics and hydrodynamics.

Soviet uncommunicativeness ended in December 1956, when a delegation of 13 scientists, headed by Academician A. A. Blagonravov, an armaments specialist and a member of the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences, attended the First International Congress on Rockets and Guided Missiles in Paris. There the Russians presented two papers which revealed the prodigality of their rocket-test program: In the Soviet experimental technique, the measuring instruments are not carried in the rocket itself but in automatically jettisoned containers, the results being recorded on film and the containers recovered by parachute. The papers were entitled "Study of the Upper Atmosphere by Means of Rockets at the U. S. S. R. Academy of Sciences, ' by S. M. Poloskov and B. A. Mirtov, and "Study of the Vital Activity of Animals During Rocket Flights Into the Upper Atmosphere," by A. V. Pokrovskii, director of the U. S. S. R. Institute of Experimental Aeromedicine.

The paper by Poloskov and Mirtov describes an instrument container, 6.5 feet long and 15.75 inches in diameter, used for upper-atmosphere research. It is essentially a metal cylinder divided into three sections. The lower section is hermetically sealed and contains power supplies, ammeters, camera, and the program mechanism which controls the operation of all the instruments in the container. The center section-which is open to the atmosphere-contains evacuated glass sampling flasks, thermal and ionization gages, etc. The upper section contains a parachute and is also hermetically sealed. A set of spikes in the bottom of the container ensures a vertical landing. The container, which weighs about 550 pounds, is jettisoned automatically in the descending phase of the trajectory at a height of 6 to 7.5 miles above the Earth's surface.

Pokrovskii's paper describes a catapultable chassis used in studying the behavior of dogs during round-trip flights to altitudes of 68 miles. The dog is secured in a hermetically sealed space suit with a removable plastic helmet and is provided with a 2-hour supply of oxygen. The chassis is equipped with radio transmitter, oscillograph, thermometers, sphygmometer, camera, and parachute. Two such chassis are fitted in the rocket nose section, which separates from the body of the rocket at the apex of the trajectory. One chassis separates from the nose section at a height of 50 to 56 miles and parachutes to the ground from a height of 46 to 53 miles. The other chassis separates at a height of 28 to 31 miles and falls freely to a height of 2 to 2.5 miles before parachuting to the ground.

As one might expects the subject matter of these two papers received extremely wide publicity in the Soviet press. Probably the most comprehensive review was given by Academician Blagonravov himself in an article entitled reinvestigation of the Upper Layers of the Atmosphere by Means of High-Altitude Rockets," which appeared in Vestnik Akademii Nauk S. S. S. R. in June 1957. Besides mentioning by name the key personnel in the program, Blagonravov stated that cosmic-ray investigations by means of rockets were initiated in the Soviet Union in 1947, that atmospheric composition studies to altitudes


of 60 miles began in 1949, and that systematic studies of the atmosphere-including the use of dogs-were conducted from 1951 to 1956.

By way of interlude, a Tass dispatch datelined Moscow, June 18, 1957, reads as follows:

In June 1957, Academician I. P. Bardin submitted by letter to CSAGI at Brussels the official U. S. S. R. rocket and earth satellite program for the IGY. This program, which was merely an outline, indicated, among other things, that the Russians would fire 125 meteorological research rockets from three different geographical zones and would establish an unspecified number of artificial Earth satellites.

Of the numerous statements made by various Soviet scientists in the press and on the radio concerning the imminent launching of the first Soviet satellite those by Academician A. N. Nesmeyanov were probably the most pertinent. On June 1, 1957, Pravda quoted Nesmeyanov as follows:

A week later, Nesmeyanov said that-

In addition to these guarded statements by Nesmeyanov, and those of other Soviet scientists, the scientific literature contains several specific indications of the forthcoming launching of the first Soviet satellite. For example, a one-page announcement entitled "On the Observation of the Artificial Satellite," by A. A. Mikhailov, Chairman of the Astronomical Council of the U. S. S. R. Academy of Sciences, appeared on page 1 in the astronomical journals Astronomicheskii Tsirkulyar, May 18, 1957, and Astronomicheskii Zhurnal, May-June, 1957. After a brief description of what observers were to

6 Komsomolskaya Pravda, June 9, 1957.


expect as the satellite passed overhead, 7 the announcement concluded with the following statements:

Two articles in the June 1957, issue of the Russian amateur-radio magazine, Radio, 9 provide further evidence of the imminent establishment of Sputnik I. The articles, entitled "Artificial Earth Satellite - Information for Radio Amateurs," by V. Vakhnin, and "Observations of the Radio Signals From the Artificial Earth Satellite and Their Scientific Importance," by A. Kazantsev, gave a fairly comprehensive description not only of a satellite's orbit and how the subsequent appearances of a satellite can be predicted, but also of the satellite's radio transmitters, how the 20- and 40-megacycle frequency signals are to be used, and what information about the upper atmosphere can be derived frown them.

The July and August issues of Radio carried articles on how to build a recommended short-wave-radio receiver and a direction- finding attachment for tracking the Soviet sputniks. Moreover, to inform the Russian radio amateurs about developments in the United States, the July issue of the magazine carried an article based on material taken from the American amateur-radio magazine QST describing the Minitrack II system which would permit radio amateurs to track American satellites with comparatively inexpensive equipment. This item was followed immediately by a notice in bold-face type to Soviet radio amateurs to make preparations for tracking the Russian scientific earth satellites and contained detailed instructions on how to submit data on the signals received and recorded to Moskva-Sputnik for reduction and analysis by the Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics of the U. S. S. R. Academy of Sciences.

That the Soviets were in earnest about their missile capabilities and space-flight intentions became indubitably clear on August 27, 1957, when a TASS report in Pravda stated that-

There was considerable prognostication that the Soviets would launch a satellite on September 17,1957, the 100th anniversary of the

7 Readers will find a striking similarity between this description and that of the Moon-watch program of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Cambridge, Mass, the various aspects of which are described in the observatory's Bulletin for Visual Observers of Satellites which began publication in July 1956. This bulletin issued at irregular intervals may be found as a center insert in the monthly journal Sky and Telescope.

8 The telescopes used by members of Russian Moonwatch teams, as shown in photographs in Pravda and other Russian newspapers, after the launching of Sputnik I, are suspiciously similar in outward appearance to the design described in the Bulletin for Visual Observers of Satellites.

9 Radio is an organ of the U. S. S. R. Ministry of Communication and of DOSAAF (the All-Union Volunteer Society for the Promotion of the Army, Aviation, and Navy) and corresponds to the American amateur-radio magazine, QST, published by the American Radio Relay League.


birth of E. E. Tsiolkovskii, the founder of the science of astronautics. Needless to say, this day was the occasion for speeches by many leading scientists, both at the Hall of Columns in Moscow and at Peace Square in Kaluga, a small town approximately 100 miles southwest of Moscow, where Tsiolkovskii had spent the greater part of his life. At Kaluga the Soviets will erect a monument depicting Tsiolkovskii in flowing cape, looking into the sky, and standing on a pedestal in front of a long slender rocket poised in a vertical takeoff position.

The climax to this chronicle occurred, of course, on October 4,1957, when Sputnik I was established in its orbit. Appropriately enough, even on this occasion the farsighted Soviets had scientific delegations strategically placed in foreign capitals. Washington played host to IGY delegates A. A. Blangonravov, V. V. Belousov, A. M. Kasatkin, and S. M. Poloskov, who were, needless to say, overjoyed on hearing that the satellite had been launched successfully. In Barcelona, where the Eighth International Astronautical Congress was convening, a Soviet delegation of four, headed by L. I. Sedov, made the most of the occasion by presenting two papers, one by L. V. Kurnosova on the investigation of cosmetic radiation by means of an artificial earth satellite and the other by A. T. Masevich on the preparation for visual observation of artificial satellites, a Soviet version of the Moonwatch program. Sedov also distributed a limited number of copies of the special 284-page September 1957 issue of Uspekhi Fizicheskikh Nauk which contains 17 papers on various aspects of Soviet rocket and satellite research.


Russia has a well-established literature on rocketry and space flight. This literature includes not only the classic works of her own pioneers, but also translations of foreign monographs by Esnault-Pelterie, Oberth, Hohmann, Goddard, Sanger, and others. The Soviets have also "liberated" a vast amount of detailed material from German industrial firms and scientific and technological institutes. Russian textbooks on rocketry, for instance, consider details of German developments that are not even mentioned in American books on the subject. 10

In the post-Tsiolkovskii period the names of M. K. Tikhonravov and A. A. Shternfel'd stand out prominently in spite of the Stalin shadow. Both are capable and prolific writers. For several years the names of popular-science writers B. V. Lyapunov and M. V. Vasil'ev, engineers K. A. Gil'zin and Yu. S. Khlebtsevich, and scientist K. P. Stanyukovich have been appearing with increasing frequency as the authors of articles and books on rocketry and space flight. More recently Soviet scientists have been reporting the results of their researches not only in the technical journals but also in the popular press, either in the form of interviews or as nontechnical essays. Since 1951 a monthly journal, Voprosy Raketnoi Tekhniki (Problems of Rocket Technology), has been completely devoted to translations and surveys of the foreign periodical literature. Since 1954 the Institute of Scientific Information of the U. S. S. R. Academy of Sciences has been publishing a journal Referativnyi Zhurnal: Astronomiya i Geodesiya

10 See for example, Boigarskii and Shchukin, Rabochie protsessy v zhidostno-reaktivnykh dvigatelyakh (working processes in liquid-jet engines), Oborongiz, Moscow, 1953, 424 pages.


(Reference Journal: Astronomy and Geodesy) which abstracts, among other things, foreign and domestic publications in the field of astronautics. Moreover, the Soviets have, of course, their own classified literature, which in all probability is extremely interesting.

Prior to 1955 Soviet papers on space flight followed, in general, a fixed pattern. They began with an account of the historical contributions made by the early Russian astronauts; next came a discussion of the results of tests obtained by American and other foreign rocketeers followed by a disclosure on the problems involved in the launching of a satellite vehicle and on the variety and importance of the data to be obtained from an extraterrestrial laboratory; finally, they boasted about the great efforts that Soviet scientists were exerting in creating a scientific space station and in making cosmic flights possible for peaceful purposes. It is interesting to note that (except in 1 or 2 cases) almost no mention is made of any specific Soviet developments or results. Thus, for example, the article on rockets in the Bol'shaya Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya 11 includes two tables of rocket characteristics. Table 1 lists the characteristics of some liquid-fuel rockets, including the German A-4 (V-2) and the Wasserfall, the United States Viking No. 9 and the Nike, the French Véronique, and the United States two-stage Bumper (V-2 plus Wac Corporal) rocket. But no Russian rockets. Table 2 gives the characteristics of some rocket missiles, including the German Rheinbote and a 78- millimeter fragmentation shell, and the United States Mighty Mouse and Sparrow missiles. Again, no Russian missiles. 12

In recent years Soviet papers on astronautics have become more and more specialized, dealing with such topics as chemical and nuclear rocket engines, radio guidance, meteoric impacts weightlessness, and orbit calculations, as well as with problems to be investigated during the International Geophysical Year. Their tone has been somewhat conciliatory to the West, and the jibes at the capitalist countries, ever present in the earlier papers, are conspicuously absent.

Articles on the problems of astronautics by topnotch Soviet scientists and technologists began to appear in the official, serious scientific publications of the U. S. S. R. Academy of Sciences in 1954. Typical of such articles are Shternfel'd's Problems of Cosmic Flight, published in Priroda in December 1954, which is primarily an exposition on flight trajectories from the Earth to the Moon, Mars, Venus, and Mercury; Academician V. G. Fesenkov's The Problems of Astronautics, which appeared in Priroda in June 1955 and which was written from the point of view of an astrophysicist who touches on the possibility of using atomic energy as a source of power for space travel; and (contemporary Problems of Cosmic Flights, by A. G-. Karpenko and G. A. Skuridin, published in Vestnik Akademii Nauk S. S. S. R. in September 1955. The last article is a comprehensive survey of the state of the art gleaned largely from papers presented at the Fifth and Sixth International Astronautical Congresses. It concludes, significantly, with the following statements:

11 2d edition, vol. 36, pp. 665-668.

12 There is, however, a comprehensive table of Soviet missiles and their characterization, prepared by Alfred J. Zaebringer, in the Journal of Space Flight, May 1956.


The Russian technical literature of recent years gives abundant evidence of continued progress in the various disciplines associated with space flight. One of the most important pieces of evidence was the publication a few years ago of tables of thermodynamic properties, ranging from 298°K to 5,000°K, of such chemical species as F2, HF, CH, CH2, CH3, and C2. The first two indicate an interest in fluorine as an oxidant in chemical-rocket propellant systems, and the latter four, an interest in hydrocarbons as possible propellants in nuclear rockets.

The subject of nuclear-powered rockets is treated by K. P. Stanyukovich in an article entitled "Problems of Interplanetary Flights," which appeared in the August 10, 1954, issue of Krasnaya Zvezda, and in a slightly more expanded form as a paper entitled "Rockets for Interplanetary Flights"' in the book, Problemy Ispol'zovaniya Atomnoi Energii (Problems of Utilizing Atomic Energy), published in 1956. Diagrams of nuclear-powered turbojet, ramjet, and rocket engines illustrate G. Nesterenko's article, "The Atomic Airplane of the Future," published in Kryl'ya Rodiny in January 1956, while R. G. Perel'man's article, "Atomic Engines," in the January 1956, issue of Nauka i Zhizn', includes a sketch of a six-stage cosmic rocket in which the first stage is powered by a liquid-rocket engine, the second stage by a ramjet engine, the third stage by an atomic-rocket engine, and the three final stages by liquid-rocket engines.

In celebrating its 125th anniversary in 1955, the Moscow Higher Technical College, which is also known as the Bauman Institute and is the Russian counterpart of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or California Institute of Technology, published a collection of 19 papers on theoretical mechanics, several of which had direct applications to space flight. One that is particularly relevant was written by V. F. Krotov and is entitled "Calculation of the Optimum Trajectory for the Transition of a Rocket to a Given Circular Trajectory around the Earth."

Rocket guidance has been discussed by a number of Russian experts, notably by I. Kucherov in an article entitled "Radio-guided Rockets," published in Radio in August 1955, and by Yu. S. Khlebtsevich, who wrote several articles on rocket flights to the Moon, Mars, and Venus.

Some highly interesting and original ideas have appeared in recent articles in Russian popular scientific literature. One article proposes worldwide television broadcasting by means of three Earth satellites symmetrically spaced in an equatorial orbit at an altitude of 22,200 miles. Needless to say, the author discreetly avoids mentioning the


military significance of such a system. Another article suggests the use of Earth satellites for the experimental verification of the general theory of relativity. This article, written by V. L. Ginzburg, is a very lucid piece of nontechnical scientific writing on a subject that is generally considered too abstruse for the layman to understand. The study of the biological problems of interplanetary flight continues to be the subject of considerable discussion and investigation.

The two general subjects that have received the most attention in the Soviet press are the artificial Earth satellite and rocket flight to the Moon. Prior to Sputnik I's establishment in orbit, the following scientists wrote papers on the problems associated with artificial Earth satellites: K. P. Stanyukovich, Artificial Earth Satellite, Krasnaya Zvezda, August 7, 1955; A. GE. Karpenko, Cosmic Laboratory, Moskovskaya Pravda, August 14, 1955; G. I. Pokrovskii, Artificial Earth Satellite, Izvestiya, August 19,1955; L. I. Sedov, On Flights into Space, Pravda, September 26, 1955; and A. N. Nesmevanov, The Problem of Creating an Artificial Earth Satellite, Pravda, June 1, 1957. The first four articles were prompted largely by the White House announcement of July 29,1955, while Nesmeyanov's article was a harbinger of Sputnik I.

In the Soviet literature there are repeated references to Moon-rocket projects. For example, in all article entitled "Flight to the Moon," published in Pionerskaya Pravda on October 2, 1951, M. K. Tikhonravov, corresponding member of the Academy of Artillery Sciences, stated that according to engineering calculations two men could fly around the Moon and back to Earth in a rocket ship weighing approximately 1,000 tons. Such a ship must have a velocity of approximately 6.9 miles per second. If an artificial Earth satellite were available, then it would be possible to send a much smaller space ship-one weighing not more than 100 tons and having a velocity of 2.2 miles per second-from the satellite to the Moon.

According to a German press agency report, the Soviet newspaper Krasnii Flot (Red Fleet) for October 12, 1951, asserted that a Moon rocket had already been designed in the Soviet Union. It was said to be 197 feet long, to have a maximum diameter of 40 feet, a weight of 1,000 tons, and 20 motors with a total power of 350 million horsepower. Heinz H. Wolle of Stuttgart's Gesellschaft fur Weltraumforsehung evaluated these data in an article entitled "Wird in der Sowjet-Union eine Mondrakete gebaut ?" in Weltraumfahrt, January 1952. He concluded that in the optimum case a manned rocket for at best a two-man crew and a single circumnavigation of the Moon with subsequent return to the Earth still lies too close to the outermost limit of present attainments.

Prof. K. P. Stanyukovich, a man of many interests and of prolific pen, has made several contributions in this field. His article

"Trip to the Moon: Fantasy and Reality" in the English-language propaganda journal News: A Soviet Review of World Events, for June 1, 1954, is more polemic than scientific. His article "Rendezvous With Mars" in the same journal for October 16, 1956, is not quite so belligerent toward the United States. In this later article he predicts flights to the moon in 5 to 10 years and to Mars within 15 years, the latter being accomplished not with chemical fuels but with nuclear fuels.

Perhaps the most widely publicized Moon-rocket project in the Soviet Union is that proposed by Yu. S. Khlebtsevich, which made its first appearance in an article entitled "On the Way to the Stars," in Tekhnika-Molodezhi in July 1954; later it was published in an expanded form as The Road Into the Cosmos, in the November 1955 issue of Nauka i Zhizn'. Khlebtsevich suggests landing a mobile "tankette-laboratory" on the Moon. The tankette, which would weigh not more than a few hundred pounds and would be radio controlled from the earth, would explore the surface of the moon and report its findings back to earth. 13 Information so obtained would make possible the next stage-the mastery of the Moon by man in the next 5 to 10 years.

In February 1957, the Soviet press gave considerable publicity to a space-flight project headed by Prof. G. A. Chebotarev at the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy in Leningrad. According to Chebotarev's calculations it is possible, with the expenditure of only 16 tons of propellant, to launch a rocket vehicle weighing 110 to 220 pounds with an initial velocity of 11 kilometers per second in an elliptical orbit around the Moon. Flying solely under gravitational forces the vehicle would round the Moon at a distance of 18,600 miles and return to Earth in 236 hours, after covering a total path length of about 1 million kilometers.

One of the most startling disclosures in connection with Soviet space-flight activities is the paper entitled "Some Questions on the Dynamics of Flight to the Moon" by V. A. Egorov of the Steklov Mathematics Institute in Moscow. This paper is a summary of a systematic investigation undertaken from 1953 to 1955 to find satisfactory solutions for the fundamental problems in the theory of flight to the Moon: specifically, the problem of the form and classification of unpowered trajectories, of the possibility of periodic circumflight of the Moon and the Earth, and of hitting the Moon. The paper also deals with the particularly important question of the effect of the dispersion of initial data on the realization of hitting or circumflight. More than 600 trajectories were calculated by means of electronic computers and were classified as hits, circumflights, or afflights (that is, approach trajectories which do not encompass the Moon but allow one to see everything on its opposite side and to return to Earth). This investigation is quite similar to studies of the general trajectories of a body in the Earth-Moon system that are being conducted in this country. The overall results of the studies are in substantial agreement. Specific numerical comparisons can now be made, since the complete report is available.

13 This project has been made the subject of a Russian popular-science short film-of the Walt Disney type, but much inferior-and is No. 15 in a series generally entitled "Science and Technology." Since the advent of Sputnik I, the film has been shown in movie theaters throughout the United States.



The Soviets began to flex their ballistic muscles with the announcement of August 27, 1957, of a successful test in the Soviet Union of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a powerful nuclear weapon to any point on the globe. The guidance system was said to be capable of placing the missile on target with an error not exceeding two thousandths of the range; i. e., for a flight range of 6,200 miles, the missile would not miss the target by more than 12.4 miles. G. I. Pokrovskii discusses the problem of attaining the precision required to put ballistic missiles on target in an article entitled "Architecture in the Cosmos" in the December 1957 issue of Tekhnika-Molodezhi. The last-stage engine accelerates the ballistic rocket to its assigned velocity in an "ethereal gun-barrel" or "tunnel" formed by radio beams from 3 or 4 radio stations on the ground. At the slightest deviation in direction the missile enters a zone in which the intensity of the radio waves is greater than in the center of the tunnel. The waves act on the missile's automatic-control instruments and return it to the center of the tunnel. A radio signal shuts off the last-stage engine at the precise moment at which the rocket has attained its predetermined speed.

To impress the world that their possession of the ICBM is fact not phantasy, the Soviets followed through with an unprecedented display of propulsive might by launching, in quick succession, artificial Earth satellites on October 4 and November 3, 1957. The size of the sputnik carrier rockets was evident from the fact that, as K. P. Stanyukovich, a member of the Commission on Interplanetary Communications, pointed out, they could be easily observed with the naked eye as stars of zero or first magnitude, whereas the American satellite Explorer I can be observed as a star of fifth or sixth magnitude only when it is closest to the earth. These differences in stellar magnitude indicate that the reflective areas of the sputnik carrier rockets were no less than 100 times greater than that of Explorer I. It is quite likely, therefore, that Sputnik II was no smaller dimensionally than the ballistic rockets displayed in Moscow during the Red Square parade on November 7,1957, i. e., about the size of the United States Redstone missile. Moreover, since the announced weight of the experimental equipment in Sputnik II was 1,118 pounds, the entire device in orbit must have had a mass in the neighborhood of 4.4 to 6.6 tons. In the March, 1958, issue of Astronautics Walter R. Dornberger (of V-2 fame) makes the following observation with regard to the Soviet missile and space-flight program: "Along with the experience they gained in handling long-range rockets, the Russians also got the Peenemünde way of thinking and the schedule for space conquest we had set up as far back as 1942. The satellites are only the first step. Another look at the schedule is all that's necessary to predict what lies ahead." The schedule that Dornberger and his confrères


at Peenemünde had set up was the following 10-point guided-missile and space-flight program:

  1. Automatic long-range single-stage rockets (A-4 or V-2).
  2. Automatic long-range gliders (A-9B).
  3. Manned long-range gliders (A-9B).
  4. Automatic multistage rockets (A-9/10).
  5. Manned hypersonic gliders (A-9B/10).
  6. Unmanned satellites.
  7. Manned ferry rockets to satellite orbits.
  8. Manned satellites.
  9. Automatic space vehicles.
  10. Manned space vehicles.

Since the Soviets are masters in the arts of exploitation and long-range planning, as well as being endowed with a native competence in matters scientific and technological, it is not difficult to imagine the alacrity with which they assimilated the Peenemünde program and adapted it to their own plans for world domination. It is not known how slavishly they are adhering to the Peenemünde program, but it is known that they have already accomplished points 1, 4, and 6, and have made considerable progress in implementing some of the others.

The Soviet ballistic-missile and space-flight program is probably somewhat more involved and proliferated than the straightforward program of the Peenemünde group. It undoubtedly follows a logical pattern of development, involving the integration of complex military facilities and skills with the disciplines of the scientific and technical communities. The probable activities of the Soviet program can be arranged in four general categories that depend, in the main, on theoretical minimum-space-flight-velocity requirements and on the type of mission to be accomplished.

Category I is, in Russian parlance, that of geocosmic flights, or flights from one point of the terrestrial globe to another through cosmic space, for which the flight-velocity requirement is less than orbital (less than 4.9 miles per second). This category is the fundamental one, because the success of the remainder of the program depends on it. Soviet achievements in geocosmic flight consist of their long-range 1- and 2-stage (i. e., their much-heralded "multistage") ballistic missiles, as well as their geophysical rockets for exploring the upper atmosphere and their biological rockets for studying the behavior of animals during flight to and from the upper atmosphere. The Soviets have had considerable experience and success with their technique of recovering by parachute test-instrument containers and encapsulated experimental animals after rocket flights to altitudes exceeding 60 miles. In view of their extensive studies in the various aspects of space medicine and their patent desire to be first to achieve manned space flight, it is reasonable to assume that the Soviets will soon announce the "successful" return of a human passenger from a rocket flight in the Soviet Union.


Category II is that of orbital flight around the Earth for which the flight-velocity requirement is between 4.9 miles per second (the so-called first cosmic or circular velocity) and 6.9 miles per second (the so-called second cosmic or "escape" velocity). In this category the Soviets have achieved three successful launchings that were (a) spectacular primarily because of the size of the packages placed in orbit; (b) significant because of their scientific and military reconnaissance implications; and (c) effective as propaganda devices.

Commenting on the level of developments of technology in the Soviet Union, Khrushchev made the following statement in a speech at Minsk on January 22, 1958: "The whole world was amazed by the fact that the second artificial satellite weighed over six times more than the first one; it weighed more than half a ton. But even this is not the limit. We can double, even more than double, the weight of the satellite, because the Soviet intercontinental rocket has enormous power which makes it possible for us to launch an even heavier satellite to a still greater height. And we shall probably do so !" On May 15, 1958, the Soviets announced that they had placed Sputnik III in orbit. This satellite had a gross weight of 2,919 pounds, 2,130 pounds of which was instrumentation that was somewhat more sophisticated than that in Sputnik I and II.

A. V. Topchiev, chief scientific secretary of the U. S. S. R. Academy of Sciences, in summarizing the first scientific results obtained from Sputniks I and II before a general assembly of the academy in March 1958, formalized Khrushchev's statement in the following terms:

The Soviets are quite aware of the importance of recovering photographic film, instruments, and animals from satellites; the examination of such items after orbiting around the Earth would be of much greater value than telemetered data. They have discussed the general techniques of recovery and have indicated the existence of various recovery projects. One such project, described in some detail by V. Petrov, 14 involves the ejection of a 20.9-pound package from a satellite or carrier rocket at perigee. The package consists of an 11.9-pound retrorocket and a 3.a-pound stainless-steel collapsible sphere, which, when inflated with helium, measures 3 feet in diameter and acts as a drag brake, bringing down to Earth, with a terminal velocity of 29.5 feet per second, a small beacon transmitter and an 8-ounce cartridge of exposed film within 20 minutes after leaving the orbit. Prof. E. K. Federov, commenting on the prospects of recovering satellites, said that the problem is solvable in principle, but as yet has not been solved. At any rate, the availability of such

14 Leningradskaya Pravda, November 17, 1957.


massive sputniks should afford Soviet scientists and technologists abundant opportunities for testing their recovery techniques.

The ultimate goal in this category is, of course, a manned space station that can serve not only as a space laboratory, but also as an intermediate station for future interplanetary voyages. The realization of this goal presupposes the implementation of points 3, 5, and 7 of the Peenemünde program.

Category III is that of lunar flight for which the minimum flight-velocity requirement is about 6.8 miles per second-slightly less than escape velocity. The Soviets are admittedly deeply engaged in a moon-rocket program. Professor Stanyukovich has indicated that "if a few more stages were added to modern ballistic rockets, then the last stage of such a rocket would attain a speed of 12 kilometers per second (7.4 miles a second). This will be quite sufficient to fly to the Moon. The first flight to the Moon, or circumflight of the Moon, will evidently take place within the next few years." But, he added, "before a rocket flies to the Moon, a number of artificial satellites will be launched along increasingly elongated elliptical orbits which will draw nearer and nearer to the Moon. Instruments installed in such satellites will make it possible to closely study and to photograph the lunar surface, and to learn the nature of its mysterious relief." 15 Considering the extensive calculations of Earth-Moon trajectories that have been carried out by V. A. Egorvov at the Steklov Mathematics Institute in Moscow and by (I. A. Chebotarev at the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy in Leningrad, the Soviets are theoretically well prepared for lunar flights. There seems to be no question of their propulsion capability in this respect, but it remains to be seen whether they have the necessary guidance and control capability to strike the Moon.

Category IV is that of interplanetary travel for which the flight-velocity requirement is considerably greater than escape velocity because of the maneuvers involved in transferring from one planetary orbit to another. Thus, for a spaceship to fly with a minimum expenditure of propellants from Earth to Mars along an ellipse tangent to the orbits of both planets, the theoretical minimum velocity required for a "hard" landing (impact) on Mars would be 10.4 miles per second, and for a "soft"landing, about 13.5 miles per second. The corresponding theoretical minimum velocities for an Earth-to-Venus flight would be 10.2 and 16.6 miles per second, respectively. The Soviets, aware of the limitations of chemical rockets in this regime, are assertedly looking forward to the role that nuclear engines will play in the future-not only in interplanetary flights, but in geocosmic flights as well.

In view of the variability of interplanetary distances, flights from Earth to other planets will be scheduled, not arbitrarily, but in accordance with a rigid timetable based on the most favorable conjunction of the planets with Earth. It is entirely possible that the Soviets, after a successful lunar impact, might attempt to send rockets to Mars and/or Venus along cotangential orbits as mentioned above. The duration of these excursions to Mars and Venus would be 260 and 146 days, respectively. The probable launching dates can be determined by reference to "Specific flight possibilities," in chapter 20, page 170.

15 Sovetskaya Aviatslya, January 1, 1958.


Because the space-flight program is inherently connected with the ICBM, Soviet reluctance to discuss certain details of satellite launching is necessarily dictated by military secrecy. It is ironic, however, that the more sputniks that are placed in orbit, the more the free world will learn about Russian military capabilities in rocketry as a result of direct observation and logical deduction. The following two examples can be cited.

Prof. Tadao Takenounchi, of the University of Tokyo Astronomical Laboratory, on the basis of sputnik periods and initial transit times over Moscow, published by Tass, determined the launching time of Sputnik I to be 1921 hours (G. m. t.) October 4, 1957, and that of Sputnik II to be 0232 hours (G. m. t.) November 3, 1957. The intersection of the traces of the two satellites, the elements of whose orbits were determined from observations made in Japan, placed the launching site in the Kyzyl Kum Desert at a spot with the approximate coordinates 42°30" N./65°00" E., i. e., about 248 miles southeast of the Aral Sea. Data from Sputnik III should help to establish the launching site somewhat more precisely.

In August 1958, at the International Astronautical Federation Congress in Amsterdam, Academician L. I. Sedov, Chairman of the Soviet Union's Commission on Astronautics, presented a paper on Dynamic Effects in the Motion of Artificial Earth Satellites. For illustrative purposes, he presented a table of parameters of the orbits at the beginning of motion of each of the three Soviet scientific satellites. Of special interest is the fact that the values of perigee altitude (i. e., the minimum altitude) were 140-141.3, 139.5, and 140 miles, for Sputniks I, II, and III, respectively. The corresponding values of apogee altitude (i. e., the maximum altitude) were 587, 1,036, and 1,166 miles, respectively. The almost identical values of perigee altitude may indicate that a fairly good guidance system was employed by the Soviet scientists in placing their satellites into orbit, although not necessarily one suitable for ICBM use.

Because the Astronomical Council of the U. S. S. R. Academy of Sciences, through its permanent Interdepartmental commission on Interplanetary Communications, is allegedly the agency responsible for the conduct of the Soviet space-flight program (at least the scientific aspects thereof), it is logical to expect that certain phases of this program would come to light in the pages of the Academy's scientific journals. This has, indeed, been the case. Even before Sputnik I was launched, a number of space-flight research papers appeared in a variety of journals. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of K. E. Tsiolkovskii, the Academy saw fit to publish 17 papers pertaining to astronautics in the September 1957 issue of Uspekhi Fizicheskikh Nauk (Advances in the Physical Sciences). Since the sputniks, the U. S. S. R. Academy of Sciences has been publishing the results of its theoretical and experimental space-flight research, not only in its established scientific periodicals, but also in special collections such as the one entitled ''Preliminary Results of Scientific Researches on the First Soviet Artificial Earth Satellites and Rockets," dated July 1958. It is of interest to note that during the August 1958 IGY meeting in Moscow at the rocket and satellite symposium, Soviet scientists presented 18 papers based on research conducted by means


of rockets and satellites. No information was released concerning the nature of the rockets used to put the Soviet satellites into orbit.

In reading Soviet scientific literature, one cannot help but be impressed by the boldness, the scope, and the dedication of the Soviet effort toward the ultimate conquest of the cosmos; i. e., manned interplanetary travel. There seems to be no question in the Soviet mind that the Communist Party's authoritarian directive to realize man's most cherished dream will be fulfilled in and by the Soviet Union. The Soviets have already made great strides toward attaining this goal by virtue of their large geophysical research rockets and by their massive artificial Earth satellites and extensive detection, tracking, and data-handling network associated with the Earth-satellite program. In addition to these established and well-publicized advances, the Soviets are building up a tremendous backlog of detailed information from concentrated studies in geophysics, astrophysics, celestial mechanics, radio astronomy, planetology, astrobiology, space medicine, and a variety of other disciplines, an intimate knowledge of which will help make interplanetary communication a reality.

Soviet confidence an the ultimate result is reflected in the fact that, whereas originally authorities exhorted sputnik observers-professional as well as amateur-to send their tracking data to Moskva-Sputnik, they now ask that data be sent to Moskva-Kosmos.