Rise fall and rise

By 1933, the Soviet government had decided to formalize the study of rocket propulsion, and Korolev was appointed Deputy Chief of the

YOUNG DAREDEVIL

In 1929, Korolev (left) and Sovva Lyushin (centre)

a rocket-powered the SK-9, which Korolev from Moscow to tebel in the Ukroine. Here, famous pilot K.K. Artseulov inspects the glider.

AVIATION SCHOOL

Korolev (second left) is seen here during his time at Moscow's Bauman Technical School, where one of his advisers was the aircraft designer Andrei Tupolev.

AVIATION SCHOOL

Korolev (second left) is seen here during his time at Moscow's Bauman Technical School, where one of his advisers was the aircraft designer Andrei Tupolev.

BIOGRAPHY

VALENTIN GLUSHKO

new Jet Propulsion Research Institute (RNII), working on the development of missiles and rocket-powered aircraft. It was here that he first met Valentin Glushko (see panel, right), who was to be a lifelong rival. The 1930s saw the peak of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's reign of terror, and in 1937-38 a wave of purges of suspected saboteurs, spies, and traitors swept through the country. Many people seized the chance to advance their careers or settle old scores by informing on anything that could be seen as remotely subversive, and Korolev's iconoclastic personality made him a target. The knock on the door came on 22 June 1938. Only later did Korolev learn that Glushko had been his chief accuser.

At first Korolev was sent to the harsh environment of a Siberian Gulag, but with the outbreak of the war expertise like his was too valuable to waste, even in a paranoid society like Stalin's Russia. By 1942, he was working in a specialist Moscow prison for scientists, ironically under Glushko's leadership. Here Korolev worked on rocket-assisted fighter aircraft. His loyalty to the Soviet Union duly demonstrated, he was finally released in June 1944 (though he would wait until 1957 for a pardon).

TESTS AT GORODOMLYA

A number of German V-2 scientists working for the Soviet Union, led by Helmut Grottrup, were transported to Russia in 1946 and mostly settled on Gorodomlya Island, north of Moscow. Here they worked on various projects for Korolev and others. Engine test stands, wind tunnels, and other equipment were shipped in, but the main role of the Germans was to train a new generation of Soviet rocket scientists.

Within months, Korolev found himself commissioned as a colonel in the Red Army and flown to Soviet-zone Germany to work under General Lev Gaidukov on the recovery and reconstruction of V-2 related material. One story recounts how he and another officer attempted to gatecrash a British Operation Backfire launch at Cuxhaven, only to be reduced to watching from outside the perimeter fence.

Returning to Russia, Korolev was put in charge of a design team at Scientific Research Institute 88 (Nll-88). The institute's main role was to develop ballistic missiles, but the post allowed him to work on technology that could later be used for space travel. Early programmes involved replication of the German V-2 (called the R-1) and improvements in the form of the R-2 and R-3. However, the limitations of V-2-based designs were becoming clear, and Korolev had ambitious plans for the future.

Ukrainian-born like Korolev, Valentin Petrovich Glushko (1908-89) developed a complex rivalry with his colleague, which saw them forced to work together throughout the heyday of the Space Race. His enthusiasm for space travel fired by reading the novels of Jules Verne as a boy, Glushko studied physics at Leningrad (modern St. Petersburg), working at the Gas Dynamics Laboratory (GDL) and joining the Leningrad branch of GIRD in 1931. The merger between GIRD and the GDL first brought him into contact and conflict with Korolev, as they worked together for the RNII. Glushko was arrested during the purges of 1938, and seemingly turned informant under intense pressure. In 1946, he was made Chief Designer of OKB 456, in charge of rocket engine development.

Missiles and rocket planes

The late 1940s saw a missile race in which both the United States and the Soviet Union strove to develop more powerful and longer-range missiles, and even experimental planes, from captured German technology.

X-1 ROCKET PLANE

Bell Aircraft's rocket-propelled X-1 was the first aircraft to travel through the sound barrier and to near the edge of space (see panel, below, and over).

X-1 ROCKET PLANE

Bell Aircraft's rocket-propelled X-1 was the first aircraft to travel through the sound barrier and to near the edge of space (see panel, below, and over).

NAVAL RIVAL

Von Braun's team were not the only branch of the US militory working on rocket development. The US Navy had its own programme, Viking, under development, though these were sounding rockets intended for scientific purposes.

NAVAL RIVAL

Von Braun's team were not the only branch of the US militory working on rocket development. The US Navy had its own programme, Viking, under development, though these were sounding rockets intended for scientific purposes.

In early 1950, the German rocket team at Fort Bliss began its relocation to Huntsville, Alabama, where wartime munitions factories were to be transformed into a new centre for the development and manufacturing of long-range ballistic missiles. A project called Hermes-C1, previously under slow development at General Electric, was reassigned to the new base at Redstone Arsenal. The intention was that the new missile, later known simply as the Redstone, should be capable of delivering a nuclear warhead over 320km (200 miles). Although the warhead was much heavier than that carried by the V-2, the range was similar and the Germans saw little challenge in the task. They effectively re-engineered the V-2 with a range of improvements, some of which had first been suggested back at Peenemünde. By mid-1953, the first Redstones were being launched from a little-known test range at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Elsewhere in the United States, other groups were also developing new applications of rocket technology. The Jet

Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), part of the California Institute of Technology, was working on short-range tactical missiles, often powered by solid propellants much more energetic than black powder. The Navy was developing a series of research rockets called Viking, capable of carrying cameras and experimental payloads high into the atmosphere. And the National Advisory Council on Aeronautics (NACA) was working on a variety of bizarre experimental ideas, often drawing on schemes developed in Germany during the last years of the Second World War. These ultimately became the first X-planes, prototypes that tested technologies which later became commonplace. The first of these strange aircraft was the Bell X-1, a highly successful rocket-propelled plane (see panel, right, and over).

The Soviet programme continued to be led by Korolev. In his role at NII-88, and from 1946 as Chief Designer at the head of his own experimental design bureau, OKB-1, he was the driving force behind

ON THE PAD

The sheer size of the R-7 colled for a new type of launch pad at the Tyuratam complex (see p. 60). The entire assembly had to be held in place by a series of sloping support gantries that lifted away from the rocket during launch. Beneath the engines, a flame pit caught the exhaust and diverted it away through escape channels so it did not harm the rocket.

the Soviet Long-Range Ballistic Missile (LRBM) programme. The first fruits of this project were derived from German technology - the R-1 missile, which entered service in 1950, was a more or less direct copy of the V-2, and the R-2, with its extended range and payload, still copied essential elements. However, the next major missile project, the R-3, required a huge leap in capability and a completely new missile design. Korolev established an informal Council of Chief Designers, at which the heads of the six OKB bureaus would meet and collaborate on ambitious projects such as this. Valentin Glushko in particular played a crucial part - he led the design team at OKB-456, working on more powerful and reliable liquid-fuelled engines.

Many of Korolev's early experiments had involved solid-fuel rockets, but his experience with the captured V-2s brought him to the realization that liquid fuel was the key to long-range missiles. The

THROUGH THE SOUND BARRIER

ON THE PAD

The sheer size of the R-7 colled for a new type of launch pad at the Tyuratam complex (see p. 60). The entire assembly had to be held in place by a series of sloping support gantries that lifted away from the rocket during launch. Beneath the engines, a flame pit caught the exhaust and diverted it away through escape channels so it did not harm the rocket.

While the engineers at Huntsville and JPL worked on a new generation of rocket-propelled missiles, the National Advisory Council on Aeronautics had other plans. Rockets had potential as powerful engines for a new generation of fighter aircraft, even though jets were still very new technology. In the closing months of the war, Germany had considered a rocket-propelled variant of its Me 262 jet fighter, but this never went beyond a prototype stage. Nevertheless, in 1946, NACA set up an experimental aircraft programme that would produce a wide range of so-called X-planes in the coming decades. The first of these, the stubby XS-1 (later just X-1) was manufactured by Bell Aircraft Inc. Piloted by Chuck Yeager (right), it became the first aircraft to break the sound barrier (see over).

ROCKET DREAMERS

ROCKET DREAMERS

OLD RELIABLE

An early Redstone rocket is lifted onto the test stand at Huntsville in the early 1950s. In service, Redstone failures were so rare that the missile earned the nickname Old Reliable.

OLD RELIABLE

An early Redstone rocket is lifted onto the test stand at Huntsville in the early 1950s. In service, Redstone failures were so rare that the missile earned the nickname Old Reliable.

captured German scientists were also regularly quizzed during the rocket's long development, but by the early 1950s, they were no longer such a crucial part of the Soviet rocket programme, as home-grown expertise, so devastated in Stalin's paranoid purges of the 1930s and 1940s, began to flourish once again Before long, most of the captured Germans were allowed to return to their homeland.

Missile delivery

With the successful testing of the first Soviet nuclear weapons in 1949, the pressure for a missile-based delivery system grew. The early Soviet atom bombs were heavier than their US equivalents, and it was clear that the only practical way of deploying them would be with a very powerful rocket - an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). Work on the R-3 was abandoned in order to concentrate on the more ambitious missile.

Korolev and his team ultimately came up with the design officially designated as R-7 (nicknamed Semyorka or Little Seven) and known in the West by the codename "Sapwood". Rather than using stacked stages, each firing in series, the R-7 used a cluster of booster rockets, grouped around a central core and all firing at once. The idea had first been suggested by Mikhail Tikhonravov in 1948 for a proposed space launcher, and fittingly this was to be the rocket that would make spaceflight a reality.

THE ROCKETEERS

This famous picture shows prominent figures working at Huntsville in the early 1950s - left to right ore guidance expert Ernst Stuhlinger, Major General Holger Toftoy, Hermann Oberth, Wernher von Braun, and jet aircraft pioneer Robert Lusser.

EXPERIENCE

THE FIRST SUPERSONIC FLIGHT

GLAMOROUS GLENNIS

Initially the X-1 was the XS-1 (Experimental, Supersonic), but this was soon shortened by NACA. Yeager, however, named the aircraft after his wife.

TOP GUN

Yeager became a pilot just a year after enlisting in the USAF as a mechanic in 1941.

Pushing the envelope

Chuck Yeager's supersonic flight aboard the Bell X-1 was a prelude to the Space Age - an audacious mission with an unpredictable outcome that would shape the coming age of jet aviation. In five hair-raising minutes, Yeager would pass through the sound barrier for the first time and learn what lay beyond.

The Bell X-1 had been ordered by the US Army Air Force (as it then was) and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, the forerunner of NASA), in March 1946. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the full potential of jet fighters was becoming apparent, but there were vital questions that needed to be answered about what would happen when an aircraft went through the sound barrier. For this reason, Bell Aircraft was asked to manufacture three experimental aircraft to be powered by Reaction Motors' new XLR-11 rocket engine. After initial testing at Bell, the aircraft were handed over to the newly formed US Air Force for taking up to, and through, the sound barrier.

"Priorities were, get the airplane above Mach one as soon as you can, and don't kill yourself, and don't embarrass the Air Force."

GLAMOROUS GLENNIS

Initially the X-1 was the XS-1 (Experimental, Supersonic), but this was soon shortened by NACA. Yeager, however, named the aircraft after his wife.

Chuck Yeager, looking back on his epic flight

LAUNCH TO LANOING

Taken to high altitude on a B-29 carrier aircraft, Yeager boarded the X-1 through an elevator connecting the bomb bay to the aircraft slung below. Once in the cockpit, he had difficulty closing the hatch - he had cracked two ribs falling from a horse a few days before, but kept quiet about it. With the hatch secured, the B-29 dropped its cargo like a bomb, and seconds later, Yeager triggered the rocket engines. After five historic minutes, he glided bock to a landing at Muroc Field, California (now Edwards Air Force Base).

Chuck Yeager reflects on the special skills required by a test pilot

A rare colour photograph shows the X-l in its distinctive orange livery, moments after release from the carrier aircraft.

HONOURED BY THE PRESIDENT

Yeager was later honoured, along with Bell Aircraft's Larry Bell and John Stack of NACA, at a White House reception. Yeager, who had been accompanied by his parents, later reported that his father, a lifelong Republican, refused to shake hands with Democrat President Truman.

"If you want to grow old as a pilot, you've got to know when to push it, and when to back off."

Chuck Yeager reflects on the special skills required by a test pilot

A rare colour photograph shows the X-l in its distinctive orange livery, moments after release from the carrier aircraft.

On 14 October 1947, Yeager climbed aboard Glamorous Glennis and fired the engines to attempt to break the sound barrier. The flight's communications transcript records the exchanges between Yeager, the project engineer, Captain Jackie Ridley, and the Drop Pilot and project manager, Major Robert Cardenas:

Robert Cardenas: 8-0-0. Here is your countdown: 10-9-8-7-6-5 - 4 - 3 - 2 -1 - Drop.

Chuck Yeager: Firing [rocket chamber] four. Four fired okay. Will fire two. Two on. Will cut off four. Four off. Will fire three. Three burning now. Will shut off two and fire one. One on. Will fire two again. Two on ... will fire three again. Three on. Acceleration good. Have had mild buffet - usual instability. Say Ridley make a note here. Elevator effectiveness regained. Jackie Ridley: Roger, noted

CY: Ridley - make another note. There's something wrong with this Machmeter. It's gone screwy!

JR: If it is, we'll fix it - personally, I think you're seeing things!

Yeager had, in fact, passed through the sound barrier while his instruments indicated a speed of Mach 0.96, leaving the turbulence behind as he did so. Seconds later, and still climbing, he shut off the rocket engines with 30 per cent of their fuel remaining, and prepared for the glide home.

HONOURED BY THE PRESIDENT

Yeager was later honoured, along with Bell Aircraft's Larry Bell and John Stack of NACA, at a White House reception. Yeager, who had been accompanied by his parents, later reported that his father, a lifelong Republican, refused to shake hands with Democrat President Truman.

REMEMBERED ON FILM

Yeager's supersonic flight plays a pivotal role in Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff, an account of relations between the test pilot community and the Mercury Seven astronauts, later filmed with Sam Shepard (above) as Yeager.

REMEMBERED ON FILM

Yeager's supersonic flight plays a pivotal role in Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff, an account of relations between the test pilot community and the Mercury Seven astronauts, later filmed with Sam Shepard (above) as Yeager.

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