Who the heck is…

more from the Who the heck is series

The Russian Space Program was successful in many areas and it’s success is partly due to Boris Chertok. Boris Chertok was Korelev’s guidance and control engineer from 1946 – 1992. His most famous contributions include the Soyuz and N1 control systems.

Chertok was born in 1912 he became an electrician at the age of 17. He started work in an Avionics plant in 1930 and began a University education to support his role. He began his rocket career working on the BI-1 rocket plane.

In 1945 he was brought in to the group working on German rocket technology. This led to his appointment as Korolev’s chief deputy of rocket control and guidance.

He is the author of the book Rockets and People which provided us with the best inside view of the Soviet rocket program.

Boris Chertok turns 99 today - 03-01-11

Another entry into the “Who the heck is seriesof often forgotten rocketry pioneers.

A Young Josef Stemmer

Josef Stemmer was an early Swiss space pioneer. At the early age of 11 years old he began to design spaceship based on some of his heroes of the day including Oberth and Goddard. Around 1930 he began building small solid propellant rockets and began experimenting with liquid fuel in 1938. Soon after he stopped his experiments and began publishing on the subject. In 1944 and 1945 he published booklets on rocket propulsion. These were some of the first “How To” publications on the subject. His publications also contained details on the German war rocket developements.
In 1950 Stemmer founded the Schweizerische Astronautische Arbeitsgemeinschaft (Swiss Astronautical Study Group). In 1951 he served as the president of the new International Astronautical Federation (IAF).He gave talks on spaceflight and rocket propulsion at this time. Even though he was often ridiculed he stood fast to his beliefs of space travel.

This is part of the continuing “Who the Heck is” series

G.I.R.D. (Gruppa Izucheniya Reaktivhogo Dvizheniya) translated “Group for the Investigation of Reactive Motion”

GIRD was the world’s first large professional rocketry program. It was started on September 15th 1931 as a bureau in the Soviet Union. Fridrikh Tsander gave up his job and devoted himself to the group’s formation. The goal was to create a efficient working rocket engine. The group adopted the slogan “Onward to Mars, onward to Mars!” – A slogan that would be useful today. The group consisted of 4 brigades each headed by brilliant Soviet researchers. The group included:
Fridrikh Tsander – 1st brigade (rocket engine research)

1st brigade's GIRD-X rocket launching

Mikhail Tikhonravov -2nd brigade (rocket engine research)

2nd brigade's GIRD-9 & GIRD-13 rocket schematic -click to enlarge

Yuri Pobedonostsev – 3rd brigade (ramjet research)

3rd brigade's GIRD-08 phosphorus-fueled ramjet

Sergey Korolev – 4th brigade (rocket plane research)

4th brigade's RP-1 Rocket glider

Tsander inspired the group until his untimely death of Typhus in 1933.

For more info on GIRD see the following sources:
Wikipedia article on GIRD
Don Mitchell’s article

Find out about many more Rocket Pioneers by visiting the “Who the heck is…” series  (scroll down after clicking link)


Kazimierz Siemienowicz

(born)1600 (died)1651
Kazimierz Siemienowicz, born near Raseiniai in Samogitia, was a Polish-Lithuanian commander in the Polish Royal Artillery. He was fascinated by artillery from childhood and studied to increase his knowledge in this area. He became an expert in the fields of artillery and rocketry. His Artis Magnae Artilleriae pars prima which was first printed in Amsterdam in 1650 became the standard book on firework displays, military and recreational pyrotechnics and rocketry for well over a century. In Artis Magnae Artilleriae pars prima, he published designs for multistage rockets, batteries of rockets, and delta wing stabilizers.

A few of Siemienowicz's rockets

A few of Siemienowicz's rockets

Images from the pages  Artis Magnae Artilleriae pars prima can be found here.


Friedrich Zander was born August 23rd 1887 in Riga Livonia. Friedrich studied and became an engineer. In his studies he came across the ideas of Tsiolkovsky. Zander was very interested in Mars and “toward Mars!” became his own personal rallying cry. He had calculated a precise trajectory that a spacecraft would take to Mars and fantasized many aspects of interplanetary travel. His ideas boosted rocketry and ideas of spaceflight in the Soviet Union.
Here are some of his revolutionary ideas:

Greenhouses on spacecraft for food production and limited oxygen production.
Suggested using the earth’s atmosphere for braking a spacecraft
First to envision the use of a solar sail as a means of propulsion

He was a founding member of GIRD. He designed the first liquid fuel rockets in the Soviet Union. He died of Typhus in March of 1933 seven months before the first successful flight of the GIRD-X rocket that he designed.

gird-xA GIRD-X model

Model Rocket Plans for the GIRD Razumov-Shtern LRD-D-3 can be found here.

More in the Who the heck series can be found here.

another in the “Who the Heck” series

paisleyrocketeers30th PRS 30th anniversary launch in 1965

Did the Paisley Rocketeer’s Society start Model Rocketry?

The Paisley Rocketeer’s Society (PRS) was formed by John D. Stewart in 1935 in Scotland. Stewart was inspired by H.G. Wells and the early rocket mail experiments of Gerhard Zucker. The PRS is responsible for many rocketry first. Among them and maybe most sustantial was the first recorded launch of a complex 3 stage rocket. This basic design was continued to be used in early space programs. The Paisley Rocketeer’s Society were know for their research rockets. Each of the research rockets were known by the desigination of R.R.-x. Another possibly great contribution was the Paisley Rocketeer’s Society was the Rocketry education of generations of rocketeers across Great Britian including hosting launch events. Many believe that the Paisley Rocketeer’s Society were the first to promote rocketry as a hobby/sport.


Another entry into the “Who the heck is…” series 

Frank Joseph Malina was born on October 2nd, 1912 in Brenham, Texas. In 1935 Malina became a student at the California Institute of Technology. In 1936 he became director of the GALCIT Rocket Research Project. Malina developed the theory of constant-thrust long-duration solid-fuel rocket motors in 1940. Under Malina’s guidance his team developed hydrazine-nitric acid fuel which was used much later as the fuel for the Apollo sevice module and LEM. In 1945 Malina did extensive research into jet-propelled missles. The results of his research was the design and construction of America’s first successfull high altitude sounding rocket, the WAC Corporal. The site of Frank Malina’s research later became known as The Jet Propulsion Labratory in which he was director between 1944-1946.

Frank Malina was also an accomplished artist

Here are some great WAC Corporal Rocket Models
Thrust Aerospace(scroll down page)

Claude Ruggieri about to launch small boy

Another entry in the “Who the heck is…” series

The next time you send up one of your payload rockets think of this:

Claude Ruggieri sent up a live sheep around 600 feet in the air and succeeded in bringing it back to earth with a soft landing using parachutes. He did this sometime around 1806. He would have sent a young boy up making him the first “astronaut” but the local police put a stop to it. Claude Ruggieri was an Italian living in Paris. He accomplished practical application of rocket propulsion using clusters to lift heavier objects. He referred to them as a rocket necklace. His practical application of the cluster rocket inaugurates him into the “Who the heck is” series.

Another entry into the “Who the heck” series

chaas1 chaas2

In 1961 in Sibiu, Romania a manuscript  by an Austian military engineer by the name of Conrad Haas was found. In the manuscript Conrad Haas puts into writing some amazing concepts about rocketry at a time when these concepts did not exist. He lived between 1509 and 1576. He is the first person known to put into writing the concept of multi-staging that was later incorporated by Johann Schmidlap. He also writes about spacecraft, delta fins, bell nozzles and even liquid fuel.

Wikipedia entry

Romanian Aviation History

Here is another installment in the “Who the heck is..” series.

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935)was the son of a Russian forester. A illness during his childhood left him deaf. Deafness led him to be self educated and he studied and focused on mathematics, physics, and astronomy. Later he became an educator.

He began to think about space travel and theorized on the following:

  • he calculated the speed and fuel it would take to escape the earth’s gravity
  • he said that the greatest exhaust velocities would be reached with liquid propellants
  • he proposed theories on multistaging
  • he theorized about space stations and interplanetray flight

“The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one can not live in a cradle forever!” – Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Here are a few links to learn more about this great rocket visionary:

1 2 3

Johann Schmidlap, a German fireworks maker, while trying to reach higher altitudes for his fireworks displays was the first person known to use staging in rocketry. In 1591 he attached smaller rockets on the tops of bigger rockets. After the larger rockets exhausted their fuel the remaining smaller rockets were fired. Schmidlap called his discovery “step rockets”. Today we call it multi-staging. Thanks to Schmidlap’s step rockets a process for reaching the moon and the planets was invented. I wonder if he ever tried CHAD staging?


William Congreve was shooting rockets that reached altitudes of 10,000 feet and weighed up to 24 pounds way back in 1810.
After his successful demonstartion of their capabilities in 1805, some of the first rockets used by the british military were fired at the French in 1806. It was this type rocket that were shot at Fort Mchenry in 1814 that inspired the line “the rockets red glare” in the Star Spangled Banner. Learn more in the following links:
Congreve Rockets

Images of firing of Congreve rockets

In 1954, Orville Carlisle,took his hobby of pyrotechnics and developed the first model rocket. The rocket called the Rock-A-Chute Mark I. He later took that design and streamlined it into the Rock-A-Chute Mark II in which he was awarded the patent for “toy rocket”. Harry Stine later teamed with Carlisle to form the first model Rocket company, Model Missles.
Carlisle was NAR member #1.

roc motor

Here is the original patent drawing
carlisle1click to enlarge

james barrowman

Everything changed back in 1966. James Barrowman, while working at NASA as an aerospace engineer, developed a series of equations that enabled us to estimate the CP of rockets. Once the CP is estimated it is relatively easy to determine if most rockets are stable. He went on to publish this in a now famous reports put out by Centuri called TIR-30 and TIR-33 ( both of these are available at JIMZ Rocket PlansTIR-30TIR-33 -you will need Acrobat Reader to view). There are many computer programs out today that make use of his equations to help design and simulate flight of your rockets. One of the most popular is RockSim available from Apogee. So when you see your rocket climb straight as an arrow instead of turning toward you be thankful to James Barrowman.


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