Origins of Russian rocketry


The early trials: The rockets designed by A. Zasyadko. Credit: KB Arsenal

Origins of Russian rocketry:
  • Roots of rocketry lay too deep in the history of human civilization to mark the exact birth date of these ancient machines. Apparently, the first rockets owe their origin to the invention of gun powder in China around 10th century AD The earliest historical records testify that in 1232 AD, during the siege of Beijing by Mongols, the city's defenders fired missiles. Around 13th century, the knowledge about rocketry reaches Italy and then France.
  • The use of rockets near Ukrainian city of Belgorod is recorded in 1516 and the first appearance of rockets in the Russian city of Ustuyg dates around 1675.
  • According to Russian archive records, in 1732 St. Petersburg-based Arsenal artillery enterprise originally founded by Peter the Great in 1711, had produced 20 rocket launching devices for the Russian border fortress of Brest.
  • Following the development and use of military missiles in Europe, the "Rocket Enterprise" (Raketnoe Zavedenie) is founded in Moscow in 1780s. In 1815, Russian artillery engineer Alexander Zasyadko started development of the battlefield missiles for the Russian army. Zasyadko conducted numerous test firings of experimental missiles, developed techniques for mass production of rockets and led the formation of the first missile unit in the Russian army around 1827. Three types of battlefield missiles (2-, 2.5- and 4-inch caliber) developed by Zasayadko had a range between 1,600 and 2,700 meters.
  • Zasyadko's written work dated 1817 became the first Russian production and application manual for battlefield missiles.
  • Russian army employed Zasyadko's missiles for the first time during Russo-Turkish war of 1825. It is known that in 1828-29, the Russian soldiers bombarded with missiles Turkish stronghold in Varna, Bulgaria.
  • In 1849, another artillery engineer -- Konstantin Konstantinov -- took charge of St. Petersburg-based "Rocket Enterprise" founded along with several similar European organizations in 1820s. Konstantinov spent several years in Europe studying the rocket development. Since 1861, Konstantinov led the foundation of the Nikolaev rocket-production plant, which became operational in 1867. In 1870, Russian artillery engineer Ivanin reportedly proposed a winged missile.
  • Another Russian artillery expert Mikhail Pomortsev actively experimented with rockets at the turn of the 20th century. Between 1902 and 1905, struggling to improve the accuracy of missiles, Pomortsev tested around 20 types of aerodynamic stabilizers in rockets. By 1908, Pomortsev's rockets reached a range of 8-9 kilometers.
  • Since mid-1800s, Russian authors I. Tretesky, N. Sokovnin and N. Teleshev considered the use of jet propulsion for the powered atmospheric flight. These ideas were pushed even further by Nikolai Kibalchich, the explosives technician from the radical antigovernment organization "Narodnaya Volya". In 1881, waiting for the execution for his part in the plot to assassinate Tzar Alexander II, Kibalchich sketched and described a manned flight vehicle propelled by the solid-rocket engine.
  • Only two decades later, in his visionary work, "The Exploration of the World's Space with Jet-Propulsion Instruments" (1903), a modest school teacher from the small town of Kaluga Konstantin Tsiolkovskiy proposed and described the rocket as a tool for the interplanetary travel. Today Tsiolkovskiy's work is universally accepted as a theoretical foundation of space flight.

Ref.: update: 06.10.11 Home