How The Real Soviet Rocketmen Changed the World

How The Real Soviet Rocketmen Changed the World


It’s said that around 400,000 people
worked on the Apollo project to land a man on the moon and apart from the
astronauts themselves how many people spring to mind when you think about who
designed it who oversaw its construction operation no one I can think of that was
all done within the corporate contractors. Meanwhile in the Soviet Union there were
many great scientists and engineers but at the core of the Soviet space industry
at the height of a space race three men would come to dominate and set the pace
driving forward innovation exploration and putting the Americans on the back
foot for years but ultimately through their own infighting and favoritism it
would also lead to the failure of the Soviets to put a man on the moon. Whilst
the design and construction of the hardware on the US side was done by the
major defense corporations for profit and the Stalin’s Soviet leadership a
free market was seen as unequal and wasteful projects were assigned to a
range of design bureaus by the government to a central plan to best use
for resources available but as George Orwell once said in Animal Farm “All
animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”. If the head of a
design bureau was “in” with the current leadership then their projects were
often looked on more favorably who ever or not they might be the best solution
for a job. Soviet scientists conducted their research at independent
departments referred to by the codename OKB which translates as experimental
design bureau. If an aspiring engineer or scientist came up with an outstanding
idea or showed a great aptitude for the work and he had the right connections
they might be put in charge of their own design bureau. The design bureaus were
medium sized organizations tasked with coming up with ideas and prototypes that
would then be passed on to larger factories to be made however in the
space industry volumes were very low so these design bureaus would build the
entire projects like rockets in house but still subcontracting the subsystems
like the engines and control systems etc from other design bureaus. Each design
bureau had a code number in an attempt to conceal the identity of a factory
from foreign intelligence but internally the bureau bore the name of its chief
designer men who were ultimately held responsible for the successes and
failures under their command the largest rocket engine design
was OKB-1 led by the most famous figure in the history of Soviet rocketry Sergey
Korolyov the mastermind of Sputnik, Vostok, the lunar probes as well as the
first animal in space like of a dog, the first man in space Yuri Gagarin and the
massive N1 rocket, the Soviets version of the Americans Saturn 5. For someone so
powerful even at the height of his career Korolyov’s identity was a closely
guarded secret from everyone outside the upper echelon of power because they
feared foreign agents would attempt to assassinate him. To the world and even to
many cosmonauts Korolyov was known only by his initials or as the chief designer.
As a youngster in the early Soviet Union Corellia was interested in aeronautical
engineering. When he was 22 he started at the OPO-4 aircraft design bureau and
by the time he was 30 he was the lead designer of the Tupolev TB-3 heavy
bomber. When he was 23 he and a friend Friedrich Zander created the group for a
study of reactive motion or GRID, one of the first state-sponsored rocket
development centers. This was then merged with the gas dynamics lab to create
Reaction Engines Scientific Research institute or RNII and this is where
he would meet the second of our three valentin glushko,
a talented rocket engine designer and life would take a turn for the worst for
all concerned. When Stalins great purges swept
through the nation in 1937 the patron of the RNII
Marshall Tukhachevsky was sentenced to death as an enemy of the people. On the
13th of June the Inquisition found its way to Korolev’s Bureau as Glushko was
accused of being an anti-soviet co-conspirator and sentenced to eight
years in a labor camp. Here under torture Glushko denounced Korolev in return
for a shorter sentence Korolev was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor and
was transported to the Kolyma gold mine a gulag in Siberia. But soon both
men’s expertise was needed again in the fight against the Nazis.
Glushko had an easier path and although he was still a prisoner who was
given his own design bureau developing liquid rocket engines with other
prisoner scientists and engineers. In 1940 Korolev was brought back to work
in a ‘sharashka’ or prison camp design bureau in Omsk and then moved to
another one in Kazan and Korolev found himself working under the
direction of none other than valentin Glushko
the man who had betrayed him. After the war and despite the animosity between
them Korolev and Glushko worked on new rocket designs by now Glushko was
the head of his own OKB-456 Bureau and the Soviets leading rocket engine
designer. Meanwhile Korolev was tasked with dismantling and reverse engineering
but captured German V2 rockets at his NII-88 Bureau which soon became known as OKB-1. In february 1953 Korolev was asked to scale up his tests to build the
largest rocket the world had ever seen, a launch vehicle capable of lifting a
three ton warhead to an intercontinental trajectory covering 8,000 kilometers or
5,000 miles far enough to hit targets in the US mainland.
Korolev envisioned a staged rocket with four boosters surrounding a central
core on each of these a huge main engine would direct thrust through four nozzles
something that had never been done before
Korolev coordinated between 36 factories including the bureau led by
his old rival Valentin Glushko. Glushko agreed to build the engines for the new
rocket but insisted that he retained complete control of the engine building
process from 1954 of a four-chambered main engines the RD-107 were rigorously
proven on test stands. But the first firings failed spectacularly literally
burning through Glushko stock however by 1957 the world’s first spaceport at
Baikonur, Kazakhstan was nearing completion and the R7 rocket was
delivered to the launch pad in May the first ‘Semayorka’ meaning seven in
Russian and failed. But after a string of
failures and improvements on October 4th Korolyov’s rocket made history as it
launched Sputnik 1 the first artificial satellite into low-earth orbit Korolev’s
of hard-won victory brought even more urgent competition between the competing
arms of the Soviet aerospace industry here the third figure appears as rival
rocket designer Vladimir Chelomey and he was betting everything on his universal
rocket family especially the UR-500 heavy lift launcherwhich would later become the ‘Proton’, a design still in use today. Chelomey was the youngest of the three and probably the most ambitious. He
developed the first soviet pulse jet engine independently of the germans and
the first anti-ship cruise missile. His designs developed from his work for the
military which had grown his bureau OKB-52 into a missile building empire
covering ICBMs, military satellites, launch vehicles, cruise missiles,
anti-ballistic missiles and made him in his own words “the most expensive man in
the soviet union”. Rather than using the liquid oxygen and kerosene mixture
favored by Korolev the UR-500 was powered by a mixture of nitrogen
tetroxide and udmh propellants. These hypergolic fuels spontaneously combusted
on contact with each other something which Korolev was vehemently opposed for
safety reasons. This design choice made it easy for Chelomey to work with
Glushko who had favored hypergolic engines for some time and he agreed to
build the first stage engines for the UR-500 the famous RD-253. Chelomey
also had the advantage of being well connected with the Soviet leader Nikita
Khrushchev who sent his son Sergei to work of the OKB-52 Bureau.Chelomey told Khrushchev a version of his rocket could power a two-man mission around the
moon much more economically than Korolev’s gargantuan N1 launcher.
But in October 1964 Khrushchev was ousted from the
leadership and replaced by a Leonid Brezhnev an old ally of korolyov’s.
With Khrushchev gone all manned space plans were again consolidated under
Korolev. After the fall of Khrushchev Chelomey was still supported
by the defense minister Andrey Grechko, however when he died in 1974 he had an
uneasy relationship with the new Minister of Defense and the patron of
the rocket industry Dmitriy Ustinov and although he retained support from
Brezhnev his position was never as strong as it was with Khrushchev. But
meanwhile the Soviet space program was beginning to visibly lag behind the
Americans. In 1961 President John F Kennedy announced America’s goal to land
a man on the moon by the end of the decade Korolyov decided to push on with the N1 rocket but grishko refused to build the massive
kerosene LOX engines Korolev needed instead he proposed massive hypergolic
engines which Korolev said were too dangerous for manned flight and the two
men had a massive falling-out. Korolev was in a fix without the engines required
and turned instead to the kuznetsov design bureau OKB-276. Although they had
much less experience and they couldn’t build the large engines they did come up
with a smaller but highly efficient new design the NK-15 and subsequently the NK-
33 which is still one of the most efficient kerosene LOX engines ever made.
To make up a thrust required thirty NK-15’s would be used on the first stage of the
N1 rocket but the complexity of the fuel plumbing and the control systems for all
these engines would create many problems for the design. It took three more years
before the Soviet command made the same commitment to the moon missions
meanwhile Korolev had pushed on with the N1 which he believed could carry
cosmonauts both on lunar missions and on to Mars.
But funding was short and Korolev was in constant battles with Chelomey over
who would get the resources required. Couple this with the long hours and
intense pressure to deliver and the stress started to take its toll Korolev
had already suffered a heart attack in 1960 and doctors discovered the a kidney
disorder as well. On January 14th 1966 he went in for what was supposed to be a
routine surgery on a polyp in his large intestine but with a weakened heart and
immune system from me years of imprisonment in the gulags the master
designer died on the operating table. Two weeks after Korolev death his
Luna 9 became the first spacecraft to successfully make a soft touch down on
the moon’s surface. With Korolev’s death his deputy Vasily Mishin took over the
OKB-1 design bureau and the N1 project But Mishin didn’t have the contacts
all the flair for dealing with the soviet system like Korolev and after
four launch failures of the N1 mission, he was sacked and replaced by Korolev’s
bitter rival Glushko. By now the US had landed on the moon and even Apollo was
being cut short as enthusiasm for big space was waning. In 1974 Glushko
scrapped the N1 project and ordered the parts to be destroyed but Kuznetsov
didn’t get the orders and instead mothballed for remaining NK-33 engines
which some 20 years later would be sold to the U.S. modified and used to launch
the Antares rocket. Glushko went on to develop the Buran the
Soviet space shuttle and its massive Energia heavy launch vehicle, which he hoped
one day might be used to create a lunar base. Ironically for a man who had
refused to build a large kerosene/LOX engine for Korolev and inadvertently
helped the downfall of N1, he now realized that this was in fact the best
solution for the Energia to match the power of a solid rocket boosters on the
US shuttle. Although he couldn’t overcome the combustion instability of a large
single chamber he used a four chamber design of a single
engine creating the RD-170 the most powerful rocket engine in the world, just
beating the F1 engine of the Saturn 5. Although Vladimir Chelomey fortunes were
on the decline after Khrushchev was replaced he was still instrumental in a
development of a Soviet space station with the Almaz military stations which
flew as Salyut 2, 3 & 5. In December 1984 Vladimir Chelomey died from an arterial
blockage after his Mercedes car slipped his brakes and broke his leg whilst he
was closing the gates of his country house. Valentin Glushko died in january
1989 and his funeral was attended by Mikhail Gorbachev and like his rival
Korolev before him it was only after his death that the Soviet public found
out about his efforts and achievements. The Soviet space program produced some
of the greatest leaps forward and most daring accomplishments in human history
backed by an economy far smaller than their great rival the United States.
Drawing upon the genius of these chief designers and a thousands of scientists
and engineers supporting them Soviet Russia made itself for seacoast
of the universe and the Rockets developed from the R7 and the UR-500 are still launching towards the Stars today. So I just like to say thank
you to all our patrons for their ongoing support and don’t forget to check out
some of our other videos too and it just reminds me to say thanks for watching
and please subscribe, rate and share.

100 Comments on "How The Real Soviet Rocketmen Changed the World"


  1. Giving the Soviet's credit for anything in rocketry is in error. All of the Soviet advances the formed the foundation of the science were Germans. Soviet scientists took credit for their work. The US had a viable program that was boosted by German input, but it would still have progressed at about the same rate. Much different paths forward.

    Reply

  2. Korolev wasn't opposed to hypergolics because they were explosive. He was opposed to them because they were horribly toxic, with N2O4 being able to kill a human at more than 3 parts per million if my memory serves me correctly, and hydrazine being carcinogenic.

    Reply

  3. My impression from the museum in Baikonur cosmodrome: engineers were much more important (famous) then in US (at the same level of cosmonauts). And credits were done to 4 peoples (not just Koronev): rocket, engines (with highlight the control of attitude, not just power), launch complex (Baikonur is very interesting about solution [e.g. pure mechanics keep rocket on ground]), and the 4th person I do not remember (I think control system). But there were a lot of drama (as you described), and so splitting space rocket with ICBM to keep top engineering not to step over other feet. Again: cosmonauts were not so important (compared US).

    Reply

  4. When talking about the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the video shows the launch of Yuri Gagarin. The videoes are great, clear and some I have never seen (wow!). Vasiloff Mishin once stated that a major reason the Soviets did not beat the US was the amount of money spent on the lunar mission (4 billion dollars as opposed to 25 billion dollars for the US).

    Reply

  5. Your following an abridged script from an old History Channel documentary, but your leaving out all the nationalistic jingoism. Great video, thanks for recognizing some exceptionally talented people that rose above their struggles.

    Reply

  6. In all of these documentaries, Glushko seems to be a bit of a dickhead with an ego problem, while Korolev gets portrayed as rather charismatic and practical. Does anyone know more about this?

    Reply

  7. The RD170 didn't just beat the F1, it was designed for up to 10 re-uses, with fly-back boosters still in development at the time.

    Reply

  8. It's an important part of humanity's spacefaring history.
    I'm proud to say I already knew this story well.

    Reply

  9. This channel is so damn interesting! The perfect channel for a science geek like myself – gonna have to go through and watch every single video. Also, the shirts man, the shirts!

    Reply

  10. Why, when talking of Soviet rocketry, you always omit OKB-586 (Yuzhnoye design bureau) and it's genius founder Mikhail Yangel?!

    Soviet space program would be impossible without Yangel's know-how.
    Some of modern technologies originate from there: load-baring fuel and oxygen tanks, trussed interstage connections, wide use of polymers, automated pre-launch procedures.

    Look it up! Zenit rocket is admired by Elon Musk himself.
    And R-36m (NATO: SS-18 mod 2 and 3) was capable of flying through nuclear blast.

    Guys, those marvels should not be forgotten!

    Reply

  11. So, if these guys would have just been able to work together instead of working independently the USSR just might have been able to beat the U.S. to the moon.

    Reply

  12. Awesome. Very nicely researched mini-documentary. Thank you for sharing and entertaining.
    Like if you agree that the Proton-M is the most elegant Medium Lift Rocket solution. Especially its First-Stage and Second-Stage Start-up 'Halo'. Thankyou.

    Reply

  13. Would you be able to make a video on spacecraft geometry in terms of reentry profile and shape. Such as the Vostok and Voskhod ballistic reentry and appollos lifting reentry

    Reply

  14. Curious, your content has become far too negative to continue subscribing. What's your next video going to be about? Maybe how the American's stole everyone else's technology and flew it to the moon? Sorry, you hate American accomplishments, NASA, and capitalism. Thanks for the semi-interesting wardrobe tho.

    Reply

  15. and another great video, captivating the audience from start to finish, I didn't notice how fast the 15m lapsed.

    Reply

  16. I love your space and aircraft documentaries. As always, a very well put show! Good job comrade!

    Reply

  17. Wow, what a fascinating story! I've never heard any of it before. With all the names and politics this is a little harder to follow than a typical Curious Droid video (which is usually about more straightforward subjects like engineering), so I think I'll watch it again. Really interesting stuff!

    Reply

  18. How to pronounce Sergei Pavlovich Korolev (Russian/Russia)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urB4qwPwTlA

    Reply

  19. Can you please make a video about the bullshit they have going over at ARCA Space Corporation? Who are they cheating out of money and what is their point. I watch the videos and can't help but think that it's all bullshit.

    Reply

  20. Amazing what the Russian engineers accomplished under the punitive, repressive and paranoid political leadership they were afflicted with. All the more remarkable when the GDP and industrial base of the Soviet Union was substantially smaller and less developed than the West's.

    Reply

  21. I am a fly to a flame in these areas- If only I had more teachers like you. Outstanding presentations as always.

    Reply

  22. Lol, they were able to keep pace in the race wars by draining all the wealth from their people. That's like bragging about how well off you are because you robbed homeless people.

    Reply

  23. Hello, I have a question, when did the russian declassified all this information you have and is it public ?

    Reply

  24. Glushko was a bastard. Korolev was a visionary, he found a way to get engines for the N1, which failed but lives on atleast the engines do.

    Reply

  25. The Soviet Union can launch a satellite into space 12 years after the end of World War 2! After complete destruction and many millions of victims! They are superhumans

    Reply

  26. Ironic: The Communist system created competition which failed to put man on the moon. The Capitalist system created communal efforts which put man on the moon.

    Reply

  27. It's amazing what the Soviets were able to accomplish.
    We often forget that before the Revolution, Russia was part of the third world, poor, uneducated & unindustrialized.

    Reply

  28. 09:18 there's something to be said about the no fuggs giveness of a man who walks around with such a bold uni-brow. I applaud you Mr. Unibrowoskiev AKA Mr. Brezhnev.

    Reply

  29. In your story you kinda forgeting one more huge personality in soviet spase programs – Mikhail Yangel. He designed R-16, R-36, and R-36M, famos SS-18 Satan. By the way, all of them except Chelomay, were not russian, but ukrainian desiners.

    Reply

  30. Глупо считать что лишь из за луны,советы отставали от американцев,а как же салют? И в последствии станция мир,и ведь если нет Россия,то МКС бы не было,а был бы мир 2.

    Reply

  31. да, сталинская экономика не эффективна… боже храни королеву…

    Reply

  32. чото походу глушко был самым великим человеком. не зря же англичанин его так нелюбит. сибирь, гулаг, сталин, глушко, полоний, новичок,… боже храни королеву…

    Reply

  33. So this guy Glushko brings down Korolev into prison with him, then robs Korolev of the moon race by refusing to develop his kerosene engine for the N1, then has the audacity to embrace Korolevs kerosene engine idea for use on Energia after Korolev is dead! The guy Glushko is a MONSTER, I feel sorry for Sergei Korolev, my hat is off to you sir.

    Reply

  34. I know a lot of people wanna claim it was either the U.S. or Russia that propelled the Space program, but if we're really being honest it was Nazi Germany who created the majority of our earlier technological advances…. It's just that no one wants to admit it or give them credit. But it's true…. Sometimes ya gotta separate the art from the Artist….lol!… I see enough of that being said these days, but I bet most who use the that saying would be extremely hard pressed to be able to use it in this situation. I call those people hypocrites 😂…. Anyhow, truth is truth and facts are facts. Neither one really seems to care what we humans think of them no matter how much we try to hide them.

    Case in point⬇️
    1922 – Hermann Oberth publishes his scientific work about rocketry and space exploration: Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen ("By Rocket into Planetary Space"). 1926 – Robert Goddard launches the first liquid fuelrocket. 1927 – Verein für Raumschiffahrt (VfR – "Spaceflight Society") founded in Germany.

    Reply

  35. Weird that Russians have made not much new after the death of these three guys. But still, Russians are ruling manned space stuff pretty much and commanding ISS too.

    Reply

  36. Why so little views? Brilliant video (as any other video on this channel)! Thanks for your efforts! From Russia with love)

    Reply

  37. I wish Americans as a whole didn't appear as complete assholes to every other country… I would love to go to Russia one day but I fear that everyone would hate me 🙁

    Reply

  38. The Soviets were smart and they made good stuff, but for all it’s shortcomings, boy am I happy that the West prevailed. I feel sorry for the scientists of the CCCP, passionate people who were on political rails, never knowing when the next change of regime would cost them their lives

    Reply

  39. Not sure the N-1 was something to showcase when introducing Korolev in this clip. When it came to animals in space, its my impression that Strelka and Belka were on the really worthwhile and successful mission of sending animals into orbit. (while Laika's mission was a stunt that ended up a disappointment with her premature death).

    Reply

  40. Actually no one knows the true GDP of USSR but it could have been quite close or even above the USA as Poland , a mere PUPPET of USSR had the second largest Military budget . Imagine how much the USSR GDP could have been ?

    Reply

  41. Funny how you talk about Soviet central planning and run pictures of Moscow City skyscrapers built in capitalist Russia.

    Reply

  42. The Russians started their first steps with a V2 rocket back in the late 40's. Dismantled V2 parts and engines where carefully inspected by Korolev and Glusko. They learned their stuff from Werhner Von Braun's rocketry technology!
    The first U.S. satellite as the rocket Jupiter was Von Braun's !
    The first American in space was flown by Redstone rocket which was Von Braun's as was the Redstone rocket Industries in Huntsville Alabama. The Saturn family of rockets was his design ( Saturn 1, Saturn 1B, and the mighty Saturn V which took Americans to the moon)
    The first U.S. space station Skylab was his idea and put in orbit by his Saturn V rocket.
    Even the Shuttle was his idea from 1960's…a special spacecraft with wings to glide back to earth and land although he opted to be fitted on top of a big rocket and not strapped around boosters and a fuel tank because of higher risk if the boosters failed would destroy the space shuttle.
    Even missions to Mars where his idea since he was 19 years old.
    Of course he couldn't built these by his own and U.S. private and government aeronautics companies as North American, Rocketdyne, Grouman, Douglas, Boeing, etc. took in charge the built projects of NASA.

    In other wards…. He is the creator of the 1st rocket ever the A2 ROCKET (unfortunately it was known as the V2 war rocket).
    And few people know that he was ready to put a satellite in orbit before Sputnik was launched in 1957 but he was working under the U.S. Army division and the Congress gave that task to the U.S. NAVY which failed with an enormous fail launch and explosion on the launch pad. He even wanted to put a satellite in orbit without an official congress permission, but before his test launch some government officials verified that on the top of his Jupiter C rocket he had nothing as cargo!
    He was even planning to built a family of big rockets and big engines for a moon trip in late 1950's… so he was the MAN of the American space program!

    Reply

  43. Just to add that in early 1930th, Soviet and Germans were on same stage of development of liquid rocket engine. Bat Fon Braun got Hitler and funding, and Koroliev got Stalin and Gulag.

    Reply

  44. Man, you make great videos about space and space flights, but please, leave politics and especially socialism aside. I don't think you understand it a bit

    Reply

  45. Glushko did not betray Korolev. They were both betrayed by Andrei Kostikov who became the new head of RNII.

    Reply

  46. @Curious Droid – Can you please do a video about how Vladimir Ilyushin was the actual first man in space?

    Reply

  47. If the Russians had tbe same budget as NASA, we would now be taking spring breaks to the Mars instead of Mexico.

    Reply

  48. The intelligence of the "soviets" is mind blowing, srsly, I can't imagine what would have been this region without communism ! 100% sure would be the 2nd power today

    Reply

  49. It wasn't so much hypergolic propellants as non-cryogenic. Non-cryogenic propellants store more easily and are thus better for missles. I don't think Korolev was really interested in missles; he was a space guy. The Elon Musk of his time.

    Reply

  50. So, if they were able to succeed in spite of imprisonment, interrogation-torture (etc.) and whole dragging bureaucracy imagine all what they could've achieve in better circumstances (and… better healthcare). Thinking (freely and intelligently) is dangerous under authoritarianism, until they need someone who has to do exactly that (but only for a specific purpose).

    Reply

  51. I wish I could see what made Stalin tick, listen to what went through his mind through out his life time. Especially his political time. So many questions.

    Reply

  52. I knew a Boeing engineer who worked on the Launch Umbilical Tower (LUT) and the level of control and coordination was incredible. It took 3 men, 1 from the design contractor, 1 from NASA and 1 from the actual construction contractor to access the filing cabinets that held the blueprints. Each had a required key to the drawers. This was to assure that no changes were made without all related parties being in the loop.

    Reply

  53. Stalin both feared and hated intellectuals. He was a jealous and violent brute who hated that they were so much smarter than him.

    Reply

  54. One of my high school teachers was a Soviet rocket scientist. He fled the country after he designed a rocket that was designed to blow up on the launch pad. He went on to work for NASA

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *