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Valentin Glushko : biography

2 September 1908 - 10 January 1989

Valentin Petrovich Glushko ( Valentin Petrovich Glushko; , Valentyn Petrovych Hlushko; born 2 September 1908 – 10 January 1989), was a Soviet engineer, and the principal Soviet designer of rocket engines during the Soviet/American Space Race.

Biography

At the age of fourteen he became interested in aeronautics after reading novels by Jules Verne. He is known to have written a letter to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1923. He studied at an Odessa trade school, where he learned to be a sheet metal worker. After graduation he apprenticed at a hydraulics fitting plant. He was first trained as a fitter, then moved to lathe operator.

During his time in Odessa, Glushko performed experiments with explosives. These were recovered from unexploded artillery shells that had been left behind by the White Guards during their retreat. From 1924-25 he wrote articles concerning the exploration of the Moon, as well as the use of Tsiolkovsky's proposed engines for space flight.

He attended Leningrad State University where he studied physics and mathematics, but found the specialty programs were not to his interest. He reportedly left without graduating in April, 1929. From 1929-1930 he pursued rocket research at the Gas Dynamics Laboratory. A new research section was apparently set up for the study of liquid-propellant and electric engines. He became a member of the GIRD (Group for the study of Rocket Propulsion Systems), founded in Leningrad in 1931.

On 23 March 1938 he became caught up in Joseph Stalin's Great Terror and was rounded up by the NKVD, to be placed in the Butyrka prison. By 15 August 1939 he was sentenced to eight years in the Gulag. Despite his supposed imprisonment, however, Glushko was put to work on various aircraft projects with other arrested scientists. In 1941 he was placed in charge of a design bureau for liquid-fueled rocket engines. He was finally released in 1944 by special decree. In 1944, Sergei Korolyov and Glushko designed the RD-1 kHz auxiliary rocket motor tested in a fast-climb Lavochkin La-7R for protection of the capital from high-altitude Luftwaffe attacks."Last of the Wartime Lavochkins", AIR International, Bromley, Kent, U.K., November 1976, Volume 11, Number 5, pages 245-246.

At the end of World War II, Glushko was sent to Germany and Eastern Europe to study the German rocket program. In 1946 he became the chief designer of his own bureau, the OKB 456, and remained at this position until 1974. This bureau would play a prominent role in the development of rocket engines within the Soviet Union.

His OKB 456 (later NPO Energomash) would design the 35-metric ton (340 kN) thrust RD-101 engine used in the R-2, the 120-ton (1,180 kN) thrust RD-110 employed in the R-3, and the 44-ton (430 kN) thrust RD-103 used in the R-5 Pobeda (SS-3 Shyster). The R-7 would include four of Glushko's RD-107 engines and one RD-108. In 1954 he began to design engines for the R-12 Dvina (SS-4 Sandal), which had been designed by Mikhail Yangel'. He also became responsible for supplying rocket engines for Sergei Korolev, the designer of the R-9 Desna (SS-8 Sasin). Among his designs was the powerful RD-170 liquid propellant engine.

In 1974, following the successful American moon landings, premier Leonid Brezhnev decided to cancel the troubled Soviet program to send a man to the Moon. He consolidated the Soviet space program, moving Vasily Mishin's OKB-1 (Korolev's former design bureau), as well as other bureaus, into a single bureau headed by Glushko, later named NPO Energia. Glushko's first act, after firing Mishin altogether, was to cancel the N-1 rocket, a program he had long criticized, despite the fact that one of the reasons for its difficulties was his own refusal to design the high power engines Korolev needed because of friction between the two men and ostensibly a disagreement over the use of cryogenic or hypergolic fuel.

Glushko was an advocate of a new line of powerful launchers that he wanted to use for the establishment of a Soviet lunar base. However the American Apollo program was coming to an end at about that time, and the government wanted to build a competitor to the Space Shuttle.

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Living octopus

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