Libmonster ID: RU-17276
Author(s) of the publication: Ilary SAPOZHNIKOV

by Ilary SAPOZHNIKOV, Dr. Sc. (Tech.), Chief Designer of the Research Institute of Applied Mechanics named after Acad. V. Kuznetsov (RIAM)

Every year, on April 12, our country celebrates the significant date-the first flight of man to outer space. The space vehicle-satellite Vostok was piloted by our compatriot Major Yuri Gagarin, who in March 2014 could have turned 80. This flight became true thanks to the work of hundreds of scientific teams (plants, research institutes, design bureaus) that developed and constructed the booster and the space vehicle.

стр. 61

I was lucky to participate in these events. I was head of the laboratory at Research Institute 944 (RIAM) where gyroscopic devices for the controlling systems of booster R-7 and space vehicle Vostok, were developed to deliver man to the orbit of the Earth.

Before designing and constructing gyroscopic devices for booster R-7, scientists developed tools for the first combat missiles R-1, R-2, R-5, and R-12, which made it possible to develop unique gyroscopic devices in terms of accuracy and reliability.

New units were designed for this booster R-7: a gyroscope, angle-data transmitters, a programming device, locking devices, a cardan suspension. A vacuum gyrorotor with the record speed of 60,000 r/min made a good showing in terms of reliability of operation.

The sterile hi-tech production arranged at the Moscow Plant of Electromechanical Units made it possible to manufacture new gyroscopic devices. This plant contributed to Gagarin's flight by manufacturing controlling tools. Later on, similar devices were manufactured at the Saratov Plant Korpus, Ramenskoye Instrument-Making Plant, Omsk Electromechanical Plant, and other leading enterprises of the instrument-making industry. All these plants used specifications developed by specialists of the Moscow Plant of Electromechanical Units.

High accuracy and reliability of gyroscopic devices is evidenced by the fact that they have been functioning without failure on board booster R-7 over 50 years.

Such advances would not have been achieved without leading enterprises of other branches: elecrotechnical (feed sources), bearing, chemical (lubricants), iron and steel industry, etc.

The Council of Chief Designers chaired by Acad, (from 1958) Sergei Korolev* performed the function of a technical supervisor of the first space flight. It was composed of Mikhail Ryazansky, Nikolai Pilyugin, Valentin Glushko, Vladimir Barmin, and Viktor Kuznetsov.

Sound organizational activities were also highly important. That time our institute was subordinated to the Ship-Building Ministry, we got a new engineering building. The ministry headed by Boris But made a lot in terms of financial assistance--procurement of equipment, construction works, etc.

See: N. Koroleva, "His Name and Cosmos Are Inseparable", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2007.--Ed.

стр. 62

Speaking of the personnel, that time, despite of very scarce housing construction, all specialists, including young professionals, were housed.

All financial issues used to be solved quickly. The commissioned equipment was mostly national except for imported machines and test facilities (vibrators, heat chambers).

In January of 1961, representatives of the enterprises participating in the development and launch of the space vehicle gathered at the Baikonur cosmodrome. The work team was headed by Sergei Korolev. He had an incontestable authority, his requirements were rigid, but he highly respected people he worked with hand in hand. He strived to participate in all discussions concerning the tests, including technical problems, till all participants of the meeting reached a common ground.

In 1960 a series of launches of similar space vehicles (with models and dogs onboard) were effected, but not all of them were successful. The causes of failures were carefully analyzed; measures to eradicate them were taken.

Specialists engaged in preparation of man's space flight did all possible to ensure security of astronauts. A special metal grid was installed around a launcher to weaken a hit in case of the vehicle's falling down at the initial segment of the trajectory. Its return to the Earth was also a problem. We were not sure of our success.

Representatives of many enterprises took part in the preparation for a space launch. Our friendly team managed to cope with any problems that sprang up during the process.

In general, the atmosphere of friendship and partnership was felt both at work and during short breaks.

If any serious problems occurred, everybody got involved: heads of ministries, party organizations, and military departments. But Sergei Korolev's work was most efficient. He addressed the regional party committee secretary for assistance. And that worked. And finally, the historic day set in. It was a sunny morning. All went without a hatch.

Thirty minutes before the launch, when Korolev entered the control room of the launcher, he saw colonel Alexander Kirilov, commander of the military unit in charge of the launch, and Alexander Soldatenkov, assistant chief designer of the Progress plant.

Sergei Alexandrovich was in constant contact with the first astronaut of our country Yuri Gagarin*. We constantly received information about his health, and everybody was surprised to learn that his pulse did not exceed 100 beats pre minute. Gagarin was calm. First was the command start, followed by ignition, and then go.

See: A. Orlov, "He Opened Window Into Space", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2004.--Ed.

All launching systems functioned as planned. Gagarin pronounced his famous "There it goes", and a historic flight started. The telemetric station reported: "The engines are running well, pitching, hunting, rotation---all as planned, the flight is normal". Then the first work stage ends---separation of side blocks, which are followed by second and third stages, and finally the end of the third stage, separation of the space vehicle and its exit with the cosmonaut to the orbit of the Earth's satellite. Everyone was happy, embracing each other, some people even crying. We ran upstairs to the communication point in a detached wooden building to announce our success.

The area in front of the building was crowded with people. Assistants of the Chief Designer standing on the porch informed about the progress of the orbital flight. An hour and a half later it was announced that the space vehicle with Yuri Gagarin onboard successfully landed near Saratov. This is how that historic flight ended, which astronished the whole world, not only Russians. Americans could not understand why did we manage to be the first?

Gagarin's space flight gave an impulse to the development of astronautics all over the world. In the USA, a national moon flight program was developed in response to the launch of the first man to outer space.

Fifty years passed from the first historic space flight. For this time, space missile technologies made a great progress. Our institute designed hyrodevices based on new principles, much more accurate and with an extended service life, equipped with floating sensors, dynamically tuned hyroscopes on an elastic suspension.

Today, the Research Institute of Applied Mechanics is a structural branch of the Center for Operation of Ground-Based Space Infrastructure Facilities.

Laser and fiber-optic gyroscopes are nowadays used to control space vehicles and boosters of different purpose that are based on the principles of high accuracy and reliability.

Illustrations supplied by the author

Material supplied by the Roscosmos press-service


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Ilary SAPOZHNIKOV, GREAT ENDEAVOR OF THE COUNTRY // Moscow: Russian Libmonster (LIBMONSTER.RU). Updated: 18.11.2021. URL: (date of access: 04.12.2021).

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