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General Designer Glushko

September 3, 2018

 September 2 marks the 110th anniversary of one of the pioneers of rocket and space technology, the founder of the Soviet liquid-propellant rocket engineering, the chief designer of space systems (since 1974), the general designer of the re-usable space rocket system Energia-Buran, academician, laureate of Lenin Prize, twice laureate of State Prize of the USSR, twice Hero of Socialist Labor Valentin Petrovich Glushko (1908-1989).

Developed under his direction were prototypes of the worlds first electrothermal rocket engine, powerful liquid rocket engines using low- and high-boiling-point propellants, which were installed on the majority of the first and second stages of our countrys launch vehicles and many missiles, which put into orbit the first Soviet artificial Earth satellites, Y.A. Gagarin and other Soviet cosmonauts, launched robotic spacecraft to the Moon and planets of the Solar system.

For many years Valentin Petrovich Glushko headed Energia. In 19741989, heading NPO Energia in the capacity of the General Director (till June 1977) and General Designer (till January 1989) and being the chairman of the Council of Chief Designers, he provided general management of the activities of numerous companies and organizations under important projects related to the Soviet manned spaceflight.

V.P. Glushko became the head of NPO Energia during a trying period of its history. In May 1974 the work on N1-L3 system was virtually terminated, V.P.Mishin was dismissed from the post of the chief designer of TsKBM. The newly established NPO now also included Energomash design bureau together with its affiliates and a pilot-production plant, which for many years had been headed by Glushko. It took some time for Valentin Glushko to get along with the Energia staff. Although he, just like Korolev, went through a Stalins sharashka (special design bureau for convicts), and was one of the six members of the Council of Chief Designers created by Sergei Korolev, everybody also knew about the disagreements the new man in charge had had with Korolev and his team. Eyewitnesses to these events recall that at first he failed to get support even from the companys local communist party cell. During elections to the local party committee virtually half of the delegates voted against his election to the committee. But in just a few months after he started working at the company, the same staff gave Valentin Glushko the recommendation needed for election to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He managed to turn the situation around. By quickly becoming knowledgeable in all the fields of work the company was involved in, Glushko managed to gain respect of even those people who initially regarded him exclusively as the engine man. The companys employees appreciated the fact that he did not shut down any of the fields of work, dismissed not a single manager, not even the secretary in his outer office.

Valentin Glushko accomplished a lot of things in his capacity as the head of RSC Energia. His life was dedicated to the idea of full-scale lunar exploration and development of a new family of standardized launch vehicles: medium, heavy and super-heavy versions. All his life he was fighting for the lunar program. He wanted to carry out a large-scale lunar expedition. While he was in office, a new special field of work was established to develop lunar bases and manned lunar spacecraft which was headed by I.S. Prudnikov. But this undertaking, upon which NPO Energia and the country had embarked as early as when Korolev was still alive, for a number of reasons, including escalation of the arms race, failed to be realized.

With deliberate planning and perseverance V.P. Glushkov was heading towards development of the world's most powerful liquid rocket engine. While he was in office, the project of a family standardized space launch vehicles was developed. General designer Glushko provided a steady and competent technical decision-making, determining the main lines of companys activities and development of space technology. His approval signature was on the key documents defining the configuration of the third-generation orbital stations Salyut, space station Mir, Energia-Buran system, its launch vehicle and the orbiter. The work on the reusable space system Energia-Buran since 1976 for many years onwards became the main field of work of NPO Energia.

The development of the unique Energia-Buran system is to a great extent owing to Glushkos personal contribution. Developed under his direction were the radically new reusable manned orbiter Buran, RD-170 engines which were developed specially for Energia launch vehicle and were unparalleled in the world. As a result, mechanical properties of Buran not only were on par with the Space Shuttle, but for some parameters were actually superior. The project of Energia launch vehicle (with 4 Block A strap-on stages) capable of delivering up to 105 tons to low Earth orbit was implemented. There was a proposal to use 8 strap-on Block A stages to build up a super-heavy launch vehicle Vulkan with the upmass capability of up to 200 tons! With Glushko in the office, the work on the manned spaceflight also intensified: there was work done to improve manned spacecraft Soyuz, cargo spacecraft Progress, orbital stations Salyut, and to develop orbital complex Mir.

Many of the personal qualities of Valentin Glushko were sincerely admired by his colleagues. V.M. Filin recalls: Valentin Glushko wanted to use oxygen-kerosene engine in the first and second stages of launch vehicles, since he was convinced at the time, that the use of hydrogen fuel wasnt viable for those stages. I cant remember any other case where he was mistaken. But Glushko was a man of character, capable of admitting his mistake. Some time later he accepted hydrogen as rocket fuel for second stages of he rockets, having agreed with the proposals of their developers. Nothing was more important for him than the interests of the work he was doing. NPO Energia very quickly became his home and he accepted as his own all the problems of the company, standing up for its interests both in the ministry and in the Central Committee of the CPSU, he fought for contracts, ideas, new projects, having a clear vision of even distant prospects. I remember the first launch of Zenit launch vehicle. It was a big victory. Everybody was exulting. And Valentin Glushko said: I congratulate you on the start of work on a reusable space system. One had to be able to look far ahead in order to see behind this launch the tremendous work that still had to be done in order to reach the superpowerful Energia rocket. Valentin Glushko had a very quick grasp of everything, even of engineering issues that were unfamiliar to him. He never conflicted with anyone, the only thing he demanded of people was work, he wanted everyone to have a clear idea of the work they were doing. It was interesting to talk with V.P. Glushko, but during the talk one was always feeling tense: He could ask such a question that would immediately show the level of competency of the person he was talking to. And he also was not forgiving of people showing disrespect towards rocket and space technology. He fired one manager of a complex only because that man called the long-term orbital station a 'tin can'. For me V.P. Glushko was and remains a star of the first magnitude.

Valentin Petrovich Glushko was one of the best representatives of technical intelligentsia. He was the author of more than 250 scientific papers and inventions. It was under his direct editorship that the Encyclopedia of Cosmonautics was published, which for the first time put together in one book a tremendous amount of information on the subject.

 

 

Launches

October, 2018
The launch of LV Soyuz-FG with SC Soyuz MS-10 is planned
July 10, 2018
LV Soyuz-2.1a with SC Progress MS-09 is launched

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