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Beginning of the Space Era

After the end of the Second World War, the USSR was in need of the powerful rockets which could cover the distance of thousands of kilometers, ascending to space. Results achieved by rocket builders in 1930s were re-thought and the branch had risen to the new height. New powerful rocket engines appeared together with the technologies which allowed the rocket to transport great loads, both civil and military. Finally, in 1957 we stepped out of the atmosphere and the word Sputnik became understandable in all the languages of the world. We have sent pets to space, who have reached the orbit and furthermore have come back successfully. At this moment of time, we were just one step behind of the most important event.

Empty bottle of French champagne with a cork, 1959

In 1957, after the launch of the first artificial Earth satellite, the French winemaker Henri Maire made a bet with the Soviet consul that satellites will continue to fly, but no one will ever see the far side of the moon.

And when the photograph that was taken by «Luna-3» on October 4, 1959, appeared in all newspapers around the world, the winemaker acknowledged his defeat and sent a thousand bottles of champagne to the USSR Academy of Sciences. It was in December, just before the New Year. The bottles were handed out to participants of the «Luna-3» project. The champagne was consumed, the bottles were thrown away, and the story was forgotten until 1979, when after the information appeared in the press, Natalia Koroleva started to look for these bottles. It turned out that the former secretary of Sergei Korolev accidentally preserved one of those. This bottle is a true witness of the triumph of Soviet technology.

From the private collection of N.S. Korolevа

Liquid rocket engine ORM-1 (experimental rocket engine). Model, section. Scale 1:1. USSR, Moscow region, Khimki. 1955−1958

This is the first engine in the ORM series which had more than a hundred modifications in less than 10 years. It was developed at the Gas Dynamics Laboratory led by Valentin Glushko. Along with the engines developed by Friedrich Zander (OR-1 and OR-2), the ORM-1 model was the ancestor of the Soviet liquid rocket engines. It worked on a mix of gasoline and liquid oxygen and developed a thrust of up to 20 kgf. Its key parts were made out of steel and plated with copper. The engine used the static water cooling system, had a certain number of functional modifications of (for example, non-return valves) and gold plating for protection against corrosion. The ORM-65 engine, that was developed five years later and passed flight tests in rocket planes and ballistic missiles, was considered to be the most successful in the ORM series.

From the collection of the Polytechnic Museum

Liquid rocket engine ORM-52 (experimental rocket engine). Model, section. Scale 1:1. USSR, Moscow region, Khimki. 1955−1963

This liquid rocket engine was developed in 1933 at the Gas Dynamics Laboratory led by Valentin Glushko. It became one of the most powerful high-thrust engines in the early ORM series. It worked on a mixture of kerosene and nitric acid, and developed quite a significant thrust for its time — 300 kgf. Because of this, the ORM-52 engine was used in one of the first experimental liquid-propellant rockets — RLA-2. According to the project, the rocket had to rise vertically, reach an altitude of 4 kilometers and then release a parachute with meteorological instruments located on its head. On the wave of success of the ORM-52 engine, some more powerful liquid rocket engines were developed after a series of tests: from ORM-53 to ORM-70, which could produce up to 600 kgf of thrust.

From the collection of the Polytechnic Museum

Liquid rocket engine RD-119. Model, section. Scale 1: 1. USSR, Moscow region, Khimki. 1962

Since 1962, the RD-119 engine was used in the second stage of one of the «Kosmos» launch vehicles (63S1). They were built to bring the small unmanned spacecraft on the elliptical and circular Earth orbits. The single-chamber RD-119 ran on a mixture of liquid oxygen and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine. It developed a thrust of up to 11000 kgf, and a specific impulse of 3450 m/s, which was very high for this kind of fuel, though still less than in the oxygen-hydrogen engines. Also, in this engine, the titanium alloys were used for the first time as the material for its combustion chambers. This allowed the engineers to reduce the weight of the chamber, despite the significant increase in the diameter of the nozzle. Nevertheless, it created a number of difficulties at the production stage and lead to the modification of existing technologies of titanium production.

From the collection of the Polytechnic Museum

RD-108 liquid rocket engine for R-7 rocket and «Soyuz» launch vehicles. Full-size model, 1986−1988

Th RD-108 liquid rocket engine was developed at the experimental design bureau between 1954 and 1957. It is, in fact, a modification of the RD-107 engine with four additional combustion chambers. The engine runs on a mixture of kerosene and liquid oxygen and develops a thrust of up to 90000 kgf. Both RD-107 and RD-108 were designed for the intercontinental ballistic rocket R-7, which was the first successfully tested missile of this kind in the world. On the basis of R-7, a whole family of rockets was built. They played the key role in the early stages of space exploration and put into orbit the first artificial Earth satellite, the first animal, and the first human — Yuri Gagarin. Nowadays several missiles from the P-7 family, equipped with the modifications of RD-107 (first stage) and RD-108 (second stage) are still used in space programs. Since the steering engines were not designed by Glushko’ s design bureau, they are not installed on this model.

From the collection of «NPO Energomash»

SB-3 Solar Battery, 1958

This battery was one of the first used in the history of space exploration. In 1954, the engineers of Bell Laboratories created the first sustainable solar panel. Only 4 years later the USSR and the United States almost simultaneously (March 17 and May 15 respectively) launched artificial Earth satellites, which already had solar panels on board. The «Sputnik-3» was such satellite from the Soviet side. It was equipped with a small beacon, which had to check the capacity of the solar panels. This idea proved to be successful: even after all the chemical power sources got exhausted, the beacon continued to regularly send the signal. This fact experimentally confirmed the feasibility of using solar panels on the spacecraft. By the way, currently, solar panels are the only main source of power on the International Space Station.

From the collection of the Tsiolkovsky State Museum of the History of Cosmonautics, Kaluga