Gas Dynamics Laboratory

Gas Dynamics Laboratory


the first Soviet rocketry research and development organization. Created in the war department in Moscow in 1921 on the initiative of N. I. Tikhomirov for the development of rockets based on smokeless powder. Moved to Leningrad in 1927. Smokeless powder based on a nonvolatile solvent (trinitrotoluene-pyroxylin) in blocks of great thickness was developed in the laboratory. From 1927 to 1933, propellant launching of light and heavy aircraft (the U-l, the Tb-1, and others) and rockets of several calibers and various designs, for launching from the ground and from aircraft, were developed there. After certain modifications were made at the Jet Propulsion Scientific Research Institute, the rockets were used in the guards’ “Katiusha” rocket launchers during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45. N. I. Tikhomirov, V. A. Artem’ev, B. S. Petropavlovskii, and G. E. Langemak played the main creative role in this work.

In 1929 a subdivision of the laboratory was formed, in which the first electric rocket motor in the world and the first Soviet liquid-fuel rocket motor were developed (under the direction of V. P. Glushko). From 1930 to 1933 a family of liquid-fuel rocket motors—from the ORM and ORM-1 to the ORM-52, with a thrust of up to 3,000 newtons (approximately 300 kilograms-force)—was produced. In 1930, nitric acid and its solutions with nitric tetroxide, as well as perchloric acid, tetranitromethane, and hydrogen peroxide, were proposed for the first time as oxidants for rocket fuel, and beryllium and other metals were proposed as the propellant; ceramic heat insulation was made for combustion chambers using zirconium dioxide; and a shaped nozzle was designed. A self-igniting fuel, chemical ignition, and universal-joint engine mounting were developed in 1931, a year in which about 50 stationary test firings of liquid-fuel rocket motors were held. Reciprocating fuel pumps driven by gas taken from the combustion chamber were developed and tested in 1931-32, and in 1933 a turbine-pump assembly with centrifugal fuel pumps for an engine of 3,000 newtons’ thrust was developed. The engineers and technicians A. L. Malyi, V. I. Serov, E. N. Kuz’min, I. I. Kulagin, E. S. Petrov, P. I. Minaev, B. A. Kutkin, V. P. Iukov, and N. G. Chernyshev, under the direction of the designer V. P. Glushko, participated actively in the creation of electric and liquid-fuel rocket motors in the laboratory.

In late 1933 the laboratory became part of the Jet Propulsion Scientific Research Institute.

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the experimental design group, which formed from the Gas Dynamics Laboratory and where powerful propulsion rockets were later developed for all types of Soviet spacecraft, memorial plaques were placed on the buildings of the Main Admiralty and the Ioann Ravelin of the Peter and Paul Fortress (Leningrad) at the location of the laboratory in the 1930’s. Taking into account the laboratory’s basic contribution to the development of rocket technology, a commission of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR named a crater chain 1,100 km long on the far side of the moon after the laboratory and named ten craters after workers in the laboratory.


Petrovich, G. V. Razvitie raketostroeniia v SSSR, parts 1-2. Moscow, 1968.
Petrovich, G. V. Raketnye dvigateli, GDL-OKB, 1929-69. Moscow, 1969.
Kosmonavtika: Malen’kaia entsiklopediia, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1970.
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