Iurii Kondratiuk

Kondratiuk, Iurii Vasil’evich


Born June 9 (21), 1897, in Poltava; died 1942. One of the pioneers of modern space exploration.

Kondratiuk graduated from the Gymnasium in Poltava in 1916. In early 1917 he became interested in the problems of interplanetary travel and soon thereafter completed work on a manuscript devoted to those problems (To Those Who Will Read in Order to Build, 1919), in which, independently of K. E. Tsiolkovskii, he deduced by an original method the basic equation of motion for a rocket and gave a diagram and description of a four-stage rocket using oxyhydrogen fuel; the combustion chamber of the engine, with oxidizer and fuel nozzles arranged in a checkerboard pattern, as well as other configurations; a paraboloid nozzle, turbine-pump assembly for fuel feed; regulators; and a gyroscopic guidance system driving a rotating nozzle outlet and using flotation gyroscopes for attitude control. In this work Kondratiuk proposed the use of atmospheric drag to brake a rocket during descent to conserve fuel; insertion of a spacecraft into orbit around a planet’s satellites to save fuel during flights to heavenly bodies and the use of a small excursion vehicle for landing personnel on the surface of a planet and returning them to the spacecraft; the use of spacecraft supply bases in lunar orbit or on the lunar surface; extraction of fuel from lunar rock through the use of solar energy; and the use of a heavenly body’s own gravitational field to accelerate or brake an approaching spacecraft. In that work he also discussed the use of solar energy collected by mirror concentrators to satisfy a spacecraft’s power needs and a system of large mirrors in satellite orbit to illuminate planets, to change their climate, or for interplanetary signaling; and electrostatic rocket engines using cathode rays, powdered propellants, and fine sprays of liquids.

Kondratiuk’s book The Conquest of Interplanetary Space, in which he gave the sequence of the first stages of space exploration, was published in Novosibirsk in 1929. Most of the problems mentioned above were treated in greater detail, and a number of additional proposals were made, including the use of rockets and artillery to supply artificial satellites from earth and the use of certain metals with great combustion heat and of metalloids and their hydrogen compounds, particularly boron hydrates, as rocket fuel. He also studied the problem of thermal protection of spacecraft in the atmosphere. His descriptions of some of the compartments of an interplanetary spacecraft and of its flight and stabilization controls are also of scientific and practical interest. In Kondratiuk’s works a number of problems of rocket dynamics, rocket production, and space exploration were given new solutions, many of which have been used in the subsequent development of space exploration.

Along with his work on problems of space exploration, Kondratiuk is also known for his inventive work in industrial power engineering. A crater on the far side of the moon has been named in his honor.


In Pionery tekhniki Kibal’chich, Tsiolkovskii, Tsander, Kondratiuk: Izbr. trudy. Moscow, 1964.