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Sergei Pavlovych Korolyov: Bas-relief on the facade

Photo. Sergei Pavlovych Korolyov

The whole newspaper article is not enough to list all famous graduates of Kyiv Polytechnic Institute ( KPI). The name of academician Sergei Korolyov is always mentioned among the best, and surely – the first ones, as he was a notable engineer and scientist in the field of missile and space systems and opened the way to the space for the whole mankind, thus, became a true ‘father’ of the whole industry in the former USSR. The memorial plaque with the profile of Chief rocketry designer welcomes university entrants, students and professors at the entrance of the first, or for nearly a hundred and ten years so-known main building of NTUU ‘KPI’ .

The memorial auditorium named after Korolyov is situated on the first floor where even today the students of Mechanical Engineering Institute listen to their lectures; the faculty that was entered in 1924 by the school-leaver of Odessa specialized building school Sergei Korolyov.

However, it should be mentioned at once that Sergei Pavlovych studied at KPI only for the first two years of his student life and obtained his basic fundamental training here. In 1926 he transferred to Moscow Higher Technical School (now - Moscow State Technical University named after M. Bauman), and graduated in 1929, presenting his own real designing of two-place CK-4 plane with a light engine as a thesis project. The design of the plane had been started by Sergei Korolyov during his studies at KPI while at the time of graduation he was already passing flight tests.

However, the development of aviation in Ukraine, and particularly within KPI, was preceded by a range of historical events and facts. The main goal of the people directly involved in the foundation and development of aviation was flying by vehicles heavier than air. Firstly, these activities were seen as fun for individual enthusiasts. Nevertheless, later the aviation somehow turned to an extremely important technical and social phenomenon. The very KPI played an important role in addressing its challenges and distribution of the aviation-related ideas.

Ever since Kyiv Polytechnic Institute was established in 1898, 4 faculties were founded: mechanical, chemical, engineering and construction, and agricultural one.
And starting from 1899 the movement supporting the foundation of the fifth – aviation faculty, was started and led by one of the biggest aviation enthusiasts - professor Mykola Artemyev , a talented disciple of Mykola Zhukovsky. Meeting his initiative, the aviation section was organized within mechanical club of KPI in 1905-1906. The first honorary chairman of the section became professor Stepan Tymoshenko, and its vice-chairman – a student of the mechanical faculty – Victoryn Bobrov. In November 1908 the section was reorganized in aeronautic club with airplanes, helicopters, ornithopters and engines sections.

Already in 1907-1908 professor Artemyev conducted experiments with a ‘swing propeller’ model which was nothing but a steel flywheel on the vertical axis with spinning blades fixed on it. In winter 1908-1909 professor Artemyev with a famous aviator Borys Delone experienced large models of gliders (with a wingspan up to three meters), launching them with the help of catapult facilitated by a powerful spring from a carriage buffer. Subsequently, Mykola Artemyev jointly with KPI professor Alexander Kudashev participated in building first Kyiv glider and aircraft.

A passionate advocate of the ideas of aviation and gliding was KPI professor Mykola Delone, a son of aviation pioneer Borys Delone. Back in 1896 he began systematic experiments with gliding models in New Alexandria that is near Warsaw, where he headed the department at the Institute of Agriculture. Since the aeronautical section in KPI was launched, Mykola Delone became its permanent head, and later – of Kyiv Aeronautics Society (KAS), the founder of which he was. This first aviation center on the south of Russia united not only known at the time professors, engineers and designers, but also students of KPI who were in the forefront to pave the path to the sky.

The members of the club listened to the lectures of KPI professors and professors from the University of St. Vladymyr, presented essays and scientific reports on aviation issues, experienced aircrafts, kites, gliders, conducted experiments with a glider attached to a bicycle. Subsequently, the members of the club built one of the first towing gliders in Russia.

KPI aeronautics club led by professor Delone united round 200 enthusiasts. He himself organized and gave lectures on aeronautics. The club members studied theoretical principles and aviation machinery, tried to build gliders and airplanes. Among them were the students of KPI and future aviators Sikorsky, Bylinkin, Karpeka, Adler and others .

The exhibitions of Kyiv Aeronautics Society played an important role in promoting the ideas of aviation and aeronautics. In January 1911 in the premises of the Public Library the first aeronautics exhibition was opened. Among the exhibits on display the most attention was attracted by a monoplane conducted by the student of KPI Igor Sikorsky, and already tried in a series of test flights.

Kyiv designers were building their experimental aircrafts in the aerogarage of Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, in their own handicraft workshops, at the airport in a small hangar, and the repair works were conducted in aircraft workshops of KPI.

Among the founders of Ukrainian aviation brothers Eugene, Gregory, Andriy and Ivan Kasyanenko, the natives of Cherkassy, can be justly named.

The notable figure in the development of aviation in Kyiv became Dmytro Grigorovych - a later known Soviet aircraft constructor. In 1912 another student of KPI, Yordan, started to build his own single-seater - bimonoplan designed for ‘Hakka’ engine of 35 hp. Due to the lack of funds the work proceded slowly, and was completely stopped at the end of 1913.

The beginning of World War I greatly affected the development of aviation. Aeronautics club of KPI stopped its work as the majority of its members had been mobilized to aviation units. Yet since 1915 the works in the field of aviation were renewed in KPI.

Since 1920, headed by an energetic rector Victoryn Bobrov, KPI saw substantial restructurion with important changes in the educational process, reequipping of material resources of the Institute, and upgrading the whole management. The experiemantal laboratory of engines and aviation was designed in the main building just under the assembly hall on the initiative of professor Bobrov and subsequently became a training and production base for introducing aviation specialization at the mechanical department of KPI. Since 1922 the work of the aeronautics club was resumed and next year it turned into aviation scientific and technical community. The aviation department is later launched in KPI.

It was during this period of great enthusiasm and admiration of aviation that Sergei Korolyov entered KPI in 1924.

However, his interest in aviation began much earlier. The first impulse to it was received by the future chief designer of space technology during his childhood, which could reasonably be called early. The impressions from a demonstration flight over the market square in Nizhin performed by Sergei Utochkin in summer 1910 became this impulse.
By the way, little Sergei Korolev was brought to Nizhin by his mother Maria Mykolaiivna from Zhytomyr, where he was born and spent the first two years of his life. Little Sergei Korolyov, who was brought to admire this wonderful spectacle by his grandparents, he lived with during some time, was only three and a half years at that time, but the memories of the event remained with him during the whole lifetime. And half a century later, in the early sixties he talked about the flight of Utochkin in all details to a group of pilots - candidates for admission to the cosmonaut party.

The real opportunity to get acquainted with aviation and pilots Sergei Korolyov received at the early twenties in Odessa, where his family moved. There, in Hlibna harbor the 3rd hydroaviation squad of the Black Sea Fleet Hydro-3 had its base. Here Sergei Korolyov got his first opportunity to take a precise look at the real aircraft, and later help the pilots and mechanics with their technical maintenance (these were flying boats of M-9 D.Hryhorovych design), and, a little bit later – even sometimes fly, surely, as a passenger or a flight mechanic assistant.

In the general promotion of aviation in the country all sorts of aviation courses, clubs and sections quickly emerged, and the centres of The society of air fleet appeared even in the Soviet branches abroad. Surely, the department of this society could not but be opened in Odessa , a city inhabited by many people who not only remembered the first flights of Sergei Utochkin but knew him personally, It was the city where not a large but real aircraft factory has been working since 1913. Sergei Korolyov also became a member of the society. All in all, the slogans about the wings and the country’s necessity to build its own air fleet became only additional confirmation of the seriousness of Korolyov’s interests and created an additional opportunity for the realization of his dreams. So, soon a new hobby called gliders emerged.

Summer 1923 became the time of first acquaintance with specialized literature for Sergei Korolyov, quite a lot of which was received by the Society of aeronautics fleet friends. Some of the books came from Germany and were devoted to certain issues of designing aircraft, stabilization, load calculations etc. The main obstacle for most new aviation supporters was the language of the books. Sergei himself suggested to translate one of the works in order to prepare a lecture on its basis . He studied German in building specialized school, what’s more, the topic interested him much, so he plunged into work. His stepfather helped him as well, as sometime studied in Germany and knew the language perfectly well. In a few weeks Sergei Korolyov delivered his first speech in the Society of Aviation and Aeronautics of Ukraine and the Crimea (SAAUC), and starting from the fall he actually became a staff lecturer of the Society. He gave lectures to the employees of enterprises and institutions, conducted discussions on the liquidation of ‘aviailliteracy’ in the port city and its surrounding villages. The work at the Society made him more persistent in his studies and he became one of the first student to learn German. Moreover, despite his natural turn and overall marked brilliant skills to exact sciences, his grades were sometimes far from being brilliant. Sergei treated this work very seriously, especially because additionally to some pleasure, it brought him some income. It was very important because the family had hard times, and asking his stepfather for money on various youth needs was embarrassing. But his lecture activities still did not satisfy him. He wanted a real work meaning to create gliders and pilot them. He has already understood that nothing could be build out of a sudden and required real theoretical knowledge and many skills. Even more convincing was his acquaintance with ‘projects’ that were daily brought and sent to Odessa this is his familiarity with the " project " that brought daily and sent to Odessa SAAUC branch by numerous enthusiasts. So, he came down to work only in late 1923, thoroughly having prepared and carefully giving thoughts to his plans. The work on his own project became leading for him for some time, although the final exmas in building school were approaching. But these very months finally added to his life choice: it sould be nothing but aviation! Especially, when his project of ‘motorless aircraft’ K-5 was adopted by the Society

In those days, people who worked in aviation, were designers, engineers and pilots at the same time. So, Sergei’s greatest desire was to enter Moscow Air Force Academy as this educational establishment was considered to be the best one among his friend-aviators from Hlibna harbor. The achievements of its graduates were described in newspapers, and after all, the most prominent scientists and experts in this sphere worked there. His obstacle was age as the Academy accepted only regular junior officers, soldiers, and even his experience of working in SAAUC and Black Sea motorless aviation group, which had been formed in Odessa and where Sergei Korolyov was chosen as a deputy head, did not help: his documents were not accepted.

His stepfather Grygoriy Mykhailovych Balanin helped to make a final choice. He himself graduated from Kyib Polytechnic Institute in 1913 and knew about the school of Kyiv aviaconstructors very well.

... In his statement to the Admission Committee of Kyiv Polytechnic Institute Sergei Korolyov wrote: "... finished the first specialized building school in Odessa. During my studies I got practice by working as a tiler assistant during reparing works. During one year and eight months I worked in the design section of province department of the Society of Aviation and Aeronautics of Ukraine and the Crimea.I designed a motorless aircraft of original construction K -5. The project and design of the aircraft was considered appropriate for the building after the check of all calculations and sent for approval in Kharkiv ... In addition, during the whole year I ran gliding sections in the port administration and at the factory named after Marti and Badin. All the necessary knowledge of higher mathematics and special aeronautics was gained on my own, using the pointers in technical literature section only... ".

However, even these rather serious for such a young age achievements, first were not convincing enough for the members of Admission Committee of the Institute o adoprt the entrant from Odessa, although as a leaver of such a specialized educational establishment as a specialized building school, complemented by a profound aviation training, he had the right for it. Once again the age became an obstacle together with the absence of working experience. He had to turn to the provincial branch of the trade union of education workers, a member of which he was a lecturer of SAAUC, to get a document (at that time the document was officially called ‘mission’) in order to study. Moreover, an unexpected assistance was provided by a member of the Admission Committee, academician Mikhailo Kravchuk. Being an outstanding mathematician and the head of mathematics department of KPI, he was always attentive to the entrants and had a gut for talented people. By the way, it was Kravchuk who first spotted a future academician in a common country boy Arhyp Liul’ka who arrived to enroll to a technical school, and subsequently became an outstanding designer of aircraft engines. But so far Sergei Korolyov was lucky enough to become a full-time member of the aviation faculty of KPI.

Kyiv was not absolutely alien to Korolyov. Here he lived with his mother when being very young, later - with his grandparents who had moved from Nizhin, now his uncles lived here. By the way, in the apartment of one of them, a mother's brother Yurii Mykolayovych Moskalenko, on Kostelna 6, he found his first shelter. Getting to the university was not very convenient. A little bit later Sergei managed to rent a place closer to the university - on Baggovutivska street. The newspaper expedition, where he got his job as a press delivery man, was located quite close to KPI – on the corner of Volodymyrs’ka and Fundukleiivs’ka streets. Korolyov, as a majority of his groupmates, made his own living. Moreover, as a person of non-proletarian origin, he had to pay a tuition fee. No scholarship could be delivered to him as only former labour faculty students could get it.
So, Sergei did not hesitate any work: he could even unload freight trains at the railway station or starred in a crows scene of ‘Trypillia tragedy’ shot by Yalta film studio/

On the other hand, studies played the main role in Sergei Korolyov’s life. The traditions of Kyiv Polytechnic Institute established by the first recto Victor Kyrpychov, were alive. The main basis of the professors also left after the civil war. It meant that from the very first days in 1921 the educational establishment fully functioned. In KPI, the same to other leading higher technical establishments in Europe, the students not a narrow specialization but profound natural-scientific basic qualifications in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and other disciplines, inclusing humanities, which were complemented by general engineering courses.
This system was sometime used in the famous Paris Polytechnic school ‘Ecole Polytechnic’, founded in 1795 by the Convention of the French Republic, Aachen, Vienna, Magdeburg technical universities, Moscow higher technical school and other world-famous establishments of higher technical education. Starting from June 1923 the compulsory element of education became summer vocational practice during 2-2,5 years: after the first course – in educationcal workshops, after the second and third – at industrial enterprises.

Korolyov studied well,
according to the memoirs of his groupmates – always came to classes well-prepared, often answered at the blackboard, was never distracted by unnecessary things, and therefore often got his credits, as today's students say, ‘automatically’ – based on the results of the work during semester. Classes were challenging, yet interesting because general technical courses were led not only by teachers, but active scholars that could not but impose a mark on the course of the learning process.
Scientific student clubs and workshops with sections organized by faculty specialities were constantly strengthening ties bonds with reviving enterprises and organizations. In 1925, the institute hosted even ‘exploration of space section’ which included not only students but enthusiastic professors. Its main passion was aviation, especially as the gliding club of KPI, a member of which Sergei Korolyov became in the early days of his student life, worked very actively at that time.

At that time, the institute glider pilots were involved not only in the designing but also the construction of their vehicles.
The thing is that two senior KPI developments- a record glider KPIR -4 and training - KPIR 3 - were chosen as the winners of the All-Ukrainian contest of projects and record training gliders, and the club-members started to prepare them for annual competition in Koktebel. In addition to these gliders, the Institute glider KPIR -1 was being restored and they were constructing its upgraded version KPIR - 1bis. There was enough work for all amateurs of motorless aviation, and it was a certain indicator of students’ dreams power about the sky. Korolyov worked with dedication and skill, and this is where his skills gained at Hlibna harbor and Odessa specialized building school were useful. What is more, in practice he could try what was told by professors and written in books. But he still felt that was not what he wanted: the Institute had formed a strong team of constructors that was difficult to enter for a newcomer who was moreover younger than most of its members.. However, the hours spent in aviaworkshops promised to turn to summer independent flights because there was a democratic iron rule in the club: only those who built could fly. And in the summer of 1925 he first felt himself to be a pilot.

... Institute glider pilots trained on the former Skakove field - a place where a few years later Kyiv film studio would appear, and later – in the building of the publishing house ‘Media of Ukraine’ and the building of the subway station ‘Shuliavska’. The area was flat, so no ascending flows were discussed. The gliders were launched from shock absorbers, so often the flights were not very long, but those moments defined the lives of many. Not only future pilots made their first steps here, but also engineers, who later would give all their strength to the development of aviation. Give, despite all the obstacles and setbacks.

By the way, here, during one of the first flights, Sergei Korolyov ran into a predicament: his glider began to lose speed, meaning also control, and eventually collided with a steel pipe that was sticking out from the pile of construction debris at the edge of the field. Fortunately, no serious injuries were caused to both the pilot and the machine, and in a few days when the glider was repaired, and Korolyov – healed, he returned to the flights .

Фото. Корольов Сергiй ПавловичThe second year with its studies and trainings passed very quickly. Sergei Korolev felt how much he gained during these two years at Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, but he clearly understood that only began to approach the implementation of his plans. However, now he clearly saw his mistakes in the first and never finished glider K-5, and wanted to undertake a more serious construction. He started to think about Moscow Air Force Academy, though he was aware that military service with its precise regulation and rigid system of orders was not something that could make it possible to implement all his projects. But Andrei Tupolev whom Korolyov considered to be the best constructor in the country, worked in Moscow, as well as other well-known throughout the state scientists and engineers. That was the city with Central Aero-Hydrodynamic Institute of M. Zhukovskiy (famous CAHI), which conducted the latest research in the field of aviation in close contact with enterprises. Moreover, it was the year when his mother and stepfather were moved to Moscow. In one of the first letters from a new place they told him that the aviation branch opened in Moscow Higher Technical School named after M. E. Bauman. It was the final argument in favor of the transfer, and in summer 1926 Sergei Korolyov applied a statement of his transfer to Moscow Higher Technical School. No problems concerning the inconsistency of qualifications rose, and in September he was admitted to the third year of school ...

A new life started. New developments were waiting ahead: first, gliders, including record-bearing ‘Koktebel’ and ‘Red Star’, later - aircraft, cruise missiles, experimental aircraft with rocket engines. The acquaintance with Friedrich Zander was waiting for him, work in the Group studying jet propulsion (GSJP), continuous research and discoveries. Terrible unjust accusations and repressions, a working camp and work in ‘sharashka’ – a design organization, where convicted engineers and scientists worked, rehabilitation and new developments. Geophysical missiles and strategic missiles, the first satellites and the appearance of piloted astronautics ... The greatest discovery of XX century was lying ahead as well: the space conquest.

Positions, scholar ranks, titles and the highest state award ... And then - the recognition and worldwide fame posthumously as Korolyov remained a ‘secret’ academician till the end of his life. It all followed. But the first starting point of this happy and tragic life was Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, where daily classes are held in a memorial room named after S. Korolyov and where the memory of a prominent constructor is preserved in a monument. The State Polytechnic Museum exhibits a glorious way of the space conqueror in a separate exposure, and where a man who changed the world, is kept in memory on the modest relief on the facade of a historic building of KPI.

by M. Z. Zgurovsky, Rector of NTUU ‘KPI’


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