Rocketry has a long history in Russia and the Soviet Union, from the theoretical designs of
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, through the space race of the '50s and '60s, to the modern day Soyuz vehicles
that service the International Space Station. Along the way, there have been some decidedly odd, as
well as some highly successful designs -- all with a distinctly different design philosophy to those of the West.
As a model rockecteer, the challenge has been to build these sometimes complex designs in miniature and to get them to fly. Below are my efforts so far.
Proposed rocket based on the designs of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who is regarded as the father of Soviet rocketry.
This model will be based on the two BT-80 nose cones available from Estes.
1/4 scale model of the Soviet experimental rocket GIRD-X, scratch-built
from spare parts. The nose is balsa (originally from Balsa Machining Services),
the fins are a composite of a balsa core and paper outer surface. The body tube is BT-55.
The original was built by GIRD (Group for the Study of Reactive Motion),
and flown in 1933.
The model flies on a C6-3.
Scratch-built 1/5th (approx.) scale model of the Soviet Leningrad GIRD Razumov-Shtern LRD-D-1(1934).
original was intended to be flown with two canted nozzles on a gimbal that would produce a gyroscopic effect for stability.
Unfortunately, it only ever flew with a single solid rocket engine.
The body of this model is BT-80 tubing, the nose is a glass fibre version of the Estes nose cone and the fins are 1/4" balsa. The rocket
flies on a D12-3, and is one of my best flyers.
Due to body-size constraints, the parachute is in the nose.
Scratch-built 1/12th approximation of the Soviet GIRD-07 (1934).
Inspired from an image in Peter Alway's Retro Rockets book (see resources, below). Apart from the "all fins" design,
the original was also notable for the propellant tanks being within the fins -- as depicted on the sketch below.
The model is based around a BT-20 tube and has balsa fins. Powered by an A3-4T engine,
the first (unpainted) version suffered fin burn-through due to
vectored thrusting caused by the Estes engine clip.
The second, successful, version was painted in high temperature paint, intended for car engines,
and uses tumble recovery (ejecting the engine). It is shown here with an additional layer of acrylic flat aluminum paint,
Balance is a major issue, as the centre of pressure shifts in flight. Too little nose mass can
cause a looping trajectory into powered gliding.
Obviously, fin alignment is also critical.
Scratch-built 1/4th scale model of the Soviet ANIR-5, from Design Bureau KB-7 (1938).
Originally designed to test gyroscopic stabilization, the model was a challenge to balance, due to the
purposefully smaller fins. It is based on BT-55 tubing, with balsa nose, boad-tail and fins, plus styrene channel sections for the
components on either side of the body.
The model flies on a C6-3.
The R2 missle owes much of its external design features to the German V2. However, this rocket was longer, had a greater range
and greater payload capability. Flying for the first time in 1950, this design integrated the fuel tanks with the outer skin,
(making it lighter) as well as having a more powerful engine.
The model is based on a BT-55 body tube, balsa nose, boat-tail and fins. It is intended to fly on 13mm engines.
Scratch-built semi-scale model of the Vostok/R7 vehicle that launched
Yuri Gagarin into orbit on April 12th 1961, making him the first man in space.
This is a 1.35x upscale of Peter Alway's simplified Vostok and was built specifically
for a Gagarin anniversary launch at the Edmonton Odyssium (Space and
Science Centre) on April 12th 2003. It is a bit more dimensionally correct
than the smaller version, has a lot more detail, and flies gracefully on a D12-3.
The model is based around a BT-55 body tube and all the conical sections are made from the sort of higher-weight shiny paper
that is used for magazine covers.
The nose was custom-turned from bass wood by Craig Makarowski, the
capsule is made from oven-fired modelling clay and the
inter-stage trussing is carbon fibre rod.
To get the centre of mass forward, all available space above the inter-stage trussing is filled with epoxy resin.
Scratch-built scale model of the Soviet Small Cosmos payload-lifting vehicle. These rockets
started flying in 1962.
The model is based around BT-80 body tubes, with a hand-made balsa nose and large balsa fins (which are not
part of the original vehicle and simply stabilize the model).
interstage section is open and the struts fully modelled; BT-50 tubing, disguised as the upper-stage motor nozzle,
is used to pass the ejection charge through to the nose/payload section). At close to
4ft tall, this model was built to be as light as possible. It flies on a D12-3.
Energia-Buran, the Soviet Space Shuttle only flew once, in 1988. The program ended with the collapse of the
Unlike the US Shuttle, this system consisted of two distinct components. Energia was a stand-alone launch vehicle, consisting
of a central stage and four boosters. As such, it was envisaged as a multi-use system capable of launching various payloads.
The Buran orbiter piggy-backed onto Energia, but did not draw fuel from it.
The model is completely scratch-built from spare parts. Energia is based on a BT-60 body tube, with a modified Estes "Big Bertha"
nose cone. The boosters are BT-20, with Estes conical nose cones. The grey components on the boosters are built up from sections of
1/32" balsa formed to fit the tubes.
Buran is built from balsa. The nose (to just behind the windows) is solid: the cargo section is a series of bulkheads and a
wrap of 1/32" balsa. All the engine bells are made from paper.
As yet, this is unfinished, requiring a motor-mount for 18mm engines. The engine-bells on the boosters are removeable, so that
fin units can be attached for flight.
The Soyuz spacecraft has been the work-horse of the Soviet and Russian
space program since the late 1960s. It has linked with Apollo, supported the MIR space station and is currently
used to supply cosmonauts to the International Space Station.
The launch vehicle is clearly based on the R7 system that was used for Sputnik and Vostok (above), with its central
core and four strap-on boosters.
The model depicts Soyuz-TMA, the latest varient of this system. It is based on BT-60 tubing (for the lower
section of the central core) and BT-70 tubing (for the upper sections of the
central core and the lower sections of tbe boosters). All the conical sections are made from heavy drawing
paper, with a wrap of 3/4 oz glass fibre cloth. All the tubes are also glassed.
It is designed for 29mm motors.
Rockets of the World
1999, Saturn Press
1996, Saturn Press
In the Shadow of the V-2
2000, Saturn Press
Soviet Rocketry: Past, Present and Future
1970, Holt, Rinehart and Winston
The Encyclopedia of Soviet Spacecraft
1987, Bison Books
ISBN: 0 86124 350 1
Robert Godwin (Editor: English Edition)
Rocket and Space Corporation Energia
2001, Apogee Books
2006, Apogee Books
Bart Hendrickx & Bert Vis
Energiya-Buran The Soviet Sapce Shuttle
2007, Praxis Publishing