Tag Archives: Hero of the Soviet Union

14 August 1931

Tupolev ANT-14 CCCP N1001, Pravda (Правда)
Mikhail Mihaylovich Gromov

14 August 1931: The Tupolev ANT-14 made its first flight, piloted by famed Russian aviator Mikhail Mikhaylovich Gromov (Михаил Михайлович Громов). It was the largest aircraft of its time, and was capable of carrying up to 32 passengers on long-distance flights.

The ANT-14 was designed by a team led by Andrei Nikolayevich Tupolev. It was an all-metal high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. The wings and fuselage were covered in corrugated duralumin. The design of the aircraft took three months. This was possible as components of earlier Tupolev aircraft were included in the new aircraft. Tupolev paid special attention to the safety and comfort of the passengers, using features from railroad passenger cars.

The flight crew consisted of two pilots and a navigator. Two flight attendants were in the passenger cabin. Seating was arranged in nine rows of four seats, with a central aisle.

The ANT-14 was 26.49 meters (86.91 feet) long with a wingspan of 40.40 meters (132.55 feet and height of 5.02 meters (16.47 feet). The total wing area was 240.00 square meters (2,583.34 square feet). The transport’s empty weight was 10,828 kilograms (23,872 pounds) and its gross weight was 17,530 kilograms (38,647 pounds). The wings contained four fuel tanks with a capacity of 2,000 kilograms of gasoline (about 2,650 liters, or 700 gallons).

A.N. Tupolev ANT-14, Pravda.

The ANT-14 was powered by five engines, with one mounted at the nose, and two on each wing. They were air-cooled, supercharged 28.628 liter (1,746.991 cubic inch displacement) Établissements Gnome et Rhône Jupiter 9 Akx nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 5.15:1, a licensed version of the British Bristol Aeroplane Company’s Jupiter VI engine. The Gnome-Rhône 9 Akx produced 476 chaval vapeur (470 horsepower) at 1,870 r.p.m., and drove two-bladed fixed-pitch propellers through gear reduction. The direct-drive Gnome-Rhône 9 Ak variant weighed 301 kilograms (664 pounds).

(Gnome-Rhône had a production facility in St. Petersburg. In 1928, Wladimir Klimov purchased 200 Jupiter 9 engines, and a license to produce them. The Soviet version of the Jupiter 9 was designated Shvetsov M-22. It is not known whether the ANT-14’s engines were built by Gnome-Rhône or Shvetsov.)

Andrei Nikolayevich Tupolev

The ANT-14 had a maximum speed of 195 kilometers per hour (121 miles per hour) at low altitude, and 236 kilometers per hour (147 miles per hour) at high altitude. Its cruising speed was 204 kilometers per hour (127 miles per hour). The airplane’s service ceiling was  4,220 meters (13.845 feet), and its range was 400 kilometers (249 miles).

Designer Tupolev was pleased with the new airplane, saying, “Look, he is handsome, and in the plane the external form is the most important part.”

Aeroflot (Аэрофлот), the Soviet airline, tested the aircraft in 1932 but as they had no need for an airplane so big, none were ordered. The single ANT-14 was then named Pravda (Правда—”Truth”) and used as a propaganda tool for the Communist government. It was flown for ten years and during that time, carried more than 40,000 passengers.

Tupolev ANT-14, CCCP-N1001. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

Mikhail Mikhaylovich Gromov was born 24 February 1899, at Tver, about 110 miles (180 kilometers) northwest of Moscow. He was the son of Mikhail Konstantinovich Gromov, an “intellectual” who had studied medicine at Moscow University, and Lyubov Ignayevna Gromov, a midwife. The family were of the nobility, but poor.

Mikhail M. Gromov, circa 1917.

The younger Gromov attended the Resurrection Real School, and then the Moscow Higher Technical School for Aviation. He graduated in 1917. Gromov was taught to fly by Boris Konstantinovich Welling, a pioneer in Russian long-distance flights. After working as a flight instructor, Gromov began test flying. He became the chief test pilot for the Tupolev Design Bureau. By the outbreak of World War II, he had test flown twenty-five different airplanes.

In 1926, Gromov made a non-stop long-distance flight in a Tupolev ANT-3, from Moscow via Berlin, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Prague, Warsaw and back to Moscow. The flight took 34 hours. In 1934, he flew a Tupolev ANT-25 12,411 kilometers (7,712 miles) in a closed circuit over 75 hours. For this accomplishment, he was named a Hero of the Soviet Union.

From 12–14 July 1937, Gromov set a world record for distance in a straight line, flying an ANT-25 from Moscow to San Jacinto, California, a distance of 10,148 kilometers (6,306 miles).¹ The duration of this flight was 62 hours, 17 minutes.

Lieutenant Colonel Mikhail Mikhaylovich Gromov, c. 1939.

In March 1941, Gromov became the first director of the Flight Research Institute at Zhukovsky, southeast of Moscow. The Institute was later named the M.M. Gromov Flight Research Institute, in his honor.

In 1942, during The Great Patriotic War, Gromov commanded the Soviet long range air forces on the Kalinin Front. He next commanded the 3rd Air Army, 1942–1943, and the 1st Air Army, 1943–1944. In 1945, he returned to test flying.

Following the War, Gromov continued to work in the aviation industry, but following a disagreement with the  Minister of Aviation, Pyotr Vasilyevich Dementiev, over the issue of quality vs. quantity and the safety of the test pilots, he retired. Later, he entered politics and was twice elected to the Supreme Soviet.

During his military career, in addition to the Gold Star Medal of Hero of the Soviet Union, Colonel General Mikhail Mikhaylovich Gromov was awarded the Order of Lenin four times, the Order of the Red Banner (four), and the Order of the Red Star (three). He died 22 January 1985.

Colonel-General Mikhail Mikhaylovich Gromov, Hero of the Soviet Union.

¹ FAI Record File Number 9300

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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19 July 1943

Екатерина Васильевна Буданова (Ekaterina Vasilievna Budanova)

19 July 1943: The Soviet fighter ace, Lieutenant Екатерина Васильевна Буданова (Ekaterina Vasilievna Budanova) was killed in action at Novo-Krasnnvka, Lugansk region, Ukraine. She had been escorting a group of Ilyushin Il-2 dive bombers when her Yakovlev Yak-1 fighter was engaged by three Messerschmitt Bf 109s. She shot down one of the enemy fighters and damaged another, but was herself mortally wounded during the engagement. She was able to land her fighter, landed her fighter. She died soon after.

Lieutenant Budanova was posthumously named a Hero of the Soviet Union and awarded the Order of the Patriotic War, 1st Degree.

Yakovlev Yak-1

Ekaterina Vasilievna Budanova was born in the village of Konolyanka, Smolenskaya Oblast, Imperial Russia, 7 December 1916. She was orphaned at an early age. She had an elementary education. Ekaterina Vasilievna travelled to Moscow searching for work. While working in a factory at Fila, she took flying lessons at the local flying club, and qualified as a pilot an an instructor.

From 1934 to 1941, Ekaterina Vasilievna worked as an instructor for the aero club.

Comrade Budanova entered the women’s aviation units of the Soviet Red Army in September 1941. Trained as a fighter pilot in the Yak-1, she was assigned to the 586th Fighter Regiment. From April to September 1942, she was engaged in the defense of Saratov. She was next assigned to the 437th Air Regiment near Stalingrad. In January 1943, she was transferred to the 73rd Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment. It was there that she had her greatest successes. On 23 February 1943, Budanova was awarded the Order of the Red Star.

Lieutenant Budanova flew 266 combat sorties, and is credited with 6 enemy aircraft destroyed, and another 5 shared with other pilots.

In 1988, Budanova’s remains were exhumed and reburied. On 1 October 1993, she was named Hero of the Russian Federation.

(Left to right) Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak, Katya Budanova and Mariya Kuznetsova with a Yak-1 fighter. (RIA Novosti)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

 

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14 July 1959

Major General Vladimir Sergeyevich Ilyushin, Hero of the Soviet Union

14 July 1959: At Podmoskovnoe, USSR, famed Soviet test pilot Vladimir Sergeyevich Ilyushin flew the Sukhoi T-43-1, a prototype of the Su-9 interceptor, to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude of 28,852 meters (94,659 feet).¹

Vladimir Sergeyevich Ilyushin was the son of Sergey Ilyushin, the Soviet aircraft designer. He made the first flights of many Sukhoi fighters. A Hero of the Soviet Union, he retired with the rank of major general.

Sukhoi T-43-1
Vladimir Sergeyevich Ilyushin, wearing flight suit and helmet, with a Sukhoi Su-9 in the background.
Vladimir Sergeyevich Ilyushin, wearing flight suit and helmet, with a Sukhoi Su-9 in the background.

The Sukhoi T-43-1 was the prototype for the Su-9 all-weather interceptor, a single-place, single-engine Mach 2+ fighter. It was built from the first pre-production Sukhoi T-3, with a new nose section and enlarged rear fuselage to accommodate a larger engine.

The production Su-9 is similar in appearance to the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21, but is much larger and heavier. It is 17.37 meters (56.99 feet) long with a wingspan of 8.43 meters (27.66 feet) and overall height of 4.88 meters (16.01 feet). The interceptor’s empty weight is 8,620 kilograms (19,004 pounds), and the maximum takeoff weight is 13,500 kilograms (29,762 pounds).

Sukhoi T-43-12 prototype.
Sukhoi T-43-12 prototype.

Both the T-43-1 prototype and the production Su-9 are powered by a Lyulka AL-7 nine-stage axial flow turbojet engine which produces 22,050 pounds of thrust with afterburner.

The Su-9 has a maximum speed of Mach 2.0 (2,135 kilometers per hour, 1,327 miles per hour). The service ceiling is 16,760 meters (54,987 feet) and range is 1,125 kilometers (699 miles).

The T-43-1 later set FAI records for sustained altitude and speed over a measured course.

Sukhoi Su-9
Sukhoi Su-9, right front quarter
Sukhoi Su-9
Sukhoi Su-9, right profile

¹ FAI Record File Number 10351

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 June 1963, 09:29:52 UTC

Valentia Vladimirovna Tereshkova. (RIA Novosti)
Major Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova, Hero of the Soviet Union, photographed in 1969. (RIA Novosti)

16 June 1963, 09:29:52 UTC: Cosmonaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova (Валенти́на Влади́мировна Терешко́ва) was launched aboard Vostok 6 from Gagarin’s Start, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. The spacecraft was a Vostok 3KA and the launch vehicle was a Vostok 8K72K rocket. She was the first human female in space.

Vostok 6 just prior to engine start, Gagarin's Start, Baikonur Cosmodrome, 16 June 1963.
Vostok 6 engine start, Gagarin’s Start, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, 09:29:52 UTC,16 June 1963. (Space Facts)

Prior to her acceptance in the cosmonaut corps, Tereshkova had been a textile worker. She was also an amateur parachutist. The qualifications for the Soviet space program were that the women be parachutists under the age of 30 years, less than 170 centimeters (5 feet, 7 inches) tall and weigh less than 70 kilograms (154.3 pounds). After an extensive training program with included pilot training in the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG 15UTI fighter and 120 parachute jumps, Tereshkova and three other women were commissioned as Junior Lieutenants in the Soviet Air Force.

Vostok 5 with Cosmonaut Valery Fyodorovich Bykovsky had been launched two days earlier on the same orbital path. During their flights they came within approximately 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of each other.

Valentina Tereshkova completed 48 orbits of the Earth, reaching a maximum altitude of 212 kilometers (131.7 miles). Vostok 6 re-entered the atmosphere and Tereshkova parachuted from the capsule near the Pavinskiy Collective Farms, Altai Krai (approximately 150 miles/240 kilometers southwest of Novosibirsk), landing at 08:20 UTC, 19 June 1963. The total duration of her flight was 2 days, 22 hours, 50  minutes.

Cosmonaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tershkova before launch, 16 June 1963.
Cosmonaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova before launch, 16 June 1963. 

The Vostok 3KA spacecraft consisted of a spherical crew module and a service module. It could support one person in a full-pressure suit for a maximum of 10 days. There were two view ports. The Vostok used pressurized gas jets for attitude control while in orbit, but was not capable of changing its orbit. The vehicle had a total height of 4.40 meters (14 feet, 5¼ inches) and total mass of 4,730 kilograms (10,428 pounds). The descent module diameter was 2.3 meters (7 feet, 6½ inches) and had a mass of 2,460 kilograms (5,423 pounds).

On descent, the cosmonaut used an ejection seat to leave the capsule prior to Earth landing, and parachuted to the ground.

Tershkova (center, with back toward camera) with the Vostok descent module, (Space Facts)
Valentina Tereshkova (center, with back toward camera) with the Vostok descent module, 19 June 1963. (Space Facts)

The Korolev Design Bureau Vostok 8K72K launch vehicle was a three-stage liquid-fueled rocket developed from the Soviet R-7 “Semyorka” intercontinental ballistic missile, using RP-1, a highly refined form of kerosene, and liquid oxygen as propellant. It was 38.36 meters (125 feet, 10 inches) tall and had a maximum diameter of 10.3 meters (33 feet, 9 inches). Total mass at liftoff was 287,375 kilograms (633,553 pounds).

The first stage consisted of four boosters surrounding a central core. Each was powered by one Glushko Design Bureau RD-108 (8D75) engine with four combustion chambers and exhaust nozzles. The RD-108 was rated at 713.600 kilonewtons of thrust (160,424 pounds-force) at Sea Level. Burn time was 118 seconds. The second stage used one RD-108 engine fired for 301 seconds. The third stage had one Kosberg Design Bureau RD-0109 engine rated at 54.520 kilonewtons (12,257 pounds-force) of thrust, with a burn time of 365 seconds.

Valentina Tereshkova Monument at the site of Vostok 6 landing.
Valentina Tereshkova Monument at the site of Vostok 6 landing.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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23–24 April 1967

Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov (1927–1967)
Colonel Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov (Alexander Loktionov/RIA Novosti)

23–24 April 1967: At 00:35:00 UTC, 23 April, Soyuz-1, the first manned flight of the Soyuz 7K-OK spacecraft, was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome Pad 1/5 (Gagarin’s Start). On this first test flight, only one person was aboard the craft, which had been designed to carry three cosmonauts. Colonel Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov was the pilot. He had previously flown Voskhod-1, a 24-hour mission, in 1964.

A Soyuz 7K-OK space craft assembly. (Space Rocket History)
A Soyuz 7K-OK space craft assembly. (Space Rocket History)

The mission plan called for a second spacecraft, Soyuz-2, to be launched on the 24th, with a three-man crew. A rendezvous in orbit would be made.

Soyuz-1 was not ready to be flown. More than 200 faults were known, but the pressures brought about by politics required that the launch proceed.

On reaching orbit, two solar arrays were to deploy to provide electrical power for the spacecraft’s batteries. One panel did not deploy and this severely limited the power available.

The Soyuz stabilization system relied on sensors which would detect certain stars to provide orientation, but the failed solar panel covered them. Within a few orbits the system failed completely. Komarov used the ship’s thrusters to manually control stability, but this was only marginally effective.

There were also communications difficulties. With electrical power diminishing and reaction fuel being spent, the main goals of the mission could no longer be achieved. After 13 orbits it was decided to abort the mission.

An illustration of Soyuz-1
An illustration of Soyuz-1

Komarov had to manually align the Soyuz-1 during the daylight phase of orbit 18. Gyroscopic stabilizers were supposed to maintain that alignment as the spacecraft passed into darkness. Komarov would once again align the craft when it came around into light, and hold that alignment through the reentry deceleration.

For some reason, the braking engine was 2 minutes, 23.5 seconds late in firing. The deceleration burn was planned for 2 minutes, 30 seconds, but an automatic system, recognizing that the gyro system was not holding the proper alignment, cut off the engine 4 seconds early. This meant that the Soyuz would travel farther down range than intended, and would not have slowed quite as much, although it was enough for re-entry.

Soyuz-1 impacted the Earth at 03:22:52 UTC, 1.9 miles (3.06 kilometers) to the west of Karabutak, Orenburg Oblast, at speeds estimated at from 30–40 meters per second (67–89 miles per hour) to as high as 640 kilometers per hour (398 miles per hour). It is believed that Vladimir Komarov died from injuries sustained at this time.

He was the first person to die during a space flight.

A rescue helicopter quickly located the Soyuz reentry module which was lying on its side in an open field with its parachute alongside. The rescuers reportedly saw the soft-landing rockets fire, which they should have done just before the module’s impact.

The module was on fire and by the time rescuers reached it, it was fully involved and molten metal was spreading on the ground. After expending their fire extinguishers, the rescuers tried to put of the fire by shoveling dirt on to it, but the the capsule completely collapsed.

Doctors on the scene pronounced Vladamir Komarov dead, with injuries to his skull, spinal cord, and numerous broken bones resulting from the impact. His body was completely burned. A postmortem examination at Moscow confirmed that the cosmonaut had been killed by the capsule’s impact.

Colonel Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov, Cosmonaut.
Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov, Cosmonaut.

Several theories have been published as explanation for the failure of the spacecraft’s parachute to safely slow Komarov’s descent, though with the craft completely destroyed by fire, it is unlikely that there could be any certainty. The official finding is that the drogue parachute did not apply enough force to pull the main parachute free. A backup parachute was deployed manually by Komarov but it fouled in the drogue ‘chute and did not open sufficiently to brake the craft.

Another theory is that a pressure sensor malfunctioned which prevented the automatic deployment of the main parachute. The drogue ‘chute should have been released at that time, but was not, which resulted in the reserve parachute fouling.

Third is that during an autoclaving operation the parachutes may have been contaminated with an adhesive substance.

And another story is this: During the design of Soyuz-1, the thickness of the heat shield was increased, and so the weight of the spacecraft went up. Engineers increased the size of the main parachute accordingly. But the compartment that it was to be stored in remained the same size. The fit was so tight that when the parachute was being installed, technicians had to hammer it into place with wooden mallets.

 Burning wreckage of Soyuz-1, 24 April 1967. (RosCosmos)
Burning wreckage of Soyuz-1, 24 April 1967. (Russian Federal Space Agency)

Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov was born at Moscow, Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic (RSFSR), 16 March 1927. His father was killed early in The Great Patriotic War (World War II). At the age of 15 years, Vladimir Mikhailovich entered the 1st Moscow Special Air Force School and graduated in 1945. He then went to Sasovskoye for initial pilot training, and then to the Borisoglebsk Air Force Pilot School. In 1946 he was transferred to the A.K. Serov Bataisk Military Aviation School. He received his pilot’s wings and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Soviet Air Force, 10 December 1949.

Lieutenant Komarov served as a fighter pilot of the 383rd Fighter Aviation Regiment at Grozny. The regiment was transitioning from the Mikoyan-Guervich MiG-9 turbojet-powered fighter to the new swept-wing MiG-15. While there, he met his future wife, Valentina Yakovlevna Kiselyova, a recent graduate of the Grozny Teachers’ Training Institute. They were married in 1950. They had two children, Yevgeny and Irina.

In 1952, Senior Lieutenant Komarov was assigned as senior pilot of the 486th Fighter Aviation Regiment, flying the MiG-15 and MiG-17. In 1954 he applied to attend the N.E. Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy, from which he graduated in 1959. Promoted to Senior Lieutenant-Engineer, he was assigned as a test pilot at the Central Scientific Research Institute.

Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Komarov
Colonel Yuri Alexseyevich Gagarin and Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov at Star City, 1964. (Europress/AFP)

After promotion to captain-engineer, 3 September 1960, Komarov was selected for the first group of Soviet cosmonauts. He was older than most of the group, but was well liked and respected.

Colonel-Engineer Vladimir Mihailovich Komarov, Pilot-Cosmonaut of the USSR, was twice named Hero of the Soviet Union. He had also been awarded the Order of Lenin, Order of the Red Star, as well as several other decorations.

Following a state funeral, the cosmonaut’s ashes were interred in the Kremlin Wall at Red Square.

Colonel Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov, Pilot-Cosmonaut, Hero of the Soviet Union.
Colonel Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov, Pilot-Cosmonaut, Hero of the Soviet Union. “Whoever has flown once, whoever has piloted an airplane once, will never want to part with either an aircraft or the sky.”

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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