Gas Dynamics Laboratory

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Established initially by Nikolai I. Tikhomirov in March 1921, the Gas Dynamics Laboratory evolved from early smokeless powder propellant experiments made by Tikhomirov in Moscow.

By 1925, when such a propellant was developed, the laboratory had moved to Leningrad. After the first successful launchings the rocket laboratory was considerably expanded, and in July 1928 named the Gas Dynamics Laboratory (GDL).

The laboratory, the first in the Soviet Union to be engaged in rocketry research and development, was under the Military Research Committee of the USSR Revolutionary Military Council. The GDL occupied part of a one-story building at the artillery test ground not far from Leningrad. It also had a machine shop there. Besides this, it had headquarters in the city, facilities for the production of smokeless powder grains, which were housed in the building of the Naval Department Research Laboratory, and other premises.

At the beginning of 1933 the GDL comprised five sections and work-shops located at six places in Leningrad, and had a staff of almost 200.

The First Section of the GDL worked on the development of powder-propelled missiles, initiated by Tikhomirov and successfully carried through by B. S. Petropavlovsky, G. E. Langemak, V. A. Artemeyev and other outstanding artillery engineers. The smokeless powder rockets of diverse calibers which they developed for the Army and the Air Force were successfully tested at proving ranges and in simulated battle conditions in 1932-33. Later they were further improved at the Research Institute of Jet Propulsion (RNII), and were widely employed with a devastating effect during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). The mobile launcher, dubbed Katyusha, became widely famous towards the end of the war. By that time the country’s rocket artillery units comprised 40‘ independent battalions, 105 regiments, 40 brigades and 7 divisions.

Between 1930 and 1933 the GDL developed rocket missiles with calibers of 32, 132, 245 and 410 mm, as well as ones of smaller calibers. By the end of 1933 the GDL had developed 9 types of rocket missiles which were successfully tested and officially approved. This fact was mentioned in a report by the Red Army Department of Military Inventions to M. N. Tukhachevsky, the Red Army Chief of Armaments.

Between 1927 and 1933 the Third Section of the GDL developed assisted-takeoff powder rockets for light and heavy aircraft (U-l, TB-l, and TB-3 types). The official tests of the TB-l heavy bomber, conducted in 1933, showed its takeoff run to be 77 per cent shorter owing to the use of these rockets. (Source:V.P. Glushko)