Heinz Hermann Koelle

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Heinz Hermann Koelle

H.H. Koelle (ca. 1951)
Birth Name Heinz Hermann Koelle
Birth Date Jul 22 1925
Birth Place Gdansk-Wrzeszcz
Date of Death Feb 20 2011
Occupation Engineer, Scientist, Author
Nationality Germany, United States of America
Notable Works Handbook of Astronautical Engineering

Heinz Hermann Koelle was born in Gdansk-Wrzeszcz when it was part of the Free State of Danzig. His education started at the Gerter Elementary School in Wrzeszcz in April 1930. In April 1935 he moved to St Peter & Paul secondary school in Gdansk. In June 1940 his family moved to Wroclaw and in 1942 he was admitted as a Ing.Offz.Bewerber in the Luftwaffe. He began flight training in March 1943 in Fuerstenfeldbruck / Bavaria. By January 1944 he acquired his extended pilot's license flying Junkers and Heinkel aircraft. He flew his first combat mission at the end of 1944 while still a teenager. He was forced to bail out of his aircraft and was captured by US ground forces. After a brief sojourn in England, on April 12th 1945 he arrived in Boston Massachusetts as a prisoner of war. He was sent to Idaho and Utah to work as an indentured crop picker where he was paid the equivalent of nine cents an hour. He left America on a Liberty ship in June 1946 and he was officially released on August 2nd back in Germany. From August to October 1946 he worked at Wolf & Müller to earn enough work credit to be accepted in higher education. By October he was enrolled as a student of mechanical engineering in Stuttgart.

During his internment in the United States he had developed an interest in space exploration which had first been initiated in 1941 when he acquired a copy of Hermann Oberth's seminal book Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen. In the summer of 1947 he wrote to Oberth after being provided his address by Johann Wolfgang Goethe, one of the early founders of the GfW before the war. Oberth replied and began a correspondence with Koelle which lasted for the rest of Oberth's life.

On 13th Dec 1947 Koelle lectured in Stuttgart to members of his local aviation club about V2 launches at White Sands New Mexico. About 200 people attended the lecture and 45 agreed to join a newly reformed GfW which due to restrictions on any work on rockets was masked by operating with the astronomers of the Stuttgart Observatory. The first official meeting of the Stuttgart GfW was on 29 Jan 1948, where 72 people attended. The reformed group was officially approved by the government on Aug 5 1948.

Koelle reached out to the largest known organisation for astronautics and became a member of the British Interplanetary Society on May 1st 1948.

He worked a variety of odd jobs, to pay for his tuition including writing newspaper articles, but earned very little money between July 1948 and August 1949. In November 1948 he became acquainted with Heinz Gartmann an engineer who had also recently returned from working as a POW for the USAF in the United States.

In Jan 1949 Koelle became the editor of an aviation magazine named Weltluftfahrt. Under his guidance the magazine immediately started running articles about space flight. During the same month the board of the newly formed GfW appointed Hermann Oberth as Honorary President, which Oberth gladly accepted.

April 9th 1949 Koelle coordinated a gathering in Augsburg of 20 aviation enthusiasts to restart post-war aviation clubs in Germany. By August 1949 this group had grown to 400 ex-pilots and aviation enthusiasts. On June 22 1949 the GfW, under Koelle and Gartmann passed a resolution which would trigger the formation of the International Astronautical Federation.

Koelle and Gartmann led the formation of a new edition of the GfW journal Weltraumfahrt and the first issue appeared on Jan 26 1950. On 27 April 1950 Koelle wrote to Wernher von Braun. He had heard that von Braun was looking for a publisher for a manuscript about a manned trip to Mars. On Jun 21 1950 Koelle delivered a lecture to the GfW outlining his plans for what he called an "optimum rocket" for reaching orbit and the moon and the costs associated with building a space station. In August 1950 he received a copy of von Braun's manuscript and immediately began calculating how to build a space station similar to what von Braun's manuscript described. Koelle offered to find a German publisher for von Braun, which ultimately led to the GfW publishing the technical portion of the manuscript in February 1952 as "Das Marsprojekt".

In January 1951 Koelle was hired to work as a technical intepreter for the Historical Research Division of the USAF.

In 1949 Koelle and Gartmann had begun their campaign to stage an international conference for space and astronautics. This led to the first IAC held at the Sorbonne in France in September 1950. Koelle was one of the principle German delegates in attendance, while Gartmann was refused a visa and could not attend. This conference led to the formation of the International Astronautical Federation in London in September 1951.

Koelle was a board member of the Society for Space Research Association (GfW) from 1948 to 1954 and organized the third IAC in Stuttgart in 1952. That same year he was given a contract by the USAF in the field of rocket ballistics which he used as a platform to establish the Stuttgart Astronautical Research Institute.

He was awarded his degree in engineering on May 1 1954.

In April 1955 he accepted an invitation from Wernher von Braun to join the US Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) in Huntsville Alabama. He became head of the design department of the Guided Missile Development Division and continued that role until the ABMA was transferred to NASA in 1960.

Koelle worked on the Jupiter C/ Juno 1 and Juno 2 as well as the Saturn. He was a member of the Explorer 1 satellite team. When NASA took over the ABMA Koelle was appointed Director of Future Projects. He became a U.S. Citizen in November 1961. In July 1965 the German Department of Aerospace at the University of Berlin offered Koelle the position previously held by Eugen Sänger. He accepted and returned to Germany where he remained a teacher until 1992.

The LASTRAKETE MODEL, built under the direction of Ing. Langkrär in the company's workshop and handed over to the German Rocket and Space Museum. The design was by Hermann Koelle and Helmut Hoeppner for their Aussenstation papers delivered at the IAC in London in 1951.


Long Range Planning for Space Transportation Systems by H. H. Koelle (Jan 1961)

Early Papers from the GfW by Hermann Koelle

  • Courtesy of the Koelle family, all ©2018

Der Einfluß der konstruktiven Gestaltung der Außenstation auf die Gesamtkosten des Projektes. GfW Research Report No. 9, 1951 by H.H.Koelle

The Influence Of The Layout Of The Satellite Vehicle On The Overall Cost Of The Project by H.H. Koelle (GfW paper #9)

Die optimale Lastrakete zur Außenstation in 1669 km Hohe. GfW Research Report No. 8, 1951 by H.Hoeppner und H.H.Koelle

Der Beweis der Möglichkeit der Weltraumfahrt. GfW Research Report No. 7, 1950 by H.H. Koelle

Verfahren zur Bestimmung der minimalen Startgewichte und der günstigsten Konstruktionsgrundwerte von Raumfahrzeugen. GfW Research Report No. 5, 1950 by H.H. Koelle

Der Wettlauf zur Weltraumstation (Aus Wissenschaft und Technik Nov 1949) by H.H. Koelle