"visionary" is used too frequently, but Fridrikh Arturovich
Tsander was the genuine article. Born to an ethnically German Lithuanian
family, Tsander became enthusiastic about spaceflight at a young age and
was a driving force behind the creation of GIRD in 1931. He died in 1933,
but his unique pioneering research was highly inspirational to the young
Soviet rocket movement.
numerous seminal papers on the problems of space propulsion, including
one of the first to suggest use of solar sails for interplanetary travel,
as well as calculations on rocket propulsion theory, and even, according
to one source, a proposal for a system to lift and propel an aircraft
by using superconducting coils to react with the Earth's magnetic field.
rocket that eats itself.
early as 1911, Tsander described a winged "self-consuming rocket"
that would take the idea of structural efficiency to its ultimate
limits. Since much of the mass of a rocket consists of fuel and
the containers needed to hold it - a fact that made many early rocket
theoreticians doubt that large orbital rockets would ever be feasible
- Tsander proposed building the rocket out of light metals that
themselves could be consumed in the rocket engine as the vehicle
climbed into space.
schematic drawing shows how this would be accomplished. Starting
as a winged airplane using propellers for takeoff power, the spacecraft
would fly from a runway and climb high into the atmosphere, accelerating
as it went. At a certain point the rocket engine would be activated
and the wings would be gradually retracted into the fuselage to
reduce drag. As this occurred, the now-redundant portions of the
wings would be fed into the combustion chamber of the rocket, lightening
and accelerating the vehicle, which could now use a much smaller
set of wings for lift. The process would continue as the landing
gear, propellers and their drive systems, and the remaining aerodynamic
surfaces went into the engine for fuel. Finally, even the unneeded
portions of the rocket's body structure would be compacted and burned,
until only the bare components needed for space flight remained,
and the vehicle would reach orbit as a compact, very light vehicle.
below is a portion of a Tsander paper on theoretical and experimental
work he did in 1928 on "self-consuming materials" for use as
rocket fuels and structural materials. The paper was published by GIRD
in 1937 in the journal "Raketnaya Teknika."
noteworthy is Tsander's mention of the possible use of alloys called "Elektron"
and "Magnallium" as rocket construction materials and propellants.
Elektron is a magnesium-copper alloy, typically about 85% magnesium/15%
copper. Magnallium is an alloy of aluminum and about 5% magnesium. One
engineering reference guide states that
weak and soft in the elemental state, magnesium alloys with aluminum,
manganese, zinc, tin, zirconium, and cerium to produce alloys useful
in engineering materials. The strength and hardness of aluminum increases
when it is alloyed with such substances as magnesium, manganese, nickel,
chromium, zinc, iron, copper, and silicon. Magnalium -lighter and more
workable than aluminum- is used in making metal mirrors and scientific