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On Yuri Gagarin’s 90th Anniversary: How TsAGI Contributed to Humanity’s Conquest of the Space

7 March 2024

March 9 marks the 90th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin, the man who opened the path to the space. This global achievement was made possible partially due to the contribution by TsAGI (a part of NRC “Zhukovsky Institute”).

‘Let’s go!’, the phrase which launched the Vostok-1 spacecraft and would later become legendary, had been coined by test pilot Mark Gallai as he trained cosmonauts. Gallai was the Hero of the Soviet Union; he worked at TsAGI in the pre-war years. Extensive research and numerous tests paved the way for a 108-minute orbit around the Earth, marking the beginning of humanity’s journey beyond the atmosphere.

TsAGI used its research capabilities in such legendary technologies as Vostok, Soyuz, Venera, and Mars, in the Sprial program, Energia-Buran program, the Angara space launch system, and the Proton-M launch vehicle, thus increasing its role not only as aviation but space research center as well. Just as the space exploration goal was set, TsAGI worked with key related projects, such as Vostok-1 spacecraft created by Korolyov Design Bureau. Korolyov was an Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences, a great scientist who started his career at TsAGI in the 1930s.

Vostok was designed as a sphere; however, even this essentially simple shape required serious research. Scientists faced some challenges related to aerodynamics and flight dynamics. TsAGI studied the loads and forces acting on Vostok within the entire Mach number range at ballistic entry, and created a heat flow databank.

Working under the Vostok program, TsAGI expanded its experimental base by commissioning a unique aeroballistic facility to study the spacecraft’s hypersonic performance. A model was placed inside it to be shot out towards supersonic flow, so its relative velocity became eventually hypersonic. This new test facility allowed studying the phenomena that used to be inaccessible for scientists. So Vostok-1 streamline data was obtained alongside with the aerodynamic drag. Thus, the spacecraft’s reentry path and landing point were determined.

The Vostok-1 program involved top TsAGI scientists. Aleksandr Krasilshchikov and Leonid Guryashkin were awarded with USSR State Prize for creating the aeroballistic facility. Vasily Yaroshevsky, who would later become a Corresponding Member of the RAS, also contributed to the project; he would later take part in researching Buran spacecraft.

Yuri Gagarin’s space flight is a milestone event not only in Russia but also for TsAGI. Commemorating the first-ever space visitor is the aim of an expo at TsAGI Demonstration Center. It has opened a historical documentary expo, Yuri Gagarin: The Continued Flight, timed to the cosmonaut’s anniversary. It will show genuine photo posters released for the 30th anniversary of the first manned space flight by the Association of Russian Cosmonautics Museums.

The Demonstration Center also joined Yuri Gagarin’s Earth Orbit International Project, which launched a motor rally across Russian cities on March 4. It is organized by the Association of Russian Cosmonautics Museums and the Russian Knights Foundation. During the event, museums and exhibition venues hold meetings with representatives of space industry, lectures, quizzes and other educational events. The rally started in Moscow at the Museum of Cosmonautics; its participants visited TsAGI Demonstration Center on March 6.

TsAGI Press Service
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