V.D. Romanenko, candidate of science, leading researcher of NAU Antonov State Aviation Museum

The prominent scientist, designer and creator of rocket and space technology, academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Volodymyr Chelomey was one of creators of the Soviet “missile shield”, and paved the way for humanity in the universe. Under V.Chelomey’s guidance, almost all naval cruise missiles, submarine ballistic missiles, multi-stage intercontinental ballistic missiles, anti-missile and prototype fighter satellites capable of maneuvering in orbit and destroying missiles were created. In 1971-79, Academician V.Chelomey was also the head of “peaceful space” – a Soviet space program. A series of high-powered Proton rocket launchers were created by the design team headed by DB-52, which brought not only the most important satellites into service, but also all Soviet and Russian orbital stations – “Salute”, “Diamond”, “Mir”, and even elements of the International Space Station (ISS).

A world-class scientist and designer, Volodymyr Chelomei gained wide recognition only after his death in 1984. Due to his work in a number of secret design bureaus, all his personal documents were kept secret. Even now, his positions and workplace addresses are not fully known. In fact, only in recent years has there been some scientific research of the scientist. One of the most complete and documented proofs is the research of Sergiy Karamash, an archivist of the Kyiv State Archives. This article is an abridged and adapted version of it.

An interesting fact is that almost all the first designers of both aviation (Kudashev, Sikorsky, Grigorovich) and rocket and space technology (Korolev, Yangel, Glushko) began their creative biography in Ukraine. Volodymyr Mykolayovych Chelomey was not an exception – he lived here in his childhood and youth, got educated, made the first steps in scientific and labor activity, and also cooperated with Ukrainian developers in the creation of missile systems in the 70’s.

Volodymyr Mykolayovych was born on June 30, 1914 in Siedlce, now Poland, to a family of school teachers. Subsequently, the family moved to Poltava, where most of their relatives lived, and they lived there until 1926. Mykola Chelomey’s father, a chemist by specialty, worked in a bank in Poltava in the 1920s.

Mother Ivga (Yevgeniya) Khomivna Klochko was a student of Poltava Institute of Noblewomen and a private music school, a founder of the first nursery school in the city. Thanks to her, Volodymyr got a good home education. She taught at the J. Komensky Poltava primary school, in a number of schools and in the Poltava orphanage, which was then headed by A.S. Makarenko. According to other sources, A.S. Makarenko headed exactly the 10th seven-year labor school (now – the V.G. Korolenko comprehensive school № 10), where young Volodya Chelomey studied in 1922-1926. In 1935 his mother graduated from the Kyiv Pedagogical Institute and taught biology in high school. The family had five children and gave them all a good education. Young Volodymyr played the piano, loved classical literature, read a lot from the history of engineering and physics.

Due to his father’s workplace change, in 1926 the Chelomeys first moved to Dnipropetrovsk and in 1927 to Kyiv. In 1927-1929 Volodymyr studied at the labor school № 45.

In 1929, Volodymyr Chelomey went to the 2nd Mechanical trade school, located on Povitroflotsky highway (now avenue), 22, where workers of different professions were trained. The high school № 178 is now located here.

In the same year, the trade school was transformed into the Kyiv Motor Tractor college, later – to the Kyiv Automobile college, and in April 1931 – to the Kyiv Motor Road college. The autobiography of V.M. Chelomey states: “Studying in a technical school, he worked in automobile workshops and a car laboratory, which he later headed. While in the third year of the technical school, he worked as a design engineer at the Civil Aviation Research Institute. Today it is the Kyiv Transport and Economic College of the National Transport University, in Holosiiv district in the Vasilkivska street, 20. There are photos and biographical information of V.M. Chelomey in this college.

Another researcher, I.O. Pistolenko notes, that in 1932 V.M. Chelomey graduated from the Kyiv Automobile College, got a technical qualification and started working at the Institute of Industrial energetics as a designer of outboard shuttle engines for pontoon units of the Red Army. He made calculations of engine parts for durability with a capacity of 10-20 horsepower. This work is connected with the first scientific publication – he made illustrations to the section “Torsional vibration of crankshafts” of the “Aviation engines” lecture course, which was delivered at the newly created Aviation Faculty of the Kyiv Mechanical Engineering Institute.

In 1932 Volodymyr Chelomey entered the Aviation Faculty of this institute, on the basis of which by the Resolution of the RNA (PHK) of the USSR of August 25, 1933 No. 1815 was the Kyiv Aviation Institute (KAI) was founded with 4 faculties: aircraft operations, engine-manufacturing, aircraft-manufacturing and ground aircraft installations.

The new institute, originally located in the former Lenin street (now – Bohdan Khmelnitsky St.), 51, was a military institution where students were united in platoons and troops and had parachute training. Much attention was also paid to the German language training. The first year had 961 students. The Institute had 4 laboratories, 20 classrooms, 10 specialized classrooms, a gym, a library of more than 15 thousand books. In 1934, a research center was opened in the KAI.

At the institute there was a so-called “worker’s faculty” with 300 students. Then a flight detachment was created, which had seven U-2 and two P-5 aircraft. The training flights were conducted at Brovary airport, 27 km far from the Institute. During the pre-war period, the institute trained 810 aircraft engineers. In 1936 it was broken up and then rebuilt after the war.

V.M. Chelomey survived the famine of 1932-1933 in Kyiv due to the food cards for KAI students. Samples of such food cards for February, March and April 1934 are kept at the State Archives of Kyiv.

The first scientific work of V.M. Chelomey in KAI “Elements of Vector Calculus” (1935) was rather methodical in nature, and was written “… to provide the students of the Institute with a basis for a complete study of theoretical mechanics, aerodynamics and other subjects.” The head of the KAI Department of Theoretical Mechanics, professor I.Ya. Sheterman said: “Hopefully, this small course will help students further study vector computing. The “Elements of Vector Computing”, developed in the KAI Department of Theoretical Mechanics under my guidance, can serve as a concise and convenient guide for students. They are developed simply and briefly, but without loss of the proofs of the basic principles of vector algebra and analysis. ”

Thus, a 21-year-old student (before his author’s name his status is even written in square brackets – “[engineer]”) wrote a textbook for students of his own institute where he was studying! The work comprised 3 sections – “Vector Algebra”  (pp. 1–55), “Vector Analysis” (pp. 56–63), “Basic Principles of Kinematics” (pp. 117–149), and was printed on hectograph in 350 copies.

Next year, the textbook has already been published as a separate edition of 3,000 copies. In the preface I.Ya. Steerman wrote: “This book came about because of the urgent practical need to teach several theoretical sciences in our technical colleges. The course of V. Chelomey is small in scope and covers the basic issues of vector computing, that our students who study mathematics, mechanics, and, in particular, aerodynamics, need to know. It is hoped that a clear, simple presentation of the book will facilitate its perception”. With the money, received for the second edition, Volodymyr bought his mother a winter gabardine coat.

In 1934, the Zaporizhzhia plant “Duflon and Konstantinovich” (Deka) started the mass production of the engine “Mistral-Major” K-14 of the French company “Gnome-Ron”. During the KAI work practice from (from July 15 to August 21, 1935) at the enterprise, which was then called “P.I. Baranov Motor-manufacturing plant № 29″(now – OJSC “Motor-Sich”), Volodymyr Chelomey helped to solve the problem of oscillations resonance of the engine crankshaft, which could not be done by local engineers and even French specialists. The plant workers used to increase the shaft diameter, while Volodymyr Chelomey, on the basis of his own calculations, proved that on the contrary, it should be reduced! Subsequently, this engine was branded M-85, and mounted on the Ilyushin bombers. The management of the plant asked the talented student to deliver a lecture in design and vibration dynamics for the engineers of the plant, which he did.

Practical work at a large modern enterprise turned out to be a very useful future for an engineer. At the plant he got acquainted with the theory of action of an air-jet engine by B.S. Stechkin – the creator and developer of aircraft engines, a student of M.E. Zhukovsky. Volodymyr Chelomeybecame interested in the idea of ​​creating a pulsating air jet engine. With the permission of the plant management, he made a study of the occurrence of a self-oscillating process in a pipe with constant injection of air, during which a pulsating mode is formed. According to the results of experiments, V. Chelomey developed the theory of such an engine, for which in 1938 he received the author’s certificate. Further, already in Moscow, he continued to work on the creation of the PRDP engine (ППРД). By the way, the Germans installed such power plants on their Fau-1 missiles during the Second World War.

In 1936 Volodymr Chelomey was again sent to Zaporizhzhia. There he made the calculations and found the cause of malfunctions in the gas distribution mechanism of the engines. In September – October 1936 V. Chelomey again delivered a 70-hour course of lectures at the plant. For his success in studies and work he was honored – according to the Order of the head of the KAI of February 23, 1935 No. 39 “for excellent training and behavior, and a skillful combination with active extracurricular work, V.Chelomey – a student of group” 6 “- awarded with three-volume German-Russian technical dictionary ». And by the Order of October 11, 1935 No. 245 “a listener of group No. 6 of the Mechanical Engineering faculty V. Chelomey was awarded a Certificate “KAI Excellent student” with a monthly scholarship”.

In 1936 V. Chelomey detected several errors in the mathematical formula for calculating the vibrations of the aircraft body in the work of Academician A.M. Krylov – the founder of the theory of the aircraft. He went to Leningrad, where he met with a scientist, and the latter admitted inaccuracies in the text of the publication.

In Kyiv, Volodymyr met with the outstanding mathematicians N.M. Krylov (a cousin of the mentioned A.M. Krylov) and M.M. Bogolyubov, who developed methods for solving problems of nonlinear mechanics in the theory of vibrations. This played a significant role in the formation of V.M. Chelomey as a scientist, because the mentioned methods have been widely used in the calculations of all types of heat engines, a prominent expert in the creation of which he became in the future.

From the first year V.Chelomey, simultaneously with his training in the KAI, worked as a design engineer in the Research Institute of the Civil Aviation Institute. He also attends lectures at Kyiv State University, where at the time taught the outstanding mathematicians and mechanics of I.Ya. Staerman and N.I. Akhiezer, whose textbooks are still considered as classic works of the specialty. Mechanics as a scientific subject, and especially its unit “Theory of Oscillation” – will become his passion for life.

In 1937 V.M. Chelomey graduated from the Kyiv Aviation Institute on “excellent” (one year earlier) term, having passed exams, and received the honors degree. His diploma work, written under the supervision of I.Ya. Sheterman, had a title “Fluctuations in aircraft engines”, and even then received recognition. In 1938 the work of a young scientist “Theory of springs” was published.

On June 26, 1939, V. Chelomey successfully defended his Ph.D. thesis on “Dynamic Stability of Elements of Aviation Structures” at a meeting of the Board of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the Kyiv Industrial Institute (later KPI). This work was printed as a separate book.

According to the Order of the chief of the Kyiv Aviation Institute of September 13, 1939 V. Chelomey was appointed to the position of senior lecturer of the Department of Theoretical Mechanics.

In 1940, among the 50 best young scientists of the USSR, V. Chelomey was admitted to a special doctorate at the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. The 26-year-old Chelomey was the youngest among the elected from all the republics of the USSR. V. Chelomey was awarded a Stalin scholarship (1500 rubles – a huge sum of money at that time!). Then he was invited to work at the Institute of Mathematics of the University of Science and Technology in Kyiv. In the same year, the name of Volodymyr Chelomey was first mentioned in the mass-media. The article in the “Pravda”, the main newspaper of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b), gave reviews about V.Chelomey.  The corresponding members of the USSR Academy of Sciences Yu.D. Sokolov and I.Ya. Sheterman, who noted the brilliant talent and ingenuity of the young engineer, wrote: “During practice at one of the plants the gifted student not only learns, accumulates experience, but also contributes to the manufacturing, helps to improve the technological process.”

Doctoral thesis with the subject-matter “Dynamic stability and durability of the elastic chain of the aircraft engine” Volodymyr Chelomey defended on June 1, 1941. However, he had no time to send the documents to the Higher Attestation Commission, because from the beginning of the war he was sent to the P.I. Baranov Central Institute of Aviation Motor Engineering. Later, after the war, the young talented scientist had to defend another doctoral work.

During the years of study in the Kyiv higher educational institutions, in the postgraduate studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and doctoral studies (until 1941) V.Chelomey published, according to S.Yu. Karamash, 27 scientific works. In general, during the life of V.M. Chelomei as scientific supervisor had supervised 44 candidates and 5 doctors of sciences.

The archive certificate was prepared by Serhiy Karamash, an archivist of the 1st category of the department of document security, of accounting and reference department of the State Archives of Kyiv.

Copies of photos are kindly provided by Sytnik Roman, Department of management and administration of NAU


  1. Kyiv State Archives (Kyiv State Archives). F. P-341. Op. 5. Ref. 23. “A personal file. Chelomey Vladimir Nikolaevich ». Ark. 5.
  2. Pistolenko I.O. Volodymyr Mykolayovych Chelomey and Ukraine: a view from Poltava // Proceedings of the IX Scientific Readings «Dnipro Orbit-2014»: Coll. reports. Dnipropetrovsk, NCAA, 2014. 69.
  3.  Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). F. 411. “The Personal File of Academician V.N. Chelomey. 29.06.1962 – 08.12.1984 ».