Encyclopedia Astronautica

Credit: NASA
Oberth, Hermann Julius (1894-1989) Father of German Spaceflight. His 1923 book outlined the mathematic principles of rocketry and space travel, providing the basis for the space craze in Germany, leading to the V-2 and von Braun's rocket team.

Hermann J. Oberth was one of the three recognized fathers of spaceflight. A Transylvanian by birth but a German in his family heritage, he was educated at the Universities of Klausenburg, Munich, Göttingen, and Heidelberg. His doctoral dissertation was rejected because it did not fit into any established scientific discipline. He published it privately as Die Rakete zu den Planetenraeumen (The Rocket into Interplanetary Space) in 1923. It and its expanded version entitled Ways to Spaceflight (1929) set forth the basic principles of space flight and directly inspired many subsequent spaceflight pioneers, including Wernher von Braun.

Birth Place: Sibiu.

Born: 1894.06.25.
Died: 1989.01.01.

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Associated Countries
See also
  • Launius, Roger D, NASA Chief Historian, NASA History Office Home Page, Web Address when accessed: here.

Oberth Chronology

1922 May 3 - .
  • Oberth writes to Goddard - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Goddard; Oberth. Hermann Oberth writes to Goddard for a copy of his 1920 monograph, 'A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes'. Goddard, concerned with German interest in space flight, sends him a courtesy copy with some apprehension. The following year Oberth reciprocates by sending Goddard a copy of 'Die Rakete zur Weltraumfahrt', including an acknowledgement of Goddard's work in an Addendum ('...Goddard's work was received just as this was going to press....my theoretical approach is supplemented by his practical work....'). Goddard is convinced that Oberth has borrowed his ideas and refers to him as '..that German Oberth...'.

1923 - During the year - .
  • Oberth proposes circumlunar flight - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Oberth. In a discussion of the uses of an interplanetary rocket, Hermann Oberth proposed circumlunar flight to explore the hidden face of the moon and discussed the possibility of storing cryogenic fuels in space. A spacecraft could rendezvous and dock in earth orbit with a fuel capsule. When the spacecraft reached the vicinity of a planet, it would detach itself from the capsule and descend to the surface. On departure, the spacecraft would ascend and reconnect to its fuel supply for the return trip.

1923 - .
  • Hermann Oberth published Die Rakete zu den Planetenraumen (The Rocket into Planetary Space). - . Nation: Austria. Related Persons: Oberth. Hermann Oberth published Die Rakete zu den Planetenraumen (The Rocket into Planetary Space), which contained the first serious proposal for a manned space station to appear in scientific literature rather than fiction. Oberth's study presented to the scientific community a broad treatise on the practicability and scientific value not only of manned permanent stations in orbit above the Earth, but also space flight in general. Oberth suggested a permanent station supplied by smaller rockets on a periodic basis and suggested rotation of the vehicle to produce an artificial gravity for the crew. Such a station, he said, could serve as a base for Earth observations, as a weather forecasting satellite, as a communications satellite, and as a refueling station for extraterrestrial vehicles launched from orbit.

1923 December 15 - . LV Family: V-2. Launch Vehicle: V-2.
  • Die Rakete zu den Planetenräume published. - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: von Braun; Oberth. Die Rakete zu den Planetenräume (The Rocket Into Interpanetary Space) by Hermann Oberth was published in Germany, and was the genesis for considerable discussion of rocket propulsion. The book would have a huge and life-changing impact on ten year old Wernher Von Braun.

1926 - . Launch Vehicle: Valier-Oberth Moon Gun.
  • Valier-Oberth Moon Gun - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Oberth; Valier. In the 1920's members of the VfR (Society for Space Travel) amused themselves by redesigning Verne's moon gun. In 1926 rocket pioneers Max Valier and Hermann Oberth designed a gun that would rectify Verne's technical mistakes and be actually capable of firing a projectile to the moon.

1927 June 5 - . Launch Site: Raketenflugplatz. LV Family: V-2. Launch Vehicle: V-2.
  • VfR established. - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Winkler; Oberth; Hohmann; Esnault-Peltrie. Johannes Winkler forms the first society for space travel in Breslau. The Society for Space Travel (Verein fuer Raumschiffahrt), is better known by its abbreviation 'VfR'. From the three people that attended the first meeting, it would grow to 500 members within the year, including most of the European space pioneers - Oberth, Hohmann, von Hoefft, von Pirquet, Rynin, and Esnault-Petrie.

1928 - . Launch Vehicle: Valier-Oberth Moon Gun.
  • Von Pirquet Moon Gun - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Valier; Ley; Oberth. Further improvements to the Valier-Oberth gun were suggested by Willy Ley and Baron Guido von Pirquet of Vienna. To achieve the necessary muzzle velocity, it would be necessary to construct the gun with angled lateral chambers. These design concepts would be put to military use in the V-3 Hochdruckpumpe cannon of World War II.

1928 May 23 - . Launch Vehicle: Opel.
  • Opel Rak II - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Valier; Opel; Oberth. Fritz von Opel personally drives rocket-car Opel Rak II, equipped with 24 Brander powder rockets, to 200 kph at Berlin. The same day Oberth is debating the German scientific establishment, trying to overturn their belief that space flight using liquid rockets is theoretically impossible. The VfR regard Valier's experiments with Opel as publicity stunts, threatening the credibility of their society.

1929 - .
  • Hermann Oberth published Wege zur Raumschiffahrt (Path to Space Travel) - . Nation: Austria. Related Persons: Oberth. Hermann Oberth published Wege zur Raumschiffahrt, in which he greatly elaborated on ideas presented in his 1923 book. Oberth here presented several specific designs for orbital space stations, ranging from spherical living quarters for the crew to large reflective mirrors fabricated in orbit. Among several innovations were methods for fabrication in orbit, propulsion by particle emission, and small ferry vehicles to permit travel in the vicinity of the station. Such stations could be used for a variety of purposes, ranging from scientific observation sites to military installations.

1929 July - September - .
  • Noordung orbiting space observatory - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Noordung; Oberth. Spacecraft: Noordung. Hermann Noordung (pseudonym for Capt. Potocnik of the Austrian Imperial Army) expanded the ideas of Hermann Oberth on space flight in a detailed description of an orbiting space observatory. The problems of weightlessness, space communications, maintaining a livable environment for the crew, and extravehicular activity were considered. Among the uses of such an observatory were chemical and physical experiments in a vacuum, telescopes of great size and efficiency, detailed mapping of the earth's surface, weather observation, surveillance of shipping routes, and military reconnaissance.

1929 October 15 - . Launch Vehicle: Oberth.
  • Frau im Mond (The Girl in the Moon) premieres in Berlin. - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Oberth; Nebel. The film, directed by Fritz Lang, with Hermann Oberth as technical consultant, provided a realistic portrayal of the rollout and launch of a liquid-propellant booster sending a manned expedition to the moon. Lang provided Oberth with funds to build and launch a liquid-propellant rocket to publicise the film. Oberth's rocket, using a conical combustion chamber to mix liquid oxygen and gasoline, was 1.8 m tall and was to have been launched to an altitude of 64 km over the Baltic Sea from Greifswalder Oie. One of the assistants hired by Oberth to fabricate the rocket was Rudolph Nebel, a World War I fighter pilot with (unfortunately) little actual engineering experience. Oberth also had no practical engineering or organizational ability, and was unable to produce the liquid rocket in the four months allotted. He then turned to an 11-m tall hybrid rocket that was to burn a to-be-determined carbon compound with liquid oxygen. This also proved impossible, and Oberth simply gave up and left town - returning, however, for the film's premiere. Ufa studios took ownership of the unfinished rockets.

December 1929 - . Launch Vehicle: Mirak; Oberth.
  • VfR regroups - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Oberth; Nebel; Winkler; Ley; Riedel, Klaus. Winkler had resigned as president. Oberth is back in Berlin, and a meeting is held, with Nebel, Wurm, Oberth, Klaus Riedel, Winkler, and Willy Ley in attendance. It was decided to try and get the Oberth rocket materials back from Ufa and press on to demonstrate flight of a liquid propellant rocket. For this purpose the Oberth rocket was much too ambitious and probably wouldn't work anyway. Nebel proposes building a new 'Minimum Rakete' or 'Mirak' to demonstrate that it could be done. Work begins to obtain funds to ground test and perfect Oberth's 'Kegelduese' conical rocket motor.

1930 April 11 - . Launch Vehicle: Mirak; Oberth.
  • VfR evening in Berlin - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Winkler; Oberth. Summary: The VfR presents itself to the scientific community in Berlin. Winkler gives a lecture at the auditorium of the Central Post Office, and the Oberth rocket, Kegelduese, and other articles are displayed..

1930 July 23 - . Launch Vehicle: Mirak.
  • VfR demonstrates rocket motor to German government officials - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Nebel; Ley; von Braun; Oberth; Riedel, Klaus. The VfR fires its 'Kegelduese' liquid oxygen and gasoline-fueled rocket motor in a demonstration for the Director of the Chemisch-Technische Reichsanstalt in an attempt to secure financial support. Nebel had arranged the demonstration and runs the Kegelduese for 90 seconds. It generates 7 kgf and consumes 6 kg of liquid oxygen and 1 kg of gasoline in that time (specific impulse 90 seconds). Participating are Oberth, Nebel, Riedel, Ley, and Von Braun. Nebel's Mirak is not yet ready to test.

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