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Thiel, Walter

Thiel, Walter (-1943) German engineer, talented designer at Peenemuende, in charge of development of the engine for the V-2. Killed in the air raid in August 1943, a setback to the project.

Had Thiel remained alive, development of a simplified 25 tonne thrust engine for the V-2 probably would have been completed in time for production versions of the missile.

Died: 1943.08.17.

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
See also
  • Michels, Juergen and Przybilski, Olaf, Peenemuende und seine Erben in Ost und West, Bernard & Graefe, Bonn, 1997.
  • Saenger, Hartmut E and Szames, Alexandre D, From the Silverbird to Interstellar Voyages, IAC-03-IAA.2.4.a.07.

Thiel, Walter Chronology

May 1937 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. LV Family: V-2. Launch Vehicle: V-2.
  • Peenemünde opened. - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: von Braun; Dornberger; Thiel, Walter. Joint German Army-Air Force rocket research station opened at Peenemünde on the Baltic Sea. The Army Ordnance rocket program under Capt. Walter Dornberger moved 90 of its staff from Kummersdorf. Thiel and five staff working on V-2 rocket engine development remained at Kummersdorf until the summer of 1940, when the test stands at Peenemuende were finally completed..

January 1938 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. LV Family: V-2. Launch Vehicle: V-2.
  • A4 engine tests begin - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Poehlmann; Thiel, Walter. The engine delivered 18 months after design started was so compact, that the length of the A4 could be cut in half. Walter Thiel, a gifted and systematic researcher, was responsible for the engine design. He had great difficulties in obtaining stable combustion, and preventing burn-through of the chamber walls. Various injector patterns were studied in a 1.5 tonne thrust chamber. His research finally reduced the combustion chamber length from 2 m to 30 cm, while the exhaust velocity was increased from 2000 m/s to 2100 m/s, and eventually reached 2280 m/s. However the reduction in the cooling area of the chamber also increased problems in preventing hot spots and burn through. This was finally solved by using a conical throat exit and a mixing chamber ahead of the burning chamber. The 1.5 tonne thrust engine was initially run at 15 bar pressure, versus the 50 bar desired. But whenever the combustion chamber pressure was increased, burn-throughs occurred, as well as forcing increases in the mass of the pumps and tanks. Therefore finally the decision was taken to leave the chamber pressure at 15 bar.

    The next step was to make a 4.5 tonne thrust by clustering three of the 1.5 tonne engines as preburners. However Thiel still had burn-throughs in test runs. Poehlmann suggested the use of film cooling, which finally solved the problem. For the 25 tonne thrust engine, Thiel simply used 18 x 1.5 tonne thrust chambers, feeding a common mixing chamber. This was on the test stand in early 1939.

Early 1940 - .
  • Von Braun learns of Saenger's secret work at Trauen - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Saenger; von Braun; Thiel, Walter; Hermann, Rudolf. Saenger's advanced rocketry work was so secret that Von Braun was not even aware of it until one of his team, looking for a new method of rocket ignition, heard of its existence. Von Braun, Walter Thiel, and Rudolf Hermann were finally given a tour of Saenger's advanced facilities at Trauen.

Summer 1940 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. LV Family: V-2. Launch Vehicle: V-2.
  • Peenemuende test stands completed. - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Thiel, Walter. Summary: Thiel and the remaining staff of the rocket team at Kummersdorf moved to Peenemuende..

1941-1944 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. LV Family: V-2. Launch Vehicle: V-2.
  • A4 engine improvements - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Beck; Thiel, Walter. Throughout the early 1940's Thiel and his team sought to produce a single chamber 25 tonne thrust engine in place of the kludged prototype engine that used 18 separate 1.5 tf chambers. They managed to demonstrate a 60 second burn time in the 18-chamber design, but the engine itself was considered too complicated to fabricate in production, requiring thousands of hand-assembled tubes to introduce fuel and oxidiser into the chamber. Thiel sought to replace these thousands of tubes with a simpler injection system - rows of simple bored holes on a flat injector plate at the head of the chamber. Beck at the Technische Hochschule in Dresden developed a ring-pattern injector that worked well in subscale engines. But the design proved unstable in the 25 tf engine. Therefore, it was decided to stick with the 18-head chamber for V-2 production.

August 1943 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. LV Family: V-2. Launch Vehicle: V-2.
  • V-2 program in crisis - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Degenkolb; Dornberger; Thiel, Walter. With only four months to go before Degenkolb's mandated production of 900 missiles per month, the engineers declare the missile is not ready for production. A workable engine has been developed, but it is complex, suitable for prototypes only, and the engineers involved do not have the experience to turn it into something designed for mass production. Continuous changes on the engine also affect other parts of the rocket, resulting in drawing changes simultaneous with the effort to mass-produce detailed parts. Thiel and his team declare that in fact development of the A4 can never be finished before the war's end. They recommend that plans to put it into production should be stopped. Thiel, at the verge of a nervous breakdown, led this engineering 'revolt', although Rees was the spokesman. They declare they would stop work at Peenemuende and retire to the university. Von Braun argued against this position, demanding that production continue. Dornberger suffered a crisis of confidence in the rocket team as a result of this fight, but decided to continue trying to get the missile in production and fielded with the Germany Army.

1943 August 17 - .
  • Death of Walter Thiel - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Thiel, Walter. Summary: German engineer, talented designer at Peenemuende, in charge of development of the engine for the V-2. Killed in the air raid in August 1943, a setback to the project..

1943 August 17 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. LV Family: V-2. Launch Vehicle: V-2.
  • Peenemünde attacked by RAF. - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: von Braun; Reitsch; Thiel, Walter. The Royal Air Force attacked Germany's Peenemünde Rocket Research Center, causing heavy damage and delaying V-weapon program by months.

    With the V-2 development program already in crisis, the Allies launch a massive bombing raid against Peenemuende. On that evening test pilot Hanna Reitsch was visiting the launch site. At 23:30 the air raid siren sounded. 600 British bombers drop 1500 tonnes of ordnance on the launch centre. However many bombs fell in the ocean around the peninsula, or buried themselves harmlessly in sand dunes. The resident area was hardest hit, while the Luftwaffe station at Peenemuende West was not touched. 47 British bombers were shot down - they were told before the raid that this was the most important mission of the war, and that their commanders would accept a 50% loss rate. 735 people were killed in the raid on the ground, including 178 of the 4000 inhabitants of the residential area. A large number of the foreign slave workers in the Trassenheide concentration camp barracks were also killed.

    After the tremendous raid the rocket team wander around the devastated facility, half-clothed, the buildings bathed in a weird light and everything covered in fine sand, as if flour was dropped over everything. Thiel and Walther - the two leading rocket engineers in Germany - were killed in the raid, and virtually all major facilities were damaged. The saving grace was that the soft sand of Peenemuende attenuated the blast of many bombs. Nine bombs hit the main assembly hall, but while there was splinter damage to some of the machine tools, there was no decisive hit that would prevent production from continuing. It was estimated that operations could resume in 4 to 6 weeks.

    The raid was not unexpected. The high altitude contrails of the V-2 test launches were called 'frozen lightning' and could be seen from Sweden on clear days. The location and purpose of Peenemuende appeared in a crossword puzzle in a illustrated magazine published in central Germany in early 1943. British reconnaissance flights to locate the launch facilities had been recognised for what they were.

    This raid, together with the bombing of V-2 production lines at the Zeppelinwerke in Friedrichshafen and the Raxwerke in Wiener Neustadt convinced Saur to reduce the V-2 production rate goal to 900 per month.

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