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Keldysh Bomber
Keldysh Bomber -

Credit: Mark Wade. 6,546 bytes. 350 x 178 pixels.

Family: Winged. Country: USSR. Status: Design 1946.

Among the advanced designs seized by Soviet forces as they overran Germany was the Saenger-Bredt Antipodal Bomber. This manned spaceplane particularly fascinated Stalin, to the extent that he instructed the NKVD to attempt to kidnap Saenger from his post-war exile in Paris. This did not come to past, but in the immediate post-war period development of a Soviet version of this project was given the highest priority.

On 29 November 1946 the NII-1 NKAP research institute was formed with Mstislav Vsevolodovich Keldysh as its head to investigate and develop the Saenger-Bredt design. Through 1947 studies revealed that the high fuel consumption of Saenger's pure rocket design made the concept unworkable in the near term. Using engines thought to be available in the near term, 95% of the winged vehicle's lift-off mass would have to be propellant. However use of ramjets during the acceleration process would allow the spacecraft to have a more reasonable 22% dead weight fraction and still achieve the 5 km/sec cut-off velocity required for the 12,000 km intercontinental range.

It was clear from the preliminary study that an immense amount of work needed to be done before even a draft project of a feasible design could be prepared. However this would be accomplished by the mid-1950's. The Keldysh design would lead through the EKR and MKR to the Buran and Burya Mach 3 intercontinental ramjet missiles.

The Keldysh Bomber had a length of 28 m, a wingspan of 15 m, and a fuselage cross section of 3.6 m x 1.8 m. Wing area was 126 sq. m which allowed a landing speed of 200 km/hr. The 100 tonne vehicle lift-off mass included: 70.5 tonnes of propellant; 7.5 tonnes for two ramjets; 9.0 tonnes wings and structure; 2.5 tonne rocket engine; 2.5 tonnes propellant tanks; and 8.0 tonnes payload and equipment.

The mission profile for the Keldysh Bomber differed in detail from that of the Saenger.

This design had double the range of a pure rocket design with a specific impulse of 300 seconds. But much development had to be undertaken before the concept could become reality. These included:

It was clear from the preliminary study that an immense amount of work needed to be done before even a draft project of a feasible design could be prepared. During the rest of the 1940's much progress was made. Bondaryuk began development of Soviet ramjet engines for missile applications; German rocket engines were upgraded and improved for the R-2 missile. In December 1949, in the review of the Korolev R-3 project, the conclusion was reached that the necessary research was still not available for winged rockets. But by December of the following year, with flight tests of the Bisnovat supersonic rocketplane completed, the way was open for further development.


Payload: 8,000 kg. to a: 5 km/s, 12,000 km range trajectory. Liftoff Thrust: 90,000 kgf. Total Mass: 100,000 kg. Core Diameter: 3.6 m. Total Length: 28.0 m.

Keldysh Bomber Chronology

1946 Nov 29 -


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Last update 12 March 2001.
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