An outstanding scientist and designer in the field of space rocket engineering, one of the organizers of rocket industry in the USSR and Ukraine, the founder and first Chief Designer of Yuzhnoye Design Office (1954-1971). Doctor of Engineering (1960), Academician of Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (1961), Academician of Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1966).
Mikhail Yangel was born in the village of Zyryanova, Irkutsk region, in a poor rural family. In 1926, at the invitation of his older brother Konstantin, student of the Mining Academy, he arrives in Moscow where he graduates from a Factory Trade Apprenticeship school. Yangel gets a job as a subforeman at a textile factory in Krasnoarmeysk, Moscow region (1923 – 1931). Then he studies at Moscow Aviation Institute, from which graduates with honors (1937), his major being Aircraft Construction. Designer, lead engineer, assistant Chief designer, deputy director of Menzhinsky Aviation Plant at Polikarpov Design Office (1935 – 1944). Deputy Chief Engineer at Mikoyan Design Office (1944). Lead engineer at Myasischev Design Office (1945). Yangel participated in the I-153 aircraft development and in the work of Amtorg joint stock company in the United States. He organized final development of the I-180 and I-185 fighters and modification of the Po-2 aircraft. At the Ministry of Aviation Industry, Yangel coordinated the development of aircraft construction (1946 – 1948). He graduated cum laude from the Academy of Aviation Industry of the USSR (1950) and was assigned to rocket industry. Head of department, deputy Chief Designer Sergey Korolev; Director, Chief Engineer of Research Institute NII-88 in Kaliningrad, Moscow region (1950 – 1954). In 1954, Yangel was appointed Chief Designer of Special Design Bureau #586 (later, Yuzhnoye design office).
Mikhail Yangel was the founder of a new school of rocket engineering, based on the use of high-boiling propellants and autonomous control systems, which substantially increased operational readiness of strategic missiles. Yangel participated in the development of the first Soviet missiles, R-5 and R-7; supervised the development of the R-11 and R-12 missiles; organized research in aerodynamics, ballistics, material science, and other branches of rocket science (1950 – 1954).
The creative team of Yuzhnoye design office led by Mikhail Yangel, in cooperation with partner companies developed several generations of highly efficient missile complexes and space systems, making a lot of innovative decisions. The team made a great contribution to consolidation of the power and defense capability of the Soviet Union. The Strategic Rocket Forces were established based on high-performance and efficient R-12, R-14, R-16, R-36 missiles, and became the basis of the Soviet Union’s nuclear-missile shield. Kosmos and Kosmos-2 launch vehicles, various military, scientific, and civil application spacecraft were developed. The first satellites of Kosmos and Interkosmos series were launched into orbit to lay the foundation for international cooperation in space exploration.
As Chief Designer, Mikhail Yangel made bold and effective design and engineering decisions that significantly increased the effectiveness of missile systems, such as multiple and orbital reentry vehicles, decoys for penetration of anti-ballistic missile defense, mortar-style launch of heavy missiles, etc. Yangel formed a multi-functional structure of Yuzhnoye design office and built up a robust cooperation of space technology developers.
Mikhail Yangel took an active part in management of the state affairs: he was a city council member in Kaliningrad, Moscow region (1952 – 1954), deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (1966 – 1971), candidate member of the Central Committee of the USSR Communist Party (1966 – 1971).
Yangel was held in great respect and had authority with customers, scientific community, and industrial organizations. He left a deep trace in science and engineering as a historical figure that in many respects changed the course of world events.
Twice Hero of Socialist Labor (1959, 1961), winner of Lenin Prize (1960) and the USSR State Prize (1967). Decorated with the Orders of Lenin (1956, 1959, 1961, 1969), Order of the October Revolution (1971); winner of Sergey Korolev Prize and Gold Medal (1970).
Mikhail Yangel rests in Novodevichye churchyard, Moscow.
Yuzhnoye State Design Office bears Mikhail Yangel’s name in its full title (since 1991). The Astronautical Federations of the USSR and Ukraine instituted a medal of his name. The scholarships of his name were awarded at Moscow Aviation Institute and Dnepropetrovsk State University. An asteroid and a crater on the Moon, a village in Irkutsk region, a peak in the Pamirs, an ocean dry cargo ship (“Academician Yangel”) were given the name of Yangel. There are Yangel streets in Moscow, Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, and Baikonur. Memorial busts were installed in the cities of Zheleznogorsk-Ilimsk in Irkutsk region, in Dnepropetrovsk, and at the Baikonur and Plesetsk Cosmodromes. There are memorial plaques on the buildings of the textile factory in Krasnoarmeysk; Moscow Aviation Institute; TsNIIMash in Korolev, Moscow region; Yuzhnoye State Design Office in Dnepropetrovsk.