- Robert Esnault-Pelterie
image_size = 150px
caption = Robert Esnault-Pelterie
name = Robert Esnault-Pelterie
nationality = French
November 8, 1881
December 6, 1957
Robert Albert Charles Esnault-Pelterie (
November 8, 1881– December 6, 1957) was a pioneering French aircraftdesigner and spaceflight theorist. He was born in Paris, the son of a textileindustrialist. He was educated at the "Faculté des Sciences", studying engineeringat the Sorbonne.
His early experiments in aviation were based on the
Wright brothersmachine, and used a biplane glider. His glider designs were tested on a beach near Calais, using wing-warping techniques for controlling the flight. However his designs were based upon misinformation and proved a failure. After condemning the Wright brother's approach, he developed the concept of the aileronalong the trailing edge. This is now a standard rollmaneuvering element on most modern aircraft. (Note that the aileron was also invented independently by the Aerial Experiment Association, headed by Alexander Graham Bell).
In 1906 he began his first experiments in towed flight. On
September 19 1906he flew 500 m. He made his first powered flight on October 10, 1907, a distance of 100 m with the Pelterie I (or R.E.P. I). This was driven by a seven cylinder, 30 hp air-cooled engine.
Trials of the monoplane Pelterie II began on
June 8, 1908. This aircraft set a record with a 1,200 m flight at 30 m altitude. After a modified version of this plane was flown for the last time in 1909 at Rheims, Pelterie stopped flying and instead focused on the development and manufacture of airplanes.
He served in
World War Iand was made an "Officier de la Légion d'Honneur".
His family had invested heavily to fund his airplane designs, and this had left them nearly in financial ruins. However, he was the inventor of the "joy stick" flight control, and owned a patent on the design. Following the war he was involved in litigation over his joy stick patent. Many planes built during the war had used this design and the aircraft companies owed him royalties. The damages he won and subsequent royalties made him a wealthy man. This also allowed him to repay his father's significant investment.
He gained an interest in space travel, and in 1913 presented a paper that derived (not knowing of
Tsiolkovsky's 1903 work) the rocket equationand calculated the energies required to reach the Moon and nearby planets. ["Considerations sur les resultats d'un allegement indefini des moteurs", Journal de physique theorique et appliquee, Paris, 1913] . In this talk, he proposed the use of atomic energy, using 400 kg of radiumto power an interplanetary vehicle. His culminating work was "L'Astronautique", published in 1930. A later version published in 1934 included details on interplanetary traveland applications of nuclear power.
June 8, 1927, Robert gave a symposium for the French Astronautics Society titled "L'exploration par fusées de la très haute atmosphère et la possibilité des voyages interplanétaires", concerning the exploration of outer space using rocket propulsion. Jean-Jacques Barre attended this lecture, and developed a correspondence with Esnault-Peltier on the topic of rockets.
In November, 1928 he was married to Carmen de Quiros on boardthe "Ile de France" while sailing to
In 1929 Robert proposed the idea of the
ballistic missilefor military bombardment. By 1930, Robert and Jean-Jacques had persuaded the French War Department to fund a study of the concept. In 1931, the two began experimenting with various types of rocket propulsion systems, including liquid propellants. The same year he ran a demonstration of a rocket engine powered with gasoline and liquid oxygen. During an experiment with a rocket design using tetra-nitromethane he lost three fingers from his right hand during an explosion. Unfortunately their work failed to galvanize an interest in rocketry within France.
Among his interests was horseback riding, playing golf, camping,and driving a car. During his lifetime he earned about 120 patents in a variety of fields ranging from
metallurgyto automobile suspension. He was the inventor of the " joystick" aircraft control, radial engines, and of a new type of fuel pump. He also developed the idea of rocket maneuver by means of a gimballed nozzle.
Among his interests was horse riding, playing golf, camping, and driving a car.
* Member of the
* Esnault-Pelterie crater on the
Moonis named after him.
* [http://www.ctie.monash.edu.au/hargrave/rep.html The Pioneers: Robert Esnault-Pelterie]
* [http://www.century-of-flight.freeola.com/racing/PILOTS/Robert%20Esnault-Pelterie.htm Robert Esnault-Pelterie]
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