Herman Potočnik

Born 1892 in Pola, Austria-Hungary
(now Pula, Croatia)

Died 1929 in Vienna


Herman Potočnik, educated at various military schools in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was appointed second lieutenant at the military college of Mödling near Vienna in 1913. After serving in a railway corps during the First World War he studied and graduated from electrical engineering at the University of Technology in Vienna.

In 1928 Potočnik worked out a detailed technical design of a space station and published it 1929 in a book called “Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums - der Raketenmotor” (The problem of space travel – the rocket motor) under his pen name Hermann Noordung.

His space station consisted of up to three modules: the “Wohnrad” (Inhabitable Wheel), the power station and the observatory. The modules would be connected by cables. The inhabitable wheel has the form of a giant wheel and rotates to simulate gravity in the living areas. On top of the wheel there would be parabolic mirrors mounted to concentrate the solar radiation for the power supply through a heat engine power station. Potocnik worked out all the necessary equipment for his space station in great detail. A very similar concept of a space station design has been proposed by Wernher von Braun in 1953.

Herman Potočnik also describes in his book how a satellite could be positioned such to be visible all day long from a very spot on Earth, namely about 36.000 kilometers above the equa-tor. Today satellites in this “geostationary”´ orbit play an important role for telecommunications and weather forecasting.

Herman Potočnik died of pneumonia caught during the war, shortly after the publication of his book in Vienna .



“The Problem of Space Travel. The Rocket Motor” has been edited the first time  in English in 1995 by NASA.