Herman Potočnik

Herman Potočnik Noordung

Herman Potočnik, alias Hermann Noordung, was a Slovenian rocket engineer, officer, pioneer of cosmonautics (astronautics), space flights and technologies, born on December 22nd 1892 in Pulj (today Hrvaška) – Austria-Hungary, he died on August 27th 1929 in Vienna, Austria. He was born to the family of a Navy doctor, later a staff doctor, Jože Potočnik from a wealthy Slovenj Gradec leather family and to mother Marija Kokoschinegg (si. Kokošinek), a descendant of Czech ancestors who were supposed to work in the former Pohorje glass factories. Herman’s grandfather Franz Kokoschinegg was the son of the former owner of the inn and farm.

After he finished his law studies, he began to work on the estate of the princes of Windisch-Graetz in Konjice, later he was appointed for a manager of the estate of Josef Steinauer in Vitanje, who was the owner of local foundries. Soon follows the move to Maribor, where among others he was a head of district in Slovenska Bistrica, then the local judge. After the sudden death of his father in year 1894, his mother returned to her mother to Maribor with her children Franziska, Adolf, Gustav, and Herman. Herman attended a five-grade public school, before he turned eleven he attended lower military real school in Bad Fischau near Vienna, where he lived in a boarding school built specifically for orphaned sons of officers. During his study, his fathers’ brother dr. Gustav Kokoschinegg looked after him, he was a lawyer in Graz.

He continued his studies at several military schools in Moravia (today Czech Republic), after Military Academy he goes to Military Technical College in Moedling, which he successfully completed in the year 1913 with the rank of lieutenant. He was an expert in rail and bridge construction. Between years 1914 and 1918 he built and demolished various railway structures and bridges on the front lines of the WWI. Due to his illness, he retired early and settled with his brother in Vienna, where he studied electrical engineering at the Technical College. He completed his studies in year 1922 with the title of engineer, specialized in rocket technology.

At the time of his studies, Herman participated in the University Society for Aeronautical Engineering, in the rocket section, where he got acquainted with all the professional literature of that time. He was also a member of the so-called Society for travel in space, many of the leading rocket theorists were included in the Society.

(book cover) Herman Potočnik alias Hermann Noordung – The problem of space travel

He published articles, and in the year 1928 he published his only book with title The problem of space travel, signed as Hermann Noordung. It is a quibble of the pseudonym Noordung, which is the German word Ordnung and means an order that may refer to the universe and to that time undiscovered laws, which govern in it. In the book he describes his vision of space flights, presents the idea of the individual flight phases, calculates data for a geostationary satellite, and draws a blueprint for an artificial gravity wheel. The book has served as an important theoretical basis for many world-known scientists, the pioneers of rocket and aerospace engineering, and the constructors who have realized flights to space and landings of men on the moon.

Herman Potočnik dies in Vienna in the year 1929, at the age of seventy-three, from chronic tuberculosis. Three days later he was buried in the evangelistic part of Vienna cementary Simmering.

Due to importance of Noordung’s work and the connection of his family with Vitanje, they opened the first memorial room of Herman Potočnik in the city, today there stands CCEST (Cultural Center for European Space Technologies). In addition to museum activity, the Institute seeks to encourage and enable developmental activities on the subject of culturalisation of the universe through intellectual and artistic researches.

Herman Potočnik made a significant mark on the field od rocket technology. Wernher von Braun, the constructor of space rocket launchers and director of NASA Center, said that the book The problem of space travel is a turning point in the world’s rocket technology. The book presents many solutions that allow humans to reside in space. Given that there were no computers and solar cells, his solutions are just ingenious.


  • in Vitanje, home of Heman’s grandfather, on September 8th, 2006, a memorial room dedicated to this pioneer of astronautics in opened
  • in Vitanje, a Cultural Center of European Space Technology is opened on September 6th, 2012
  • streets in Ljubljana and Graz are named after him
  • they suggest that international space station be named after Herman, but the proposal was unsuccessful
  • asteroid 19612 Noordung is named after him, which was discovered on July 17th 1999 at the Črni vrh Observatory


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The Herman Potočnik Noordung Center of space technologies
Center Noordung is dedicated to one of the pioneers of space science, Herman Potočnik Noordung. His 1929 book The Problem of Space Travel – the Rocket Engine was an inspiration to many scientists in the development of space technologies. Center Noordung is located in Vitanje. [_Read more_]