This study is dedicated to the memory of Friedrich Zander (1887‒1933), an internationally well-known graduate of the Riga Polytechnic Institute (RPI), presently Riga Technical University (RTU). The study focuses on Zander’s family background and student years at the RPI, on first steps taken towards his intense involvement in rocketry and spaceflight later in life. Zander’s professional efforts, his ideas, calculations and practical suggestions have made significant contributions to the space sciences. In addition to noticing previous research, the study is based on material found in the collections of archives, libraries and museums. Part of the documents used are published for the first time.