Until his death in 1966, Sergei Korolev was the chief rocket engineer responsible for the Soviet Union's achievements in space exploration, including the launch of Sputnik 1.
He led Soviet efforts to build and test the nation's first rockets in the 1930s and was later responsible for building the Vostok capsule used for the first human spaceflight by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in 1961.
Korolev is credited with many technological discoveries that became widely used in space exploration and military defence.
Photo: Sergei Korolev in 1961 (Ria Novosti/Science Photo Library)
Russia's top rocket engineer is responsible for many firsts.
Soviet rocket engineer Sergei Korolev beats America into orbit.
Chief Soviet rocket engineer Sergei Korolev and his team built and launched the first Earth satellite, Sputnik, in 1957. This achievement is widely recognised as the start of the race between the United States and the USSR to dominate space.
Sergei Pavlovich Korolev (Russian: Серге́й Па́влович Королёв; IPA: [sʲɪrˈgʲej ˈpavɫəvʲɪt͡ɕ kɐrɐˈlʲɵf] ( listen),Ukrainian: Сергі́й Па́влович Корольо́в, Serhiy Pavlovych Korolov, also transliterated as Sergey Pavlovich Korolyov; 12 January [O.S. 30 December 1906] 1907 – 14 January 1966) was the lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer in the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the 1950s and 1960s. He is considered by many as the father of practical astronautics.
Although Korolev was trained as an aircraft designer, his greatest strengths proved to be in design integration, organization and strategic planning. Arrested for alleged mismanagement of funds (he spent the money on unsuccessful experiments with rocket devices), he was imprisoned in 1938 for almost six years, including some months in a Kolyma labour camp. Following his release, he became a recognized rocket designer and a key figure in the development of the Soviet ICBM program. He was then appointed to lead the Soviet space program, made Member of Soviet Academy of Sciences, overseeing the early successes of the Sputnik and Vostok projects that include launching Yuri Alexeevich Gagarin into orbit on 12 April 1961, the first human in space. By the time he died unexpectedly in 1966, his plans to compete with the United States to be the first nation to land a man on the Moon had begun to be implemented.
Before his death he was often referred to only as "Chief Designer", because his name and his pivotal role in the Soviet space program had been held to be a state secret by the Politburo. Only many years later was he publicly acknowledged as the lead man behind Soviet success in space.