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 ˈpavləvʲɪtɕ kərɐˈlʲɵf] ( listen),Ukrainian: Сергі́й Па́влович Корольoв,Serhiy Pavlovych Korolyov), also transliterated as Sergey Pavlovich Korolyov; 12 January [O.S. 30 December 1906] 1907 – 14 January 1966) worked as the lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer during the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s. He is considered by many as the father of practical astronautics.
Although Korolev 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 Intercontinental ballistic missile program. He was then appointed[by whom?] to lead the Soviet space program and made a Member of Soviet Academy of Sciences, overseeing the early successes of the Sputnik and Vostok projects that included launching Yuri Alexeevich Gagarin, into space making him the first human to enter orbit on 12 April 1961. By the time he died unexpectedly in 1966, Korolev's plans to compete with the United States to become 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 "The Chief Designer", because the Soviet leadership feared that the United States would send agents to assassinate him. Only many years later[when?], upon his death, did he receive public recognition as the driving force behind Soviet successes in space.