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 including the first human Earth orbit mission by Yuri Alexeevich Gagarin on 12 April 1961. Korolev's unexpected death in 1966 interrupted implementation of his plans for a Soviet manned Moon landing before the United States 1969 mission.
Before his death he was officially identified only as Glavny Konstruktor (Главный Конструктор), or the Chief Designer, to protect him from possible cold war assassination attempts by the United States. Only following his death in 1966 has he received appropriate public recognition as the driving force behind Soviet accomplishments in space exploration during and following the International Geophysical Year.