Sergei Korolev

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Korolev, Sergei Pavlovich


Born Dec. 30, 1906 (Jan. 12, 1907), in Zhitomir; died Jan. 14, 1966, in Moscow. Soviet scientist and space rocket systems designer. Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1958; corresponding member, 1953). Twice Hero of Socialist Labor (1956 and 1961). Became a member of the CPSU in 1953.

Korolev graduated from a building trades school in Odessa in 1924. In 1927 he began working in the aviation industry. In 1930 he graduated simultaneously from the Moscow N. E. Bauman Higher Technical School and the Moscow Pilots’ School. In June 1930 he became a senior engineer at the Central Aero-hydrodynamics Institute. He developed a number of successful gliders. After becoming acquainted with K. E. Tsiolkovskii and his works, Korolev became interested in the idea of developing rocket-type aircraft. In 1931, together with F. A. Tsander, he formed the Group for the Study of Jet Propulsion (GIRD) in Moscow; he became its head in May 1932. The first Soviet liquid-fuel rocket, the GIRD-09, was built by GIRD and launched in August 1933. After the merger of GIRD with the Gas Dynamics Laboratory to form the Jet Scientific Research Institute in late 1933, Korolev was appointed the new institute’s deputy scientific director, and in early 1934 he was made head of the rocket vehicle department. His paper Rocket Flight in the Stratosphere was published in 1934. He designed a number of rockets, including the 212 guided winged rocket, which flew in 1939, and the RP-318-1 rocket glider, which made its first flight (piloted by V. P. Fedorov) in 1940. From 1942 to 1946, Korolev worked as deputy chief engine designer in the Specialized Design Bureau, concentrating on the problem of equipping production models of combat aircraft with liquid-fuel rocket boosters. Korolev subsequently headed a large team of scientists that developed high-power rocket systems.

An era of outstanding firsts in the history of space exploration is associated with Korolev. For a number of years his great executive ability and scientific talent enabled him to direct the work of many research and design teams engaged in solving complex interrelated problems. Many of Korolev’s scientific and technical ideas have found wide application in rocket and space technology. He directed the development of many ballistic missiles and geophysics rockets and launch vehicles, as well as the Vostok and Voskhod manned spacecraft, on which the first manned flights and space walks were made. Space rocket systems whose development was directed by Korolev made possible the first earth and sun satellites; the flights of unmanned interplanetary probes to the moon, Venus, and Mars; and soft lunar landings. The Elecktron and Molniia 1 series of earth satellites and many satellites of the Kosmos series, as well as the first Zond interplanetary probes, were developed under his direction. Korolev trained numerous cadres of scientists and engineers. In 1957 he was awarded the Lenin Prize. He also received three Orders of Lenin, the Order of the Badge of Honor, and various medals. In commemoration of the contribution made by Korolev as one of the founders of practical space flight, the largest formation on the far side of the moon (a thalassoid) has been named after him.

Korolev is buried in the Kremlin wall on Red Square.


In Pionery raketnoi tekhniki: Vetchinkin, Glushko, Korolev, Tikhonravov, Izbr. trudy. Moscow, 1972.


Astashenkov, P. T. Akademik S. P. Korolev. Moscow, 1969.
Romanov, A. P. Konstruktor kosmicheskikh korablei, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1971.
Apenchenko, O. Sergei Korolev. Moscow, 1969.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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