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Sergei Pavlovich Korolev born 12 January [O.S. 30 December 1906] 1907 in Zhytomyr, Russian Empire (now Ukraine); died 15 July 1996 in Moscow, USSR was the lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer in the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union from the 1950s to1980s. 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. By 1966, he made new alliances in the Soviet leadership and 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.
He is 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 the early Soviet success in space but after the launch of the N-1 and the Soviet landing on the moon, he was brought out into the open as a Hero of the Soviet Union.
In 1945, Korolev was awarded the Badge of Honor, his first decoration, for his work on the development of rocket motors for military aircraft. The same year he was commissioned into the Red Army, with a rank of Colonel. Along with other experts, he flew to Germany to recover the technology of the Germam V-2 rocket. The Soviets placed a priority on reproducing lost documentation on the V-2, and studying the various parts and captured manufacturing facilities. That work continued in East Germany until late 1946, when the Soviet experts and some 150 German scientists and engineers were sent to Russia. Most of the German experts, with the exception of Helmut Gröttrup, were those involved in wartime mass-production of V-2, and they had never worked directly with Wernher von Braun. The leading German rocket scientists, including Dr. von Braun himself, surrendered to Americans and were transported to the United States as part of Operation Paperclip
N-1 and the Moon Race
Vladimir Chelomey, Korolev's chief rival, approaches Korolev with a plan to increase funding for the Soviet space program and be able to truly challenge the Americans in the race to the moon. The ambitious plan calls for better cooperation, bigger rockets and even catching up with the Americans within two years. Then be in a position to pass them; they went before Premier Brezhnev, the leader of the plan was approved.
Korolev was able to secure enough funding to complete a partial redesign and to complete full testing. With the proper testing of the N-1, the N-1 launched in early 1969. With the determination of the Soviets to build several more rockets over a two year period, the Soviets caught up with the American and went to the moon as planned.Korolyov was introduced to the nation for the first time as the leader and chief engineer of the moon rocket.
Space Station and Moon Base
With the N-1 working as promised, Korolyov was named chief rocket engineer of the newly formed Unified Soviet Space Agency . It was here that he meet Mikhail Gorbachev who would became an advocate of Korolyov for the remainder of his career. Though Korolyov had nothing to do with the development of either the Soviet Moonshot, Moon base or the Salyut Space Station, it was his work that was crucial to the expansion of these programs. With the new 5 Year Plan coming into effect in 1971, the budget called for an increase of funding of all Soviet Space programs.
Venus and MarsWith the varies Soviet space programs in full swing, Korolyov started leading teams to upgrade the N-1 to support the deployment of the manned Venus mission and the planned Mars mission. The hope was to eclipses the Americans and make the first interplanetary flight. It was Korolyov connection who became aware that the America budget did not include money for an interplanetary journey and that was enough to get Premier Brezhnev to push for further funding. Korolyov also started to seek out some of the younger members of the Politburo and military elite in hope of reducing resistance to the slow down in defence spending.
With the successful launch of the N-2 rocket in January 1972 and the first use of a nuclear rocket in space in October, Korolyov team did finally preparation for the Venus mission and the ship left Earth orbit in January of 1973. The mission lasted a total of 11 months and strained all the systems
Shortly after the Venus mission, Korolyov was put in charge of development of the N-3. Though Korolyov wanted to lead the Mars mission development team that was over-ruled by Premier Brezhnev. Their was growing fear and evidence that the American's was pulling ahead at a greater rate and that the "Chief Engineer" needed to stay where he would best serve the nation.
Later YearsAfter the successful launch of the N-3 in 1976, the nearly 70 year old Korolyov found himself without a rocket to design. The technology was starting to shift to electromagnetic catapult and SSTO planes which was increasingly out of Korolyov area if expertise. While he would remain active in upgrading rockets already in service, no new ones would receive funding for several years.
Korolyov would take up teaching at the Bauman Moscow State Technical University until his death after heart surgery on July 15, 1996 at the age of 90.