Korolev, Sergey Pavlovich

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Korolev, Sergey Pavlovich

(b. Zhitomir, Russia, 12 January 1907; d. Moscow, U.S.S.R., 14 January 1966)

mechanics, roket and space technology.

Korolev’s parents were teachers who were divorced soon after his birth. The boy was then brought up in the family of his maternal grandfather, in Nezhin and Kiev. He was ten years old when his mother remarried, moved with her husband to Odessa, and sent for her son. His stepfather, an engineer named Balanin, became both father and friend to Korolev and supported his early interest in technology.

In 1922, after completing his general education, Korolev entered the first Odessa Professional School, which offered specialized training in construction work. He graduated in 1924. It was during this period that he was first attracted to aviation. He began to construct gliders and worked as an instructor for glider clubs in Odessa.

In 1924 Korolev entered the Faculty of Mechanics at Kiev Polytechnic Institute for professional training in aviation. He transferred in 1926 to the Faculty of Aeromechanics of the Bauman Higher Technical School in Moscow. He graduated in 1929, having defended his thesis on the SK-4 airplane, which he had built himself under the direction of A. N. Tupolev (the letters S.K. from his initials and the 4 because it was the fourth plane which he had built).

In 1930 Korolev graduated from the Moscow Summer Shool and recevied a pilot’s diploma. In 1931 he married a childhood friend, Oksana Maksimilianovna Vintsentina, a physician. They had one daughter. Both in Kiev and in Moscow Korolev combined study with the construction of gliders and airplanes, and made test flights.

In 1930-1931 Korolev became acquainted with the work of Tsiolkovsky and decided to devote himself to rocket and space technology. He participated in the organization at Moscow in 1931 of a group formed to study jet propulsion; he also organized and directed experimental workshops affiliated with the central Moscow group. After the creation in 1933 of the Institute for Jet Research, Korolev moved there and directed both construction and the scientific research. During this period he designed new gliders for carrying large loads. One, the SK-9, with a capacity of about twenty-six kilograms per square meter, was equipped with a liquid-fuel rocket engine. In 1940 V.P. Fedorov made what apparentloy was the first flight on such a plane.

In 1941-1945 Korolev concerned himself mainly with military uses of rocket planes, and in the years immediately after the war he turned totally to the construction of long-distance rockets.

Korolev combined theoretical research with construction work and teaching. His building a very powerful rocket led Korolev to become a major builder of space rocket vehicles that resulted in outstanding achievements of Soviet space technology, beginning with the launching of the first artificial earth satellite on 4 October 1957. The first Soviet launches of interplanetary probes to Venus (1961-1965) and Mars (1962) were carried out under Korolev’s direction.

For his scientific achievements Korolev was elected a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. in 1953; in 1958 he became an academician and received the Lenin Prize.


I. Original Works. Korolev’s writings include Raketny polet v stratosfere (“Rocket Flight to the Stratosphere”; Moscow, 1934); “Polet reaktivnykh apparatov v stratosfere” (“The Flight of Reactive Apparatuses to the Stratosphere”), in Trudy Vsesoyuznogo konferentsii po izucheniyu stratosfery (Moscow, 1935), 849-855; “O prakticheskom znachenii nauchnykh i tekhnicheskikh predlozeny K. E. Tsiolkovskogo v oblasti raketnoy tekhniki” (“On the Practical Importance of the Scientific and Technical Proposals of K. E. Tsiolkovsky in the Field of Rocket Technology”), in Iz istorii aviatsii i kosmonavtiki, no. 4 (1966), 7-21; and “O nekotorykh problemakh osvoenia kosmicheskogo prostrastva” (“On Certain Problems in the Conquest of Cosmic Space”), ibid., no. 5 (1967), 3-5. There are also articles and notes in Samolyot (1931), nos. 1 and 12; (1932), no. 4; (1935), no. 11; Venstnik vozdushnogo flota (1931), no. 2; and Tekhnika vozdushnogo flota (1935), no. 7.

II. Secondary Literature. See O. Apenchenko, Sergey Korolev (Moscow, 1969); P. T. Astashenkov, Akademik S. P. Korolev (Moscow, 1969); and A. Romanov, Konstruktor kosmicheskikh korabley (“Constructor of Spaceships”; Moscow, 1969).

J. B. Pogrebyssky