The Chief Designer

YOUNG KOROLEV

Korolev's passion for aviation was supposedly triggered by watching an air display as a boy in 1913. Up to and during the Second World War, his principal work was on aircraft designs.

While Wernher von Braun soon became a familiar figure in the US media, his main rival carried out his greatest work beneath a cloak of anonymity. Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, known as the Chief Designer of Spacecraft, was a talented engineer who gave the Soviet Union a lead in space which it maintained until his death.

RESEARCH ROCKET

An elegant Soviet R-2 awaits launch on the test range at Kasputin Yar in southern Russia. Derived from an undeveloped German modification of the V-2, it first flew in 1950. The R-2 was longer and slimmer than the V-2/R-1 design, had a more powerful engine, and incorporated two pods along its hull, which could carry scientific instruments and animal passengers to high altitudes.

YOUNG KOROLEV

Korolev's passion for aviation was supposedly triggered by watching an air display as a boy in 1913. Up to and during the Second World War, his principal work was on aircraft designs.

The contrast between the two men who would ultimately drive opposing sides in the Space Race could be traced back to their birth. Von Braun was a scion of German nobility, Korolev the son of a poor craftsman, born in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, in 1907. His parents separated when he was three, though his mother told the young boy that his father had died. Raised largely by his grandparents, Korolev proved himself a good student with a head for mathematics.

COMPLEX PERSONALITY

A charismatic but demanding figure to those who worked under him, Korolev was driven by dreams of manned spaceflight. However, his experiences in the Gulag made him slow to trust, and he had little time for those he considered liars, which led to many personality clashes as he manoeuvred his way through the Soviet political system.

When his mother married an electrical engineer in 1916, his new stepfather introduced him to practical engineering. Shortly afterwards, on the eve of the Russian Revolution, the family moved to Odessa, where Korolev pursued a growing interest in aircraft.

In 1923, he joined a local Ukrainian aviation society, where he gained first-hand flying experience and was also subjected to communist indoctrination (though he would not join the Communist Party until 1952). The new Soviet government extended its reach into every aspect of public and private life, and Korolev would later learn to his cost just what happened when personal and political rivalries collided. In 1925, he moved with his family to Moscow, where he studied at the Bauman Technical School before working in an aviation design bureau. It was during this period that he got to know rocketry expert and space enthusiast Friedrich Tsander, and he became one of the founder members of MosGIRD in 1931 (see p.23).

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