Korolyov is the father of the Soviet space program and in a way the one responsible for starting the space race. To put it simply, after the end of World War 2, German scientists working on a number of projects, in our case the A4 (or later called V-2) rocket, were hunted down by the Russians and the Americans, along with their allies. The key figure at this time was Wernher von Braun, whom we all know was the creative mind behind the rocket program of the Third Reich. He along with part of his team, managed to surrender to the Americans, taking all their knowledge with them. The Russians were left with nothing apart some scattered bits and pieces.
- Biographical notes
I must add that Germany was not the first and only in this field of research, the thing that made them unique was that they managed to produce large numbers of a rocket type that revolutionized warfare. Korolyov could be thought at as the Soviet version of von Braun, perhaps without the political support of his German counterpart, at least in the late 1930s. His stepfather was an engineer, surely one of the reasons for his approach to this field of study. In 1923 he joined ”Friends of the Air Fleet Society”, a year later moving to Kiev Polytechnic Institute. In 1926 he managed to transfer to Moscow, at the Bauman High Technical School.
In 1929 he graduated, joining the Central Aero and Hydrodynamics Institute in 1931. In 1932 he was appointed chief of the Jet Propulsion Research Group (GIRD), later being reorganized and named RNII, Jet Propulsion Research Institute, where he held the position of deputy chief. The main projects were rockets and gliders. Their achievements were modest to say the least, GIRD-9 for example reaching the altitude of 400 m.
Having this slow progress in mind it was believed that Korolyov was deliberately trying to sabotage the research, so, at the hight of Stalin's purges, on June 27, 1938 he was arrested, spending over a year at the Kolyma gold mine in Siberia, not the best place to be. By 1940, the authorities realized that he was the only one with sufficient experience and knowledge to continue the research, so in September that year he along with other engineers were transfered to a sharashka, a design bureau in prison. The sharashka where Korolyov activated was led by Andrei Tupolev and located in the city of Omsk, it was officially named TsKB-29.
Another important moment in his life was July 27, 1944, when the authorities ”paroled” him. In September 8, 1945 he traveled to Germany to see the A4 ballistic missile in action. This evaluation was conducted by the US and its allies so Korolyov was forced to see the demonstration from behind the fence. NII-88 or Scientific Research Institute No. 88 was situated in Podlipki, northeast of Moscow, and beginning with August 1946 Korolyov held the position of chief of a department created to develop and produce missile technology based on German hardware, in practice, reverse engineering the V2.
A very important step for space exploration as well as a military benchmark was the R-7 ICBM which in October 8, 1957, put Sputnik 1, man's first artificial satelite, in orbit. This was the beginning of the Space Race, and until his death in January 14, 1966, he managed to give the USSR a reputation as leader of space exploration.
- His work
He worked as lead engineer at Tupolev's TB-3 heavy bomber. The aircraft was of poor quality, being introduced in 1932 and retired in 1939, it still operated during the Second World War mainly as a transport plane. The M-17 engines provided a range of 3,250 km. Defensive armaments consisted of five light machine guns.
N.A. Zheleznov, A.V. Chesalov, E.S. Shchetinkov, S.A. Pivovarov, G.N. Fedotov, V.V. Gorbunov, V.V. Ivanov, B.A. Bivovarov, A.M. Durnov. The RP-1, a maned rocked powered glider had an OR-2 engine. Korolyov worked on maned rocket planes and cruise missiles.
During the sharashka period he worked on the Tupolev Tu-2 and Petlyakov Pe-2.
Korolyov continued to design rockets, bigger and better, and finaly the R-7 Semyorka was born, the first ICBM. It was a two-stage design with a maximum payload of 5.4 tons. It was the rocket that (in some cases being modified) made Sputnik 1, and the first maned missions to space possible.
Korolyov's main interest was space travel, just like von Braun, but what Korolyov managed to do was to ignite the engines that made our species capable of space travel.