Russia and Ukraine are marking on Friday the birth centenary of legendary Soviet spacecraft designer Sergey Korolyov, who won the space race with the United States in the 50s and 60s by launching the first Sputnik and the first man to space, according to Itar-Tass.

      Russia issued a commemorative medal and will launch a cargo Progress spacecraft on January 18 named after Korolyov.

      Unlike his US counterpart Wernher von Braun, Korolyov was a top-secret personality until his unexpected death on January 14, 1966 because of an allegedly botched surgical procedure and was known only as the ”Chief Designer”.


      An underserved victim of Joseph Stalin’s repressions, Korolyov spent six years in gulag. He was arrested in 1938 during Stalin’s Great Purge and accused of subversion, apparently due to his desire to work on liquid-rocket powered aircraft rather than solid rockets. Supposedly he had spent too much money on a project that was not considered a top priority.

      After release in 1944 Korolyov contibuted geratly to the development of ballistic missile technology, but was preoccupied with space travel plans. In 1953 he proposed to launch a satellite into orbit and four years later implemented the idea.

      Korolyov`s planning for the manned mission began in 1958 and Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space on April 12, 1961.

      Korolyov was twice awarded the Hero of Socialist Labor Order and thrice the Order of Lenin. He was also the winner of the Lenin Prize. In 1958 he was elected to the Soviet Academy of Sciences. A street in Moscow was named after Korolyov in 1966. The town of Kalingrad near Moscow, which hosts the mission space center and is home to the Energia space corporation, was renamed to Korolyov in 1996. The Energia, which Korolyov headed for 20 years, was also renamed after the Chief Designer.