Yuriy Pavlovich Semyonov

After leaving Mikhail Yangel's Design Bureau in 1964 to join Korolev, Semyonov rose steadily through the ranks. He started as an assistant to the main designer of the Soyuz spacecraft, but was then appointed the main designer for the L1 circumlunar variant, and finally the main designer for the DOS programme. During the period in which Glushko ran the company, Semyonov participated in improving the Soyuz to serve the second-generation Salyuts, and later Mir. He also directed the Interkosmos programme which trained cosmonauts from fraternal communist countries and gave them brief visits to Salyut 6. In 1981 he was appointed Glushko's principal deputy, and was placed in charge of the development of the Buran space-plane. During the Gorbachov era he tried politics, but was hindered by the fact that his wife was the daughter of Andrey Kirilenko, who was a senior man in the Politburo of Leonid Brezhnyev. After Glushko's death in 1989 Semyonov became General Designer of NPO Energiya. In 1991 he was made General Director, and played a key role in preserving the core of the national space programme. After the conglomerate was re-organised in early 1995 as Space Rocket Corporation (RKK) Energiya, he became its first president. He established strong links with the two leading Western space agencies: NASA and ESA. This collaboration prolonged the period of operation of the Mir space station. Nevertheless, once the American use of Mir ended there were no funds to continue to operate the station, and in March 2001 it was de-orbited. By this time, however, Russia was a partner in the International Space Station (ISS). Although RKK Energiya was playing a key role, a significant fraction of the work went to the M.V. Khrunichev Centre, which had become a commercial competitor in the space market. In an effort to improve RKK Energiya's income, Semyonov, against opposition from NASA, offered Soyuz 'tourist flights' to the ISS. Following the demise of the Soviet Union, Russia established a space agency to coordinate the national space programme. Even though the government owned 38 per cent of RKK Energiya, Semyonov tried to bypass the national space agency, thereby drawing criticism, and in May 2005, a month after his 70th birthday, the government told him to retire. He was superseded by 44-year-old Nikolay Sevastyanov. Semyonov holds a PhD in Technical Sciences and has authored over 200 scientific papers.

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Yuriy Semyonov as General Designer at NPO Energiya.

General Nikolay Kamanin (left) and General Designer of NPO Energiya Valentin Glushko at the TsPK in Zvyozdniy in August 1974. (From the book Hidden Space, courtesy www.astronaut.ru)

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