Kerim Aliyevich Kerimov (Kərim Əli oğlu Kərimov, Керим Алиевич Керимов; 1917 – 2003) was an Azerbaijani Soviet rocket scientist, one of the founders of the Soviet space industry, and for many years a central figure in the Soviet space program. Despite his prominent role, his identity was kept a secret from the public for most of his career. He was one of the lead architects behind the string of Soviet successes that stunned the world from the early 1960s – from the launch of the first human spaceflight, Yuri Gagarin's 108-minute trip around the globe aboard the Vostok 1, to the launch of the first space docks (Cosmos 186 and Cosmos 188) in 1967 and the first space stations (Salyut and Mir series) from 1971 to 1991.
Kerim Kerimov was born on November 14, 1917 in a family of an engineer-technologist in Baku, Azerbaijan (then part of the Russian Empire). After graduation from the Azerbaijan Industrial Institute in 1942, Kerimov continued his education at Dzerzhinsky Artillery Academy, where he committed himself to design and development of rocket systems.
An expert in rocket technology, he worked during World War II on the inspection and acceptance of the famous Katyusha rocket launchers. His work was honoured with the Order of the Red Star. Kerim Kerimov has been involved in Soviet aeronautics from its inception. After World War II, Kerimov worked on the Soviet inter-continental ballistic missile program, rising by 1960 to head the Third Directorate of the Main Directorate of Missile Weapons (GURVO) of the USSR Ministry of Defense that oversaw secret test launches. Along with other rocketry experts, he was sent to Germany in 1946 to collect information on the German V-2 rocket.
In 1964 he became head of the newly formed Central Directorate of the Space Forces (TsUKOS) of the USSR Ministry of Defense. Following the death of Sergei Korolev in 1966, Kerimov was appointed Chairman of the State Commission on Piloted Flights and headed it for 25 years (1966 – 1991). He supervised every stage of development and operation of both manned space complexes as well as unmanned interplanetary stations for former Soviet Union. Kerimov was also the Head of Chief Directorate of the Ministry of General Machine Building in 1965-1974, which was engaged in creation of rocket systems.
As in the case of other Soviet space pioneers, the Soviet authorities for many years refused to disclose Kerimov's identity to the public. At televised space launchings, cameras always focused on the cosmonauts and not the person to whom they reported their readiness to carry out the mission. As Kerimov was a "secreted general", he was always hidden from the camera's view; only his voice was broadcast. His name remained a secret until era of “glasnost” in Soviet Union, when he was first mentioned in Pravda newspaper in 1987.