Prof. Nikolay Tolyarenko


It is with deep regret that we inform you that Professor Nikolai Tolyarenko died in Moscow on 31 December. Nikolai Tolyarenko (born in St Petersburg on the 19th of March 1941) gained a strong reputation in the space community as a specialist in orbital mechanics and propulsion systems.

He worked in this field at the (then named) NPO Energia consortium, the largest space enterprise in Russia.

As an engineer and mathematician, his PhD dissertation of 1969 covered this topic and was named “On Some Problems of the Manned Moon Missions Using Intermediate Orbits”.  It was related to work he did on the Russian Moon program. Also other books he wrote showed his broad knowledge of space technology. Just to quote a few from his many contributions, demonstrating this broad scope of interest, we can refer to inter alia:

“Reusable Space Tags”, 1973, GONTI-4.
“Reusable Space Servicing Crafts”, 1973, GONTI-4
“Design and Tests of Life Support Systems for Space Station”, 1974, GONTI-4
“Orbital Space Stations”, 1989 /Science and Technique Transactions, Rocket Manufacturing and Space Technique, V. 10/, VINITI

In addition he published an impressive number of papers in this field and wrote a number of remarkable chapters in ISU’s “Keys to Space” / An ISU Publication, McGraw-Hill, 1999.

This ISU reference brings us to a very important part of his career as a very talented teacher. As a professor of MAI (Moscow Aviation Institute) he first came in contact with ISU via the SSP (Space Studies Program) program in Strasbourg in 1989.

His enthusiasm and his strong drive to educate the next generation of space experts was very obvious from the beginning, and ISU did not fail to offer him the post of Director of the MSS (Master of Space Studies) program from August 1998 onwards. He really excelled in this position as an outstanding educator, who always was there when the students needed him. Probably the best way to illustrate this is the fact that many alumni clearly stated that he changed their life and was of paramount importance for their careers in the space sector, a sector which Nikolai loved.

It is evident from the several reactions which we receive that Nikolai’s legacy as a teacher, mentor and friend to the ISU community, will never fade.

Extrêmement triste et choqué d’apprendre la mort du professeur Nikolai Tolyarenko aujourd’hui. C’était un homme que nous respections énormément à l’International Space University. Toutes mes pensées vont à sa famille et à ses proches.” – Paul Wohrer

Heartbroken to hear about the loss of Prof. Nikolai Tolyarenko. You were the most knowledgeable and entertaining supervisor one could ask for, and your kindness and humble nature always enthralled me. Your absence will strongly be felt in ISU and in the space community. Rest in peace, Prof. Tolyarenko.” – Shireen Basheer

Very sad and shocking news.. Prof. Tolyarenko has passed away. He was an incredibly funny and knowledgable man. We are left with his very honest and entertaining catch phrase ‘I’m sorry, its bullshit’. A very honest man when it came to criticism and and very warm and friendly face always willing to help. He will not be forgotten. Thank you for all your help and hard work Prof. Tolyarenko, you have been an inspiration to us all at ISU.” – Sema Husseyin

A man with an overarching and deep knowledge about all aspects of space, and who had met Yuri Gagarin, he was a major contributor to the institution both before and after his retirement. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his family.” – Prof. Chris Welch


ISU lost a remarkable educator, Prof. Tolyarenko, but also an irreplaceable friend, Nikolai.

He will always remain part of the ISU spirit.