Soyuz was the name for the Russian moon capsule and is the Russian word for "Union". It was designed in 1967 for use on the N-1 moon rocket. However, with the failure of the N-1, Soyuz was made the primary Soviet and later, Russian spacecraft, ferrying cosmonauts to LEO, Salyut, Apollo 21 (ASTP), and Mir. The Russians tried to make their Buran space shuttle it's main space vehicle and replace Soyuz, but Buran's apparently permanent grounding has kept the Soyuz in service.


The Soyuz program was first outlined in December 1962 by Chief Designer Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, but was initially rejected. In 1965, however, he was given permission to design a circumlunar flight program, with the eventual goal of landing a man on the moon. The initial unmanned and secret test flights were unsuccessful; all three ended in situations that would kill anyone on board. Despite this, the Soviet government decided to go ahead with the Soyuz 1 launch on April 26th, 1967. The mission ended the same way as the test flights did when Vladimir Komarov, the only person on board, crashed near Orenburg the next day, and died immediately. This set the Soyuz program back by 18 months, as the Soyuz 2 mission, which was originally intended to launch on April 27th, 1967, was delayed until October 25th, 1968. By then, the Soyuz program was far enough behind the Apollo project that no test flights of the lunar module were tested. The Soyuz missions, after the Americans landed on the moon with Apollo 11, focused on the establishment of space colonies. Seven Salyut space stations were in space and usable from the launch of Soyuz 10, on April 23rd, 1971, to the launch of Soyuz T-15, on March 13th, 1986, which found Salyut 7 frozen and unusable. Also, 29 missions to the space station Mir were sent, from Soyuz TM-1, launched May 21st, 1986 to Soyuz TM-29, which pulled away from Mir on August 27th, 1999.

The Soyuz missions were often planned improperly and hastily, and once a mission carrying three women, to be launched on International Women's Day, had to be canceled because of a shortage of Soyuz spacecraft themselves! Also, the safety systems on the craft were often only designed properly after they had proven themselves to be inadequate. For example, problems with the parachutes and solar panels were only fixed after the crash of Soyuz 1, which crashed due to flaws in both those systems. Also, the Soyuz craft was wholly redesigned after the disaster on Soyuz 11, where the cabin depressurized and all three crew members were killed. In the redesigned craft, only two people could fly, but they would have space to wear spacesuits during potentially dangerous portions of the mission. Also, the solar panels where removed entirely, preventing any problems with them.

A look at the systems of the Soyuz craft shows the technology level of the Soviet Union at the time it was first launched. The majority of the systems are similar to the technology employed on the American Mercury missions, but certain systems were much more advanced than anything employed on an American craft. The automatic docking systems, for example, allowed two Soyuz craft to dock with each other in orbit and exchange crews. Also, the Soyuz craft had automatic piloting systems, and many times the craft either went into space or came down on their own. Indeed, Soyuz 2, Soyuz 20, Soyuz T-1, and Soyuz TM-1 all both went to space and returned successfully on their own.

If anything, the design of the Soyuz craft has been much more long lived than any American ship. While the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs were all ended after relatively few missions, 83 Soyuz missions have flown, and the Soyuz craft are going to be used in the future, mainly to send crews to the International Space Station.

Lately, however, financial concerns have threatened the future of the Soyuz craft. The Russian government has said that it will no longer be able to send more than one mission into space each year, and certain systems that were originally considered essential by the designers to the Soyuz craft, such as the automatic docking systems, can no longer be used, because they are made in former Soviet Republics other than Russia, and therefore are not free to the Russian government. Also, Baikonur, the launch pad most often used to send Russian missions into space, now lies in Kazakhstan, and therefore Russia must rent use of the pad from the Kazakh government, something it can not always afford to do.

This is part of my ISU for Space Science on the Russian space program. I don't remember the exact mark it got me, but I recall it was pretty good.

The Soyuz spacecraft is one of the versatile spacecraft created and has gone through several incarnations. It began as a spacecraft for taking cosmonauts to the moon, into a spacecraft for investigating manned spaceflight in Earth to orbit, to finally a spacecraft for ferrying cosmonauts to space station.

The word 'Soyuz' (Союз in cyrillic) means Union in Russian (as in Soyuz Sovietskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik or Союз Советских Социалистических Республик).

The first manned incarnation of the Soyuz was the 7K-OK. Like all Soyuz to follow it consisted of three modules

The advantage of this three module approach as opposed to the two modules used by the Americans was that whereas in the Command Module of the Apollo spaceceft there six cubic metres of living space for a mass of 5000 kg, the Soyuz provided the same crew with 9 cubic meters of living space, an airlock, and the service module for the mass of the Apollo capsule alone. This was because the reentry module contained only the equipment necessary for reentry - parachutes, some battery power and a heat shield. Every gram saved in this way saves two or more grams in overall spacecraft mass - for it does not need to be protected by heat shields, supported by parachutes, or braked on landing.

One of the design requirements for the reentry module was for it to have the highest possible volumetric efficiency (internal volume divided by hull area). The best shape for this is a sphere, but this has no ability to bank a little, to generate lift and 'fly' to some extent. That is why it was decided to go with the 'headlight' shape that the Soyuz uses - a hemispherical forward area joined by a barely angled cone (7 degrees) to a classic spherical section heat shield. The 7K-OK spacecraft was designed with the following requirements in mind

The reentry module could accommodate a crew of up to three in a shirt sleeve environment. It was 2.16 m long and had a diameter of 2.2 m.

The spacecraft was equipped with 14 translation/attitude engines; 16 orientation engines; 6 reentry orientation engines; 4 small correction engines; and 2 rendezvous and correction engines.

It was launched on the Soyuz 11A511 rocket, which had a gross lift-off mass of 308 tonnes, was 45.6 m long, 10.3 m maximum span, and had a total burn time of 538.5 seconds.

The first unmanned test flight took place on November 28, 1966 and the last flight (Soyuz 9) occurred on June 1, 1970.

Manned Flights of the 7K-OK were as follows (with launch crews):

The basic design was then changed and lead to the 7K-OKS. This was designed for space station missions and only flew twice. It featured a lightweight docking system and a crew transfer tunnel. On the 7K-OK the crew had to perform an EVA if they wanted to transfer from one spacecraft to another. Now they could just open a hatch like on the Apollo spacecraft.

Manned Flights of the 7K-OKS were as follows (with launch crews):

The design was dropped after the fatal flight of Soyuz 11. The crew were killed when the capsule depressurised killing the cosmonauts who were not wearing spacesuits due to the space restrictions.

The spaceraft was completely redesigned resulting in the substantially safer 7K-T space station ferry. To make room for spacesuits one crew position was sacrificed. To avoid to problems Soyuz 1 had with its solar panels, batteries were now used. This limited the autonomous lifetime of the Soyuz but allowed a guaranteed power supply. It was to become the workhorse of the Soviet manned space program until 1981.

The first test flight occurred on 26 June, 1972 with the launch of Cosmos 496. After another test flight the first manned flight was Soyuz 12 launched on 27 September 1973.

Manned Flights of the 7K-T were as follows (with launch crews):

The next mission was the first of the unique Soyuz designs. The 7K-T/AF modification featured a large Orion 2 astrophysical camera. The crew imaged in sky in ultraviolet and made spectrozonal photography of specific areas of the earth's surface.

The 7K-T crossed over with the next incarnation of the Soyuz, Soyuz T. Late its life, the 7K-T was used to launch the Intercosmos crews to the Salyut space stations, while the man Salyut crew who lived in space for 6 months or so used the Soyuz T.

There was also an military version of the 7K-T. Called the 7K-T/A9. It was used to launch crews to the military Almaz Space Stations. It included systems for remote control of the Almaz station and a revised parachute system. Other changes were made but are unknown due to there classified nature. It was launched 6 times, with the last flight used for the Intercosmos program.

Manned Flights of the 7K-T/A9 were as follows (with launch crews):

While the Salyut program was going on, the Russians and Americans signed an agreement for the Apollo Soyuz Test Project (ASTP). Part of this was a redesign of the Soyuz to make it safe enough for the US. The Soyuz ASTP featured new solar panels for increased mission length, an androgynous universal docking mechanism instead of the standard male mechanism and modifications to the environmental control system to lower the cabin pressure to 0.68 atmospheres prior to docking with Apollo.

The craft launched four times, twice manned, the last being Soyuz 19, the actual ASTP mission. After the end of the ASTP, a surplus spacecraft was used for the Soyuz 22 mission. This featured an East German MF6 multispectral camera. This was used for photographing the earth to identify resources.

Manned Flights of the ASTP were as follows (with launch crews):

Another complete redesigned occurred during the 1970s. It had started when it was decided to design a military space station using a Soyuz spacecraft with a crew of two. This project was cancelled but the designing of the new Soyuz model continued. It was redesigned for a crew of three in spacesuits and a new design was issued in 1975. The first test flight occurred on 4 April, 1978 with the launch of Cosmos 1001.

The Soyuz T designed featured solar panels allowing longer missions, a revised Igla rendezvous system and new translation/attitude thuster system on the Service module. It was launched 15 times manned with the last being one of the most epic missions ever launched. Soyuz T-15 rendezvoused and docked with first the newly launched Mir Space Station. It then went to the lifeless Salyut 7 and retrieved experiments and equipment. It then returned to Mir. This would have been impossible with the older Soyuz designs which had very limited manouevering.

Manned Flights of the T were as follows (with launch crews):

The last major redesign of the Soyuz resulted in the Soyuz TM. It was a modernised version of the Soyuz T, for use with the Mir Space Station. It has new docking and rendezvous, radio communications, emergency and integrated parachute/landing engine systems. The new Kurs rendezvous and docking system permitted the Soyuz TM to maneuver independently of the station, without the station making "mirror image" maneuvers to match unwanted translations introduced by earlier models' aft-mounted attitude control.

It flew a total of 34 times carrying cosmonauts and for the first time astronauts. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the flight rate was lowered and paying customers were able to buy seats for a 10 day mission in space.

Manned Flights of the TM were as follows (with launch crews):

Soyuz TM-31 carried the first crew to the International Space Station. The Soyuz serves as the lifeboat to be used by the crew in case of emergency.

A slightly modified Soyuz TMA is now also being used. This features several changes to accomodate NASA requirements, including more latitude in the height and weight of the crew and improved parachute systems.

After the disintergration of Columbia, the Soyuz TMA became the only way for the manned crews to reach the ISS. It was used to launch the two man Expedition 7 crew to the ISS as caretakers. The Expedition 8 launched October 18, 2003 by the Soyuz TMA as well.

Manned Flights of the TMA were as follows (with launch crews):

This writeup has only looked at the manned versions of the Soyuz spacecraft that have flew. There are dozens of other variations that were either only dreamed or have flown unmanned as test flights or as modifications on the basic Soyuz design.

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