Soyuz (Russian: Сою́з, IPA: [sɐˈjus]), Union) is a series of spacecraft designed for the Soviet space programme by the Korolyov Design Bureau in the 1960s that remains in service today. The Soyuz succeeded the Voskhod spacecraft and was originally built as part of the Soviet Manned Lunar programme.
The Soyuz spacecraft is launched on a Soyuz rocket, the most frequently used and most reliable launch vehicle in the world to date. The Soyuz rocket design is based on the Vostok launcher, which in turn was based on the 8K74 or R-7A Semyorka, a Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile. All Soyuz spacecraft are launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The first Soyuz flight was unmanned and started on November 28, 1966. The first mission with a crew, Soyuz 1, launched on 23 April 1967 but ended with a crash due to a parachute failure, killing cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov. The proceeding flight was unmanned. Soyuz 3, launched on October 26, 1968, became the program's first successful manned mission. The only other flight to suffer a fatal accident, Soyuz 11, killed its crew of three during re-entry when the cabin depressurized prematurely. Despite these early incidents, Soyuz is widely considered the world's safest, most cost-effective human spaceflight system, established by its unparalleled length of operational history.
Soyuz spacecraft were used to carry cosmonauts to and from Salyut and later Mir Soviet space stations, and are now used for transport to and from the International Space Station (ISS). At least one Soyuz spacecraft is docked to ISS at all times for use as an escape craft in the event of an emergency.
The Soyuz spacecraft is intended to be replaced by the six-person Prospective Piloted Transport System.
The orbital and service modules are single-use and are destroyed upon re-entry in the atmosphere. The orbital and reentry portions are habitable living space. By moving as much equipment as possible into the orbital module, which does not have to be shielded or decelerated during atmospheric re-entry, the Soyuz is both larger and lighter than the contemporary Apollo spacecraft's command module. The Apollo command module had more than six cubic meters (6.2 m³) of living space and a mass of 5000 kg; the three-part Soyuz (command, orbital and service modules) provides the same crew (since the Soyuz T in 1980) with more than seven cubic meters of living space (5 m³ in OM, plus 2.5 m³ in RM), an airlock, and a service module for the mass of the Apollo capsule alone (mass of empty Soyuz was 5600 kg). On the other hand Apollo was operating with three astronauts in spacesuits and was able to land with five astronauts in spacesuits in 1973 (prepared rescue mission for second Skylab crew), Soyuz was for two cosmonauts in spacesuits in the 1960s and 1970s, and for three since 1980 (Soyuz T). On nine Apollo missions (9 through 17) the astronauts also had access to the Lunar Module, which added 6.7 cubic meters of volume but also another 2200 kg of mass (if counting just the empty ascent stage as being somewhat equivalent to the Soyuz orbital module, although including empty fuel tanks, engine and RCS system — 14700 kg when including the descent stage and fuel).
Soyuz can carry up to three crew members and provide life support for about 30 person days. The life support system provides a nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere at sea level partial pressures. The atmosphere is regenerated through KO2 cylinders, which absorb most of the CO2 and water produced by the crew and regenerates the oxygen, and LiOH cylinders which absorb leftover CO2.
The vehicle is protected during launch by a nose fairing, which is jettisoned after passing through the atmosphere. It has an automatic docking system. The ship can be operated automatically, or by a pilot independently of ground control.
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