Soyuz (spacecraft)

Soyuz (Russian: Сою́з, IPA: [sɐˈjus], lit. Union) is a series of spacecraft designed for the Soviet space program by the Korolev Design Bureau (now RKK Energia) 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 programs. The Soyuz spacecraft is launched on a Soyuz rocket, the most reliable launch vehicle in the world to date.[1][2] 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.

Soyuz TMA-7 spacecraft2edit1
Soyuz spacecraft (TMA version)
ManufacturerRKK Energia
Country of originSoviet Union, Russian Federation
OperatorSoviet space program (1967–91)
Roscosmos (1991 onwards)
ApplicationsCarry cosmonauts to orbit and back; originally intended for Soviet Moonshot and Salyut space station transportation.
Design lifeUp to six months docked to station
RegimeLow Earth orbit (circumlunar spaceflight during early program)
StatusIn service
First launch(Unmanned) November 28, 1966 (Manned) Soyuz 1 April 23, 1967
Related spacecraft
DerivativesShenzhou, Progress


The first Soyuz flight was unmanned and started on November 28, 1966. The first Soyuz 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 following 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 when the cabin depressurized prematurely just before reentry. These were the only humans to date to have died above the Kármán line.[3] Despite these early incidents, Soyuz is widely considered the world's safest, most cost-effective human spaceflight vehicle,[4] established by its unparalleled length of operational history.[5][6] 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 spacecraft is intended to be replaced by the six-person Federation spacecraft.[7]


Soyuz-TMA parts
Diagram showing the three elements of the Soyuz TMA spacecraft.

A Soyuz spacecraft consists of three parts (from front to back):

  • A spheroid orbital module, which provides accommodation for the crew during their mission;
  • A small aerodynamic reentry module, which returns the crew to Earth;
  • A cylindrical service module with solar panels attached, which contains the instruments and engines.

The orbital and service modules are single-use and are destroyed upon reentry in the atmosphere. Though this might seem wasteful, it reduces the amount of heat shielding required for reentry, saving mass compared to designs containing all of the living space and life support in a single capsule. This allows smaller rockets to launch the spacecraft or can be used to increase the habitable space available to the crew (6.2 m3 in Apollo CM vs 7.5 m3 in Soyuz) in the mass budget. The orbital and reentry portions are habitable living space, with the service module containing the fuel, main engines and instrumentation.

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 potassium superoxide (KO2) cylinders, which absorb most of the carbon dioxide (CO2) and water produced by the crew and regenerates the oxygen, and lithium hydroxide (LiOH) cylinders which absorb leftover CO2.

The vehicle is protected during launch by a payload fairing, which is jettisoned along with the SAS at ​2 12 minutes into launch. It has an automatic docking system. The ship can be operated automatically, or by a pilot independently of ground control.

Launch escape system

The Vostok spacecraft utilized an ejector seat to bail out the cosmonaut in the event of a low-altitude launch failure, as well as during reentry, however it would probably have been ineffective in the first 20 seconds after liftoff when the altitude would be too low for the parachute to deploy. Inspired by the Mercury LES, Soviet designers began work on a similar system in 1962. This included developing a complex sensing system to monitor various launch vehicle parameters and trigger an abort if a booster malfunction occurred. Based on data from R-7 launches over the years, engineers developed a list of the most likely failure modes for the vehicle and could narrow down abort conditions to premature separation of a strap-on booster, low engine thrust, loss of combustion chamber pressure, or loss of booster guidance. The Spacecraft Abort System (SAS; Russian: Система Аварийного Спасения, translit. Sistema Avarijnogo Spaseniya) could also be manually activated from the ground, but unlike American spacecraft, there was no way for the cosmonauts to trigger it themselves.

Since it turned out to be almost impossible to separate the entire payload shroud from the Soyuz service module cleanly, the decision was made to have the shroud split between the service module and descent module during an abort. Four folding stabilizers were added to improve aerodynamic stability during ascent. Two test runs of the SAS were carried out in 1966-67.[8]

The basic design of the SAS has remained almost unchanged in 50 years of use and all Soyuz launches carry it. The only modification was in 1972 when the aerodynamic fairing over the SAS motor nozzles was removed for weight-saving reasons as the redesigned Soyuz 7K-T spacecraft carried extra life support equipment. The unmanned Progress resupply ferry has a dummy escape tower and removes the stabilizer fins from the payload shroud. There have been three failed launches of a manned Soyuz vehicle, Soyuz 18-1 in 1975, Soyuz T-10-1 in 1983 and Soyuz MS-10 in October 2018. The 1975 failure was aborted after escape tower jettison. In 1983, Soyuz T-10-1's SAS successfully rescued the cosmonauts from an on-pad fire and explosion of the launch vehicle.[9] Most recently in 2018, the SAS sub-system in the payload shroud of Soyuz MS-10 successfully rescued the cosmonauts from a rocket failure 2 minutes and 45 second after liftoff after the escape tower had already been jettisoned.

Orbital module

Soyuz-TMA orbital module
Soyuz spacecraft's Orbital Module

The forepart of the spacecraft is the Orbital Module (Russian: бытовой отсек, translit. bytovoi otsek), also known as habitation section. It houses all the equipment that will not be needed for reentry, such as experiments, cameras or cargo. The module also contains a toilet, docking avionics and communications gear. Internal volume is 6 m3 (212 cu ft), living space 5 m3 (177 cu ft). On the latest Soyuz versions (since Soyuz TM), a small window was introduced, providing the crew with a forward view.

A hatch between it and the Descent Module can be closed so as to isolate it to act as an airlock if needed, crew members exiting through its side port (near the descent module). On the launch pad, the crew enter the spacecraft through this port.

This separation also lets the Orbital Module be customized to the mission with less risk to the life-critical descent module. The convention of orientation in a micro-g environment differs from that of the Descent Module, as crew members stand or sit with their heads to the docking port. Also the rescue of the crew whilst on the launch pad or with the SAS system is complicated because of the orbital module.

Separation of the Orbital Module is critical for a safe landing; without separation of the Orbital Module, it is not possible for the crew to survive landing in the Descent Module. This is because the Orbital Module would interfere with proper deployment of the Descent Module's parachutes, and the extra mass exceeds the capability of the main parachute and braking engines to provide a safe soft landing speed. In view of this, the Orbital Module was separated before the ignition of the return engine until the late 1980s. This guaranteed that the Descent Module and Orbital Module would be separated before the Descent Module was placed in a reentry trajectory. However, after the problematic landing of Soyuz TM-5 in September 1988 this procedure was changed and the Orbital Module is now separated after the return maneuver. This change was made as the TM-5 crew could not deorbit for 24 hours after they jettisoned their Orbital Module, which contained their sanitation facilities and the docking collar needed to attach to MIR. The risk of not being able to separate the Orbital Module is effectively judged to be less than the risk of needing the facilities in it, following a failed deorbit.

Descent module

Replica of the Soyuz spacecraft's Entry Module
Replica of the Soyuz spacecraft's Entry Module at the Euro Space Center In Belgium
Soyuz-TMA descent module
Soyuz spacecraft's Descent Module

The Descent Module (Russian: Спуска́емый Аппара́т, tr. Spuskáyemy Apparát), also known as a reentry capsule, is used for launch and the journey back to Earth. Half of the Descent Module is covered by a heat-resistant covering to protect it during reentry; this half faces the Earth during reentry. It is slowed initially by the atmosphere, then by a braking parachute, followed by the main parachute which slows the craft for landing. At one meter above the ground, solid-fuel braking engines mounted behind the heat shield are fired to give a soft landing. One of the design requirements for the Descent 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 — as the pioneering Vostok spacecraft's Descent Module used — but such a shape can provide no lift, which results in a purely ballistic reentry. Ballistic reentries are hard on the occupants due to high deceleration and cannot be steered beyond their initial deorbit burn. 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 (seven degrees) conical section to a classic spherical section heat shield. This shape allows a small amount of lift to be generated due to the unequal weight distribution. The nickname was thought up at a time when nearly every headlight was circular. The small dimensions of the Descent Module led to it having only two-man crews after the death of the Soyuz 11 crew. The later Soyuz T spacecraft solved this issue. Internal volume of Soyuz SA is 4 m3 (141 cu ft); 2.5 m3 (88 cu ft) is usable for crew (living space).

Service module

Soyuz-TMA propulsion module
Soyuz spacecraft's Instrumentation/Propulsion Module

At the back of the vehicle is the Service Module (Russian: прибо́рно-агрега́тный отсе́к, tr. pribórno-agregátny otsék). It has a pressurized container shaped like a bulging can (instrumentation compartment, priborniy otsek) that contains systems for temperature control, electric power supply, long-range radio communications, radio telemetry, and instruments for orientation and control. A non-pressurized part of the Service Module (propulsion compartment, agregatniy otsek) contains the main engine and a liquid-fuelled propulsion system for maneuvering in orbit and initiating the descent back to Earth. The ship also has a system of low-thrust engines for orientation, attached to the intermediate compartment (perekhodnoi otsek). Outside the Service Module are the sensors for the orientation system and the solar array, which is oriented towards the Sun by rotating the ship. An incomplete separation between the Service and Reentry Modules led to emergency situations during Soyuz 5, Soyuz TMA-10 and Soyuz TMA-11, which led to an incorrect reentry orientation (crew ingress hatch first). The failure of several explosive bolts did not cut the connection between the Service/Reentry Modules on the latter two flights.

Reentry procedure

The Soyuz uses a method similar to the US Apollo command and service module to deorbit itself. The spacecraft is turned engine-forward and the main engine is fired for deorbiting on the far side of Earth ahead of its planned landing site. This requires the least propellant for reentry; the spacecraft travels on an elliptical Hohmann transfer orbit to the entry interface point where atmospheric drag slows it enough to fall out of orbit.

Early Soyuz spacecraft would then have the Service and Orbital Modules detach simultaneously from the Descent Module. As they are connected by tubing and electrical cables to the Descent Module, this would aid in their separation and avoid having the Descent Module alter its orientation. Later Soyuz spacecraft detached the Orbital Module before firing the main engine, which saved propellant. Since the Soyuz TM-5 landing issue, the Orbital Module is once again detached only after the reentry firing, which led to (but did not cause) emergency situations of Soyuz TMA-10 and TMA-11. The Orbital Module cannot remain in orbit as an addition to a space station, as the airlock hatch between the Orbital and Reentry Modules is a part of the Reentry Module, and the Orbital Module therefore depressurizes after separation.

Reentry firing is usually done on the "dawn" side of the Earth, so that the spacecraft can be seen by recovery helicopters as it descends in the evening twilight, illuminated by the Sun when it is above the shadow of the Earth. The Soyuz craft is designed to come down on land, usually somewhere in the deserts of Kazakhstan in central Asia. This is in contrast to early US manned spacecraft, which splashed down in the ocean.

Spacecraft systems

Soyuz diagrama
Soyuz diagram
Soyuz rocket and spaceship V1-1
Exploded plan of the Soyuz MS spacecraft.
  • Thermal control systemSistema Obespecheniya Teplovogo Rezhima, SOTR
  • Life support systemKompleks Sredstv Obespecheniya Zhiznideyatelnosti, KSOZh
  • Power supply systemSistema Elektropitaniya, SEP
  • Communication and tracking systems – Rassvet (Dawn) radio communications system, onboard measurement system (SBI), Kvant-V spacecraft control, Klyost-M television system, orbit radio tracking (RKO)
  • Onboard complex control systemSistema Upravleniya Bortovym Kompleksom, SUBK
  • Combined propulsion systemKompleksnaya Dvigatelnaya Ustanovka, KDU
  • Chaika-3 motion control system (SUD)
  • Optical/visual devices (OVP) – VSK-4 (Vizir Spetsialniy Kosmicheskiy-4), night vision device (VNUK-K, Visir Nochnogo Upravleniya po Kursu), docking light, pilot's sight (VP-1, Vizir Pilota-1), laser rangefinder (LPR-1, Lazerniy Dalnomer-1)
  • Kurs rendezvous system
  • Docking systemSistema Stykovki i Vnutrennego Perekhoda, SSVP
  • Teleoperator control modeTeleoperatorniy Rezhim Upravleniya, TORU
  • Entry actuators systemSistema Ispolnitelnikh Organov Spuska, SIO-S
  • Landing aids kitKompleks Sredstv Prizemleniya, KSP
  • Portable survival kitNosimiy Avariyniy Zapas, NAZ, containing a TP-82 Cosmonaut survival pistol or Makarov pistol
  • Soyuz launch escape systemSistema Avariynogo Spaseniya, SAS
Orbital module (A)
1 docking mechanism
2, 4 Kurs rendezvous radar antenna
3 television transmission antenna
5 camera
6 hatch
Descent module (B)
7 parachute compartment
8 periscope
9 porthole
11 heat shield
Service module (C)
10, 18 attitude control engines
12 Earth sensors
13 Sun sensor
14 solar panel attachment point
15 thermal sensor
16 Kurs antenna
17 main propulsion
19 communication antenna
20 fuel tanks
21 oxygen tank


The Soyuz spacecraft has been the subject of continuous evolution since the early 1960s. Thus several different versions, proposals and projects exist.

Soyuz family tree


Version: Soyuz A (1963) Soyuz 7K-OK (1967–1971) Soyuz 7K-L3 (LOK) Soyuz 7K-T (1973–1981) Soyuz 7K-TM (1975) Soyuz-T (1976–1986) Soyuz-TM (1986–2002) Soyuz-TMA (2003–2012 ) Soyuz TMA-M (2010–2016 ) Soyuz MS (2016–.... )
Mass 5,880 kg (12,960 lb) 6,560 kg (14,460 lb) 9,850 kg (21,720 lb) 6,800 kg (15,000 lb) 6,680 kg (14,730 lb) 6,850 kg (15,100 lb) 7,250 kg (15,980 lb) 7,220 kg (15,920 lb) 7,150 kg (15,760 lb) ?
Length 7.40 m (24.3 ft) 7.95 m (26.1 ft) 10.06 m (33.0 ft) 7.48 m (24.5 ft) 7.48 m (24.5 ft) 7.48 m (24.5 ft) 7.48 m (24.5 ft) 7.48 m (24.5 ft) 7.48 m (24.5 ft) 7.48 m (24.5 ft)
Max Diameter 2.50 m (8 ft 2 in) 2.72 m (8 ft 11 in) 2.930 m (9 ft 7.4 in) 2.72 m (8 ft 11 in) 2.72 m (8 ft 11 in) 2.72 m (8 ft 11 in) 2.72 m (8 ft 11 in) 2.72 m (8 ft 11 in) 2.72 m (8 ft 11 in) 2.72 m (8 ft 11 in)
Span ? 9.80 m (32.2 ft) 10.06 m (33.0 ft) 9.80 m (32.2 ft) 8.37 m (27.5 ft) 10.6 m (35 ft) 10.6 m (35 ft) 10.7 m (35 ft) 10.7 m (35 ft) ?
Orbital Module (BO)
Mass 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) 1,100 kg (2,400 lb) ? 1,350 kg (2,980 lb) 1,224 kg (2,698 lb) 1,100 kg (2,400 lb) 1,450 kg (3,200 lb) 1,370 kg (3,020 lb) ? ?
Length 3.00 m (9.84 ft) 3.45 m (11.3 ft) 2.26 m (7.4 ft) 2.98 m (9.8 ft) 3.10 m (10.2 ft) 2.98 m (9.8 ft) 2.98 m (9.8 ft) 2.98 m (9.8 ft) 2.98 m (9.8 ft) 2.98 m (9.8 ft)
Diameter 2.20 m (7.2 ft) 2.25 m (7.4 ft) 2.30 m (7.5 ft) 2.26 m (7.4 ft) 2.26 m (7.4 ft) 2.26 m (7.4 ft) 2.26 m (7.4 ft) 2.26 m (7.4 ft) 2.26 m (7.4 ft) 2.26 m (7.4 ft)
Volume 2.20 m3 (78 cu ft) 5.00 m3 (177 cu ft) ? 5.00 m3 (177 cu ft) 5.00 m3 (177 cu ft) 5.00 m3 (177 cu ft) 5.00 m3 (177 cu ft) 5.00 m3 (177 cu ft) ? ?
Reentry module (SA)
Mass 2,480 kg (5,470 lb) 2,810 kg (6,190 lb) 2,804 kg (6,182 lb) 2,850 kg (6,280 lb) 2,802 kg (6,177 lb) 3,000 kg (6,600 lb) 2,850 kg (6,280 lb) 2,950 kg (6,500 lb) ? ?
Length 2.30 m (7.5 ft) 2.24 m (7.3 ft) 2.19 m (7.2 ft) 2.24 m (7.3 ft) 2.24 m (7.3 ft) 2.24 m (7.3 ft) 2.24 m (7.3 ft) 2.24 m (7.3 ft) 2.24 m (7.3 ft) 2.24 m (7.3 ft)
Diameter 2.17 m (7.1 ft) 2.17 m (7.1 ft) 2.2 m (7.2 ft) 2.17 m (7.1 ft) 2.17 m (7.1 ft) 2.17 m (7.1 ft) 2.17 m (7.1 ft) 2.17 m (7.1 ft) 2.17 m (7.1 ft) 2.17 m (7.1 ft)
Volume 4.00 m3 (141 cu ft) 4.00 m3 (141 cu ft) ? 3.50 m3 (124 cu ft) 4.00 m3 (141 cu ft) 4.00 m3 (141 cu ft) 3.50 m3 (124 cu ft) 3.50 m3 (124 cu ft) ? ?
Service module (PAO)
Mass 2,400 kg (5,300 lb) 2,650 kg (5,840 lb) ? 2,700 kg (6,000 lb) 2,654 kg (5,851 lb) 2,750 kg (6,060 lb) 2,950 kg (6,500 lb) 2,900 kg (6,400 lb) ? ?
Usable fuel (kg) 830 kg (1,830 lb) 500 kg (1,100 lb) 3,152 kg (6,949 lb)[10] 500 kg (1,100 lb) 500 kg (1,100 lb) 700 kg (1,500 lb) 880 kg (1,940 lb) 880 kg (1,940 lb) ? ?
Length 2.10 m (6.9 ft) 2.26 m (7.4 ft) 2.82 m (9.3 ft) 2.26 m (7.4 ft) 2.26 m (7.4 ft) 2.26 m (7.4 ft) 2.26 m (7.4 ft) 2.26 m (7.4 ft) 2.26 m (7.4 ft) 2.26 m (7.4 ft)
Diameter 2.50 m (8.2 ft) 2.72 m (8.9 ft) 2.20 m (7.2 ft) 2.72 m (8.9 ft) 2.72 m (8.9 ft) 2.72 m (8.9 ft) 2.72 m (8.9 ft) 2.72 m (8.9 ft) 2.72 m (8.9 ft) 2.72 m (8.9 ft)

Soyuz 7K (part of the 7K-9K-11K circumlunar complex) (1963)

Soyuz-A drawing
Soyuz 7K manned spacecraft concept (1963).

Sergei Korolev initially promoted the Soyuz A-B-V circumlunar complex (7K-9K-11K) concept (also known as L1) in which a two-man craft Soyuz 7K would rendezvous with other components (9K and 11K) in Earth orbit to assemble a lunar excursion vehicle, the components being delivered by the proven R-7 rocket.

First generation

Soyuz 7K-OK(A) drawing
Soyuz 7K-OK(A) spacecraft with an active docking unit.
RP1357 p22 Salyut 1-type Soyuz
Soyuz 7K-OKS for Salyut space stations.

The manned Soyuz spacecraft can be classified into design generations. Soyuz 1 through Soyuz 11 (1967–1971) were first-generation vehicles, carrying a crew of up to three without spacesuits and distinguished from those following by their bent solar panels and their use of the Igla automatic docking navigation system, which required special radar antennas. This first generation encompassed the original Soyuz 7K-OK and the Soyuz 7K-OKS for docking with the Salyut 1 space station. The probe and drogue docking system permitted internal transfer of cosmonauts from the Soyuz to the station.

The Soyuz 7K-L1 was designed to launch a crew from the Earth to circle the moon, and was the primary hope for a Soviet circumlunar flight. It had several test flights in the Zond program from 1967–1970 (Zond 4 to Zond 8), which produced multiple failures in the 7K-L1's reentry systems. The remaining 7K-L1s were scrapped. The Soyuz 7K-L3 was designed and developed in parallel to the Soyuz 7K-L1, but was also scrapped. Soyuz 1 was plagued with technical issues, and cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov was killed when the spacecraft crashed during its return to Earth. This was the first in-flight fatality in the history of spaceflight.

The next manned version of the Soyuz was the Soyuz 7K-OKS. It was designed for space station flights and had a docking port that allowed internal transfer between spacecraft. The Soyuz 7K-OKS had two manned flights, both in 1971. Soyuz 11, the second flight, depressurized upon reentry, killing its three-man crew.

Second generation

RP1357 p24 Soyuz Ferry
Upgraded Soyuz 7K-T version.

The second generation, called Soyuz Ferry or Soyuz 7K-T, comprised Soyuz 12 through Soyuz 40 (1973–1981).

It was developed out of the military Soyuz concepts studied in previous years and was capable of carrying 2 cosmonauts with Sokol space suits (after the Soyuz 11 accident). Several models were planned, but none actually flew in space. These versions were named Soyuz P, Soyuz PPK, Soyuz R, Soyuz 7K-VI, and Soyuz OIS (Orbital Research Station).

The Soyuz 7K-T/A9 version was used for the flights to the military Almaz space station.

Soyuz 7K-TM was the spacecraft used in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975, which saw the first and only docking of a Soyuz spacecraft with an Apollo Command/Service Module. It was also flown in 1976 for the Earth-science mission, Soyuz 22. Soyuz 7K-TM served as a technological bridge to the third generation.

Third generation

Soyuz-T drawing
Soyuz-T spacecraft.

The third generation Soyuz-T (T: Russian: транспортный, translit. transportnyi, lit. 'transport') spacecraft (1976–1986) featured solar panels allowing longer missions, a revised Igla rendezvous system and new translation/attitude thruster system on the Service module. It could carry a crew of three, now wearing spacesuits.

Fourth generation

Soyuz-TM (1986–2003)

Soyuz-TM drawing
Soyuz-TM spacecraft. Compare the antennas on the orbital module to those on Soyuz-T. Differences reflect the change from the Igla rendezvous system used on Soyuz-T to the Kurs rendezvous system used on Soyuz-TM.

The Soyuz-TM crew transports (M: Russian: модифицированный, translit. modifitsirovannyi, lit. 'modified') were fourth generation Soyuz spacecraft, and were used from 1986 to 2003 for ferry flights to Mir and the International Space Station.

Soyuz-TMA (2003–2012)

Soyuz TMA (A: Russian: антропометрический, translit. antropometricheskii, lit. 'anthropometric') features several changes to accommodate requirements requested by NASA in order to service the International Space Station, including more latitude in the height and weight of the crew and improved parachute systems. It is also the first expendable vehicle to feature "glass cockpit" technology. Soyuz-TMA looks identical to a Soyuz-TM spacecraft on the outside, but interior differences allow it to accommodate taller occupants with new adjustable crew couches.

Soyuz TMA-M (2010–2016)

The Soyuz TMA-M was an upgrade of the baseline Soyuz-TMA, using a new computer, digital interior displays, updated docking equipment, and the vehicle's total mass was reduced by 70 kilograms. The new version debuted on 7 October 2010 with the launch of TMA-01M, carrying the ISS Expedition 25 crew.[11]

The Soyuz TMA-08M mission set a new record for the fastest manned docking with a space station. The mission used a new six-hour rendezvous, faster than the previous Soyuz launches, which had, since 1986, taken two days.[12]

Soyuz MS (since 2016)

Soyuz MS-01 docked to the ISS
Soyuz MS-01 docked to the ISS

Soyuz MS is the final planned upgrade of the Soyuz spacecraft. Its maiden flight was in July 2016 with mission MS-01.[13][14] Major changes include:[15][16]

  • more efficient solar panels
  • modified docking and attitude control engine positions for redundancy during docking and de-orbit burns
  • new Kurs NA approach and docking system which weighs half as much and consumes a third of the power of previous system
  • new TsVM-101 computer, about one eighth the weight (8.3 kg vs. 70 kg) and much smaller than the previous Argon-16 computer[17]
  • unified digital command/telemetry system (MBITS) to relay telemetry via satellite, and control spacecraft when out of sight of ground stations; also provides the crew with position data when out of ground tracking range[17]
  • GLONASS/GPS and Cospas-Sarsat satellite systems for more accurate location during search/rescue operations after landing

The Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft had its maiden flight on October 19, 2016, to launch Expedition 49-50 from Baikonur with three crew members.[18]

Related craft

The unmanned Progress spacecraft were derived from Soyuz and are used for servicing space stations.

While not being direct derivatives of Soyuz, the Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft uses Soyuz TM technology sold in 1984 and the Indian Orbital Vehicle follow the same general layout as that pioneered by Soyuz.

Image gallery

Soyuz National Space Centre

Early 7K-OK Soyuz at National Space Centre in Leicester, England

Soyuz 19 (Apollo Soyuz Test Project) spacecraft

Soyuz spacecraft of the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project (ASTP)

Soyuz acoplada MIR

Soyuz docked to Mir

Soyuz TMA-19 docked to the Rassvet Mini-Research Module

Soyuz docked to ISS

Soyuz spacecraft

A Soyuz mock-up shows how its modules are connected

Soyuz tm-31 transported to launch pad

Soyuz TM-31 moves to Launch Pad on 29 October 2000

Soyuz TMA-2 launch

Soyuz TMA-2 launch from Baikonur on April 26, 2003

Expedition 28 Landing

Soyuz TMA-21 with parachute deployed

Soyuz TMA-17 retro-rockets firing during landing

Soyuz landing sequence


Training session in a Soyuz simulator.

See also

Space Shuttle vs Soyuz TM - to scale drawing
Space Shuttle orbiter and Soyuz-TM (drawn to scale).

See List of Soviet manned space missions and List of Russian manned space missions, as well as the Zond program.


  1. ^ "Soyuz launch vehicle: The most reliable means of space travel". European Space Agency. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  2. ^ "France and Russia agree: Soyuz will launch from Kourou in French Guyana". SpaceRef. October 22, 2003. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  3. ^ "Science: Triumph and Tragedy of Soyuz 11". 12 July 1971.
  4. ^ Alan Boyle (September 29, 2005). "Russia thriving again on the final frontier". MSNBC. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  5. ^ Soyuz:The Greatest Spacecraft Ever
  6. ^ The best ride in the galaxy—coming back to Earth in a Soyuz
  7. ^ Anatoly Zak (June 30, 2011). "Russia to rollout a full-scale mockup of a next-generation spacecraft". Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  8. ^ Shayler, David J. (2009). Space Rescue: Ensuring the Safety of Manned Spacecraft. Springer-Praxis Books in Space Exploration. Springer Science+Business Media. pp. 153–160. ISBN 978-0-387-69905-9.
  9. ^ Zak, Anatoly. "Emergency escape rocket: The ultimate lifeboat for spacecraft".
  10. ^ Anatoly Zak (August 3, 2007). "Lunar Orbital Spacecraft". Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  11. ^ "Soyuz 100 Times More Reliable Than Shuttle". February 8, 2010. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  12. ^ Clark, Stephen (5 March 2013). "Soyuz crew approved for fast approach to space station". SPACEFLIGHT NOW. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
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  14. ^ "Topic: Soyuz-MS spacecraft". December 17, 2013. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  15. ^ "Модернизированные пилотируемые корабли "Союз МС" начнут летать к МКС через 2,5 года - президент РКК "Энергия" ОАО "Российские космические системы"".
  16. ^ "Soyuz-MS spacecraft".
  17. ^ a b "Soyuz-MS 1 - 9".
  18. ^ "Expedition 49-50 Mission: Soyuz MS-02 SpaceCraft, Crew, Launch Date, Experiments on ISS". Retrieved 2016-10-13.

External links

Kosmos 238

Kosmos 238 (Russian: Космос 238 meaning Cosmos 238) was the final test series of the Soviet Soyuz spacecraft prior to the launch of Soyuz 3. It tested the orbital maneuvering system, reentry, descent and landing systems that had been modified and improved after the Soyuz 1 accident.

Kosmos 656

Kosmos 656 (Russian: Космос 656 meaning Cosmos 656) was an unmanned test of the Soyuz 7K-T, a variant of the Soyuz spacecraft. This Soyuz variant was intended for flights to the Almaz military space stations.


The Soyuz-T (Russian: Союз-T, Union-T) spacecraft was the third generation Soyuz spacecraft, in service for seven years from 1979 to 1986. The T stood for transport (транспортный, Transportny). The revised spacecraft incorporated lessons learned from the Apollo Soyuz Test Project, Soyuz 7K-TM and Military Soyuz.

The Soyuz-T was a major upgrade over previous Soyuz spacecraft, sporting solid-state electronics for the first time and a much more advanced onboard computer to help overcome the chronic docking problems that affected cosmonauts during space station missions. In addition, solar panels returned, allowing the Soyuz-T to fly up to 11 days independently as well as a redesigned propulsion system, the KTDU-426. Finally, it could at last carry three cosmonauts with pressure suits.


The Soyuz-TM crew transports (T - транспортный - Transportnyi - meaning transport, M - модифицированный - Modifitsirovannyi - meaning modified) were fourth generation (1986–2002) Soyuz spacecraft used for ferry flights to the Mir and ISS space stations. It added to the Soyuz-T new docking and rendezvous, radio communications, emergency and integrated parachute/landing engine systems. The new Kurs rendezvous and docking system and the new KTDU-80 propulsion module 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.

The final Soyuz-TM flight was Soyuz TM-34, which launched April 25, 2002 and landed November 10, 2002.

Soyuz 7K-OK

Soyuz 7K-OK was the first generation of Soyuz spacecraft in use from 1967 to 1971.

This first generation was used for the first ferry flights to the Salyut space station program; Soyuz spacecraft in their current generation are still in use to ferry crew to and from the ISS.

This generation is notable for the only fatalities of the Soyuz programme As of 2019, with Soyuz 1 in 1967 (sole crew-member killed by parachute failure) and Soyuz 11 in 1971 (crew killed by depressurization during reentry).

The first unmanned automated docking in the history of spaceflight, between Kosmos 186 and Kosmos 188 in 1967, was achieved with this generation of Soyuz spacecraft. The generation encompasses furthermore the first docking between two manned spacecraft (Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5), the longest manned flight involving only one spacecraft (the 18-day flight of Soyuz 9 in 1970) and the first successful manning of the first space station in the history of space flight (Soyuz 11 and Salyut 1 in 1971).

The Soyuz 7K-OK vehicles carried a crew of up to three without spacesuits. The craft can be distinguished from those following by their bent solar panels and their use of the Igla automatic docking navigation system, which required special radar antennas.

The 7K-OK was primarily intended as a variant of the 7K-LOK (the lunar mission Soyuz) for Earth orbital testing. Mostly the same vehicle, it lacked the larger antenna needed to communicate at lunar distance. The early Soyuz models also sported an external toroidal fuel tank surrounding the engines and meant to store extra propellant for lunar flights, but it was left empty on Soyuz 1-9. After the spacecraft was converted to a space station ferry, the tank was removed.

Soyuz 7K-OK spacecraft had a "probe and drogue" docking mechanism to connect with other spacecraft in orbit, in order to gather engineering data as a preparation for the Soviet space station program. There were two variants of Soyuz 7K-OK: Soyuz 7K-OK(A) featuring an active "probe" docking port, and Soyuz 7K-OK(P) featuring a passive "drogue" docking target. The docking mechanisms of 7K-OK and 7K-LOK did not allow internal transfer (this feature was added on the 7K-OKS version), thus cosmonauts had to spacewalk between docked modules. This procedure was conducted successfully on the joint Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5 missions, where Aleksei Yeliseyev and Yevgeny Khrunov transferred from their Soyuz 5 to the Soyuz 4 craft.

The first unmanned test of this version was Kosmos 133, launched on November 28, 1966.

Soyuz 7K-OKS

Soyuz 7K-OKS (also known as Soyuz 7KT-OK) is a version of the Soyuz spacecraft and was the first spacecraft designed for space station flights. Its only manned flights were conducted in 1971, with Soyuz 10 and Soyuz 11.

Soyuz 7K-TM

The 1975 Apollo–Soyuz Test Project version of the Soyuz spacecraft (Soyuz 7K-TM) served as a technological bridge to the third generation Soyuz-T (T - транспортный, Transportnyi meaning transport) spacecraft (1976–1986).

The Soyuz ASTP spacecraft was designed for use during the Apollo Soyuz Test Project as Soyuz 19. It featured design changes to increase compatibility with the American craft. The Soyuz ASTP featured new solar panels for increased mission length, an APAS-75 docking mechanism instead of the standard male mechanism and modifications to the environmental control system to lower the cabin pressure to 0.68 atmospheres (69 kPa) prior to docking with Apollo. The ASTP Soyuz backup craft flew as the Soyuz 22 mission, replacing the docking port with a camera.

Soyuz MS-06

Soyuz MS-06 is a Soyuz spaceflight which launched on 13 September 2017. It transported three members of the Expedition 53 crew to the International Space Station. MS-06 was the 135th flight of a Soyuz spacecraft. The crew consists of a Russian commander, and two American flight engineers. It returned to Earth on 28 February 2018 after 168 days in orbit.

Soyuz MS-11

Soyuz MS-11 is a Soyuz spaceflight that launched on 3 December 2018, marking the 100th orbital launch of the year. Originally scheduled for 20 December, the launch date was advanced to 3 December following the failure of Soyuz MS-10. MS-11 is the 140th flight of a Soyuz spacecraft and carried the three members of the Expedition 58 crew to the International Space Station. The crew consists of a Russian commander, and an American and a Canadian flight engineer.

Soyuz TM-15

Soyuz TM-15 was the 15th expedition to the Mir space station. It included spationaut Michel Tognini from France. The Soyuz TM-15 flight set what was then a new Soyuz spacecraft on orbit endurance record.

Soyuz TMA-01M

Soyuz TMA-01M was a Soyuz flight that transported three members of the Expedition 25 crew to the International Space Station. TMA-01M was the 107th flight of a Soyuz spacecraft, and the first flight of the modernized TMA-M series. The spacecraft remained docked to the space station during Expedition 25, to serve as an emergency escape vehicle. The spacecraft's COSPAR ID was 2010-052A.

Soyuz TMA-02M

Soyuz TMA-02M was a space mission that transported three members of the Expedition 28 crew to the International Space Station. TMA-02M was the 110th flight of a Soyuz spacecraft (first launched 1967) and the second flight of the improved Soyuz-TMA-M series (first launched 7 October 2010). The Soyuz remained docked to the space station for the Expedition 28 increment to serve as a potential emergency escape vehicle.

The Soyuz spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, 7 June 2011 at 20:12 UTC (8 June 2011, 02:12 local time). Originally expected to dock with the International Space Station around 05:22 pm EDT on Thursday, 9 June 2011, the Soyuz docked with the ISS at 5:18 pm EDT, four minutes ahead of schedule. The spacecraft carried to the ISS a three-person crew (Sergey Volkov, Russia; Michael E. Fossum, U.S.A; Satoshi Furukawa, Japan). The crew landed in Kazakhstan at 02:26 UTC on 22 November 2011.

Soyuz TMA-05M

Soyuz TMA-05M is the 114th flight of a Soyuz spacecraft. It was launched on 15 July 2012, transporting three members of the Expedition 32 crew to the International Space Station (ISS). The Soyuz remained docked to the ISS throughout the mission to serve as an emergency escape vehicle. The launch also coincided with the 37th anniversary of the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project. Soyuz TMA-05M successfully returned to Earth on 19 November 2012.

Soyuz TMA-06M

Soyuz TMA-06M launched on 23 October 2012 was a spaceflight to the International Space Station, transporting three members of the Expedition 33 crew. TMA-06M was the 115th flight of a Soyuz spacecraft, the first flight launching in 1967. Soyuz TMA-06M launch was also the first manned flight from the remote Site 31 pad since July 1984.

The Soyuz remained on board the space station for the Expedition 33 increment to serve as an emergency escape vehicle. Soyuz TMA-06M successfully returned to Earth on 15 March 2013.

Soyuz TMA-10M

Soyuz TMA-10M was a 2013 flight to the International Space Station. It transported three members of the Expedition 37 crew to the International Space Station. TMA-10M is the 119th flight of a Soyuz spacecraft, the first flight launching in 1967. The Soyuz remained on board the space station for the Expedition 38/39 increment to serve as an emergency escape vehicle.

Soyuz TMA-15

Soyuz TMA-15 was a manned spaceflight to the International Space Station. Part of the Soyuz programme, it transported three members of the Expedition 20 crew to the space station. TMA-15 was the 102nd manned flight of a Soyuz spacecraft, since Soyuz 1 in 1967. The Soyuz spacecraft remain docked to the space station during Expedition 20 and Expedition 21 as an emergency escape vehicle. The mission marked the start of six-person crew operations on the ISS.

Soyuz TMA-2

Soyuz TMA-2 was a Soyuz (Russian Союз ТМА-2, Union TMA-2) mission to the International Space Station (ISS) launched by a Soyuz FG launch vehicle. The spacecraft docked with the ISS 2003-04-28 and undocked 2003-10-27.Soyuz TMA-2 was the second flight for the TMA modification of the Soyuz spacecraft, and the 6th Soyuz to fly to the ISS.

The commander is Yuri Ivanovich Malenchenko (Russia), and flight engineer Edward Tsang Lu (USA), and after docking with the ISS they exchanged with the resident crew on ISS and became the seventh station crew, called "ISS Expedition Seven". Alexander Kaleri and Michael Foale were assigned as the backup crew.

Soyuz TMA-20M

Soyuz TMA-20M was a 2016 Russian Soyuz spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS). It transported three members of the Expedition 47 crew to the ISS. TMA-20M was the 129th flight of a Soyuz spacecraft. The crew consisted of a Russian commander and flight engineer, as well as an American flight engineer.

It was the final Soyuz TMA-M, which was replaced by the upgraded Soyuz-MS in 2016.

Soyuz programme

The Soyuz programme ( SOY-yooz, SAW-; Russian: Союз [sɐˈjus], meaning "Union") is a human spaceflight programme that was initiated by the Soviet Union in the early 1960s, originally part of a Moon landing project intended to put a Soviet cosmonaut on the Moon. It was the third Soviet human spaceflight programme after the Vostok and Voskhod programme.

The programme consists of the Soyuz spacecraft and the Soyuz rocket and is now the responsibility of the Russian Roscosmos. Since the retirement of the American Space Shuttle in 2011, all human spaceflights to and from the International Space Station have been carried out using Soyuz.

Main topics
Past missions
(by spacecraft type)
Current missions
Future missions
Soyuz spacecraft variants
Early programme
7K series
Later series
Other derivatives
In development
In development
Crewed lunar spacecraft
See also
Living in space
Space competitions
Space tourists
Components of the International Space Station
and legal

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