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The Soyuz Spacecraft is a versatile spacecraft which has been modified for various purposes such as, crew delivery and return capabilities to various Space Stations, circumlunar in the form of Zond L1, and various military versions. At present the soyuz is used for delivering and returning crew to the International Space Station. 

History of the Soyuz Spacecraft

Soyuz was introduced in 1966 and performed its first manned flight in 1967. Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov launched aboard Soyuz 1 on April 23. He completed seventeen orbits. Tragically, the parachute system was entangled, causing Komarov to crash back to Earth at a speed of 450 kilometers per hour. His was the first space fatality.

The program continued on, and two years later Soyuz achieved what it was originally intended to do. The Soyuz 4 and 5 spacecraft docked in Earth orbit on Jan. 16. The two crews exchanged spacecraft and returned to Earth.

The next three Soyuz flights were launched in succession on Oct. 11, 12 and 13, 1969. This set a record for the most cosmonauts in orbit at one time -- seven.

All ten of Soyuz's first missions were Earth orbital missions. The longest one was Soyuz 9, which lasted almost 18 days.

The majority of the missions after the first ten and before the introduction of the Mir Space Station were flights to Salyut space stations.

The Soyuz 11 crew succeeded in rendezvousing with the Salyut 1 space station and set a record for the longest time in space -- 23 days. However, they suffocated to death during reentry when a minor malfunction of a door seal caused the cabin to depressurize. The crew included cosmonauts Georgi Dobrovolski, Vladislav Volkov and Victor Patsayev.

It was approximately three years before the space station program bounced back from the accident. Soyuz was completely redesigned and retested. It was used to visit five other Salyut stations beginning in 1974.

Aside from visiting the space stations, Soyuz was also used in the first international docking mission, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. Soyuz 19 and the U.S. Apollo 18 spacecraft docked in space in July 1975. The two cosmonauts and three astronauts conducted joint experiments for two days before undocking and returning to Earth.

Another version of the spacecraft, Soyuz T, was introduced in 1981. It featured more advanced electronics and navigation capabilities and room for three people instead of only two. This version was used during the remainder of the Salyut program.

The most recent version of Soyuz was designed for the Mir Space Station. All but the first Mir flight were Soyuz TM missions. The Soyuz TM spacecraft ferried crews to the station and served as a "lifeboat." If the station main computer failed, the crew could use the spacecraft for power and life support.

Soyuz TM is seven meters long and has a maximum diameter of 2.7 meters. Its volume equals ten cubic meters. It has a 7,100 kilogram mass.

The present version in use is the Soyuz-TMA and is used to ferry crews to the International Space Station. The Soyuz is the longest manned spacecraft in use.


Soyuz: A Universal Spacecraft by Rex Hall, David J. Shayler (July 2003)

Links and References:

Soyuz spacecraft - Wikipedia

Space Station User's Guide | SpaceRef

Soyuz spacecraft progress

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