Encyclopedia Astronautica
Big Soyuz

Big Soyuz
Credit: © Mark Wade
New Generation
Manned Spacecraft
Credit: © Mark Wade ynewsasx.jpg
Russian manned spacecraft. Study 2018. This enlarged version of the Soyuz reentry vehicle shape was one alternative studied for the next-generation Russian launch vehicle.

It was favored neither by RKK Energia (which favored the Kliper design) or by the Russian Space Agency (which preferred the PK conical reentry vehicle shape).

An enlarged version of the proven Soyuz re-entry vehicle shape, to accommodate six rather than three crew, could be considered a logical follow-on to the Soyuz itself. A similar design was in an advanced stage of design in the late 1980's as the Zarya and considered again in the 1990's as the Alpha Lifeboat for the ISS. But the design was found inferior to both the Kliper lifting-body design of RKK Energia and the Khrunichev conical re-entry vehicle favored by the Russian Space Agency. Although at 11 metric tons it had the lowest mass of any of the other designs, the Big Soyuz concept would subject the crew to 4.2 G's during normal ascents to orbit and 5 G's on re-entries. The crew would pull12 G's in an emergency abort during the launch phase.

The spacecraft would be placed in a 135 km x 440 km, 51.6 deg orbit on the baseline mission to the ISS. Its on-board propulsion system would bring it to a rendezvous and docking with the station. The capsule provided a total of 12 cubic meters of habitable volume, or 2 cubic meters per crew member.

The capsule provided sufficient lift for a cross-range only 75 km to either side of the ballistic re-entry landing point, and 400 km along the orbital track. This meant it could return the crew to Russian territory on only 1 or 2 orbits per day. Landing precision was within 11 kilometers of the aim point, and 70% of the capsule could be reused after a mission.

The baseline spacecraft would meet the Russian Space Agency's basic requirements which were as follows:

  • Crew of six with 500 kg of payload; or two with 1,000 kg of internal payload
  • Capable of 14 days of autonomous flight with full crew, and one year of on-orbit storage when docked to a space station
  • Provisions for crew rescue from the moment of launch to recovery. This meant an abort tower for the early launch phase, and a reserve parachute for recovery, but not ejection seats or orbital bail-out pods.
  • Designed probabilty of returning the crew safely to earth of 99.9%
  • Minimal preparation time to allow prompt evacuation of crew members to earth in medical emergencies
  • Maximum G-forces in a launch abort of 14 G's, 5 G's during normal ascent to and return from orbit, and 12 G's during an emergency ballistic reentry
  • Normal launch and recovery from the territory of Russia (this would require launch from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome instead of Baikonur).
  • Minimal development and production cost
  • Operational no later than 2018
  • Production life 30 to 40 years
  • Landing accuracy of less than 15 km from aim point
  • At least 2 cubic meters habitable volume per crew member (e.g. 12 cubic meters habitable volume total)
  • Environmentally safe propellants (e.g. not nitrogen tetroxide/hydrazine, but rather oxygen/kerosene or similar)
  • No debris left in orbit after mission


Crew Size: 6. Orbital Storage: 365 days. Habitable Volume: 12.00 m3.

Gross mass: 11,000 kg (24,000 lb).
Payload: 3,300 kg (7,200 lb).
Height: 6.60 m (21.60 ft).
Diameter: 3.30 m (10.80 ft).

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
See also
  • New Generation Crewed The world is facing a minimum five year period, beginning in 2011, when the venerable Russian Soyuz spacecraft will provide the only means of ferrying crews to the International Space Station. America's new Orion spacecraft, beset by delays, is unlikely to be arriving at the ISS until 2018 at the earliest - which was NASA's original date for retirement of the ISS. China has its slow-motion Shenzhou manned program, but so far they have shown no interest in involvement in the ISS program, or in sharing their hard-won independent space technology with outsiders. More...
  • Soyuz The Russian Soyuz spacecraft has been the longest-lived, most adaptable, and most successful manned spacecraft design. In production for fifty years, more than 240 have been built and flown on a wide range of missions. The design will remain in use with the international space station well into the 21st century, providing the only manned access to the station after the retirement of the shuttle in 2011. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • Korolev Russian manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Korolev Design Bureau, Kaliningrad, Russia. More...
  • RAKA Russian agency overseeing development of spacecraft. Russian Aviation and Space Agency (Rosaviakosmos), Moscow, Russia. More...

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