Encyclopedia Astronautica
Soyuz



soyuzl0.gif
Soyuz 7K-OK
Credit: © Mark Wade
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.

The fundamental concept of the design can easily be summarized as obtaining minimum overall vehicle mass for the mission. This is accomplished by minimizing the mass of the re-entry vehicle. There were two major design elements to achieve this:

  • Put all systems and space not necessary for re-entry and recovery outside of the re-entry vehicle, into a separate jettisonable 'living section', joined to the re-entry vehicle by a hatch. 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.

  • Use a re-entry vehicle of the highest possible volumetric efficiency (internal volume divided by hull area). Theoretically this would be a sphere. But re-entry from lunar distances required that the capsule be able to bank a little, to generate lift and 'fly' a bit. This was needed to reduce the G forces on the crew to tolerable levels. Such a maneuver is impossible with a spherical capsule. After considerable study, the optimum shape was found to be the Soyuz 'headlight' shape - a hemispherical forward area joined by a barely angled cone (7 degrees) to a classic spherical section heat shield.

This design concept meant splitting the living area into two modules - the re-entry vehicle, with just enough space, equipment, and supplies to sustain the crew during re-entry; and a living module. As a bonus the living module provided an airlock for exit into space and a mounting area for rendezvous electronics.

The end result of this design approach was remarkable. The Apollo capsule designed by NASA had a mass of 5,000 kg and provided the crew with six cubic meters of living space. A service module, providing propulsion, electricity, radio, and other equipment would add at least 1,800 kg to this mass for the circumlunar mission. The Soyuz spacecraft for the same mission 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!

The modular concept was also inherently adaptable. By changing the fuel load in the service module, and the type of equipment in the living module, a wide variety of missions could be performed. The superiority of this approach is clear to see: the Soyuz will remains in use at least 70 years later, while the Apollo was quickly abandoned. After studying a range of designs, the Chinese elected to copy the Soyuz layout for their Shenzhou spacecraft, rather than Apollo. Perversely, NASA copied the Apollo spacecraft layout for their Orion CEV, set to replace the shuttle after 2015. The Orion was in turn delayed. If Orion ever flies, will Soyuz still be flying when Orion is retired?

Origin

In the Soviet Union, manned spacecraft design in the late 1950's was solely handled by engineers within Sergei Korolev's design bureau. Korolev had designed the Vostok manned spacecraft that gave Russia the lead in the space race in the first half of the 1960's. Studies for a follow-on to Vostok, with the objective of sending a manned capsule on a circumlunar flight, began in 1959 under Tikhonravov. At this point it was assumed that any such flight would require use of launch vehicles derived from Korolev's R-7 ICBM. Since planned derivatives of the R-7 could not put more than six metric tons into orbit, it was immediately obvious that a circumlunar spacecraft would have to be assembled in low earth orbit from several R-7 launches. Therefore it would be necessary to perfect techniques for rendezvous, docking, and refueling of rocket stages in orbit. By 1960 to 1961 the studies, now dubbed 'L1', were expanded to cover automatic rendezvous and docking of several stages, and use of manipulators to assemble the stages.

Meanwhile the configuration of the re-entry vehicle for a Vostok follow-on was being investigated by other sections of Korolev's bureau. Lead for work on the re-entry problem was Section 11. There was no shortage of ideas. In 1959 Chief Designer Tsybin and Solovyev of Section 9 both offered designs for a winged manned spacecraft with a hypersonic lift-to-drag ratio of over 1.0. Prugnikov of Section 8 and Feoktistov of Section 9 proposed development of a ballistic capsule composed of variations of 'segmented spheres'. Korolev requested TsAGI, the state's Central Aerodynamic/Hydrodynamic Institute, to investigate all possible configurations. In a letter from A I Makarevskiy to Korolev on 9 September 1959 TsAGI set out its study plan. Aerodynamic characteristics at various angles of attack for a wide range of winged, spherical, elliptical, sphere-with cones, and conical shapes were to be analyzed at velocities from Mach 0.3 to Mach 25. The ballistic vehicle was to have a basic diameter of 2.5 m, a total internal volume of 3 to 3.5 cubic meters, and a living volume of 2 to 3 cubic meters. Separately considered for all configurations were aerodynamics of ejection seats or capsules with a diameter of 0.9 cubic meters and a length of 1.85 meters. Most of the work was promised for completion by the end of 1959. To exploit this database, Reshetin started a project group to conduct trade-off studies of the various configurations at the beginning of 1960. It was upgraded to a project sector, under the leadership of Timchenko, in 1961.

The 1960 studies considered various configurations of ballistic capsule, wing-canard schemes of conventional aircraft layout, and tailless hybrid configurations. As was done at General Electric, each configuration had a complete theoretical study, from the standpoint of aerodynamics, trajectories, resulting spacecraft masses, thermal protection requirements, and so on. By the end of 1960 it was found that the winged designs were too heavy for launch by the R-7 and in any case presented difficult re-entry heating problems that were beyond the existing technology. Studies of re-entry trajectories from lunar distances showed that a modest lift-to-drag ratio of 0.2 would be sufficient to lower G forces and allow the capsule to fly 3,000 to 7,000 km from its re-entry point and land on the Soviet territory. When the existing guidance accuracy were taken into account, this was increased to 0.3 to allow sufficient maneuverability to ensure the capsule could land within 50 km of the aim point.

These studies were the most complex ever undertaken, and Korolev obtained assistance from the most brilliant Soviet aerodynamicists, notably Likhushin at NII-1, and those refugees from Chelomei's take-over of their bureaus, Myasishchyev at TsAGI, and Tsybin at NII-88. In 1962 the classic Soyuz 'headlight' configuration was selected: a hemispherical forebody transition in a barely conical (7 degree) section to the section-of-a-sphere heat shield.

Section 11 had conceived of the modular scheme to reduce the mass of the re-entry vehicle in 1960. Section 9's competing design was two modules, like Apollo. Further iterative studies in 1961 to 1962 reached the conclusion that the Soyuz should consist of four sections. From fore to aft these were the living module; the landing module; the equipment-propulsion module; and an aft jettisonable module, that would contain the electronics for earth orbit rendezvous (this was to be jettisoned after the last docking was completed and before translunar injection. Until the 1990's this compartment on the early Soyuz models was misidentified as a 'toroidal fuel tank' by Western space experts).

This configuration was selected only after considerable engineering angst. From the point of view of pulling the capsule away from the rocket in an emergency, positioning the capsule at the top of the spacecraft was ideal. But to use this layout with the living module concept, a hatch would have to be put through the heat shield to connect the two living areas. Korolev's engineers just could not accept the idea of violating the integrity of the shield (and would later get in bitter battles with other design bureaus when competing manned spacecraft - Kozlov's Soyuz VI and Chelomei's TKS - used such hatches).

Allegations have been made that the Korolev Soyuz design was based on General Electric's losing Apollo proposal. However study of the chronology of the two projects shows that early development work was almost simultaneous. Independently of General Electric, Korolev had arrived at the modular spacecraft approach and a similar capsule concept before the General Electric proposal was published. However there was plenty of time to incorporate detailed features of the General Electric design into Soyuz before it was finalized.

On May 7, 1963 Korolev signed the final draft project for Soyuz. The baseline consisted of a circumlunar Soyuz A (7K) manned spacecraft. This would be boosted around the moon by the Soyuz B (9K) rocket stage, which was fueled by the Soyuz V (11K) tanker. However Korolev understood very well that financing for a project of this scale would only be forthcoming from the Ministry of Defense. Therefore his draft project proposed two additional modifications of the Soyuz 7K: the Soyuz-P (Perekhvatchik, Interceptor) space interceptor and the Soyuz-R (Razvedki, intelligence) command-reconnaissance spacecraft. The Soyuz-P would use the Soyuz B rocket motor to boost it to intercepts in orbits of up to 6,000 km.

The Soyuz draft project was submitted to the expert commission on 20 March 1963. However only the reconnaissance and interceptor applications of the Soyuz could be understood and supported by the VVS air force and RVSN rocket forces. Korolev wanted to concentrate on the manned space exploration mission and felt he had no time to work on a Soyuz military 'side-line'. In 1963 his OKB-1 was working on the three-crew 3KV Voskhod, the two-crew 3KD Voskhod-2, the immense N1 11A52 launch vehicle , its smaller derivatives 11A53 (N11) and 11A54 (N111), and a large number of other unmanned spacecraft. Therefore it was decided that OKB-1 would concentrate only on development of the 7K spacecraft, while development of the 9K and 11K spacecraft would be passed to other design bureaus. The military projects Soyuz-P and Soyuz-R were ‘subcontracted' to OKB-1 Filial number 3, based in Samara.

To Korolev's frustration, while Filial 3 received budget to develop the military Soyuz versions, his own Soyuz-A did not receive adequate financial support. The 7K-9K-11K plan would have required five successful automatic dockings to succeed. This seemed impossible at the time. Instead the road to the moon advocated by Vladimir Nikolayevich Chelomei was preferred. Chelomei was Korolev's arch-rival, and had the advantage of having Nikita Khrushchev's son in his employ. He attempted to break the stranglehold that ‘Korolev and Co.', also known as the ‘Podpilki' Mafia, had on the space program. Chelomei's LK-1 single-manned spacecraft, to be placed on a translunar trajectory in a single launch of his UR-500K rocket, was the preferred approach. Chelomei issued the advanced project LK-1 on 3 August 1964, the same day the historic decree was issued that set forth the Soviet plan to beat the Americans to the moon. Under this decree Chelomei was to develop the LK-1 for the manned lunar flyby while Korolev was to develop the N1-L3 for the manned lunar landing. The 7K-9K-11K system was canceled. But the Soyuz A itself would be developed by Korolev as the 7K-OK manned earth orbit spacecraft. Korolev kept his options open and had versions of it designed which would in the end be flown for manned orbital (7K-LOK) and circumlunar (7K-L1) missions.

More... - Chronology...


Associated Spacecraft
  • Sputnik 1 Russian technology satellite. One launch, 1957.10.04. Tikhonravov's 1.4 metric ton ISZ satellite was to have been launched by the new R-7 ICBM as the Soviet Union's first satellite, during the International Geophysical Year. More...
  • Sputnik 3 Russian earth magnetosphere satellite. 2 launches, 1958.04.27 (Sputnik failure) to 1958.05.15 (Sputnik 3). In July 1956 OKB-1 completed the draft project for the first earth satellite, designated ISZ (Artificial Earth Satellite). More...
  • Luna E-1 Russian lunar impact probe. 4 launches, 1958.09.23 (Luna failure) to 1959.01.02 (Luna 1). The first spacecraft to achieve escape velocity and the first to reach the Moon. The spacecraft was sphere-shaped. Five antennae extended from one hemisphere. More...
  • Sever Russian manned spacecraft. Study 1959. Sever was the original OKB-1 design for a manned spacecraft to replace the Vostok. It was designed to tackle such problems as maneuvering in orbit, rendezvous and docking, and testing of lifting re-entry vehicles. More...
  • Luna E-1A Russian lunar impact probe. 2 launches, 1959.06.18 (Luna) to 1959.09.12 (Luna 2). First probe to impact lunar surface. Delivered a pennant to the surface of the Moon and conducted research during flight to the Moon. More...
  • Luna E-3 Russian lunar flyby probe. 3 launches, 1959.10.04 (Luna 3) to 1960.04.19 (Luna). The E-3 was designed to loop around the moon and photograph the Moon's far side. More...
  • Vostok Russian manned spacecraft. 13 launches, 1960.05.15 (Korabl-Sputnik 1) to 1963.06.16 (Vostok 6). First manned spacecraft. Derivatives were still in use in the 21st Century for military surveillance, earth resources, mapping, and biological missions. More...
  • Mars 1M Russian Mars flyby probe. 2 launches, 1960.10.10 (Mars probe 1M s/n 1 failure.) to 1960.10.14 (Mars probe 1M s/n 2 failure.). Mars probe intended to photograph Mars on a flyby trajectory. More...
  • L4-1960 Russian manned lunar orbiter. Study 1960. Lunar orbiter proposed by Korolev in January 1960. The spacecraft was to take 2 to 3 men to lunar orbit and back to earth by 1965. More...
  • L1-1960 Russian manned lunar flyby spacecraft. Study 1960. Circumlunar manned spacecraft proposed by Korolev in January 1960. The L1 would a man on a loop around the moon and back to earth by 1964. More...
  • Venera 1VA Russian Venus probe. 2 launches, 1961.02.12 (Sputnik 7) to (Venera 1). The 1VA probe, the first spacecraft sent towards Venus, consisted of a cylindrical body topped by a dome, totaling 2 meters in height. More...
  • Zenit-2 Russian military surveillance satellite. 81 launches, 1961.12.11 (Zenit-2 11F61 s/n 1) to 1970.05.12 (Cosmos 344). The Zenit-2 was a derivative of the manned Vostok, and the Soviet Union's first spy satellite. More...
  • Oscar International series of amateur radio communications satellites. Operational, first launch 1961.12.12. Launched in a variety of configurations and by many nations. More...
  • Soyuz A Russian manned spacecraft. Study 1962. The 7K Soyuz spacecraft was initially designed for rendezvous and docking operations in near earth orbit, leading to piloted circumlunar flight. More...
  • Soyuz B Russian space tug. Study 1962. In the definitive December 1962 Soyuz draft project, the Soyuz B (9K) rocket acceleration block would be launched into a 225 km orbit by a Soyuz 11A511 booster. More...
  • Soyuz V Russian logistics spacecraft. Cancelled 1964. In the definitive December 1962 Soyuz draft project, the Soyuz B (9K) rocket acceleration block would be launched into a 225 km orbit by a Soyuz 11A511 booster. More...
  • L1-1962 Russian manned lunar flyby spacecraft. Study 1962. Early design that would lead to Soyuz. A Vostok-Zh manned tug would assemble rocket stages in orbit. It would then return, and a Soyuz L1 would dock with the rocket stack and be propelled toward the moon. More...
  • OS-1962 Russian manned space station. Study 1962. On 10 March 1962 Korolev approved the technical project "Complex docking of spacecraft in earth orbit - Soyuz". This contained the original Soyuz L1 circumlunar design. More...
  • Mars 2MV-1 Russian Venus probe. 2 launches, 1962.08.25 (Sputnik 19) to 1962.09.01 (Sputnik 20). More...
  • Mars 2MV-4 Russian Mars flyby probe. 2 launches, 1962.10.24 (Sputnik 22) to 1962.11.01 (Mars 1). Mars probe intended to photograph Mars on a flyby trajectory. More...
  • Mars 2MV-3 Russian Venus probe. One launch, 1962.11.04, Sputnik 24. Mars probe intended to make a soft landing on Mars. More...
  • Soyuz R Russian manned spacecraft. Cancelled 1966. A military reconnaissance version of Soyuz, developed by Kozlov at Samara from 1963-1966. It was to consist of an the 11F71 small orbital station and the 11F72 Soyuz 7K-TK manned ferry. More...
  • Soyuz P Russian manned combat spacecraft. Study 1963. In December 1962 Sergei Korolev released his draft project for a versatile manned spacecraft to follow Vostok. The Soyuz A was primarily designed for manned circumlunar flight. More...
  • Luna E-6 Russian lunar lander. 12 launches, 1963.01.04 (Sputnik 25) to 1966.01.31 (Luna 9). E-6 probes were designed by Korolev's OKB-1 with the objective of making the first soft landing on the moon and beaming back pictures of the surface. More...
  • L3-1963 Russian manned lunar lander. Study 1963. Korolev's original design for a manned lunar landing spacecraft was described in September 1963 and was designed to make a direct lunar landing using the earth orbit rendezvous method. More...
  • L4-1963 Russian manned lunar orbiter. Study 1963. The L-4 Manned Lunar Orbiter Research Spacecraft would have taken two to three cosmonauts into lunar orbit for an extended survey and mapping mission. More...
  • L5-1963 Russian manned lunar rover. Study 1963. The L-5 Heavy Lunar Self-Propelled Craft would be used for extended manned reconnaissance of the lunar surface. More...
  • Polyot Russian military anti-satellite system. 2 launches, 1963.11.01 (Polet 1; Polyot 1) to 1964.04.12 (Polet 2; Polyot 2). First prototype model of Chelomei's ASAT, used in an interceptor control and propulsion test. More...
  • Venera 3MV-1A Russian Venus probe. 2 launches, 1963.11.11 (Cosmos 21) to 1964.02.19 (3MV-1A). More...
  • Zenit-4 Russian military surveillance satellite. 76 launches, 1963.11.16 (Cosmos 22) to 1970.08.07 (Cosmos 355). Zenit-4 was the second Soviet photo-reconnaissance satellite, providing high-resolution imagery to complement the area coverage of the Zenit-2. More...
  • Elektron-B Russian earth magnetosphere satellite. 2 launches, 1964.01.30 (Elektron 2) to 1964.07.11 (Elektron 4). The Elektron mission was one of the earliest Soviet satellites to be authorized following the initial Sputnik series. More...
  • Elektron-A Russian earth magnetosphere satellite. 2 launches, 1964.01.30 (Elektron 1) to 1964.07.11 (Elektron 3). The Elektron mission was one of the earliest Soviet satellites to be authorized following the initial Sputnik series. More...
  • Venera 3MV-1 Russian Venus probe. 3 launches, 1964.02.19 (3MV-1 No. 2 SA) to 1964.04.02 (Zond 1). More...
  • Molniya-1 Russian military communications satellite. 37 launches, 1964.06.04 (Molniya-1 s/n 2 Failure) to 1975.09.02 (Molniya 1-31). This was the first Soviet communications satellite, using the twelve-hour elliptical orbit later dubbed a 'Molniya orbit'. More...
  • Meteor Russian earth weather satellite. 11 launches, 1964.08.28 (Cosmos 44) to 1969.02.01 (Meteor). The first Soviet weather satellite. Development began with a decree of 30 October 1960. More...
  • Voskhod Russian manned spacecraft. 5 launches, 1964.10.06 (Cosmos 47) to 1966.02.22 (Cosmos 110). More...
  • Mars 3MV-4A Russian Mars flyby probe. 2 launches, 1964.11.30 (Zond 2) to 1965.07.18 (Zond 3). Mars probe intended to photograph Mars on a flyby trajectory. Elaboration of station systems and scientific research in interplanetary space. More...
  • L3 Russian manned lunar expedition. Development begun in 1964. All hardware was test flown, but program cancelled in 1974 due to repeated failures of the project's N1 launch vehicle. More...
  • Soyuz 7K-TK Russian manned spacecraft. Cancelled 1966. To deliver crews to the Soyuz R 11F71 station Kozlov developed the transport spacecraft 11F72 Soyuz 7K-TK. More...
  • Soyuz PPK Russian manned combat spacecraft. Study 1964. The Soyuz 7K-PPK (pilotiruemiy korabl-perekhvatchik, manned interceptor spacecraft) was a revised version of the Soyuz P manned satellite inspection spacecraft. More...
  • Soyuz VI Russian manned combat spacecraft. Cancelled 1965. To determine the usefulness of manned military space flight, two projects were pursued in the second half of the 1960's. More...
  • Venera 3MV-4 Russian Venus probe. 2 launches, 1965.11.12 (Venera 2) to 1965.11.23 (Cosmos 96). Carried a TV system and scientific instruments. More...
  • Venera 3MV-3 Russian Venus probe. One launch, 1965.11.16, Venera 3. The mission of this spacecraft was to land on the Venusian surface. More...
  • US-A Russian military naval surveillance radar satellite. 38 launches, 1965.12.28 (Cosmos 102) to 1988.03.14 (Cosmos 1932). The US-A (later known as RLS) was a nuclear powered RORSAT (Radar Ocean Reconnaissance Satellite). More...
  • Luna E-6S Russian lunar orbiter. 2 launches, 1966.03.01 (Cosmos 111) to 1966.03.31 (Luna 10). More...
  • Soyuz 7K-OK Tether Russian manned spacecraft. Study 1965. Korolev was always interested in application of artificial gravity for large space stations and interplanetary craft. He sought to test this in orbit from the early days of the Vostok program. More...
  • Luna E-6LF Russian lunar orbiter. 2 launches, 1966.08.24 (Luna 11) to 1966.10.22 (Luna 12). Photographed lunar surface and orbital space environment in preparation for manned missions. More...
  • Soyuz 7K-OK Russian manned spacecraft. 17 launches, 1966.11.28 (Cosmos 133) to 1970.06.01 (Soyuz 9). Development of a three-manned orbital version of the Soyuz, the 7K-OK was approved in December 1963. More...
  • Luna E-6M Russian lunar lander. One launch, 1966.12.21, Luna 13. Modernized version of the E-6 with the ALS lander mass increased from 84 kg to 150 kg. Conducted further scientific investigation of the moon and circumlunar space. More...
  • Soyuz 7K-L1 Russian manned lunar flyby spacecraft. 12 launches, 1967.03.10 (Cosmos 146) to 1970.10.20 (Zond 8). The Soyuz 7K-L1, a modification of the Soyuz 7K-OK, was designed for manned circumlunar missions. More...
  • Luna E-6LS Russian lunar orbiter. 3 launches, 1967.05.17 (Cosmos 159) to 1968.04.07 (Luna 14). The E-6LS was a radio-equipped version of the E-6 used to test tracking and communications networks for the Soviet manned lunar program. More...
  • Venera 1V (V-67) Russian Venus probe. 2 launches, 1967.06.12 (Venera 4) to 1967.06.17 (Cosmos 167). Venus probe with the announced mission of direct atmospheric studies. More...
  • L5-1967 Russian manned lunar lander. Study 1967. At a Lunar Soviet meeting in October 1967 preliminary agreement was reached to study a follow-on to the first N1-L3 lunar landings. A new N1 model was to be developed to launch a new 'L5' spacecraft. More...
  • L3M-1970 Russian manned lunar lander. Study 1970. The first design of the L3M lunar lander had the crew of two accommodated in a Soyuz capsule atop the lander. More...
  • Nauka Russian earth magnetosphere satellite. 45 launches, 1968.03.21 (Nauka) to 1979.08.17 (Cosmos 1122 Nauka). The Nauka containers were flown as piggy-back payloads aboard Zenit reconnaissance satellites. They served a dual purpose. More...
  • Zenit-2M Russian military surveillance satellite. 101 launches, 1968.03.21 (Cosmos 208) to 1979.08.17 (Cosmos 1122). Planning began in mid-1967 for military systems to enter service through 1975. More...
  • Zenit-4M Russian military surveillance satellite. 61 launches, 1968.10.31 (Cosmos 251) to 1974.07.25 (Cosmos 667). Planning began in mid-1967 for military systems to enter service through 1975. More...
  • Yantar-1 Russian military surveillance satellite. Study 1968. Survey reconnaissance satellite project of KB Yuzhnoye worked on 1964-1967. More...
  • Yantar-2 Russian military surveillance satellite. Study 1968. High resolution reconnaissance satellite project worked on by KB Yuzhnoye 1964-1967. Was to have been derived from Soyuz-R manned spacecraft. More...
  • Venera 2V (V-69) Russian Venus probe. 2 launches, 1969.01.05 (Venera 6) to 1969.01.10 (Venera 6). Spacecraft was very similar to Venera 4 / 1V (V-67) although the descent module was of a stronger design. More...
  • Aelita Russian infrared astronomy satellite. Cancelled 1982. The Aelita infrared astronomical telescope spacecraft was derived from the Soyuz manned spacecraft and had an unusually long gestation. More...
  • Soyuz 7K-L1A Russian manned lunar orbiter. 2 launches, 1969.02.21 (N-1 3L) to 1969.07.03 (N-1 5L). Hybrid spacecraft used in N1 launch tests. More...
  • Meteor M 11F614 Russian earth weather satellite. 25 launches, 1969.03.26 (Meteor 1-01) to 1977.04.05 (Meteor 1-27). Acquisition of meteorological information needed for use by the weather service. More...
  • Soyuz Kontakt Russian manned spacecraft. Cancelled 1974. Modification of the Soyuz 7K-OK spacecraft to test in earth orbit the Kontakt rendezvous and docking system. More...
  • Soyuz 7K-L1E Russian manned lunar orbiter. 2 launches, 1969.11.28 (Soyuz 7K-L1E s/n 1) and 1970.12.02 (Cosmos 382). Modification of Soyuz circumlunar configuration used in propulsion tests of the Block D stage. More...
  • Zenit-4MK Russian military surveillance satellite. 80 launches, 1969.12.23 (Cosmos 317) to 1977.06.22 (Cosmos 920). Modernized high resolution version of the Zenit-4M satellite that went into service in 1972. Maneuverable; (two-tone telemetry). More...
  • Venera 3V (V-70) Russian Venus probe. 2 launches, 1970.08.17 (Venera 7) to 1970.08.22 (Cosmos 359). Venus lander intended to study the Venusian atmosphere and other phenomena of the planet. More...
  • LK Russian manned lunar lander. 3 launches, 1970.11.24 (Cosmos 379) to 1971.08.12 (Cosmos 434). The LK ('Lunniy korabl' - lunar craft) was the Soviet lunar lander - the Russian counterpart of the American LM Lunar Module. More...
  • Tselina-D Ukrainian military naval signals reconnaisance satellite. 77 launches, 1970.12.18 (Cosmos 389) to 1994.05.25 (Tselina-D). The Tselina D was the detailed observation portion of the two-satellite Tselina ELINT satellite system. More...
  • L3M Russian manned lunar base. Study 1970-1972. Follow-on to the L3, a two N1-launch manned lunar expedition designed and developed in the Soviet Union between 1969 and 1974. More...
  • Soyuz 7KT-OK Russian manned spacecraft. 2 launches, 1971.04.23 (Soyuz 10) to 1971.06.06 (Soyuz 11). This was a modification of Soyuz 7K-OK with a lightweight docking system and a crew transfer tunnel. More...
  • Soyuz 7K-LOK Russian manned lunar orbiter. 2 launches, 1971.06.26 (N-1 6L) to 1972.11.23 (LOK). The two-crew LOK lunar orbiting spacecraft was the largest derivative of Soyuz developed. More...
  • Molniya-2 Russian communications satellite. 20 launches, 1971.11.24 (Molniya 2-01) to 2005.06.21 (Molniya 2-17). Molniya-2 was the elliptical orbit component of the Soviet YeSSS communications satellite system. More...
  • Zenit-4MT Russian military surveillance satellite. 23 launches, 1971.12.27 (Cosmos 470) to 1982.08.03 (Cosmos 1398). Special version of Zenit developed for topographical photography. This was developed by OKB-1 Filial 1 based on the Zenit-4M. More...
  • L3M-1972 Russian manned lunar lander. Study 1972. Revised L3M design of the L3M lunar lander for use with the Block Sr crasher stage. The Soyuz return capsule was completely enclosed in a pressurized 'hangar'. More...
  • Venera 3V (V-72) Russian Venus probe. 2 launches, 1972.03.27 (Venera 8) to 1972.03.31 (Cosmos 482). Venus atmospheric probe; instrumentation included temperature, pressure, and light sensors as well as radio transmitters. More...
  • SRET French technology satellite. 2 launches, 1972.04.04 (SRET 1) and 1975.06.05 (SRET 2). Test satellite. More...
  • Energia Russian earth magnetosphere satellite. 2 launches, 1972.04.07 (Intercosmos 6) to 1978.07.02 (Cosmos 1026). Adaptation of recoverable Vostok spacecraft for investigation of primary cosmic radiation and meteoritic particles in near-earth outer space. More...
  • Prognoz Russian earth magnetosphere satellite. 10 launches, 1972.04.14 (Prognoz 1) to 1985.04.26 (Intercosmos 23). This spacecraft, built by Lavochkin, was launched from 1972 for study of geomagnetic fields, radiation, and solar physics. More...
  • Soyuz 7K-T Russian manned spacecraft. 23 launches, 1972.06.26 (Cosmos 496) to 1981.05.14 (Soyuz 40). More...
  • Oko Russian military early warning satellite. 86 launches, 1972.09.19 (Cosmos 520) to 2010.09.30. Work on the Soviet Union's first infrared ICBM launch detection satellite began in 1967 as the USK - space system to observe rocket launches. More...
  • Bion Russian biology satellite. 11 launches, 1973.10.31 (Cosmos 605) to 1996.12.24 (Bion No. 11). Bion was developed for biological studies of the effects of radiation. More...
  • Soyuz 7K-TM Russian manned spacecraft. 4 launches, 1974.04.03 (Cosmos 638) to 1975.07.15 (Soyuz 19 (ASTP)). The Soyuz 7K-T as modified for the docking with Apollo. More...
  • Yantar-2K Russian military surveillance satellite. 30 launches, 1974.05.23 (Yantar-2K failure.) to 1983.06.28 (Cosmos 1471). More...
  • Soyuz 7K-T/A9 Russian manned spacecraft. 8 launches, 1974.05.27 (Cosmos 656) to 1978.06.27 (Soyuz 30). Version of 7K-T for flights to Almaz. Known difference with the basic 7K-T included systems for remote control of the Almaz station and a revised parachute system. More...
  • Meteor-Priroda Russian earth land resources satellite. 5 launches, 1974.07.09 (Meteor 1-18) to 1981.07.10 (Meteor 1-31). More...
  • Soyuz 7K-S Russian manned spacecraft. 3 launches, 1974.08.06 (Cosmos 670) to 1976.11.29 (Cosmos 869). The Soyuz 7K-S had its genesis in military Soyuz designs of the 1960's. More...
  • Molniya-3 Russian communications satellite. 55 launches, 1974.11.21 (Molniya 3-01) to 2003.06.19 (Molniya 3-53). Development of the Molniya-2M communications satellite, later called Molniya-3, began in 1972. Flight trials began in November 1974. More...
  • LEK Lunar Expeditionary Complex Russian manned lunar base. Cancelled 1974. Although the N1, L3, and DLB projects were cancelled, Glushko still considered the establishment of a moon base to be a primary goal for his country. More...
  • Meteor-2 Russian earth weather satellite. 22 launches, 1975.07.11 (Meteor 2-01) to 1993.08.31 (Meteor 2-21). Successor to the Meteor-1 weather satellite. The Meteor-2 had a longer design operational life (one year vs. More...
  • Zenit-4MKT Russian military surveillance satellite. 27 launches, 1975.09.25 (Cosmos 771) to 1985.09.06 (Cosmos 1681). The Zenit-4MKT / Fram was an adaptation of the recoverable Vostok spacecraft for reconnaissance/remote sensing missions. More...
  • Lunokhod LEK Russian manned lunar rover. Study 1973. Lunar rover for the Vulkan Lunar Expedition. The rover provided pressurized quarters for 2 crew, allowing trips up to 200 km from the lunar base at a top speed of 5 km/hr. More...
  • LEK Russian manned lunar lander. Study 1973. Lunar lander for the Vulkan surface base. As in the original LK lunar lander, this would be taken to near zero velocity near the lunar surface by the Vulkan Block V 'lunar crasher' rocket stage. More...
  • LZhM Russian manned lunar habitat. Study 1973. Laboratory-living module. Three story lunar surface residence and laboratory for Vulkan-launched Lunar Expedition. More...
  • LZM Russian manned lunar habitat. Study 1973. Laboratory-Factory Module for the Vulkan surface base. More...
  • Molniya-1T Russian military communications satellite. 63 launches, 1976.01.22 (Molniya) to 2004.02.18 (Molniya-1T). This was a modernized Molniya-1 communications satellite with the 'Beta' retransmitter which began flight tests in 1970. More...
  • Soyuz 7K-MF6 Russian manned spacecraft. One launch, 1976.09.15, Soyuz 22. Soyuz 7K-T modified with installation of East German MF6 multispectral camera. Used for a unique solo Soyuz earth resources mission. More...
  • Zenit-6U Russian military surveillance satellite. 95 launches, 1976.11.24 (Cosmos 867) to 1984.06.19 (Cosmos 1573). A universal variant of the Zenit spacecraft, used in two altitude ranges, for both observation and high resolution missions. More...
  • Zenit-4MKM Russian military surveillance satellite. 39 launches, 1977.07.12 (Cosmos 927) to 1980.10.10 (Cosmos 1214). A further modification of the Zenit-4MK, accepted for military service in 1976, entered service in 1978. More...
  • Progress Russian logistics spacecraft. 43 launches, 1978.01.20 (Progress 1) to 1990.05.06 (Progress 42). Progress took the basic Soyuz 7K-T manned ferry designed for the Salyut space station and modified it for unmanned space station resupply. More...
  • Soyuz T Russian manned spacecraft. 18 launches, 1978.04.04 (Cosmos 1001) to 1986.03.13 (Soyuz T-15). Soyuz T had a long gestation, beginning as the Soyuz VI military orbital complex Soyuz in 1967. More...
  • Magion Czech earth magnetosphere satellite. 5 launches, 1978.10.24 (Magion 1) to 1996.08.29 (Magion 5). The Czechoslovak satellite MAGION researched the magnetosphere and ionosphere of the earth. More...
  • Astrofizika Russian earth geodetic satellite. One launch, 1978.12.23, Cosmos 1066. Based on the Meteor-1 bus but carried special optical instruments for the observation of lasers on Earth. More...
  • Yantar-4K1 Russian film-return military surveillance satellite. Operational, first launch 1979.04.27. Flight trials of the Yantar-2K indicated the satellite was not capable of providing strategic warning of attack. The high resolution Yantar-4K provided that capability, while still capable of being launched by the existing Soyuz-U launch vehicle. Lifetime was 45 days. Two small capsules could return film an an interim basis before the main spacecraft with film returned to earth. More...
  • KRT-10 Soviet . One launch, 1979.06.28. 10 m diameter radio telescope. Attached to Salyut 6 docking hatch and deployed after separation of Progress from Mir. More...
  • Resurs F1-17F41 Russian earth land resources satellite. 29 launches, 1979.09.05 (Cosmos 1127) to 1986.05.28 (Cosmos 1746). The 17F41 was the first of 4 models of the Resurs-F to fly. More...
  • Resurs-OE Russian earth land resources satellite. 2 launches, 1980.06.18 (Meteor 1-30) to 1983.07.24 (Cosmos 1484). Modified Meteor; prototype for Resurs-O1. More...
  • Yantar-1KFT Russian military surveillance satellite. 21 launches, 1981.02.18 (Cosmos 1246) to 2005.09.02 (Cosmos 2415). Version of the Yantar photo satellite for topographic mapping on behalf of the Red Army. More...
  • Iskra Russian amateur radio communications satellite. 3 launches, 1981.07.10 (Iskra) to 1982.11.18 (Iskra 3). Launched from Salyut 7 airlock. Conduct of experiments in the field of amateur radio communications. More...
  • IK-B-1300 Ukrainian earth magnetosphere satellite. One launch, 1981.08.07, Intercosmos 22. Intercosmos-Bulgaria 1300. Comprehensive investigation of physical processes in the earth's ionosphere and magnetosphere. More...
  • Astrozond Soviet earth magnetosphere satellite. One launch, 1982.09.18. More...
  • Yantar-4KS1 Russian military electro-optical surveillance satellite. Operational, first launched 1982.12.28. More...
  • Efir Russian earth magnetosphere satellite. 2 launches, 1984.03.10 (Cosmos 1543) to 1985.12.27 (Cosmos 1713). Science. Adaptation of the Vostok spacecraft. More...
  • Zenit-8 Russian military surveillance satellite. 101 launches, 1984.06.11 (Cosmos 1571) to 1994.06.07 (Cosmos 2281). More...
  • Zarya Russian manned spacecraft. Cancelled 1989.' Super Soyuz' replacement for Soyuz and Progress. More...
  • Foton Russian materials science satellite. 15 launches, 1985.04.16 (Cosmos 1645 / Foton 1) to 2007.09.14 (Foton M-2). Adaptation of recoverable Vostok spacecraft for zero-gravity materials processing tests. 400 W available to operate experiments. More...
  • Resurs-O1 Russian earth land resources satellite. 4 launches, 1985.10.03 (Cosmos 1689) to 1998.07.10 (Resurs-O1 No. 4). A decree of 5 May 1977 authorized development of three earth resource satellites. More...
  • Soyuz TM Russian manned spacecraft. 34 launches, 1986.05.21 (Soyuz TM-1) to 2002.04.25 (Soyuz TM-34). More...
  • Resurs F1-14F40 Russian earth land resources satellite. 7 launches, 1986.07.16 (Cosmos 1762) to 1988.02.18 (Cosmos 1920). The Resurs-F earth resource satellite was based on the recoverable Zenit-4 spy satellite. More...
  • Resurs F2 Russian earth land resources satellite. 11 launches, 1987.12.26 (Cosmos 1906) to 1995.09.26 (Resurs F2 N.10). Adaptation of recoverable Vostok spacecraft for remote sensing. More...
  • IRS Indian Remote Sensing Satellite. Operational, first launch 1988.03.17. Remote sensing of the Earth for natural resources management applications. More...
  • Resurs F1-14F43 Russian earth land resources satellite. 18 launches, 1988.05.31 (Cosmos 1951) to 1993.08.24 (Resurs F-19). A decree of 5 May 1977 authorized development of three earth resource satellites. More...
  • LK Energia Russian manned lunar lander. Study 1988. Lunar lander for Energia-launched lunar expedition. The LOK and LK lander would be inserted into lunar orbit by separate Energia launches. More...
  • LOK Energia Russian manned lunar orbiter. Study 1988. Lunar orbiter for Energia-launched lunar expedition. The LOK and LK lander would be inserted into lunar orbit by separate Energia launches. More...
  • Pion Russian earth atmosphere satellite. 6 launches, 1989.05.25 (Pion) to 1992.08.19 (Pion 2). Deployed from Resurs F1, which carried two passive separable "Pion" probes to investigate upper atmospheric density. More...
  • Orlets-1 Russian military surveillance satellite. 8 launches, 1989.07.18 (Cosmos 2031) to 2006.09.14 (Cosmos 2423). Multi-purpose satellite, designed for both close-look and survey missions, equipped with a panoramic camera, equipped with 8 film return capsules. More...
  • Progress M Russian logistics spacecraft. Operational, first launch 1989.08.23 (Progress M-1). Progress M was an upgraded version of the original Progress. New service module and rendezvous and docking systems were adopted from Soyuz T. More...
  • Gamma Russian gamma ray astronomy satellite. One launch, 1990.07.11. The Gamma USSR/France gamma/x-ray astronomical telescope spacecraft was derived from the Soyuz manned spacecraft and had an unusually long gestation. More...
  • Mak Russian earth atmosphere satellite. 2 launches, 1991.06.17 (Mak 1) and 1992.10.27 (Mak 2). Launched from Mir airlock. Investigation of features at the Earth's atmosphere. More...
  • Znamya Russian . One launch, 1992.10.27. Reflector mirror, deployed from Progress M-15 after separation from Mir space station. More...
  • Progress M2 Russian logistics spacecraft. Cancelled 1993. As Phase 2 of the third generation Soviet space systems it was planned to use a more capable resupply craft for the Mir-2 space station. More...
  • GFZ-1 German earth geodetic satellite. 2 launches, 1995.04.19 (GFZ-1) and 1998.07.10 (WESTPAC). GFZ-1 was a geodetic satellite designed to improve the current knowledge of the Earth's gravity field. More...
  • Prognoz-M Russian earth magnetosphere satellite. 2 launches, 1995.08.02 (Interbol 1) to 1996.08.29 (Interbol 2). Interbol was originally an Intercosmos project with a launch planned for the late 1980's. More...
  • Radarsat Canadian earth resources radar satellite. Two launches, 1995.11.04 (Radarsat) and 2007.12.14 (Radarsat). Canada's Radarsat was a radar satellite featuring variable resolution, and different view angles at a number of preset positions. More...
  • Skipper Russian technology satellite. One launch, 1995.12.28. Aerobraking investigation; satellite provided by Russia, instruments by Utah State University; solar array shorted immediately following deployment and ended mission. More...
  • AMOS Israeli communications satellite. 3 launches, 1996.05.16 (AMOS) to 2008.04.28 (Amos-2). 7 Ku-band transponders. Israeli indigenous communications satellite program. More...
  • Alpha Lifeboat Russian manned rescue spacecraft. Study 1995. 1995 joint Energia-Rockwell-Khrunichev design for space station Alpha lifeboat based on the Zarya reentry vehicle with a solid retrofire motor, cold gas thruster package. Five years on-orbit storage. More...
  • MuSat Argentinan earth magnetosphere satellite. One launch, 1996.08.29, Microsat. MuSat-1 Victor was the first Argentine-built satellite. More...
  • PS Model Russian amateur radio communications satellite. 2 launches, 1997.10.05 (Sputnik-40) to 1998.10.25 (Spoutnik-41). Two subscale models of Sputnik 1, were built by students for hand-launch from Mir on fortieth anniversary of Sputnik 1. More...
  • Inspector German logistics spacecraft. One launch, 1997.10.05, X-Mir Inspector. Robotic spacecraft designed for free flight and camera inspection of the exterior of the Space Shuttle or International Space Station. More...
  • Mirka German re-entry vehicle technology satellite. One launch, 1997.10.09. German miniature re-entry vehicle attached to exterior of Russian Resurs satellite. After release from Resurs landed in Kazakhstan Oct 23. More...
  • YES European tether technology satellite. 2 launches, 1997.10.30 (YES) and 2007.09.14 (YES). Young Engineers Satellite sponsored by the European Space Tech. More...
  • Star bus American communications satellite bus. Operational, first launch 1997.11.12 (Cakrawarta 1). The Orbital Star bus was designed for reliable and robust performance in a variety of LEO and GEO missions. More...
  • Resurs F1M Russian earth land resources satellite. 2 launches, 1997.11.17 (Resurs F-1M) to 1999.09.28 (Resurs F-1M). Variant of the Resurs-F recoverable earth resources satellite. See Resurs F1-17F40 for a full technical description. More...
  • Globalstar American communications satellite. 72 launches, 1998.02.14 (Globalstar FM1) to 2007.10.20 (Globalstar D). The Globalstar constellation was a Medium Earth Orbit system for mobile voice and data communications. More...
  • MiniSat-400 British technology satellite. 2 launches, 1999.04.21 (UoSAT-12) to 2005.12.28 (Giove-A). Basic Surrey Minisat bus. More...
  • Progress M1 Russian logistics spacecraft. 11 launches, 2000.02.01 (Progress M1-1) to 2004.01.29 (Progress M1-11). Progress M1 was a modified version of the Progress M resupply spacecraft capable of delivering more propellant than the basic model to the ISS or Mir. More...
  • IRDT Russian manned rescue spacecraft. First launch 2000.02.08. Inflatable re-entry and descent technology vehicle designed to return payloads from space to the earth or another planet. Tested three times, with only one partially successful recovery. More...
  • Cluster 2 European earth magnetosphere satellite. 4 launches, 2000.07.16 (Samba) to 2000.08.09 (Tango). More...
  • Progress M-SO Russian docking and airlock module for the International Space Station. First launch 2001.09.14. Delivered to the station by the Progress service module, which was jettisoned after docking. More...
  • Kolibri Russian technology satellite. One launch, 2002.03.19. Kolibri was a joint Russian-Australian educational project to allow school children to monitor low frequency waves and particle fluxes in low orbit. More...
  • Soyuz TMA Russian three-crew manned spacecraft. Operational, first launch 2002.10.30. Designed for use as a lifeboat for the International Space Station. After the retirement of the US shuttle in 2011, Soyuz TMA was the only conveying crews to the ISS. Except for the Chinese Shenzhou, it became mankind's sole means of access to space. More...
  • Mars Express European Mars orbiter. One launch, 2003.06.02. The European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, designed to be built more quickly than any other comparable planetary mission, was a resounding success. More...
  • Nanosputnik Russian technology satellite. One launch, 2005.02.28. Nanosatellite delivered by Progress M-52 to the International Space Station. 30 cm long, it was released from during a spacewalk on 28 March 2005. More...
  • Venus Express European Venus probe. One launch, 2005.11.09. European Union probe to Venus, with the primary mission of studying the atmosphere and space environment of the planet. More...
  • DSE-Alpha Russian manned lunar flyby spacecraft. Study 2005. Potential commercial circumlunar manned flights were offered in 2005, using a modified Soyuz spacecraft docked to a Block DM upper stage. More...
  • Metop European earth weather satellite. One launch, 2006.10.19. MetOp was Europe's first polar-orbiting satellite dedicated to operational meteorology. More...
  • Meridian Russian new-generation military 12-hour elliptical orbit communications satellite designed to replace the Molniya series. Operational, first launch 2006.12.24. More...
  • Corot French visible astronomy satellite. One launch, 2006.12.27. More...
  • Galileo Navsat European navigation satellite. One launch, 2008.04.26, GIOVE B. Galileo was to be Europe's own global navigation satellite system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civilian control. More...
  • Parom Russian logistics spacecraft. Study 2009. In its latest iteration, RKK Energia's Parom was a reusable interorbital tug intended to transport cargo containers and the Kliper manned ferry from low earth orbit to the International Space Station. More...
  • Big Soyuz 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. More...

Associated Launch Sites
  • Baikonur Russia's largest cosmodrome, the only one used for manned launches and with facilities for the larger Proton, N1, and Energia launch vehicles. The spaceport ended up on foreign soil after the break-up of Soviet Union. The official designations NIIP-5 and GIK-5 are used in official Soviet histories. It was also universally referred to as Tyuratam by both Soviet military staff and engineers, and the US intelligence agencies. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union the Russian Federation has insisted on continued use of the old Soviet 'public' name of Baikonur. In its Kazakh (Kazak) version this is rendered Baykonur. More...
  • Plesetsk Plesetsk was the Soviet Union's northern cosmodrome, used for polar orbit launches of mainly military satellites, and was at one time the busiest launch centre in the world. The collapse of the Soviet Union put the main launch site of Baikonur in Kazakh territory. It now seems that once the Proton rocket is retired, Baikonur will be abandoned and Plesetsk will be Russia's primary launch centre. Upgrades to existing launch facilities will allow advanced versions of the Soyuz rocket and the new Angara launch vehicle to be launched from Plesetsk. Plesetsk's major drawback was the lower net payload in geosynchronous orbit from a northern latitude launch site. However Russia is planning to remove the disadvantage by looping geosynchronous satellites around the moon, using lunar gravity to make the necessary orbital plane change. More...

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