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Soyuz spacecraft

The Soyuz spacecraft is a series of spacecraft designed by the Soviet Union. The Soyuz spacecraft succeeded the Voskhod design and were originally built as part of the Luna program. The spacecraft are launched by the Soyuz launch vehicle. They were later used to carry cosmonauts to and from the Salyut space stations, Mir and the International Space Station.

The Soyuz spacecraft consists of three parts, an orbital module, a reentry module, and a service module. By moving equipment into an orbital module which does not reenter the atmosphere, the Soyuz vastly increases the space available to the cosmonauts, because the orbital module does not need to be shielded for reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. It could carry up to three cosmonauts. The vehicle is protected during launch by a nose faring, which is jettisoned after passing through the atmosphere. It has an automatic docking system. The ship can be operated automatically, or by a pilot independently of ground control.

At the fore part of the ship is the orbital module, for putting crews into orbit. It is connnected to the descent capsule (or descent module).

The descent module is used for the journey back to Earth. It is covered by a heat-resistant covering to protect it during re-entry. It is slowed initially by the atmosphere, then by a braking parachute, followed by the main parachute which slows the craft for landing. At 1 metre above the ground, solid-fuel braking engines are fired to give a soft landing.

At the back of the vehicle is the service module. It has a pressurized container with systems for temperature control, electric power supply, long-range radio communications, radio telemetry, instruments for orientation and control. A non-pressurized part of the service module contains the main engine and a spare: liquid-fuel propulsion systems for maneuvering in orbit and initiating the descent back to Earth. The ship also has a system of low-thrust engines for orientation. 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.

The Soyuz TM crew transports were introduced in 1986 to service the Mir space station. The unmanned Progress spacecraft were derived from Soyuz and are used for servicing space stations. The Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft is also heavily influenced by the design of the Soyuz, although, contrary to some media reports, it is not a derivative of the Soyuz.

See also: space exploration

Notable Missions

External references

  • David S.F. Portree, Mir Hardware Heritage (http://spaceflight.sc.wip.psiweb.com/history/shuttle-mir/references/to-r-documents.htm), NASA RP-1357, 1995

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