Soyuz


Soyuz
/saw"yoohz/; Russ. /su yoohz"/, n.
one of a series of Soviet spacecraft, carrying one, two, or three cosmonauts, who carried out scientific research and developed rendezvous and docking techniques: still used to ferry crews to Soviet space stations.
[ < Russ Soyúz lit., union]

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Any of several versions of Soviet/Russian manned spacecraft launched since 1967.

Originally conceived for the U.S.S.R.'s Moon-landing program, which was canceled in 1974, the modular craft has served mainly as a crew ferry to and from Earth-orbiting space stations, specifically the Salyut stations, Mir, and the International Space Station (ISS). The first version accommodated three persons but was later modified for a crew of two to make room for additional life-support equipment. Soyuz T, introduced in 1979, restored the third crew seat. Soyuz TM, an upgrade featuring a variety of new systems, made its first manned flight in 1987 when it carried Mir's second crew to the then-embryonic station. The Soyuz TMA debuted in 2002 with a manned flight to the ISS; its design incorporated changes to meet certain NASA requirements as an ISS "lifeboat," including eased height and weight restrictions for crew members.

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 any of several versions of Soviet (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics)/Russian manned spacecraft launched since 1967 and the longest-serving manned-spacecraft design in use. Originally conceived in Soviet aerospace designer Sergey Korolyov (Korolyov, Sergey Pavlovich)'s design bureau (see Energia) for the U.S.S.R.'s Moon-landing program (officially canceled in 1974), the modular craft has served mainly as a crew ferry to and from Earth-orbiting space stations, specifically the Salyut stations, Mir, and the International Space Station (ISS).

      The 7-metre- (23-foot-) long, seven-metric-ton vehicle comprises three modules joined in line—a central, bell-shaped descent module with contoured couches for as many as three persons during ascent, descent, and landing; a cylindrical service module mounted at the rear that provides propulsion, life support, and electrical power; and a spheroidal orbital module in front that carries the docking system and contains living facilities and cargo for the orbital phase of the mission. The three modules remain together throughout the mission until the spacecraft is deorbited; only the descent module returns to Earth intact. The first manned launch of a Soyuz took place on April 23, 1967. Its single test pilot, Vladimir Komarov (Komarov, Vladimir Mikhaylovich), was killed when the descent module's parachute failed to unfurl after reentry and the module crashed—the first human death during a spaceflight.

      After losing the race to the Moon in 1969, the Soviet Union adapted the Soyuz to ferry crews to space stations. Soyuz 11 carried the inaugural crew to the Salyut 1 station in June 1971, but, after a record-setting 23 days aboard, the three cosmonauts died when their descent module accidentally depressurized while returning to Earth. In redesigning the spacecraft to forestall another such accident, one couch was removed to accommodate an independent life-support system for individual pressure suits. A modified version flew in July 1975 for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the first U.S.-Soviet joint space venture. During the 1970s an automated derivative of Soyuz, known as Progress, was developed as a space station resupply vehicle; cargo and refueling modules replaced the orbital and descent modules in the Soyuz design. Its operational use began in 1978 with a mission to Salyut 6.

      The first major redesign of Soyuz was introduced in 1979. Called the Soyuz T, it had advanced equipment and capabilities and restored the third crew seat. The Soyuz TM version, an upgrade featuring a variety of new systems, made its first manned flight in 1987 when it carried Mir's second crew to the then-embryonic space station. The Soyuz TMA debuted in 2002 with a manned flight to the ISS; its design incorporated changes to meet certain National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) requirements as an ISS “lifeboat,” including eased height and weight restrictions for crew members. An upgraded version of Progress was also used to ferry cargo to the ISS. After the in-flight explosion of the U.S. space shuttle orbiter Columbia in February 2003 and the consequent grounding of the shuttle fleet, Soyuz spacecraft for a time provided the only means for ISS crew exchanges.

David M. Harland
 

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Universalium. 2010.

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