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(Russian: ‘union’)

A Soviet (later Russian) series of spacecraft, capable of carrying up to three cosmonauts. It is the longest serving crewed spacecraft in the world. Soyuz spacecraft consist of three parts: a rear section containing engines; the central crew compartment; and a forward compartment for working and living space. Although the craft were originally used for independent space fight, from 1998 the Soyuz ferried crews and components to the International Space Station (ISS), scheduled for completion in 2006. When NASA grounded its space shuttles after the 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster, the Soyuz craft assumed all of the flights to the ISS until the shuttles' projected return in 2005.

Soyuz 1 crashed on its first flight in April 1967, killing the lone pilot, Vladimir Komarov. Yet in 1968 Soyuz 3 had the first crewed rendezvous and possible docking by a cosmonaut; in 1969 the flights of Soyuz 6, Soyuz 7, and Soyuz 8 marked the first time three spacecraft and seven astronauts had been put into Earth orbit simultaneously; and in 1971 Soyuz 11 linked up with the first space station, Salyut 1 (see salyut), although three cosmonauts died on re-entry due to loss of pressure in the spacecraft caused by a faulty valve. In 1975 the ApolloSoyuz Test Project resulted in a successful docking of the two spacecraft in orbit.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics.

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