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History of the Soyuz Program
The Soyuz program was initiated by the Soviet Union in the early 1960s. It was part of the Luna program, intended to put a soviet cosmonaut on the moon. Unfortunately, though, the program was abandoned due to technological problems. This meant that the US would reach the moon first. The end of the Luna program was a big blow for Soyuz; however, it survived and developed into a variety of military and civilian projects. These projects were mostly in conjunction with space stations.
The Soyuz spacecraft and the Soyuz launch vehicle are part of the Soyuz program. Currently, the Russian Federal Space Agency is responsible for carrying out the program.
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The Basic Design of the Soyuz Spacecraft
The Soyuz spacecraft was designed under Soyuz Chief Designer, Sergei Pavlovich Korolev. Its earliest form was supposed to be launched to the moon, but it did not employ a huge booster like the Soviet N-1 or Saturn V, so the Luna program failed. The spacecraft design was the starting point for many projects; however, some of them never came to light.
The basic Soyuz Spacecraft consisted of three parts:
1. A cylindrical service module with Solar panels
2. A spheroid orbital module
3. A small aerodynamic re-entry module
(Image Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Soyuz_spacecraft.jpg)
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The Soyuz Launch Vehicle
The Soyuz launch vehicle, designed and manufactured by the Korolev Design Bureau in Samaria (in Russia), is an expendable launch system which was used as a launcher for the manned Soyuz spacecraft. Currently, it is used to launch unmanned cargo spacecrafts to the International Space Station. Soyuz vehicles are launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northwest Russia and the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz launch vehicle will also be launched from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana.
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Soyuz Manned Spacecrafts
- The Soyuz spacecraft used in missions 1 through 11 (1967-1971) had an Igla automatic docking navigation system, which required special radar antennas. This spacecraft used bent solar panels and could carry a crew of up to three.
- The Soyuz Ferry, comprising missions 12 through 40 (1973-1981), had no solar panels but still used the Igla system. This spacecraft employed batteries, instead of solar panels. The number of crew members was reduced to two.
- The Soyuz-T spacecraft, used between 1976 and 1986, employed new solar panels and had the capacity to carry three crew members.
- The Soyuz-TM spacecraft was used for transport flights to the Mir space station from 1986 to 2003. This spacecraft used a new automatic docking navigation system, which was a more advanced and fault-accepting system. It was also called as Kurs (“course").
- The latest design is the Soyuz-TMA. It is developed as a transport craft and is able to accommodate taller crew members with its new adjustable crew couches.
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The Soyuz Program (Part 1): Soyuz Spacecrafts
This series of articles gives a description of the Soyuz program, including spacecrafts and notable manned missions.