Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on TwitterThe Soyuz rocket is a series of space craft first developed by the Soviet Space Program as a successor craft to the Vostok rocket. The Soyuz craft was designed as a manned space craft that would expand on the capabilities of its predecessor making for more reliable maneuverability in space, docking, and reentry at the end of each mission. The Soyuz rocket is also the longest running rocket. While it has had various upgrades over the years it has proven to be one of the safest and most reliable long term space craft in the world.
The first Soyuz rocket was unmanned and it was launched in 1968. The craft was designed by the OKB1 design agency. The structure of the craft is pretty simple. The Soyuz consists of three modules. They are the launch/reentry module, also known as the descent module, the orbital module, and the instrumentation and propulsion module. The descent module is where cosmonauts operated for launch and reentry of the Soyuz space craft. This module would separate on reentry from the others and would have its own heat resistant coating. The orbital module was the habitation module for early missions and is still used for that purpose as well as a space for performing experiments. The last module is the propulsion and instrumentation module. This module holds not only the propulsion drive but also holds the instrumentation needed for the mission.
As mentioned before the Soyuz rocket is a very reliable craft. Like the U.S. Space Shuttle it has only had two incidents in its long and storied career. The first incident occurred in 1967 with the first manned mission of the Soyuz space craft. The reentry parachute failed to deploy causing the death of the mission’s cosmonaut upon impact of the craft. The second incident occurred in 1971 when the three cosmonauts died from depressurization of the cabin of the reentry module. Both of these cases were attributed to lack of proper preparation and testing due to the competitive nature of the space race with the NASA program. Otherwise the Soyuz rocket has a strong safety record.
One of the most remarkable facts is that the Russian space program has used the Soyuz space craft to start the first private space company Space Adventures. This company allowed wealthy customers to visit first the Mir space station then International space station. With the end of the Space Shuttle program, The Soyuz spacecraft will ferry astronauts until the successful testing of the Space X Dragon capsule.
We’ve recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast all about the space shuttle. Listen here, Episode 127: The US Space Shuttle.