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Russian Soyuz Manned Launch

After the US Space Shuttle was retired, the Russian Soyuz system has become the only manned launch system used routinely. The International Space Station (ISS) is now entirely dependent on the Russian Soyuz for both human launch and cargo resupply. The only other human launch system is the Chinese Shenzhou (see that section).

The Russian manned launch vehicle since the 1960s has been exclusively the Soyuz rocket with the Soyuz capsule at the top, originally created by the Soviet Union and carried on by the Russian Space Agency. The Soyuz has of course undergone upgrades, but it is basically the same proven system.

As of May 2012, there had been 111 Soyuz launches, with only two launch failures, neither resulting in loss of life, in 1975 and 1983.launch failures There were two incidents of death during re-entry, with Soyuz 1 in 1967 and Soyuz 11 in 1971.reentry failures

This gives the Soyuz system a relatively high safety record for manned launch, with a 98% launch success and no loss of human life during launch.

There have been 18 manned missions to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) as of May 2012, all successful.

In addition, there have been many Soyuz-derived "Progress" cargo deliveries, which is the same system without the re-entry module.

Each Soyuz had 3 modules:

  • The human capsule for traveling in space, which is spherical
  • A "service module" which has solar panels to generate electricity and other technical support functions
  • A small re-entry vehicle which is boarded for return to Earth

Over the decades, the Soyuz brought cosmonauts to the multiple Salyut space stations (1971-1991), and the derivative multimodule Mir space station (1986-2001) before serving the International Space Station (ISS) from 2002 to date.

There are two launch sites in Russia (Kazakhstan and Plesetsk), and starting in 2011, a launch site in South America (French Guiana, the same place the European Space Agency launches its Ariane).

The Chinese Shenzhou manned capsule is modeled after the Soyuz but is larger and homemade.


References and Footnotes:
Ref: slf

Source: launch failuresThe 1975 launch failure was caused by the second and third stages not separating as planned. After the second stage broke off, the spacecraft was off course and an automatic abort sequence followed. The cosmonauts survived despite their capsule parachuting onto on a snow covered steep mountain.

The 1983 launch failure was a rocket explosion on the pad, with the manned capsule on top rocketed away to safety.

Ref: srf

Source: reentry failuresIn Soyuz-1 (1967), both the main parachute and the backup failed to deploy, the latter because the drogue parachute failed to detach (3 parachutes in all).

In Soyuz-11 (1971), a ventilation valve was jolted open during the descent sequence, resulting in loss of air and quick asphyxiation of all 3 cosmonauts.



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