Soviet Staffed Space Flight Programs

Vostok. The Soviets's first staffed capsule, roughly spherical, used to place the first six cosmonauts in Earth orbit (1961–1965).

Voskhod. Adaptation of the Vostok capsule to accommodate two and three cosmonauts. Voskhod 1 orbited three persons, and Voskhod 2 orbited two persons, performing the world's first staffed extra-vehicular activity.

Soyuz. Late-model staffed spacecraft with provisions for three cosmonauts and a “working compartment” accessible through a hatch. Soyuz is the Russian word for “union.” The Soyuz spacecraft routinely brought cosmonauts and their foreign “guests” to the Mir space station. Soyuz 19, launched July 15, 1975, docked with the American Apollo spacecraft.

Salyut. Earth-orbiting space stations intended for prolonged occupancy and revisitation by cosmonauts. They were usually launched by Soviet Proton rockets. Salyut 1 was launched April 19, 1971. Salyut 2, launched April 3, 1973, malfunctioned in orbit and was never occupied. Salyut 3 was launched June 25, 1974. Salyut 4 was launched Dec. 26, 1974. Salyut 5 was launched June 22, 1976. Salyut 6 was launched on Sept. 29, 1977. Salyut 7 was launched on April 19, 1982. A record-breaking Russian endurance flight was set (Feb. 8, 1984–Oct. 2, 1985) when Soviet astronauts spent 237 days in orbit aboard Salyut 7. Salyut 7 reentered the atmosphere and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on Feb. 6, 1991.

Mir. Soviet space station, launched into orbit on Feb. 20, 1986. The Russian government had planned to deorbit the abandoned Mir in early 2000 due to lack of funds, but the space station got a new lease on life when private investors provided the cash to keep the craft in orbit. The new Russian partners, MirCorp, a Netherlands-based company, funded cosmonauts Sergei Zaloytin and Alexander Kaleri's return mission to reopen and repair the Mir, April 4 to June 15, 2000. However, Mir was deorbited on March 23, 2001.

Since the deorbiting of Mir, Russia's space program has revolved around projects at the International Space Station. Financial problems continue to curb cosmonaut capabilities, forcing the Russian Space Agency to seek funds elsewhere: in 2001, American businessman Dennis Tito paid a reported $20 million to become the world's first space tourist aboard a Russian spacecraft.

For more information: Russia Space Research Institute.

U.S. Staffed Space Flight ProgramsSpace ExplorationChina's Unstaffed Spacecraft