The key point to acknowledge in assessing Soviet human spaceflight is that since its lunar programme faltered in the late 1960s it has doggedly pursued the development of a space station capable of continuous habitation. To properly assess this effort, it is first necessary to review the evolution of the Soyuz spacecraft. This was designed in the early 1960s as a general purpose vehicle to be launched by the Semyorka rocket that had been used for Sputnik and Vostok. In a sense, Soyuz was Korolev’s first’ spaceship’, because the Vostok had simply drifted in the orbit in which it was inserted by its rocket until it fired its retrorocket to initiate a simple ballistic descent. The Soyuz, in contrast, was to be capable of manoeuvring, both to rendezvous with another vehicle and to refine its trajectory during its re-entry of the atmosphere. It was to have a modular design, so that it would be capable of undertaking a variety of missions. In addition to the descent capsule and the service module (which contained the engines), an’ orbital module’ ameliorated the camped state of the descent module by providing living space for the crew. Specialised forms of each module could be developed to satisfy different mission requirements. For example, one version of the descent module had a strengthened heat shield to enable it to survive atmospheric reentry at the higher speed of a direct return from the Moon. The orbital module could carry different docking systems and be fitted with a variety of apparatus depending on the specific mission. Similarly, the power of the engine could be tailored to given mission requirements. This meant that the lightest version of each module could be employed for each specific vehicle.
KeywordsBase Block International Space Station Solar Panel Service Module Lunar Orbit
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