Russian Soyuz TMA Spacecraft
The limb of Earth intersects one of two Soyuz spacecraft docked with the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA. A Soyuz space capsule took the first crew to the International Space Station in November 2000. Since that time, at least one Soyuz has always been at the station, generally to serve as a lifeboat should the crew have to return to Earth unexpectedly. After the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, the Soyuz TMA became the sole means of transportation for crew members going to or returning from the orbiting laboratory.
The Soyuz spacecraft is launched to the space station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket.
Once the Soyuz reaches orbit, the crew performs systems checks and keeps in touch with controllers at the Russian Mission Control Center.
The Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft stands ready to be moved into place for its encapsulation. Credit: NASA/Victor ZelentsovDuring the final rendezvous phase, the crew monitors the automated docking sequence.
The rendezvous and docking are both automated, but the Soyuz crew has the capability to manually intervene or execute these operations. Once docking is complete, the crew members equalize the air pressure of the Soyuz with the Station before opening the hatches.
At least one Russian Soyuz spacecraft is always docked to the space station. In addition, there is usually one or more resupply spacecraft attached to the station. The station is well supplied with docking and berthing ports for all these types of vehicles.
Up to three crew members can launch and return to Earth from the station aboard a Soyuz TMA spacecraft. The vehicle lands on the flat steppe of Kazakhstan in central Asia.
The return to Earth aboard a Soyuz takes less than 3.5 hours.
Descent module: 6,393 pounds
Orbital module: 2,866 pounds
Propulsion module: 5,732 pounds
|Solar array span||34.8 feet|
Descent module: 141.3 ft3
Orbital module: 229.5 ft3
|Descent g-loads||4-5 times the force of gravity|
|Landing speed||6.6 feet per second|