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The following description of Soyuz is excerpted from David Portree's Mir Hardware Heritage, available on this Web site in PDF format. Portree quotes from an article in the Soviet newspaper Pravda (November 17, 1968). It describes the original Soyuz, which the Soyuz-TM -- used during the Shuttle-Mir Program -- closely resembles.
The Soyuz consists of the following main modules: the orbital module . . . a descent capsule [descent module], intended for putting crews into orbit and returning them to Earth; and the service module, which houses the . . . engines.
The orbital module is in the fore part of the ship and is connected with the descent capsule. The service module is placed behind the descent capsule. When the ship is being placed into orbit, it is protected against aerodynamic and thermal overloads by a nose faring, which is jettisoned after the passage through the dense layers of the atmosphere.
The cosmonaut's cabin [descent module] . . . is covered on the outside by a . . . heat-resistant covering to protect it from intensive aerodynamic heating during descent to Earth. After the vehicle has been slowed down by the atmosphere in its descent from orbit, the braking parachute opens . . . then the main parachute which is used for landing opens. Directly before landing- at a height of about 1 meter above the Earth-the solid-fuel braking engines of the soft-landing system are switched on.
[In the] service module . . . a hermetically-sealed . . . container carries the equipment for the thermo-regulation system, the system of unified electric power supply, the equipment for long-range radio communications and radio telemetry, and instruments for the system of orientation and control. The non-pressurized part of the service module contains the liquid-fuel propulsion installation [system] which is used for maneuvering in orbit and . . . for . . . descent back to Earth. The installation has two engines (the main one and the spare one). The ship has a system of low-thrust engines for orientation.
The pick-ups [sensors] for the orientation system are located outside the service module. Mounted on . . . the service module are the solar batteries [arrays]. To ensure that the solar batteries are constantly illuminated, they are oriented towards the Sun by rotating the ship.
The . . . spaceship is equipped with an automatic docking system. The on-board systems of the ship may be controlled either by the cosmonaut from the control panel, or automatically. The ship's equipment allows for the craft to be piloted . . . quite independently of ground control.
Mir Hardware Heritage
Space Shuttle Orbiter | Mir Space Station
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Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty