Soyuz 1
Soyuz 1 was a manned spaceflight of the Soviet space program
Soviet space program
The Soviet space program is the rocketry and space exploration programs conducted by the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from the 1930s until its dissolution in 1991...

. Launched into orbit on April 23, 1967 carrying cosmonaut
An astronaut or cosmonaut is a person trained by a human spaceflight program to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft....

 Colonel Vladimir Komarov, Soyuz 1 was the first flight of the Soyuz spacecraft
Soyuz spacecraft
Soyuz , Union) is a series of spacecraft initially designed for the Soviet space programme by the Korolyov Design Bureau in the 1960s, and still in service today...

. The mission plan was complex, involving a rendezvous with Soyuz 2
Soyuz 2A
Soyuz 2A is the unofficial designation for a cancelled space flight of the Soyuz spacecraft. It would have flown alongside the Soyuz 1 mission, except for a technical reasons the flight was cancelled, which resulted in saving the lives of the crew....

, swapping crew members before returning to Earth.

Soyuz 1 was plagued with technical issues, and Komarov was killed when the spacecraft crashed during its return to Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

. This was the first confirmed in-flight fatality in the history of spaceflight
History of spaceflight
Spaceflight, became a reality in the 20th Century following theoretical and practical breakthroughs by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and Robert H. Goddard.-Background:...



Backup crew

Mission parameters

  • Mass
    Mass can be defined as a quantitive measure of the resistance an object has to change in its velocity.In physics, mass commonly refers to any of the following three properties of matter, which have been shown experimentally to be equivalent:...

    6450 kg (14,219.8 lb)
  • Perigee
    Perigee is the point at which an object makes its closest approach to the Earth.. Often the term is used in a broader sense to define the point in an orbit where the orbiting body is closest to the body it orbits. The opposite is the apogee, the farthest or highest point.The Greek prefix "peri"...

    197 km (122.4 mi)
  • Apogee: 223 km (138.6 mi)
  • Inclination
    Inclination in general is the angle between a reference plane and another plane or axis of direction.-Orbits:The inclination is one of the six orbital parameters describing the shape and orientation of a celestial orbit...

  • Period
    Orbital period
    The orbital period is the time taken for a given object to make one complete orbit about another object.When mentioned without further qualification in astronomy this refers to the sidereal period of an astronomical object, which is calculated with respect to the stars.There are several kinds of...

    88.7 minutes


Soyuz 1 was the first manned flight of the first-generation Soyuz 7K-OK
Soyuz 7K-OK
The manned Soyuz spacecraft can be classified into design generations. Soyuz 1 through Soyuz 11 were first-generation vehicles, carrying a crew of up to three without spacesuits and distinguished from those following by their bent solar panels and their use of the Igla automatic docking navigation...

 spacecraft and Soyuz rocket, designed as part of the Soviet lunar program
Soviet Moonshot
The Soviet manned lunar programs were a series of programs pursued by the Soviet Union to land a man on the Moon in competition with the United States Apollo program to achieve the same goal set publicly by President John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961...

. It was the first Soviet manned spaceflight in over two years, and the first Soviet manned flight following the death of the Chief Designer of the space program Sergey Korolyov
Sergey Korolyov
Sergei Pavlovich Korolev ; died 14 January 1966 in Moscow, Russia) was the lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer in the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the 1950s and 1960s...

. Komarov was launched on Soyuz 1 despite failures of the previous unmanned tests of the 7K-OK, Cosmos 133
Cosmos 133
Kosmos 133 was a Soviet Soyuz programme test satellite launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome aboard a Vostok rocket. It was the first test flight of the Soyuz 7K-OK earth orbit spacecraft. It was a planned "all up" test with a second Soyuz to be launched the following day and automatically dock...

 and Cosmos 140
Cosmos 140
Kosmos 140 was an unmanned flight of the Soyuz spacecraft. It was the third attempted test flight of the Soyuz 7K-OK model, after orbital and launch failures of the first two Soyuz spacecraft. The spacecraft suffered attitude control problems and excessive fuel consumption in orbit, but remained...

. A third attempted test flight was a launch failure; a launch abort triggered a malfunction of the launch escape system
Launch escape system
A Launch Escape System is a top-mounted rocket connected to the crew module of a crewed spacecraft and used to quickly separate the crew module from the rest of the rocket in case of emergency. Since the escape rockets are above the crew module, an LES typically uses separate nozzles which are...

, causing the rocket to explode on the pad. The escape system successfully pulled the spacecraft to safety.

Prior to launch, Soyuz 1 engineers are said to have reported 200 design faults to party leaders, but their concerns "were overruled by political pressures for a series of space feats to mark the anniversary of Lenin's birthday." It is not clear how much of this pressure resulted from the need to continue beating the United States in the Space Race
Space Race
The Space Race was a mid-to-late 20th century competition between the Soviet Union and the United States for supremacy in space exploration. Between 1957 and 1975, Cold War rivalry between the two nations focused on attaining firsts in space exploration, which were seen as necessary for national...

 and have Soviets first on the Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

, or to take advantage of the recent setbacks in the U.S. space program with the Apollo 1
Apollo 1
Apollo 1 was scheduled to be the first manned mission of the Apollo manned lunar landing program, with a target launch date of February 21, 1967. A cabin fire during a launch pad test on January 27 at Launch Pad 34 at Cape Canaveral killed all three crew members: Command Pilot Virgil "Gus"...


Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut. He was the first human to journey into outer space, when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth on April 12, 1961....

 was the backup pilot for Soyuz 1, and was aware of the design problems and the pressures from the Politburo to proceed with the flight. He attempted to "bump" Komarov from the mission, knowing that the Soviet leadership would not risk a national hero on the flight.

Mission planners intended to launch a second Soyuz flight
Soyuz 2A
Soyuz 2A is the unofficial designation for a cancelled space flight of the Soyuz spacecraft. It would have flown alongside the Soyuz 1 mission, except for a technical reasons the flight was cancelled, which resulted in saving the lives of the crew....

 the next day carrying cosmonauts Valery Bykovsky, Yevgeny Khrunov
Yevgeny Khrunov
Yevgeni Vassilyevich Khrunov was a Soviet cosmonaut who flew on the Soyuz 5/Soyuz 4 mission.He was born in Prudy.Yevgeni Khrunov was a colonel, Hero of the Soviet Union and Kandidat of Technical Sciences ....

, and Aleksei Yeliseyev
Aleksei Yeliseyev
Aleksei Stanislavovich Yeliseyev is a retired Soviet cosmonaut who flew on three missions in the Soyuz programme as a flight engineer: Soyuz 5, Soyuz 8, and Soyuz 10....

, with Khrunov and Yeliseyev scheduled to do an EVA
Extra-vehicular activity
Extra-vehicular activity is work done by an astronaut away from the Earth, and outside of a spacecraft. The term most commonly applies to an EVA made outside a craft orbiting Earth , but also applies to an EVA made on the surface of the Moon...

 over to Soyuz 1.

Mission details

Soyuz 1 was launched on April 23, 1967 at 00:32 UTC from Baikonur Cosmodrome
Baikonur Cosmodrome
The Baikonur Cosmodrome , also called Tyuratam, is the world's first and largest operational space launch facility. It is located in the desert steppe of Kazakhstan, about east of the Aral Sea, north of the Syr Darya river, near Tyuratam railway station, at 90 meters above sea level...

, making Komarov the first Soviet cosmonaut to fly in space twice.

Problems began shortly after launch when one solar panel failed to unfold, leading to a shortage of power for the spacecraft's systems. Further problems with the orientation detectors complicated maneuvering the craft. By orbit 13, the automatic stabilization system was completely dead, and the manual system was only partially effective.

The crew of Soyuz 2 modified their mission goals, preparing themselves for a launch that would include fixing the solar panel of Soyuz 1. However, that night, thunderstorms at Baikonur Cosmodrome
Baikonur Cosmodrome
The Baikonur Cosmodrome , also called Tyuratam, is the world's first and largest operational space launch facility. It is located in the desert steppe of Kazakhstan, about east of the Aral Sea, north of the Syr Darya river, near Tyuratam railway station, at 90 meters above sea level...

 affected the booster's electrical system, causing the mission to be called off.

As a result of Komarov's report during the 13th orbit, the flight control
Flight controller
Flight controllers are personnel who aid in the operations of a space flight, working in Mission Control Centers such as NASA's Mission Control Center, or ESA's Operations Center. Flight controllers sit at computer consoles and use telemetry to monitor in real time various technical aspects of a...

 director decided to abort the mission. After 18 orbits, Soyuz 1 fired retrorocket
A retrorocket is a rocket engine providing thrust opposing the motion of a spacecraft, thereby causing it to decelerate.-History:...

s and reentered
Atmospheric reentry
Atmospheric entry is the movement of human-made or natural objects as they enter the atmosphere of a celestial body from outer space—in the case of Earth from an altitude above the Kármán Line,...

 the Earth's atmosphere. Despite the technical difficulties up to that point, Komarov might still have landed safely. To slow the descent, first the drogue parachute
Drogue parachute
A drogue parachute is a parachute designed to be deployed from a rapidly moving object in order to slow the object, or to provide control and stability, or as a pilot parachute to deploy a larger parachute...

 was deployed, followed by the main parachute. However, due to a defect the main parachute didn't unfold.

Komarov then activated the manually deployed reserve chute, but it became tangled with the drogue chute, which did not release as intended. As a result, the Soyuz reentry module fell to Earth in Orenburg Oblast
Orenburg Oblast
Orenburg Oblast is a federal subject of Russia . Its administrative center is the city of Orenburg. From 1938 to 1957, it bore the name Chkalov Oblast in honor of Valery Chkalov...

 almost entirely unimpeded, at about 40 m/s (144 km/h; 89.5 mph); Komarov died on impact. At impact there was an explosion and an intense fire that engulfed the capsule. Local farmers rushed to try to put it out.

The Soyuz 1 crash site coordinates are 51.3615°N 59.5622°E, which is 3 km (1.9 mi) west of Karabutak, Province of Orenburg in the Russian Federation. This is about 275 km (170.9 mi) east-southeast of Orenburg. There is a memorial monument at the site in the form of a black column with a bust of Komarov at the top, in a small park on the roadside.

Eight years after Komarov's death, a story began circulating that Komarov cursed the engineers and flight staff, and spoke to his wife as he descended, and these transmissions were received by a NSA listening station near Istanbul. Some historians regard this to be untrue, although recordings of the incident reportedly exist.

Komarov was posthumously awarded a second Gold Star
Gold Star
The Gold Star medal is a special insignia that identifies recipients of the title "Hero" in the Soviet Union and its communist allies, and several post-Soviet states.-Soviet origin:...

. He was given a state funeral
State funeral
A state funeral is a public funeral ceremony, observing the strict rules of protocol, held to honor heads of state or other important people of national significance. State funerals usually include much pomp and ceremony as well as religious overtones and distinctive elements of military tradition...

, and his ashes were interred in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis
Kremlin Wall Necropolis
Burials in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis in Moscow began in November 1917, when 240 pro-Bolshevik victims of the October Revolution were buried in mass graves on Red Square. It is centered on both sides of Lenin's Mausoleum, initially built in wood in 1924 and rebuilt in granite in 1929–1930...

 at Red Square
Red Square
Red Square is a city square in Moscow, Russia. The square separates the Kremlin, the former royal citadel and currently the official residence of the President of Russia, from a historic merchant quarter known as Kitai-gorod...

, Moscow.


The Soyuz 1 tragedy delayed the launch of Soyuz 2
Soyuz 2
Soyuz 2 was an unpiloted spacecraft in the Soyuz family intended to perform a docking maneuver with Soyuz 3. Although the two craft approached closely, the docking did not take place.-Other uses of name:...

 and Soyuz 3
Soyuz 3
Soyuz 3 was a spaceflight mission launched by the Soviet Union on October 26, 1968. For four consecutive days, Commander Georgy Beregovoy piloted the Soyuz 7K-OK spacecraft through eighty-one orbits of Earth.-Crew:-Backup crew:...

 until October 25, 1968. This eighteen-month gap, with the addition of the explosion of an unmanned N-1 rocket on July 3, 1969, scuttled Soviet plans of landing a cosmonaut on the Moon. The original mission of Soyuz 1 and Soyuz 2 was ultimately completed by Soyuz 4
Soyuz 4
Soyuz 4 was launched on January 14, 1969. On board the Soyuz 7K-OK spacecraft was cosmonaut Vladimir Shatalov on his first flight. The aim of the mission was to dock with Soyuz 5, transfer two crew members from that spacecraft, and return to Earth...

 and Soyuz 5
Soyuz 5
Soyuz 5 was a Soyuz mission using the Soyuz 7K-OK spacecraft launched by the Soviet Union on January 15, 1969, which docked with Soyuz 4 in orbit...


A much improved Soyuz program emerged from this eighteen month delay, mirroring the improvements made in Project Apollo
Project Apollo
The Apollo program was the spaceflight effort carried out by the United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration , that landed the first humans on Earth's Moon. Conceived during the Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Apollo began in earnest after President John F...

 after the Apollo 1
Apollo 1
Apollo 1 was scheduled to be the first manned mission of the Apollo manned lunar landing program, with a target launch date of February 21, 1967. A cabin fire during a launch pad test on January 27 at Launch Pad 34 at Cape Canaveral killed all three crew members: Command Pilot Virgil "Gus"...

 tragedy. Although it failed to reach the Moon, the Soyuz went on to be repurposed from the centerpiece of the Zond lunar program
Zond program
Zond was the name given to two distinct series of Soviet unmanned space program undertaken from 1964 to 1970. The first series based on 3MV planetary probe was intended to gather information about nearby planets...

 to the people-carrier of the Salyut
The Salyut program was the first space station program undertaken by the Soviet Union, which consisted of a series of nine space stations launched over a period of eleven years from 1971 to 1982...

 space station program, the Mir
Mir was a space station operated in low Earth orbit from 1986 to 2001, at first by the Soviet Union and then by Russia. Assembled in orbit from 1986 to 1996, Mir was the first modular space station and had a greater mass than that of any previous spacecraft, holding the record for the...

 space station, and the International Space Station
International Space Station
The International Space Station is a habitable, artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS follows the Salyut, Almaz, Cosmos, Skylab, and Mir space stations, as the 11th space station launched, not including the Genesis I and II prototypes...

. Although it suffered another tragedy with the Soyuz 11
Soyuz 11
Soyuz 11 was the first manned mission to arrive at the world's first space station, Salyut 1. The mission arrived at the space station on June 7, 1971 and departed on June 30, 1971. The mission ended in disaster when the crew capsule depressurized during preparations for re-entry, killing the...

 accident in 1971, and went through several incidents with non-fatal launch aborts and landing mishaps, it has become one of the longest-lived and most dependable manned spacecraft yet designed.

Komarov is commemorated in two memorials left on the Lunar surface: one left at Tranquility Base by Apollo 11
Apollo 11
In early 1969, Bill Anders accepted a job with the National Space Council effective in August 1969 and announced his retirement as an astronaut. At that point Ken Mattingly was moved from the support crew into parallel training with Anders as backup Command Module Pilot in case Apollo 11 was...

, and the Fallen Astronaut
Fallen Astronaut
Fallen Astronaut is an 8.5 cm aluminium sculpture of an astronaut in a spacesuit which commemorates astronauts and cosmonauts who died in the advancement of space exploration...

 plaque left by Apollo 15
Apollo 15
Apollo 15 was the ninth manned mission in the American Apollo space program, the fourth to land on the Moon and the eighth successful manned mission. It was the first of what were termed "J missions", long duration stays on the Moon with a greater focus on science than had been possible on previous...


External links

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