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Kurs-NA rendezvous system

Descent Module, SA, of the Soyuz spacecraft


Crew inside the descent module of the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft.

The reentry capsule of the Soyuz spacecraft, known by its Russian acronym as "SA." is the only section of the vehicle, which returns to Earth at the end of the mission.

It contains two or three personally contoured couches where the cosmonauts recline for ascent, descent and landing. Seats are facing controls and displays developed at OAO Fazotron-NIIR that are used for all critical flight activities.

The reentry capsule also contains life-support systems, batteries for the descent phase of the mission, primary and backup parachutes and solid-propellant engines for landing. The reentry capsule is also equipped with eight small attitude control thrusters, which are used exclusively during the descent phase of the flight. They are powered by by one-component propellant of hydrogen peroxide. Tendency of this propellant to degrade over time is considered as one of the limitations on the length of the orbital flight of the Soyuz spacecraft.

The reentry capsule is also equipped with an independent guidance, navigation and control system, that is less complex than the main system in the PAO module.

A periscope extending from the reentry capsule provides the crew with a forward view toward the docking mechanism and a downward view for seeing the surface of the Earth.


Catherine Coleman, a member of Soyuz TMA-20 crew, inside the descent module, looking toward the right side of the capsule. The main flight control panel, sporting liquid-crystal displays is on the left. Credit: Roskosmos


Above: Members of Soyuz TMA-20 crew, Dmitry Kondratyev (left) and Paolo Nespoli inside the descent module, looking toward the left side of the capsule. Credit: Roskosmos



Known technical specifications of the reentry capsule of the Soyuz spacecraft:

2,900 kilograms
Length 2.1 meters
Diameter 2.2 meters
Transfer hatch diameter 700 millimeters
Habitable volume 4 cubic meters
Retrievable payload

50 kilograms with a three-man crew

150 kilograms with a two-man crew

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Page author: Anatoly Zak

Last update: June 19, 2018

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The reentry capsule of the Soyuz-3 spacecraft. The cover of the parachute container is in the foreground. The opening of the parachute container can be seen on the left side of the capsule. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak

The reentry capsule of the Soyuz spacecraft. The entry hatch is in front. Two hatches of the parachute containers are on top. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak

Bottom of the Soyuz reentry capsule, without its heat shield. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak

A dissected Soyuz reentry vehicle (left) and habitable section (partially visible). Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak

A parachute container of the Soyuz spacecraft. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak