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Soyuz-4 and -5 crews perform docking, spacewalk between ships


In January 1969, the dual Soyuz mission finally accomplished the rendezvous and partial crew transfer from one spacecraft to another, originally planned in 1966. The experimental flight had long-running implications for future lunar expeditions and orbital assembly.

Previous chapter: Soyuz-2, -3 mission

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Joint mission of Soyuz-4 and Soyuz-5 spacecraft at a glance:

Spacecraft designation
Soyuz, 7K-OK-A 11F615 No. 12 "Active"
Soyuz, 7K-OK-A 11F615 No. 13 "Passive"
Crew at launch
Vladimir Shatalov
Boris Volynov, Aleksei Yeliseev, Yevgeny Khrunov
Crew at landing
Vladimir Shatalov, Aleksei Yeliseev, Yevgeny Khrunov
Boris Volynov
Call sign
Launch date and time
1969 Jan. 14, 10:30:00 Moscow Time
1969 Jan. 15, 10:04:57 Moscow Time
Launch site
Landing date
1969 Jan. 17, 09:50:47 Moscow Time
1969 Jan. 18, 10:59:12 Moscow Time
Landing site
40 kilometers northwest of Karaganda
200 kilometers southwest of Kustanai
Rendezvous and docking with Vehicle No. 13
Rendezvous and docking with Vehicle No. 12
Georgy Beregovoi
Flight duration
2 days 23 hours 20 minutes 47 seconds*
3 days 00 hours 54 minutes 15 seconds*

*Yeliseev and Khrunov logged 1 day, 23 hours 50 seconds total during a flight aboard Soyuz-5 and Soyuz-4.


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Flight scenario for Soyuz-4 and -5 mission

At the beginning of November 1968, Soviet officials overseeing the Soyuz 7K-OK project finally gave the official green light to the second attempt to dock two spacecraft and transfer part of the crew from one ship to the other. The leaders of the program were now confident in the original flight scenario, which had remained unfulfilled since the Soyuz-1 tragedy.


Preparing joint flight of Soyuz-4 and -5

Following the Soyuz-3 mission in October 1968, the newly approved crews for Soyuz-4 and -5 went through simulations of all phases of the flight, took the final exams formally concluding their training, went through medical checks, including spinning on the centrifuge and made several trips to the Zvezda spacesuit factory.





Soyuz-4 lifts off!

Disregarding old superstitions, officials picked Monday, Jan. 13, 1969, as the launch date for Soyuz-4 with the 13th Soviet cosmonaut onboard. However the mission had to be postponed for 24 hours due to a problem with the rocket's gyroscopic system. Soyuz-4 lifted off from snow-covered Site 31 in Tyuratam on Jan. 14, 1969, at 07:00 Moscow Time.


Soyuz-5 lifts off!

Immediately after Soyuz-4 blasted into orbit, officials supervising the dual flight turned their attention to Site 1, where the second rocket was ready for liftoff with Vehicle No. 13, to be named Soyuz-5 after reaching orbit. On January 15, at 10:04:57 Moscow Time, as Soyuz-4 passed over Tyuratam, Boris Volynov, Aleksei Yeliseev and Evgeny Khrunov lifted off.


Soyuz-4 and Soyuz-5 dock in orbit

On Jan. 16, 1969, the Soyuz-4 and Soyuz-5 met up as planned and conducted a picture-perfect docking at 11:20 Moscow Time, during the 34th revolution around the Earth for the Soyuz-4 and the 18th orbit for Soyuz-5. Over the final 100 meters, Shatalov piloted Soyuz-4 manually, while Volynov maintained Soyuz-5 in the correct orientation.


Cosmonauts transfer from Soyuz-5 to Soyuz-4

Once the two spacecraft had docked, Aleksei Yeliseev and Yevgeny Khrunov, wearing Yastreb spacesuits, conducted a 37-minute transfer from Soyuz-5 to Soyuz-4 on the exterior of the spacecraft. Aboard Soyuz-4, the spacewalkers joined Vladimir Shatalov for a trip back to Earth, leaving Boris Volynov on Soyuz-5.


Soyuz-4 lands successfully

After 4 hours 33 minutes and 49 seconds in a joint flight, Soyuz-4 and -5 parted on Jan. 16, 1969, at 15:55 Moscow Time and both crews began preparations for landing. Soyuz-4 made a picture-perfect landing on the morning of the following day, Jan. 17, 1969, around 40 kilometers from Karaganda in Kazakhstan.


Soyuz-5 makes near-fatal crash landing

On Jan. 18, 1969, Soyuz-5 headed back to Earth, but the Instrument Module on the spacecraft failed to separate in time triggering a chain of dangerous events during the ballistic descent. Boris Volynov narrowly escaped death during a harrowing reentry and hard landing, but not without severe injuries.

All articles and illustrations inside this section by Anatoly Zak unless stated otherwise. All rights reserved

Last update: January 21, 2019