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Soyuz-5 lifts off!

Immediately after Soyuz-4 blasted into orbit from Site 31 in Tyuratam on Jan. 14, 1969, 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.

Previous chapter: Soyuz-4 lifts off


Members of Soyuz-5 crew bid farewell to well-wishers from the top of the rocket access gantry on Jan. 15, 1969.

January 15: Soyuz-5 ready to go

At 03:00 in the morning, an An-12 transport aircraft landed at the Krainy airfield in Tyuratam. It brought 10 copies of various newspapers with reports about the launch of Soyuz-4 and a letter to Shatalov from his wife and children. (820)

Members of the State Commission met at 05:15 in the morning and approved the launch of Vehicle No. 13 at 10:04:30 Moscow Time. After the meeting, Kamanin stopped by the command post and spoke to Shatalov in orbit. The pilot reported that everything worked as planned aboard Soyuz-4. Kamanin reassured him that the second crew was preparing for liftoff. (820)

On the morning of January 15, crew members of Soyuz-5 departed for the launch pad at the same time as Shatalov had done a day earlier, but probably because Site 1 was much closer to the residential area of Tyuratam, than Site 31 was, their bus approached the launch complex considerably ahead of time.

Because access to the pad during the fueling was strictly prohibited, the driver parked the bus behind one of the auxiliary buildings around kilometer away and opened the door, letting the cosmonauts out. Yeliseev was craving for a smoke and saw a Volga sedan parked nearby with General Leonid Goreglyad, a deputy to Kamanin. Yeliseev approached him and asked for a cigarette. Goreglyad gave him a pack but recommended to get into the car to smoke. "Kamanin will fire me, if he sees it," Goreglyad said.

Yeliseev got in the car to smoke, while Goreglyad got out to keep the watch. Yeliseev barely burned a half of a cigarette, when the general suddenly commanded "It is the time!"

Yeliseev and his crew mates quickly got into the bus and around two minutes later it drove onto the pad. (849)

By that time, Kamanin, who was waiting for the crew at the pad, had begun to seriously worry because just minutes before their planned arrival there was no sight of the cosmonauts' bus and accompanying cars as far as eye could see into the steppe. To his surprise, the caravan suddenly appeared just in time. (820)

Ironically, it was the Chairman of the State Commission Kerimov and Minister Afanasiev who were late, forcing an awkward three-minute delay with the start of the boarding ceremony on the pad. As it transpired, Kerimov and Afanasiev had decided to walk to the complex, but had to stop at the crossing of a railway line blocked by a long train of propellant cisterns, (which apparently were retreating from the pad after the fueling of the rocket). The Minister and the General contemplated sneaking across under the railway cisterns, but, fortunately, decided to wait until the train resumed its movement. (820)

By that time, the launch facility was crowded with people. The cosmonauts bid farewell to the support personnel in the bus and stepped out on the concrete. Boris Volynov without much emotion delivered a standard report to Kerimov about readiness for the flight. Kerimov wished them successful flight and a safe return to Earth.

Next, leading engineer E.A. Frolov approached and led the crew to the elevator of the service gantry. At the top of the gantry they waved to well wishers and noticed that their bus was still parked at the pad in case of another aborted launch.

Before entering the spacecraft, they dropped their winter clothing and gave it to a technician with a big plastic bag. Then, they boarded the spacecraft through an opening in the payload fairing hidden behind a plastic enclosure.

Inside the Habitation Module they were met by a worker from the factory that built Soyuz. He was responsible for closing the hatch between the Descent Module and the Habitation Module, so he had to say hello and goodbye in a short sequence. He gave a hug to each cosmonaut before parting with them.

Yeliseev discovered that his seat in the capsule was a bit small, but he hoped to fit himself tightly in the next two hours before liftoff. (849)

Right after boarding, Volynov established stable communications with Beregovoi in the firing control room. The pilot also started a TV broadcast from the capsule which worked well this time.

Around hour and a half later, mission control detected a positive electric discharge on the body of the rocket, which threatened to delay the launch. After hectic discussions between Mishin, Finogeev, Yurasov and Topol, it was decided to replace one electric instrument just 25 minutes before planned liftoff. Captain Viktor Aleshin had to strip down to underwear in minus 20-degree cold and under strong wind, in order to fit into the small compartment, manually remove the failed instrument and install a new one. The instrument was attached with four bolts, but Aleshin was able to get only three bolts in place before getting a frostbite on his hands. As a result, Mishin and Iosifyan (chief designer responsible for electric systems) had to sign a waver for the liftoff of the rocket with an improperly installed instrument. (820)

Soyuz-5 lifts off


On January 15, at 10:04:57 Moscow Time, as Soyuz-4 passed over Tyuratam, Boris Volynov, Aleksei Yeliseev and Evgeny Khrunov lifted off aboard Soyuz-5. It was the second Soviet mission carrying three people and the first multi-member crew flying aboard the Soyuz spacecraft.

As usual, the four boosters of the first stage separated two minutes into the flight, followed by the payload fairing around half a minute later.

Yeliseev remembered oscillations of the rocket, and ups and downs of g-forces, until weightlessness suddenly came, marking the separation of the third stage 535 seconds after liftoff. (849)

On the control console, the cosmonauts saw a timer start ticking and a navigation globe, indicating the position of the spacecraft relative to the Earth's surface, began spinning, confirming that the spacecraft was free from its rocket.

According to Mishin's notes the spacecraft entered the following orbit:

Planned orbit
Actual orbit
Orbital period
88.57 minutes
88.66 minutes
51.58 degrees
51.69 degrees
Perigee (lowest point)
224.3 kilometers
230 kilometers
Apogee (highest point)
204.3 kilometers
200.4 kilometers

Mission control radioed to the crew that their spacecraft was in a good orbit and they could unbuckle from their seats.

Yeliseev remembered an unpleasant feeling in the head, resembling a tilted position of the body. When the cosmonauts got into the Habitation module, Yeliseev noticed that his and his colleagues' faces were all swelled from blood rushed to the head in the absence of gravity. (849)

As planned, the Soyuz-5 entered orbit around 10,000 kilometers from Soyuz-4. However, around three hours (or two orbits) after launch, Soyuz-5 conducted an orbit correction maneuver aimed to shorten the distance between the two spacecraft. (849)

At 15:00 Moscow Time, Mishin, Kamanin and other officials departed Tyuratam for Crimea aboard an Il-18 aircraft. General Kutasin warned them about heavy fog in Crimean airports and they had to land at Simpheropol, because airfields in Saki and Feodosiya were closed.

When they arrived at mission control at NIP-16, at the end of January 15, General Kuznetsov and cosmonaut Pavel Belyaev reported that both Soyuz spacecraft were in good shape and were expected to reenter the communications range at 3:00 in the morning on January 16. (820)

In the meantime, aboard Soyuz-5, the cosmonauts had dinner, consisting of a small can of dried meat, several tablets of powdered cottage cheese, dry fruits and a tube of juice. According to Yeliseev, the crew consumed all of this without much appetite, probably due to motion sickness. All three then glued to windows watching the Earth, which showed no signs of life and their feeling of desolation was further reinforced by a complete silence. On the night side, they were struck by the view of myriads of stars, including famous constellations of the southern sky, which they had previously seen only in a planetarium. Not surprisingly, all three cosmonauts messed up their schedule, violating the sleep period.

When the cosmonauts finally got back into their flight seats to sleep, they realized how cold it was in the cabin, but they could not do anything about it. Yeliseev shivered throughout the night falling in and out of sleep and waiting for the new work day for relief. He assumed that Volynov and Khrunov were in the same situation. (849)

For the next 18 orbits, Soyuz-5 continued an uneventful flight, as both crews and flight controllers were gearing up for the rendezvous. (849)

Next chapter: Soyuz-4 and -5 dock in orbit

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The article and illustrations by Anatoly Zak; Last update: January 16, 2019

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: January 15, 2018

All rights reserved



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Crew of Soyuz-5 arrives at launch pad to board spacecraft.


Crew of Soyuz-5 on the launch pad (left to right): Yeliseev, Volynov, Khrunov.


Soyuz-5 on the pad in Tyuratam.


Soyuz-5 lifts off on Jan. 15, 1969.