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From Vostok to Voskhod

Designers of 3KV (Voskhod) spacecraft would benefit from a number of features initially proposed for the yet-to-be-developed Soyuz project. Due to extreme limitations on mass and volume, the crew would have to fly without spacesuits. A nearly flawless performance of the life support system during practically all previous Vostok missions convinced engineers that the new spacecraft would reliably keep the internal air pressure and other key parameters. (84) Still, the Air Force fiercely resisted the idea to abandon spacesuits. Its chief of cosmonaut training Nikolai Kamanin apparently was the last to surrender to Korolev's pressure.

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Previous page: Origin of the Voskhod project



Above: A rare look inside the actual Voskhod spacecraft.

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Designing Voskhod

For the first time in the short history of the Soviet space flight, the crew of Voskhod would launch without ejection seats and touch down inside its capsule. According to an outline of the Voskhod design formulated by February 1964, engineers planned to rush the development of the rocket-powered emergency escape system, which was conceived for the Soyuz spacecraft. It would be capable of pulling the entire capsule with the crew away from the failing rocket during the launch, thus eliminating the need for individual ejection seats. (84) However, despite this plan, it would not be ready in time for the Voskhod missions.

To address the problem of the Vostok's hard landing, a second main parachute was added and a small cluster of solid rockets was attached to parachute strings. They would fire a moment before the touchdown on a command from a special 120-centimeter probe deployed from the bottom of the descent module. The new Elbrus seats, whose development started within the Soyuz project, would be installed on Voskhod along with their shock-absorbing system. (466) Three seats were rotated 90 degrees around the vertical axis of the spacecraft relative to the previous position of the ejection seat. To save mass, the standard equipment of the Vostok spacecraft for medical and scientific experiments would be removed. (84)

Since the original Vostok could sustain a single cosmonaut for 10 days, a three-person crew could fly for no more than three days with the same life-support system. To provide some safety margin, a nominal mission would not be planned beyond a single day. Onboard food rations would be reduced accordingly. (509)

The interior of the capsule was rearranged for a three-person crew. The communications console was moved to a new position and a "joy stick" for the attitude control was also moved. (84)

On the plus side, the main braking engine off the spacecraft was now backed up with a 145-kilogram solid-propellant motor. (2) However even with a backup braking engine, Voskhod's planned orbit was still kept at 180-185 kilometers at its lowest point (perigee). (84) As a result, the spacecraft could naturally plunge back to Earth due to the atmospheric friction near its perigee within just three days, in case both of its braking engines would fail. However, further mass savings were still required, forcing engineers to cut the Voskhod's life-support capabilities to just two days. As a result, the crew could no longer survive in orbit until the natural decay of their capsule after a possible braking enging failure. (231)

Voskhod would also be equipped with an additional attitude control system using ion sensors. Onboard TV and radio systems were also improved. (2) A TV camera was installed on the exterior of the service module and its monitor inside the spacecraft, so that the crew could monitor otherwise invisible areas of the spacecraft during the flight. (196)

Next chapter: Voskhod launch vehicle

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Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: October 27, 2014

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The development version of the Voskhod, a.k.a. 3KV, spacecraft. Copyright © 2000, 2011 Anatoly Zak


The main propulsion system, TDU, onboard Voskhod spacecraft.



The descent module, SA, of the Voskhod spacecraft. Copyright © 2011 Anatoly Zak


A parachute hatch of the Voskhod spacecraft could also serve as an emergency entrance into the spacecraft for the search and rescue team at the landing site. Copyright © 2011 Anatoly Zak


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