On October 12, 1964, launch vehicle Voskhod put into a low Earth orbit the first multiseater spacecraft Vostok carrying three cosmonauts onboard, the descent vehicle of which one day later successfully returned the crew back to Earth.


In late 1962, while the flights of the first manned spacecraft Vostok still continued, Sergei Korolev directed Department No.9 of the Special Design Bureau No.1 to prepare their proposal on further use of these spacecraft for manned space missions.
The Vostok spacecraft had brilliantly accomplished the task they were designed for. However, it soon became obvious that these spacecraft have a number of significant limitations: one crewmember, high risk of his/her death of launch vehicle failure on the launch pad, the absence of a backup retro rocket onboard, flight duration limited to 10 days, separate landing of the descent vehicle of the spacecraft and the cosmonaut, etc.
It was decided to start developing a new spacecraft design with significantly improved characteristics:
- the crew of three;
- availability of a additional habitable module in orbit;
- improved emergency rescue system which made it possible to rescue the crew during any phase of the launch;
- redundant retrorocket system;
- two parachute systems within the descent vehicle – one primary and one backup;
- the descent vehicle soft landing system
- life in orbit extended up to several weeks;
- the ability to maneuver in orbit;
- A system for rendezvous and docking with another space vehicle or space station, etc.
Development of a radically different new multi-seater spacecraft was a complex laborious task which would take several years, while the Soviet leadership was eager for immediate successes in space, the more so since the US work on the two-seater spacecraft Gemini was no secret.
Increasing the number of the spacecraft crew would score another 'first' for the Soviet Union, and make it possible to conduct a larger scope of experiments per one flight and to support a spacewalk.
Developers at the Special Design Bureau No.1 had spent many days in heated creative debate before the outlines of the multi-seater spacecraft Voskhod based on the one-seater Vostok began to take shape.
Here the genius of S.P. Korolev manifested itself once again: rather than building a two-seater spacecraft like Americans did, he proposed to go for a three-seater right away. Even back then he was already working on the problem of long-duration spaceflight, and on such long missions the crew of three is less susceptible to stress. And it also opened up the possibility of sending civilians and scientists into space.
In order to fit three cosmonauts instead of one within the same volume, the designers had to do without the ejection seat that had been used on Vostoks: when the descent vehicle of the spacecraft descended in the atmosphere, as soon as it reached the altitude of 7 km the cosmonaut was ejected from the descent vehicle in the ejection seat, and then the cosmonaut separated from the seat at the altitude of 4 km and landed independently by parachute. The descent vehicle performed parachute landing without the cosmonaut. In the case of Voskhod it was decided that the crew would be landing inside their descent vehicle, which would house 3 lightweight seats with shock absorbers to reduce g-loads on the crew at touch-down. Because of the limited volume inside the descent vehicle, the seats had to be turned by 90° with respect to the position of the seat in Vostok, which made it very inconvenient to control the spacecraft in the manual mode (the bottom of the control panel was now on the side and all the inscriptions on it had to be viewed in the vertical direction). Very tight development schedules did not leave enough time to remedy this problem.
Risks to the crew became immediately obvious: in case of a launch vehicle failure during the initial phase of the flight (the first 22 minutes of the flight) the altitude is not sufficient for the deployment of the descent vehicle parachutes, and the pressure suits for cosmonauts were replaced with conventional suits which couldn't protect the crew in case of the descent vehicle depressurization. Later, on Soyuz spacecraft, an emergency rescue system was installed to prevent crew loss during the initial phase of the flight from several seconds before the lift-off to orbital insertion.
A soft landing system was implemented on Voskhod – added to the descent vehicle equipment was a gunpowder rocket engine suspended from parachute lines. To trigger the 'soft' landing engine, a 1.5 m probe was installed on the bottom of the spacecraft to signal the contact with the soil. This made it possible to bring the g-loads on the descent vehicle down to 1.5g. In case the soft landing engine failed to fire, the shock absorbers under the seats could help to reduce the g-loads.
To provide a backup for the retrorocket a second gunpowder rocket engine was installed on the descent vehicle. Also installed was a second attitude control system based on ionic sensors. The sensors were supposed to aid in aligning the spacecraft attitude with the vector of velocity which is required for firing the backup retrorocket. The command to fire the backup retrorocket was to be issued by a cosmonaut from the pilot's control panel.

Корабль "Восход" Схема размещения трёх космонавтов
Voskhod spacecraft Layout for a crew of three 

A new TV system Topaz-25 was installed.
The world's first multi-seater spacecraft consisted of a spherical descent vehicle 2.3 m in diameter housing the cosmonauts, and a conical instrumentation compartment with the mass of 2.27 metric tons, 2.25 m in length and 2.43 m in width housing propellant tanks and a propulsion system. The spacecraft was designed and built by the Special Design Bureau No.1 and Factory 88 (hereinafter referred to as RSC Energia). Included in the main crew of the first manned Voskhod was a designer of this spacecraft Konstantin Feoktistov. 

К.П.Феоктистов,  Ю.А. Гагарин,  В.М. Комаров,  Б.Б. Егоров
From left to right:
K.P.Feoktistov, Y.A. Gagarin, V.M. Komarov, B.B. Yegorov

Preparations for the flight began 4 months before the launch. At first, the following two crews were in training.

• The first crew:
− Vladimir Komarov, commander of the spacecraft, Cosmonaut Training Center;
− Konstantin Feoktistov, engineer-tester, Special Design Bureau No.1;
− Vasili Lazarev, pilot – military doctor, Cosmonaut Training Center;
− backup - Sorokin, doctor at the Cosmonaut Training Center;
• The second crew:
− Boris Volynov, commander of the spacecraft, Cosmonaut Training Center;
− Georgi Katys, cosmonaut – researcher, IAT of the USSR Acadey of Sciences;
− Boris Yegorov, military doctor, Institute for Aviation and Space Medicine.

One month before the launch the list of the first crew was updated: added to Komarov and Feoktistov was Yegorov, Lazarev was transferred to the backup crew.


In October an unmanned spacecraft of the Voskhod series (article 3KV) was assembled, which, on October 5, 1964, under the designation of Kosmos-47, made a test flight to check the operation of all the systems under actual spaceflight environment. The test was successfully passed, no serious items of concern were identified during that mission.
Just 4 days after that, on October 12, 1964, launch vehicle Voskhod 11А57 (with a more powerful rocket stage Block I instead of rocket stage Block E) successfully put a manned Voskhod spacecraft (article 3KV) into an orbit with the following parameters:

− apogee altitude of 408 km;
− perigee altitude of 177.5 km;
− orbital inclination of 64.82 degrees;
− orbital lifetime of 22 days.

The mission was designed to last one day (the food supply was for three days) and it went peacefully, there were no failures or off-nominal situations in the course of the mission.
The availability of three men onboard for the first time provided an opportunity to conduct a comprehensive program of experiments.

К.П. Феоктистов, В.М. Комаров, Б.Б. Егоров
From left to right:
K.P.Feoktistov, V.M. Komarov, B.B. Yegorov

Feoktistov's responsibilities included taking pictures of Earth and crew work inside the spacecraft, working with sextant, conducting experiments in behavior of liquids in zero gravity, taking readings of ionic sensors at various angles of orientation with respect to the velocity vector (relationship "signal vs. angle"), monitoring the operation of onboard systems. The experiment with liquid produced an unexpected result: After the test setup was shaken, the gas-liquid suspension was unwilling to return to its initial separated state.
Boris Yegorov, for the first time in space, took blood samples from cosmonauts, measured variations of their pulse and pressure, recorded their brain action currents. All medical experiments passed successfully. That was the first time that the crew was medically monitored in flight.
Vladimir Komarov participated in the ionic sensor experiment together with Feoktistov, and conducted tests of the manual attitude control.
On the whole, the program of the one-day mission was crammed full (and that became clear as early as during the ground training sessions). Feoktistov in a communications session asked Korolev to extend the mission to two days in order to repeat some experiments in order to accumulate more statistical data and conduct some additional experiments (there were many proposals), but his request was denied. The same happened to the request from the spacecraft commander V.M. Komarov.
The Voskhod mission duration was 1 day 0 hours and 17 minutes. The descent was successful. The soft landing system fulfilled its task – brought the g-loads down to comfortable levels. Nowadays, a similar, but of course a more advanced system is used in all the modifications of the Soyuz spacecraft.
After the landing it emerged that due to a change in the country's top leadership, the crew's airplane departure for Moscow had to be delayed. The post-flight report of V.M. Komarov originally drawn up for N.S. Khrushchev had to be re-written for the new General Secretary L.I. Brezhnev.

КК "Восход" на сборке
Assembly of Vokshod spacecraft

The first flight of the multi-seater Soviet manned spacecraft drew a wide response all over the world. At the same time, due to secrecy, not even an external view of either the rocket, or the new spacecraft was published at the time, which gave rise to some most implausible speculations.

Mission results

For the designer of Soviet manned spacecraft Konstantin Feoktistov the mission was of critical significance. In his words, during the mission he had a clear vision of all the systems and equipment onboard the spacecraft that were supposed to operate in flight and this flight did bring anything that could be unexpected for him. Everything went according to the plan that had been drawn up back on Earth. This was a good result for the Special Design Bureau 1. But at the same time it became clear to Feoktistov the designer that there was no future for Voskhod because of its certain inherent design constraints.
КК «Восход-2» Many of the engineering solutions implemented in Voskhod were intended for use in the new manned spacecraft which were at the time being designed at the Special Design Bureau No.1. One of the versions of the new spacecraft (project 7K-OK) which was given the name Soyuz was destined to live a long life. Currently in operation are the latest advanced modifications of Soyuz (the first unmanned launch of the spacecraft took place in November 1966, under the designation Kosmos-133). The fact that the design of the new spacecraft turned out to be so successful definitely owes much to the experience gained during the implementation of Voskhod project.
One more important achievement of this program and the flight of the first Voskhod: many years of wrangling between the Air Force top brass and the industry's senior managers ended in an agreement that from that moment on civilian specialists could also fly into space. Today this looks absolutely natural. Nowadays there are civilians who are crew commanders, and even females who are crew commanders.
Voskhod provided the first experience of a flight with a crew of three. Today this became the norm for Soyuz spacecraft. And, of course, it was of special importance for that time that the very first multi-seater spacecraft was launched by the Soviet Union. In US the first flight on a two-seater spacecraft Gemini 3 only took place half a year later, on March 23, 1965 (astronauts John Young, Virgil Grissom).
Spacecraft Voskhod-2 (article 3KD) with a crew consisting of cosmonaut pilots P.I. Belyaev and A.A. Leonov was launched on March 18, 1965, into an orbit with inclination of 65° with the perigee altitude of 173 km and apogee altitude of 498 km. Through an inflatable airlock cosmonaut pilot A.A. Leonov, first in the world, egressed from the spacecraft into open space and stayed there for 12 minutes.
Added to the life support system in order to support his space walk were special space suits with a self-contained backpack, as well as an inflatable 250 kg airlock enabling egress into open space.

Схема размещения двух космонавтов Первая прогулка в открытом космосе
Layout for a crew of two The first spacewalk 

TThat represented a giant step in the development of world spaceflight of that period, but that's already a different topic.


The following missions were carried out under the Voskhod program:

  • Kosmos-47 – October 6, 1965. Unmanned test flight to try out the spacecraft (article 3KV);
  • Voskhod – October 12, 1964. The world's first spaceflight of a spacecraft (article 3KV) with a crew of three;
  • Kosmos-57 – February 22, 1965. Unmanned test flight to try out the spacecraft (article 3KD) for the spacewalk program;
  • Kosmos-59 – March 7, 1965. Unmanned test flight to try out the spacecraft (article 3KD) for re-test of the airlock jettisoning system;
  • Voskhod-2 – March 18, 1965. The world's first spacewalk was performed from this spacecraft (article 3KD);
  • Kosmos-110 – February 22, 1968. Long-duration (20 days) unmanned test flight of the spacecraft (article 3KV No.5) with two dogs (Veterok and Ugolyok) onboard;

Voskhod program called for the launch of five more manned spacecraft, but after the passing of Chief Designer Sergei Korolev the Special Design Bureau No.1 was headed by V.P. Mishin. In his opinion, Voskhod, being based on Vostok, was, by that time, already obsolete and did not meet the growing requirements of manned spaceflight. Mishin managed to obtain a permission from the decision-makers of the military industrial complex of our country to stop building Voskhods and terminate this research program so as to focus his efforts on the development of the new manned spacecraft Soyuz that had been initiated when Korolev was still alive.
The following missions were planned in detail, but were scrapped in the spring of 1966 together with the Voskhod program:

  • Voskhod-3 – a record-braking 18-day manned mission for scientific and military research;
  • Voskhod-4 – a 10-15-day mission of a mixed female-male crew with the first spacewalk by a woman;
  • Voskhod-5 – 5-day mission with 2 or 3 spacewalks to test a cosmonaut's maneuvering unit that would take him as far away from the airlock as 100 m;
  • Voskhod-6 – a 10-day biomedical research mission that was to include a surgery on a test animal (a rabbit);
  • Voskhod-7 – an 18-day mission of the spacecraft tethered to a rocket stage Block I to generate artificial gravity (the length of the tether was to be 60 m).

Editorial note

«Manned spacecraft for missions into space are by right considered to be the high point of Korolev's creative work. The Chief Designer of rocket and space systems, the father of the practical implementation of the spaceflight theory was able to see the future of space technology years in advance, had an extraordinary intuition, stood out from all the other developers of the new technology through his creative audacity and outstanding scientific, engineering and managerial talent and his ability to see far into the future. Long before the launch of the first artificial launch satellite, under the leadership of Korolev some design studies were already initiated to look into interplanetary probes and orbital stations, planetary and lunar outposts, satellites for various applications, manned spacecraft».
The editorial board of this web site plans to post on it in 2015 copies of materials from technical archives on the design studies done by his associates and followers on lunar stations and mobile lunar engineering and construction equipment during the period of 1968-1973.







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