The Soyuz TM manned transport spacecraft

Further upgrade of spacecraft Soyuz T, which resulted in development of its next modification, Soyuz TM, is attributed to the upgrade of long-duration orbital Salyut-type stations, and specifically to the fact that provision was made to increase the inclination of their working orbit up to 65. This assigned a task of compensating for the mass loss of a cargo launched by the launch vehicle amounting to 330-350kg. Such compensation could be provided only in a combined way: on the one hand, by increasing the LV capabilities and, on the other hand, by reducing the spacecraft mass.

In that respect, a two-way upgrade was carried out, namely, the upgrade of the spacecraft systems and the reduction of its mass.

Basic Performance of Spacecraft Soyuz

Name of performance,
unit of measurement
Crew, persons
Spacecraft mass, kg
Descent module mass, kg
Spacecraft body length, m


Maximum diameter, m


Span of solar arrays, m


Type of launch vehicle

A number of Soyuz TM systems was modified or replaced with the new ones.

The motion control system was further developed. With the growth of the scope of orbital complexes, the use of the Igla system became inefficient, as it required a continuous orientation of the station docking assembly on the spacecraft and resulted in high propellant consumption. The Igla system was replaced by a new Kurs system, which did not require such orientation, allowed measurements at a distance of 200 km instead of 30 km, had duplicated electronics and electronic diagnostic unit.

In parallel, new onboard digital computer complex software was developed, which allowed the spacecraft to approach the space-stabilized station from about 100km away in a free-flight mode, its close-range fly-by into the zone of the selected docking assembly, and berthing.

A bubble window was installed on the spacecraft habitable compartment, and the second worksite for manual berthing control was arranged on its basis.

   " " A new base unit was introduced in the combined propulsion system of the spacecraft, which used metal tank separators, the tanks themselves became primary structures, an uncooled nozzle was used in the design of the main chamber, helium was used for pressurization, and redundancy (two sections) was introduced into the tank pressurization and propellant consumption system.

Duplicate valves were installed in two manifolds of the approach and attitude control thruster attitude control thruster propellant feed system.

The Zarya radio communication and direction measurement system in the spacecraft radio complex was replaced with a more advanced Rassvet system.

One of the measures to increase the allowable mass of the spacecraft was the upgrade of the emergency rescue system, which was the basis for developing a new design of the ERS rocket motor (RM). Two central engines (main and additional) were replaced by the two-chamber engine. Two chambers of this engine were started by the same logic, but they operated through a combined nozzle unit. Such engine integration into a single structure significantly reduced the ERS RM mass.

At the same time, the aerodynamic configuration of the ERS separable payload module was improved due to reduction of its diameter, and the mass of the balancing weight was reduced. An important exercise was to shift the ERS RM jettisoning from the 123rd to the 115th second of LV flight, that made it possible to combine the impact areas of the LV strap-on boosters and ERS RM and saved an additional mass. In total, the LV payload was increased approximately by 60 kg.

The most important measure to reduce the spacecraft mass was the introduction of new parachute systems, which used a synthetic high-modulus fabric for the shroud lines and light-weight nylon for parachute canopies. This made it possible to reduce the mass of parachute systems by 120 kg (40%), and the mass of the descent module approximately by 140 kg. The volume was cleared, and a payload container was installed in DM. The DM and parachute systems structure was upgraded.

The implemented measures made it possible to perform, if necessary, flights of a two-seat spacecraft to the station flying in orbit with an inclination of 65 using LV 11A511-2. The first flight of the modified unmanned spacecraft was performed in the period from May 21 to May 30, 1986.

A challenging version of the spacecraft was Soyuz TM equipped with a newly designed androgynous peripheral docking system. The spacecraft was part of a series of three spacecraft which were supposed to be used as crew rescue vehicles for crews of the Buran Orbiter in its first manned flights. The first spacecraft of this series was manufactured, but due to the Buran program termination, it was redirected to the Mir program. Its launch (Soyuz TM-16, cosmonauts G.M.Manakov, A.F.Poleshchuk) occurred on January 24, 1993. The automatic rendezvous, manual berthing, docking and crew transfer to the station were performed during the flight, which validated the new docking system and the possibility of using the third lateral port of the Mir station.

Spacecraft Soyuz TM is characterized by a high flight reliability and safety. During its operation from May 21, 1986 to November 10, 2002 thirty four spacecraft of this series were launched and flew in orbit. They accomplished the tasks of space transportation and engineering support of the Mir Orbital Station and began the transportation and engineering support of the International Space Station.