Soyuz is a series of spacecraft designed for the Soviet space program by the Korolyov Design Bureau. The spacecraft was also referred to as a Cosmic chelnok or simply chelnok which literally means a spaceship. The Soyuz succeeded the Voskhod spacecraft and was originally built as part of the Soviet Manned Lunar program.
The Soyuz spacecraft is launched by the Soyuz rocket, the most frequently used and the most reliable launch vehicle in the world. The Soyuz rocket was initially a part of the Soyuz program, and was a part of the unmanned Zond program.
The first unmanned Soyuz mission was launched November 28, 1966; the first Soyuz mission with a crew (Soyuz 1) was launched April 23, 1967, but the cosmonaut on board, Vladimir Komarov, died during the flight’s crash-landing. Soyuz 2 was an unmanned mission, and Soyuz 3, launched on October 26, 1968, was the first successful Soyuz manned mission.
Currently, the Soyuz spacecraft family is still in service. Soyuz spacecraft were used to carry cosmonauts to and from Salyut and later Mir Soviet space stations, and are now used for transport to and from the International Space Station. The International Space Station maintains docked Soyuz spacecraft at all times to be used as escape craft in the event of an emergency.