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Voskhod Program

Mercury spacecraft, Khrushchev, Soyuz, Vostok, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

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Voskhod Program, piloted space program of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) that took place during the mid-1960s. The Voskhod program (voskhod means “dawn” in Russian) was designed to keep the USSR competitive in the space race with the United States while the USSR developed Soyuz, its first spacecraft built specifically for piloted flight. Voskhod, a two- or three-cosmonaut spacecraft, was based on the one-cosmonaut Vostok spacecraft, which in turn was based on a spy satellite design.

The Voskhod program began as the United States announced in late 1961 that it would soon begin two-astronaut Gemini program flights. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev demanded that his engineers keep ahead of the United States in space at all costs. To do this, they modified Vostok, a simple spacecraft much like the U.S. Mercury spacecraft, to permit it to accomplish tasks like those of Gemini. Despite its improvised nature, the Voskhod program accomplished the first three-person spaceflight (on Voskhod 1) and the first spacewalk (on Voskhod 2).

Engineers planned a series of Voskhod flights, including a week-long flight and a flight with two female cosmonauts that would include a spacewalk. However, after Khrushchev's fall from power—which occurred while Voskhod 1 was in orbit—the new leadership permitted only one more Voskhod flight because it wished to devote its resources to hastening the development of Soyuz spacecraft.


Portree, David S. F., B.A., M.S.

Freelance writer and space historian. Author of "Walking to Olympus: An EVA Chronology".

Article key phrases:

Mercury spacecraft, Khrushchev, Soyuz, Vostok, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, spacewalk, space race, orbit, new leadership, dawn, tasks, engineers, United States, power, costs, turn, place, resources

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