The Soviet Union's first crewed launch, Vostok 1, was on a Vostok booster, derived from the R-7 ICBM and Sputnik satellite launcher with an additional stage added.

The Soyuz boosters used today by Russia, 58 years later, to launch crews to the ISS are extremely similar; the second stage is bigger and more powerful, the first-stage and booster engines slightly uprated, and the avionics have been modernized, but the basic R-7 heritage remains.

Has the USSR or Russia ever launched a crewed spacecraft on a non-R-7-derived booster?

I'd accept suborbitals, and even sub-Kármán test flights of craft intended to eventually go to space, especially if there are interesting details.

Energia-Buran never flew crewed. I don't know if a crewed Soyuz spacecraft ever flew on a Proton-family booster; some uncrewed Soyuz derivatives have.

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    $\begingroup$ Pretty sure no, but will let someone more knowledgeable of Russian space history weigh in. $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2019 at 2:12
  • $\begingroup$ The N-1 moon rocket also never flew crewed. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Aug 6, 2019 at 7:17
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    $\begingroup$ "spacecraft" are not necessarily orbital, however listings of crewed sub-orbital spaceflight seem to include only rare cases of manned R7 derivates aborting before reaching orbit, and no smaller-booster Mecury-Redstone style or even X-15 type flights, so it seems the distinction does not currently matter there. $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2019 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ Ah yes, I was mostly thinking of space launch, but if there was an X-15 type program that would be interesting. A Soyuz ascent abort is still "launch of a crewed spacecraft", even if it didn't go to space that day. $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2019 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisStratton There was a Soviet program VR-190 (ВР-190) of manned suborbital flights analogous to the Mercury-Redstone. However it was cancelled because much more promising Vostok program was started and after that there was little interest in such suborbital flights. $\endgroup$
    – OON
    Aug 6, 2019 at 21:37

1 Answer 1


No, it never happened.

However besides the failed N1 program and cancelled Buran missions the Soviet Union also made several successful (or partially successful) test launches of spacecrafts that were designed to be manned.

First was a series of Zond space probes (numbers 4-8) that flew circumlunar missions launched by Proton-K with Block D booster. Those were basically unmanned Soyuz 7K-L1 intended for the full Moon program. While all of them flew unmanned, Zond 5 brought first living organisms around Moon - two tortoises. Because all launches had issues and at that stage it was obvious that US will be able to perform a full Moon landing mission soon, the manned circumlunar mission never happened.

Another potentially manned spacecraft was TKS launched again with Proton-K. This was primarily a supply ship for Almaz and Salyut space missions. It was only really used to deliver supplies to the space station and return stuff back to Earth. But it could be manned by three crew members and when it was cancelled was considered man rated.


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