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Cosmonaut training overview

Cosmonaut training involves the aquisition of all the comprehensive skills, knowledge and experience required for successful space missions, and this training is considered to be an important feature of a cosmonaut’s overall skill base.

There are three primary objectives of cosmonaut training:

Cosmonaut training is arranged in three stages:

  1. general space training;
  2. group training to operate a certain type of manned space vehicle;
  3. crew training.


The cosmonaut selection is not a public process; candidates are usually taken from the Russian Air Force, RSC Energiya and IMBP.

Rex Hall on cosmonaut pilot selection (from this 2008 thread at NASASpaceflight.com):

The AF picks young pilots who will make a career as a cosmonaut. Most have fewer than 500 hours. They do very little flying post selection except for flights in L 39’s. They have to undertake extensive parachute training, many gaining instructor status. Some have a higher engineering qualification but most attend University during there early years of training. It is a very different process than NASA. In recent times they have selected 4 to 5 pilots every 3 or 4 years. The fitting into the Soyuz certainly is a requirement. They undertake a 2 year initial training course and then do generic training for years which can include a university course or secondment to an agency. They support the training programme of crews. Each get 8 months in Houston. they undergo extensive English training. The current expectation is that they are likely to wait up to 10 years before a flight but this should speed up as we move to 4 Soyuz Launches a year. Medical testing is extensive.

As illustrated in a RIAN infographic, selection criteria include:

General space training
Общекосмическая подготовка

During general space training, the cosmonaut candidates have to acquire knowledge, skills and experience that make up the base of a cosmonaut’s proficiency. While undergoing general space training the cosmonaut candidates have to develop profound and steady knowledge in the field sciences that comprise the basis of space flights (theory of manned space vehicle flight, space navigation basics, design principles of manned space vehicles and launch-rockets, launching sites, etc.). They have to go over manned space vehicle design and its onboard systems and develop initial skills in operating those systems. They obtain knowledge of space systems tests, basic scientific researches and experiments.

The elements of training involve:

(Source: NASASpaceflight.com forum)

The training takes approximately two years, culminating in final examinations. If the candidate passes these, a session chaired by the TsPK chief will decide if he is assigned as a cosmonaut-tester or cosmonaut-researcher. The session is held by the Interdepartmental Commission (MVK), which consists of the representatives of Roskosmos, RSC Energia, GCTC and the IMBP.

A test-cosmonaut (космонавт-испытатель, kosmonavt-ispytatel’) has a more difficult preparation than a research-cosmonaut (космонавт-исследователь, kosmonavt-issledovatel’). A research-cosmonaut cannot be the commander or the flight engineer of a spacecraft, but a test-cosmonaut can be.

Group training
Подготовка в составе групп

After successfully completing basic training, a cosmonaut is eligible for flight selection.

The primary purpose of the group training stage is the improving of cosmonaut’s professional skills and specialization for specific types of manned space vehicles (namely the Soyuz). During this stage cosmonauts gain knowledge and practical experience necessary for the following crew training stage.

A cosmonaut may wait years before being assigned a space mission. In the meantime, he will be assigned to other areas, such as working in Mission Control (TsUP), and doing refresher training to keep up his skills.

Crew training
Подготовка в составе экипажей

At the third stage, i.e. crew training stage, the cosmonauts are required to develop the relevant skills to succeed in the forthcoming space mission. During this stage cosmonauts study the specific details of the manned space vehicle and procedures of its operating, mission tasks, onboard flight files. They practice their skills of cooperation as a crew by executing some elements of space mission program and contingency situations as well. They practice principles of performing scientific experiments and researches.

The cosmonaut training program at all its stages is scheduled on the base of separate training events that depend on the training tasks and purposes of a certain cosmonaut group or crew. The cosmonaut training comprises the following kinds of training:

This third stage includes ISS crew training if a cosmonaut is assigned to a crew, and/or Soyuz spaceship crew training (pilot or flight engineer).

ISS training

After completing basic training at their respective agencies, astronauts and cosmonauts assigned to ISS crews will undertake an integrated course created by all the ISS partners.

The sole focus of the Russian manned space program in the 2000s is the International Space Station, so cosmonauts will spend at least 18 months on specialized training if assigned to a crew. Training takes place in Star City, Russia; the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, USA, and at facilities in Canada to train on the SSRMS, Robotic Arm (Canadarm-2). When the European and Japanese modules are eventually placed in orbit, training will also take place at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany and the Tsukuba Space Center (TKSC) in Japan.

There will also be language training (English for Russian cosmonauts, Russian for those from other countries).

Other ISS partners’ training programs:

Updated 12 Jul 2015