Vostok/Zenit/Resurs/Foton/Bion: Korolyov's Soviet Spaceballs

To save money and broaden the constituency supporting his space projects, Soviet chief designer Sergei Korolyov designed the spacecraft that carried Yuri Gagarin into orbit to also serve as an unmanned reconnaissance satellite, returning both film and cameras in the pressurised cannonball-like reentry module. While the Vostok configuration would fly only 8 missions (6 with a man or woman on board) ending in 1963, the reconnaissance configuration, called Zenit internally and designated “Kosmos” to the outside world, would fly more than 600 missions, remaining in service through 1994. Other variants, such as the Resurs Earth resources satellites, continued to fly into the 21st century. Not until SpaceX began to launch the Starlink constellation would so many of a single basic spacecraft design be launched.