The three-stage Soyuz launcher. Russian launch vehicles are named after the payload that they carry or the spacecraft they launch. In this case, it is called Soyuz after the eponymous capsule. The first manned capsule of this series was put into Earth orbit on 23 April 1967. With a curriculum vitae that includes over 1700 manned and unmanned launches, the Soyuz rocket is the most frequently used launch vehicle in the world.