The craft consisted of a spherical descent module (mass 2.46 tonnes, diameter 2.3 meters), which housed the cosmonaut, instruments and escape system, and a conical instrument module (mass 2.27 tonnes, 2.25 m long, 2.43 m wide), which contained propellant and the engine system. On reentry, the cosmonaut would eject from the craft at about 7km and descend via parachute, while the capsule would land separately.
The Vostok spacecraft was originally designed for use both as a camera platform (for the Soviet Union's first spy satellite program, Zenit) and as a manned spacecraft. This dual-use design was crucial in gaining Communist Party support for the program. The basic Vostok design has remained in use for some forty years, gradually adapted for a range of other unmanned satellites. The descent module design was reused, in heavily-modified form, by the Voskhod program.