Soyuz 31
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-T0709-273, Waleri Bykowski und Sigmund Jähn.jpg
Bykowski (above) and Jähn (below)
COSPAR ID1978-081A Edit this at Wikidata
SATCAT no.11010
Mission duration67 days, 20 hours, 12 minutes, 47 seconds
Orbits completed124
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft typeSoyuz 7K-T
ManufacturerNPO Energia
Launch mass6,800 kilograms (15,000 lb)
Crew size2
LaunchingValery Bykovsky
Sigmund Jähn
LandingVladimir Kovalyonok
Aleksandr Ivanchenkov
CallsignЯстреб (Yastreb - "Hawk")
Start of mission
Launch date26 August 1978, 14:51:30 (1978-08-26UTC14:51:30Z) UTC
Launch siteBaikonur 1/5[1]
End of mission
Landing date2 November 1978, 11:04:17 (1978-11-02UTC11:04:18Z) UTC
Landing site140 kilometres (87 mi) SE of Dzhezkazgan
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeLow Earth
Perigee altitude196.8 kilometres (122.3 mi)
Apogee altitude259.9 kilometres (161.5 mi)
Inclination51.64 degrees
Period88.81 minutes
Docking with Salyut 6
Docking portAft port
Docking date28 August 1978, 16:37:37 UTC[2]
Undocking date07 September 1978, 16:37:37 UTC[3]
Time docked10d
Redocking with Salyut 6
Redocking portFront port
Redocking date07 September 1978, 16:37:37 UTC[3]
Unredocking date02 November 1978, 11:04:17 UTC[2]
Time redocked55d 18h 26m
Sojus 31 Interkosmos DDR SU.svg
Soyuz programme
(Crewed missions)
Valery Bykovsky with Sigmund Jähn
Valery Bykovsky with Sigmund Jähn

Soyuz 31 (Russian: Союз 31, Union 31) was a 1978 Soviet crewed space flight to the Salyut 6 space station.[2] It was the seventh mission to and sixth successful docking at the orbiting facility. The Soyuz 31 crew were the second to visit the long-duration Soyuz 29 resident crew.

Soyuz 31 carried Valery Bykovsky and Sigmund Jähn, the first German cosmonaut, into space. They swapped Soyuz craft with the long-duration crew and returned to Earth in Soyuz 29, the resident crew returned to Earth in Soyuz 31.


Position Launching crew Landing crew
Commander Valery Bykovsky
Third and last spaceflight
Soviet Union Soviet Union
Vladimir Kovalyonok
Second spaceflight
Soviet Union Soviet Union
Research Cosmonaut/Flight Engineer Sigmund Jähn
Only spaceflight
East Germany East Germany
Aleksandr Ivanchenkov
First spaceflight
Soviet Union Soviet Union

Backup crew

Position Crew
Commander Viktor Gorbatko
Soviet Union Soviet Union
Research Cosmonaut Eberhard Köllner
East Germany East Germany

Mission parameters

Mission highlights

Soyuz 31, the third Intercosmos flight, was launched 26 August 1978. Cosmonauts Bykovsky and Jähn were greeted by resident crew Vladimir Kovalyonok and Aleksandr Ivanchenkov when they docked at the aft port of the Salyut 6 space station the next day. The visitors brought with them fresh onions, garlic, lemons, apples and other food for the long-duration crew, then in space for more than two months.[4]

The presence of the East German cosmonaut was seen as significant because of the presence of the MKF-6M camera on the space station, built by the Carl Zeiss works at Jena.[5] Medical and biological experiments were carried out, including an audio experiment which tested sound and noise perception limits.[4] An experiment called Berolina used the Splav furnace to process an ampoule of bismuth and antimonide with the material between two plates in the ampoule. The tree structure which resulted was four to six times larger than what had been produced on the ground.[4] Another experiment tested using different photographic films on the station's interior.

Assembly of Soyuz 31 on a 1978 USSR stamp
Assembly of Soyuz 31 on a 1978 USSR stamp

The Soyuz 31 crew swapped craft with the Soyuz 29 crew so as to supply the long-duration crew with a fresh craft. On September 2, the engines of Soyuz 29 were tested, 25 experiment containers with 100 experimental results were transferred, along with exposed film, and seat liners and centering weights were exchanged. The Soyuz 31 crew left in Soyuz 29 the next day and landed 140 km southeast of Dzhezkazgan.[4]

The standard recovery procedure was changed with this flight, observers noted.[5] In the past, the recovery of a civilian Salyut crew had been made on the orbit following the one which provided a nominal launch opportunity to Salyut. With this and subsequent flights, the landing occurred during the orbit which provided the nominal launch opportunity. The effect of this change was to have a landing window open some two to three days earlier than otherwise.[5]

The crew on the station subsequently boarded the Soyuz 31 vehicle and redocked it to the forward port, thus freeing the aft port for a forthcoming Progress supply ship. They returned to Earth 2 November in the craft after setting a new space-endurance record of 139 days.


  1. ^ "Baikonur LC1". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Archived from the original on 2009-04-15. Retrieved 2009-03-04.
  2. ^ a b c The mission report is available here:
  3. ^ a b Relocation
  4. ^ a b c d Newkirk, Dennis (1990). Almanac of Soviet Manned Space Flight. Houston, Texas: Gulf Publishing Company. ISBN 0-87201-848-2.
  5. ^ a b c Clark, Phillip (1988). The Soviet Manned Space Program. New York: Orion Books, a division of Crown Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-517-56954-X.