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Soyuz 29 and Soyuz 31



Soviet Manned Space Programs: 1957-80



After the success of the 96-day flight, the Soviets decided to extend the space duration record even further. During 1978, the Soyuz 29/31 crew remained in orbit for 140 days, and maintained a very high work pace. They were visited by two other crews (one including the first Polish cosmonaut and the other, the first East German), the first of which arrived only 10 days after the main crew had boarded the space station. The crew also performed a 2-hour EVA to retrieve experiments from the outside of the space station, and unloaded three Progress resupply missions, two of which replenished the station's fuel tanks.

Soyuz 29 (Photon) was launched on June 15, 1978 at 2017 GMT. The crew consisted of Col. Vladimir Kovalenok and Aleksandr Ivanchenkov. By 0600 GMT on June 16, the Soyuz orbit was 314x270 km. The ship docked with Salyut 6 at the forward docking unit on June 17 at 2158 GMT.

It became apparent early in the mission that the scientific focus of the mission would be on materials processing. The first such experiment was conducted on June 23, shortly after the space station's systems had been reactivated.

Only 10 days after the main crew arrived at the station, they had their first guests. Soyuz 30, carrying Col. Petr Klimuk and Maj. Miroslaw Hermaszewski, the first Polish cosmonaut, docked at the aft port on June 27 and stayed until July 5. A variety of joint experiments were conducted, including the Soviet/Polish Sirena materials processing experiment for producing samples of cadmium-mercury-telluride. Special photographic sessions were held as part of the Ziemia joint experiment to observe portions of southern Poland which were simultaneously photographed by aircraft for comparative studies.

On July 9, 4 days after Soyuz 30 departed, Progress 2 docked at the aft port to deliver 2 tons of supplies. Included was 200 liters of fresh water, 600 kg of fuel and oxidizer for refueling the space station (which was accomplished on July 19),. 100 kg of film, and 250 kg of food and equipment. A new "Globus" instrument panel was also brought up to the crew to replace one that had ceased functioning. Finally, Progress 2 delivered the "Kristall" furnace which joined the Splav device for conducting materials processing experiments. After 26 days of joint flight, Progress 2 undocked on August 2.

On July 29, during the time that Salyut 6/Soyuz 29 was docked with Progress 2, the cosmonauts conducted an EVA. Since the Soviets had announced during the previous mission that one task for Progress was delivering air to replace any that escaped while air-locks were open during excercises such as EVA'S, it seems likely that the Progress remained attached so that it could replenish the air supply after the EVA.

The EVA was conducted in order to dismantle and partially replace scientific experiments installed on the surface of the space station for studying micrometeorite conditions and the effects of outer space on the properties of various materials that might be used for space construction. After several days of preparation, which included adjusting the EVA suits to their own heights, the crew was given permission to open the hatch at 0357 GMT on July 29. Ivanchenkov egressed first, while Kovalnenok assisted him from the hatch and relayed pictures back to Earth using a portable camera.

Since part of the EVA took place while the station was in the Earth's shadow, the crew used portable lamps to illuminate their work. The EVA began while the complex was over the Sea of Japan, which allowed 30 minutes of direct communication with the flight control center during predepressurization checks, although not for the EVA itself.

The crew retrieved an instrument for measuring the number of micrometeorite impacts, and samples of duraluminum, titanium, steel, rubber, glass, and ceramic materials which had been emplaced on the outside of the station to study the effects of space conditions on them. In addition, they retrieved the Medusa experiment left by the Soyuz 26/27 crew containing biopolymers. The crew installed a device for studying cosmic radiation (cosmic rays and X-rays).

The crew completed their assigned tasks earlier than expected, and were told that if they were finished they could get back inside. Kovalenok replied that "We would just like to take our time since it is the first time in 45 days that we go out into the 'street' to have a walk." (145)

The crew was in space conditions for 2 hours 5 minutes, although the actual time that they were outside the station has not been reported. Flight directors had envisioned as many as five EVA'S during the course of the flight if gerequired, 146 but no further excursions were made.

On August 2, the crew's 46th day in orbit, the Soviet Union surpassed the United States in terms of cumulative person-hours in space for the first time since 1965.

On August 5, a trajectory correction was made using the station's engines, and 5 days later, on August 10, only 8 days after the departure of Progress 2, Progress 3 docked with Salyut 6 at the aftport. This resupply mission included no fuel, since the Salyut tanks

had just been replenished, and instead brought samples for the materials processing experiments, an East German camera, biological and medical experiments, 280 kg of food (including strawberries, fresh milk, onion and garlic), 190 liters of water, 450 kg of oxygen, and personal items including mail, fur boots, and Ivanchenkov's guitar. After using its engines to raise the complex's orbit to an altitude of 359x343 km, Progress 3 undocked from the space station on August 21 after a comparatively short stay of almost 12 days.

The main crew had only 8 days to relax before they were visited again, this time by the Soyuz 31 crew, Col. Valeriy Bykovskiy and Sigmund Jahn, the first East German cosmonaut. Soyuz 31 docked at the aft port of the station on August 27 and remained until September 3. The joint crew conducted a wide variety of experiments, particularly using the East German MFK-6M and KATE-140 cameras already installed on the station. A joint Soviet/East German materials processing experiment, Berolina, was conducted to produce lead-telluride and bismuth-antimony ampules.

It became evident that the Soviets were planning a very long duration mission for the main crew when they announced that the Soyuz 31 cosmonauts would return to Earth in the Soyuz 29 spacecraft, leaving their fresh Soyuz docked to the space station. The Soyuz 31/29 crew returned to Earth on September 3. The duration for the Soyuz 29 ship was approximately 80 days (1,911 hours, 23 minutes).

Since the Soyuz 31 spacecraft was docked at the aft end of the space station, the only one equipped to handle fuel resupply from Progress spacecraft, the Soyuz had to be switched to the other docking unit. On September 7, the Soyuz 29/31 crew entered Soyuz

31 and undocked, maneuvering the Soyuz so that it trailed the station by 100 to 200 meters. The space station was then commanded to do a 180" pitchover maneuver so that the forward end of the station would point toward Soyuz 31. The crew then redocked at the forward docking port. The Soviets announced that they had been able to complete the maneuver using a minimum of fuel because after Soyuz 31 undocked, they put the space station in a gravity gradient mode. Thus, the station began turning relative to Soyuz 31 and made half the turn just using the force of gravity, and the engines were required only for making the other half of the turn. (147)

For the next month, the crew had a period of relative calm in which they continued their extensive materials processing experiments as well as Earth photography and use of the BST-lm submillimeter telescope. At 0917 on September 20, they passed the old space endurance record of 96 days, and on September 26, Ivanchenkov celebrated his 38th birthday. They did not set a new duration record until late on September 29 when the old record had been exceeded by the 10 percent required by FAI regulations.

The third and final Progress flight for this crew, Progress 4, docked on October 6 at 0100 GMT. Noting that a considerable amount of fuel had been expended in order to correctly position the space station for various experiments (such as picture taking, work with the telescope, and the geophysical program), the Soviets announced that Progress 4 would refuel the space station, an activity performed around October 12. (148 ) In addition, the craft brought food, water, regenerators, and photographic materials. A total of 2 tons of freight were brought to Salyut 6, and the crew unloaded it in half the anticipated time.

On October 20 and 21, the Progress 4 engines were used to correct the station's trajectory. Ordinarily, this type of maneuver is done in a single day, but the Soviets announced that this time they wanted to more accurately define the station's parameters after the first burn, so that the second burn could be more precise. Progress 4 undocked from Salyut 6 on October 24 at 1607 GMT after 18 days of joint operations. It reentered 2 days later.

During the time that they were unloading Progress, the cosmonauts had little time for other experiments, particularly since they were beginning to prepare for their return to Earth which included extensive medical checkups. They began wearing the Chibis suits on October 15, and had an especially thorough physical check-up on October 18. The Kristall experiments continued up until the last minute, however.

Soyuz 29/31 undocked from the space station on November 2 and landed at 1105 GMT, 180 km southeast of Dzezkazgan. The crew had travelled 93 million kilometers in their 140 days spaceflight (3,350 hours, 48 minutes). The Soyuz 31 ship duration was 68 days (1,628 hours 14 minutes).

Ivanchenkov commented that when they landed "we were literally intoxicated by the fresh air," while Kovalenok said that "It was not easy ... to bend and pick up a little lump of earth because of the Earth's gravitation, but I forced myself to do so. And this smell of the Sun-drenched steppe will remain with me forever."

As with the previous long duration crew, the two men wore special trousers after their return to assist in walking. They readapted more quickly than the Soyuz 26/27 crew, and were able to take a walk the second morning, the first time that the crew of a mission

that had lasted over a month had included walks during the "acute" period of readaptation. The crew walked in a park, accompanied by their doctors, and took a total of 140 steps. Their pulse rates rose only 15 to 20 beats, which, according to the doctors, was the same amount as after a phone conversation or supper. (149)

Kovalenok lost 2.3 kg during the mission, while Ivanchenkov lost 3.9 kg. They were the first people to return with erythrocytes born in space. Erythrocytes, which carry oxygen to tissues, have a life cycle of 120 days, and those which were "space-born" were some-what smaller than normal, but appeared to be functioning adequately.

By November 11, Ivanchenkov was playing a limited amount of tennis, although the physicians reported that "coordination is still suffering and there is fatigue at the end of the day." On November 14, the crew was permitted to return to home to Star City, and was welcomed by their international space visitors, Heramaszewski and Jahn.



145. Tass, 1627 GMT, 29 July 78.

146. Tass, 1627 GMT, 29 July 78.

147. Redocking of Soyuz 31 with Salyut 6. SWB, Sept. 13, 1978, SU/5915/C/2.

148. The exact date was not announced. Radio Moscow, 2312 GMT, 10 Oct. 78 reported that oxidizer was being pumped out the fuel tanks, but Tass, 1234 GMT, 11 Oct 78, stated that only "the preparation of the capacities of the station have been completed for refuelling with fuel components." Tass 1233 GMT, 13 Oct 78 said that refuelling operations had been completed.

149. Tass, 1710 GMT, 4 Nov 78.

Page last modified: 10-04-2016 22:15:01 ZULU