Valery Bykovsky

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Valery Bykovsky
Valery Fyodorovich Bykovsky

(1934-08-02)2 August 1934
Died27 March 2019(2019-03-27) (aged 84)
AwardsHero of the Soviet Union
Order of Lenin
Space career
RankMajor General, Soviet Air Force
Time in space
20d 17h 48m
Selection1960 Air Force Group 1
MissionsVostok 5, Soyuz 22, Soyuz 31/Soyuz 29
Mission insignia
Soyuz 31 mission patch.svg

Valery Fyodorovich Bykovsky (Russian: Вале́рий Фёдорович Быко́вский; 2 August 1934 – 27 March 2019) was a Soviet cosmonaut who flew on three space flights: Vostok 5, Soyuz 22, and Soyuz 31. He was also backup for Vostok 3 and Soyuz 37.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Pavlovsky Posad, Russia, on 2 August 1934, Bykovsky was the son of Fyodor Fyodorovich Bykovsky and Klavdia Ivanova. He had an older sister named Margarita born three years earlier. When he was four years old, World War II began, forcing the family to move to Kuybyshev, and later again to Syzran, before moving back to near Moscow.[1] By the age of 14, Bykovsky wanted to attend naval school; however, his father was not a proponent of this idea and encouraged him to stay at his school. A few days later Bykovsky attended a lecture on the Soviet Air Force Club which inspired him to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot. He began flight theory lessons when he was 16 at the Moscow City Aviation Club.[1]

Bykovsky graduated from aviation school aged 18 and enrolled in the Kachinsk Military Aviation Academy.[1] He graduated from the academy at 21 years old and received the rank of lieutenant. At 25 he became a jet fighter pilot and later became a pilot and parachute instructor with over 72 jumps by the time he began his cosmonaut training.[1]

Cosmonaut career[edit]

Vostok programme[edit]

At 26 years old he started his cosmonaut training at Zhukovsky Military Engineering academy.[1] His first assignment was as the backup pilot of Vostok 3.[2]

Bykovsky and Valentina Tereshkova with children, ca 1963

Bykovsky launched on the Vostok 5 mission on 14 June 1963. During the flight he conducted experiments, such as photographing the Earth's horizon and documenting the growth of peas. Two days into his flight, Valentina Tereshkova flew the Vostok 6 spacecraft within five kilometers of his spacecraft.[3] He set a space endurance record when he spent five days in orbit aboard Vostok 5 in 1963[4] where his call-sign was "Hawk" (Russian: Ястреб).[5] Although this flight duration has since been surpassed by crews of more than one person, it remains the endurance record for a solo spaceflight.[6][3] During his orbit aboard Vostok 5, Bykovsky was also made a member of the communist party.[1] He was promoted to colonel on 30 April 1966.[7]

Soyuz programme[edit]

Bykovsky was assigned to be the commander of the original Soyuz 2 mission, which was planned to be launched soon after Soyuz 1. Two of the three crewmen from Soyuz 2 were to conduct an extravehicular activity (EVA) and enter Soyuz 1. During the Soyuz 1 flight, many concurrent problems forced mission control to command an early reentry of the spacecraft. This also caused them to cancel the Soyuz 2 flight as no rendezvous could occur. On Soyuz 1, tube holding the main parachute was too rough, which created enough friction that the drogue parachute was unable to pull it out. The spacecraft struck the ground at approximately 93 miles per hour, killing Vladimir Komarov. As the Soyuz 2 capsule was made with the same specifications as Soyuz 1, if the mission had flown Bykovsky and his crew would have been killed.[8]

He flew the Soyuz 22 mission with Vladimir Aksyonov. The mission launched on 15 September 1976. The capsule was originally a backup for the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project (ASTP). The main purpose of the mission was studying and practising Earth observation techniques.[9]

Valery Bykovsky and East German astronaut Sigmund Jähn after the Soyuz 31 mission

He flew the Soyuz 31 mission to the Salyut 6 space station with the East German Sigmund Jähn. It was launched on 26 August 1978. They joined two other cosmonauts on the space station that had arrived on Soyuz 29. The four conducted biological experiments on themselves during their stay. Bykovsky and Jähn undocked from the station in the Soyuz 29 capsule on 3 September and landed back on Earth later that day.[10]: 111 

Post-cosmonaut career[edit]

Much of his later career was devoted to promoting the Intercosmos programme amongst the world's Socialist nations. Due to his age, he was moved from active duty to the reserves in 1988.[11] He became the director of the Centre of Soviet Science & Culture in East Berlin after the Soyuz 31 mission.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Bykovsky was a keen sportsman:

Service in the Air Force made us strong, both physically and morally. All of us cosmonauts took up sports and PT seriously when we served in the Air Force. I know that Yuri Gagarin was fond of ice hockey. He liked to play goal keeper. Gherman Titov was a gymnastics enthusiast, Andriyan Nikolayev liked skiing, Pavel Popovich went in for weight lifting. I don't think I am wrong when I say that sports became a fixture in the life of the cosmonauts.[13]

He was married to Valentina Mikhailovna Sukhova; they had two sons.[14] He died on 27 March 2019.[6][14]

Honours and awards[edit]

A 1963 Soviet postage stamp showing Valery Bykovsky and Vostok 5


  1. ^ a b c d e f Burgess, Hall, Collin, Rex (2009). The First Soviet Cosmonaut Team:Their Lives and Legacies. Praxis Publishing. pp. 37–39. ISBN 978-0-387-84823-5.
  2. ^ "Joint flight of Vostok-3 and Vostok-4". Russian Space Web. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Vostok cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky, who flew three missions, dies". collectSPACE. 27 March 2019.
  4. ^ "First Girl in Space Gets a Rousing Welcome from Communist Women". The Town Talk. Alexandria, Louisiana. UPI. 24 June 1953. p. 8 – via
  5. ^ "Call signs of astronauts".
  6. ^ a b c Korobatov, Yaroslav (27 March 2019). Ушёл Валерий Быковский — космонавт, на которого не действовала невесомость [Valery Bykovsky is gone - an astronaut who was not affected by weightlessness] (in Russian). Komsomolskaya Pravda.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Биография Валерия Быковского [Biography of Valery Bykovsky] (in Russian). TASS. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  8. ^ Reichl, Eugen (2019). The Soviet Space Program, The Lunar Mission Years: 1959–1976. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing. pp. 100–102. ISBN 978-0-7643-5675-9. LCCN 2017955750.
  9. ^ "Soyuz 22". Space Facts. 20 April 2018. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  10. ^ Clark, Phillip (1988). The Soviet Manned Space Program. New York: Orion Books, a division of Crown Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-517-56954-X.
  11. ^ "Ушёл из жизни Валерий Быковский" [Valery Bykovsky passed away]. Roscosmos. 27 March 2019. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  12. ^ Harvey, Brian (2007). Soviet and Russian Lunar Exploration. Springer. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-387-21896-0. LCCN 2006935327.
  13. ^ Bykovsky quoted in Gavrilin, pp. 26–7
  14. ^ a b Paul Rincon (28 March 2019). "Russian space pioneer Valery Bykovsky dies aged 84". BBC. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  15. ^ "Valery Bykovsky". (in Russian).
  16. ^ a b "First Girl in Space Gets a Rousing Welcome from Communist Women". The Town Talk. Alexandria, Louisiana. UPI. 24 June 1953. p. 8 – via
  17. ^ "Space Couple Wins Title". The Evening Sun. Associated Press. 20 June 1963. p. 3 – via
  18. ^ Valery Feodorovich BYKOVSKY on
  19. ^ "FAI Awards". FÉDÉRATION AÉRONAUTIQUE INTERNATIONALE. 10 October 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2019.


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