Zarya - Soviet, Russian and International Spaceflight
carousel image
 
Sputniks into Orbit


Scarborough, UK
2014 Oct 23
Thursday, Day 296

Maintained by:








Sputnik - The Soviet Union's Traveller in Space

Following World War 2, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America embarked on rapid programmes of development in respect of missiles and nuclear weapons. While the US aimed its missile technology at the still-developing hydrogen bomb based on nuclear fusion, the USSR forged ahead on the basis of delivering the heavier fission bomb as used during the War. The result was the R-7 missile capable of carrying a 5 tonne warhead.

R-7 Sputnik RocketChief Designer Sergei Korolyov realised that the rocket would also be capable of orbiting a one and a half tonne satellite and consequently proposed that it should be used for such a mission.

Korolyov's project was overtaken by events as the US built up to its own Project Vanguard satellite launch. In order to ensure that the USSR was first into space, work on building Korolyov's satellite was suspended temporarily while the first Sputnik was put together in a matter of weeks. Sputnik was launched 1957 October 4 to become the world's first artificial satellite.

Sputnik's success led to the Soviet leadership, Nikita Khruschev in particular, demanding more. The second Sputnik was put together just as quickly and without overall plans. It used the first Sputnik's backup hardware as a starting point, such was the haste to get into orbit before November 7 - the fortieth anniversary date of the Great October Revolution.

Sputnik 2, with the dog 'Laika' aboard was not designed to return safely to Earth so the animal was destined to die in orbit. In the event she probably suffered a painful death as the cabin overheated. However the mission did prove that a living creature could survive the journey into orbit - a prelude to a human being making the trip.

After one launch failure, Korolyov's original design of satellite finally achieved orbit 1958 May 15 and was give the name "Sputnik 3".

Date Time (UTC) Event
1953 Apr 1 USSR Council of Ministers approves development of the R-7 rocket as a missile to carry nuclear warheads
1954 May 26 Chief Designer Sergei Korolyov proposes that the Soviet Union launches an artificial satellite of the Earth using the R-7 rocket
1955 Jan 12 Construction starts on the site which will become the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Khazakstan - approx 47 degrees north latitude, 63 degrees east longitude
1956 Jan 30 USSR Council of Ministers Approves programme to launch an artificial Earth satellite during the International Geophysical Year IGY that begins mid-1957
1956 Sep 25 Sergei Korolyov finalises the mission and design parameters of his artificial satellite, 'Object-D' - a geophysical observatory
1957 Jan 5 In order to beat the USA into orbit, Korolyov suggests launching two small satellites during 1957, ahead of the one he originally proposed
1957 Feb 15 Soviet government agrees to Korolyov accelerated satellite programme
1957 May 15 15:00 R-7 rocket (#1) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome aimed at a ballistic trajectory towards the Pacific Ocean - one of the strap-on boosters detaches 98 seconds into the mission and the rocket is destroyed
1957 Jul 12 11:53 After three previous attempts, R-7 rocket (#2) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome aimed at a ballistic trajectory towards the Pacific Ocean - the rocket disintegrates 33 seconds into the mission
1957 Aug 21 11:25 R-7 rocket (#3) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome into a ballistic trajectory towards the Pacific Ocean - the mission is a success, although the dummy nuclear warhead being carried breaks up as it re-enters the atmosphere off the Kamchatka peninsula
1957 Sep 7 09:39 R-7 rocket (#4) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome into a ballistic trajectory towards the Pacific Ocean - the mission is a success
1957 Oct 1 R-7 rocket complete with PS-1 satellite rolled out to the launch pad
1957 Oct 4 19:28 World first artificial satellite Sputnik' launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Sputnik (R-7) rocket into 215 x 939 kilometre orbit at 65.1 degrees inclination
1957 Oct 12 Following the success of Sputnik, Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev instructs Korolyov team to produce a more-impressive mission to mark the 40th anniversary of the Soviet Revolution - work begins on a satellite which will carry a dog, using the backup hardware for PS-1 as a starting point
1957 Oct 25 Radio transmissions from Sputnik (PS-1) cease when its electrical batteries are exhausted
1957 Nov 3 02:30 Sputnik 2 (PS-2) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Sputnik (R-7) rocket into 211 x 1659 kilometre orbit at 65.3 degrees inclination with the dog 'Laika' aboard - by design, the dog cabin and instrument unit remain attached to the launching rocket - some thermal insulation comes loose and subjects Laika to severely high temperatures
1957 Nov 4 Laika dies through the effects of her cabin aboard Sputnik 2 overheating
1957 Nov 10 Radio transmissions from Sputnik 2 cease when its electrical batteries are exhausted
1958 Jan 4 Sputnik (PS-1) enters the Earth atmosphere as a result of natural decay of the orbit through air drag, and is destroyed by frictional heating
1958 Apr 14 01:50 Approximate time - Sputnik 2 enters the Earth atmosphere over the Caribbean Sea as a result of natural decay of the orbit through air drag, and is destroyed by frictional heating
1958 Apr 27 09:01 Korolyov 'Object-D' satellite launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Sputnik (R-7) rocket - the attempt fails when the launcher disintegrates 88 seconds into the mission
1958 May 15 07:00 Sputnik 3 - backup of Korolyov Object-D satellite - launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Sputnik (R-7) rocket into 216 x 1863 kilometre orbit at 65.2 degrees inclination - an immediate failure of its onboard tape recorder means that data can only be gathered when it is within range of a ground-based radio receiving station
1959 May 1 Sputnik 3 ceases to return useful information although its radio transmitter continues to function - powered by solar cells
1960 Apr 6 Sputnik 3 enters the Earth atmosphere as a result of natural decay of the orbit through air drag, and is destroyed by frictional heating - its radio transmitter is reportedly still operable
1997 Nov 3 04:05 In the course of their space walk, Solovyov and Vinogradov release 'Sputnik 40', a student-built 1/3 scale model of Sputnik, into orbit
Copyright © Robert Christy, all rights reserved
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited