Zarya - Soviet, Russian and International Spaceflight
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Sputniks into Orbit

Scarborough, UK
2014 Apr 23
Wednesday, Day 113

Maintained by:

Sputnik 3

Soviet Sputnik 3 was launched on May 15, under the International Geophysical Year programme. It is designed to study the upper layers of the atmosphere and cosmic space.

It was orbited at an angle of 65 degrees to the equator. Initial reports place its apogee at 1,880 kilometres. It takes 106 minutes to circuit the Earth. It was detached from the carrier rocket, which is travelling along a similar orbit.

Photo of Sputnik 3 exhibition modelAt 1.41 p.m. (Moscow time) on May 15 it passed over Moscow from the south-west to the north-east.

Soviet Sputnik 3 is in the form of a cone 1.73 metres in diameter at the base and 3.57 metres in height, excluding the protruding antennae.

It weighs 1,327 kilogrammes. The weight of the instruments for scientific research, the radio measuring apparatus and the sources of electric power aboard weigh 968 kilogrammes.

Instruments are installed in the sputnik to study the pressure and composition of the atmosphere in its upper layers; the concentration of positive ions; the magnitudes of the electric charge of the sputnik and the tension of the Earth's electrostatic field; the tension of the Earth's magnetic field; the intensity of the Sun's corpuscular radiation; the composition and variation of primary cosmic radiation, the distribution of the photons and heavy nuclei in cosmic rays; micrometeors; the temperature in the sputnik and on its surface.

The programme planned for the sputnik will make it possible to study a number of geophysical and physical problems with the aid of the instruments taken up by the sputnik to great heights.

A multi-channel telemetering system with a high selectivity has been installed on the sputnik to transmit the data to recording stations on the Earth. The sputnik is equipped with special transmitting devices which enable the co-ordinates of its trajectory to be measured.

With the aim of enlisting broad scientific circles in the observation of Soviet Sputnik III, a radio-transmitter has been installed in it which constantly emits powerful telegraph-beats on a frequency of 20.005 megacycles lasting 150-300 milliseconds.

A programme device controls the operation of the scientific and radiotechnical instruments aboard the sputnik. Apart from electro-chemical batteries the sputnik is equipped with solar batteries.

A thermal regulating system which, with the aid of special devices, changes the coefficients of radiation and reflection of the sputnik's surface serves to ensure a temperature regime for the normal operation of the apparatus on board.

Observations of the sputnik, registration of the scientific data and the measurement of the co-ordinates of its trajectory are being carried out by specially organised stations equipped with great quantities of radiotechnical and optical instruments. The data on the sputnik's co-ordinates received by the radar stations are processed automatically, reduced to a standard astronomic time and transmitted by communication lines to a co-ordinating and calculating centre.

The measurements received by the calculating centre from the various stations are automatically fed into high-speed electronic computers which determine the basic parameters of the sputnik's orbit and the calculations of its ephemerides. A great number of optical observation posts, astronomical observatories, radio clubs and radio amateurs are engaged in the observation of the sputnik.

The sputnik and its carrier rocket will be visible in the rays of the rising and setting sun.

Soviet Sputnik 3 - a new stage in the extensive research of the upper layers of the atmosphere and in the study of cosmic space - is a major contribution by Soviet scientists to world science.

Date Time (UTC) Event
1954 May 26 Chief Designer Sergei Korolyov proposes that the Soviet Union launches an artificial satellite of the Earth using the R-7 rocket
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
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
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