Home 1957 Summary
Master List 1958 spacecraft
The 3 spacecraft launched in 1957:
1) Sputnik / PS 1 2) Sputnik 2 / PS 2 3) Vanguard TV-3

Spacecraft Entries

Pre-Sputnik flight
Notes: In September 1956, the U.S. Army launched a Jupiter C missile from Cape Canaveral that could have put a satellite into orbit if it had included a live third stage.
Source: Asif Siddiqi, Challenge To Apollo, p. 153 ;
Sputnik / PS 1
Spacecraft:  Note: at the time of its launch, this spacecraft was simply called “the first artificial Earth satellite”; the name Sputnik was applied much later.  (Russian technicians called it: 1-y ISZ.)  PS stands for Russian's “Prostreishiy Sputnik,” which means the simplest satellite (as opposed to Object D (Sputnik 3) that was supposed to be launched first).
Chronologies: 1957 payload #1 ; 1957-001A (1957 Alpha 2) ; 1st spacecraft ; 2nd space object catalogued.*
Type: Technology
Families: 1st technology satellite (1st Soviet).
Ranks: 1st civilian spacecraft (1st Soviet) ; 1st Soviet spacecraft (1st civilian satellite).
Sponsor: Soviet Union (Korolev's Design Bureau)
Launch: 4 October 1957 at 19h28 UT, from Baykonur Cosmodrome's LC-1, by an A/"Sputnik" (8K71PS M1-1PS) (Formerly: a SL-1 rocket launched from Tyuratam.)
227 km x 945 km x 65,0° x 96,10 min. Wade
228 km x 947 km x 65,1° x 96,17 min. ESAM
227 km x 947 km x 65,1° x 96,2 min. SSP
215 km x 939 km x 65.1° x 96.2 min.  TRW
Decayed: 3 or 4 January 1958 (after 92 days).
Mission: TASS news agency announcement: “For several years, research and experimental designing work had been under way in the Soviet Union to create artificial satellite of the Earth. It has already been reported in the press that the launching of the Earth satellite in the U.S.S.R. was planned in accordance with the program of the International Geophysical Year research.
     At a result of the intensive work of research institutes and designing bureaus, the first Earth artificial satellite in the world has now been created. This first satellite was successfully launched in the U.S.S.R. on Oct. 4.
     According to the preliminary information, the carrier rocket has imparted to the satellite the required orbital velocity of about 8,000 meters a second. At the present time, the satellite is describing elliptical trajectory around the Earth. Its flight will be observed in the rays of the rising and setting sun with the aid of the simplest instruments such as binoculars and spy-glasses.
     According to the circulations which are being supplemented by direct observation the satellite will travel at altitudes up to 900 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. A complete revolution of the satellite will take one hour and thirty-five minutes. Its orbit is inclined at an angle of 65 degrees to the equator plane. Tomorrow the satellite will pass twice over the Moscow area, at 1:46 A.M. and at 6:42 A.M. Moscow time.
     Reports about the subsequent movement of the first artificial satellite launched in the U.S.S.R. on the 4th of October will be issued regularly by the Soviet broadcasting stations.
     The satellite is of spherical shape, fifty-eight centimeters in diameter and weight 83.6 kilograms. It is fitted with steel radio transmitters continuously emitting signals at a frequency of 20.005 and 40.002 megacyles or 15 and 7.5 meters wavelengths respectively.
     The power of the transmitter is such to assure reliable reception by a broad range of amateurs. The signals are of the nature of the telegraphic signals at about zero point three second durations with a pause of the same duration. The signals of one frequency are send during the pause of the signals of the other frequency.
     Scientific stations at various points in the Soviet Union are conducting observation of the satellite and determining elements of its trajectory. Since the density of the atmosphere is not accurately known, there are no data available at the present for determining the exact period of the satellite’s existence or to the point of its reentry into the denser layer of the atmosphere.
     Calculations have shown that owing to the tremendous velocity of the satellite at the end of its existence, it will burn up on reaching the denser layer of the atmosphere at an altitude of several scores of kilometers. 
     The possibility of cosmic flight with the help of rockets was first scientifically substantiated in Russia, as early as the end of the nineteenth century, in the work of the outstanding Russian scientist Konstatin Tsiolkovsky.
     The successful launching of the first man-made Earth satellite makes tremendous contribution to the treasure house of the world science and culture. The scientific experiment staged at such a great height is of great importance to fathoming the properties of cosmic space and for studying earth as part of our solar system.
     The Soviet Union proposes to send up several more artificial satellite during the International Geophysical Year. These will be the bigger and heavier and will help to carry out an extensive program of scientific research. 
     Artificial Earth satellites will pave the way for space travel and it seems that the present generation will witness how the freed and conscious labor of the people of the new socialist society turn even the most daring of man’s dreams into a reality.”
* * * * *
     “Rumors of an impending launch, perhaps in time to celebrate Tsiolkovskiy's birthday on September 17, 1957, began to circulate in Moscow. Although this did not happen, the rumors grew more positive in the first week of October. Even so, the Sputnik shock of Octoer 4 has become a classic case. Not only laymen, but many technical people were caught by surprise with the Soviet announcement of the first satellite. Launched from an unspecified point, it circled the Earth every 96 minutes at an inclination of 65 degrees to the Equator, which meant it passed overhead of most of the inhabited world. It broadcast on two harmonic frequencies close to 20 and 40 megahertz. Battery powered, variations of its cricket-like beeping signal both revealed characteristics of the ionosphere and told of its own temperature changes. Its variations in orbit and eventual decay revealed something of atmospheric density. But its announced weight of 83.6 kilograms, an order of magnitude greater than the planned American satellite, suggested to a number of scientists that a decimal place had been in error. There were still others who could not accept the notion the Soviet Union could be first in a field of advanced technology and they invented elaborate schemes for explaining Soviet trickery to simulate a satellite which they felt did not exist in fact. It also became popular to believe there were constant Soviet attempts to launch which generally failed, and that whatever had been put up was necessarily crude and only for propaganda purposes, and in any ease was built by Germans or stolen from the United States. The assessments were wide of the mark. 
     The first three Sputniks were put up by the same original ICBM system. The whole boostor core vehicle was in orbit, with its weight of about 6 metric tons, measuring 28 meters long, slowly tumbling end over end, almost the size of a railway Pullman sleeper. It was this big rocket which was most easily identified on its passage across the night sky by observers in every continent.” (SSP 1971-75, 1976)
* * * * *
Current overview: Sputnik was the first artificial satellite successfully placed in orbit around the Earth and was launched from the "Baykonur Cosmodrome" at Tyuratam (370 km southwest of the small town of Baykonur) in Kazakhstan. The Russian word "Sputnik" means "companion" ("satellite" in the astronomical sense). It was a 58-cetimeter diameter aluminum sphere that carried four whip-like antennas that were 2.4 to 2.9 meters long. On-orbit dry mass: 83.60 kg. The antennas looked like long "whiskers" pointing to one side. The instruments and electric power sources were housed in a sealed capsule and included transmitters, the emissions taking place in alternating groups of 0.3 second in duration. The downlink telemetry included data on temperatures inside and on the surface of the sphere. The satellite transmitters operated for three weeks, until the on-board chemical batteries failed, and were monitored with intense interest around the world. The spacecraft obtained data pertaining to the density of the upper layers of the atmosphere and the propagation of radio signals in the ionosphere.
     The small but highly polished sphere was barely visible as a sixth magnitude object and was more difficult to follow optically than the rocket booster (which is the 1st space object catalogued) that also reached Earth orbit and was visible from the ground at night as a first magnitude object. Sputnik decayed 92 days after is launch, having completed about 1400 orbits around the Earth over a cumulative distance traveled of 70 million kilometers. The satellite and the launcher were developed by Sergei Korolyov's design bureau at NII-88/Podlipki (now RKK-Energiya).
Notes: The 8K71PS launch vehicle (also designated "A" or "Sputnik") is a minor modification of the experimental 8K71 R-7 ICBM. The launch vehicle earmarked for the satellite was a slightly uprated version of the basic 8K71 ICBM variant, renamed the 8K71 PS. The modifications included omitting the 300-kilogram radio package from the top of the core booster, changing the burn times of the main engines, removing a vibration measurement system, using a special nozzle system to separate the booster from the satellite installed at the top of the core stage, and installing a completely new payload shroud and container, which replaced the warhead configuration. The length of the booster with the new shroud was 29.167 meters, almost four meters shorter than the ICBM version. Because there was some doubt as to whether ground observers would be able to observe the tiny satellite in orbit, Korolev ensured that the central core of the launch vehicle was sufficiently reflective.
     “As the seconds counted down to zero, and Nosov shouted the command for liftoff. Chekunov immediately pressed the launch button. At exactly 2228 hours, 34 seconds, Moscow Time, the engines ignited, and the 272,830-kilogram booster lifted off the pad in a blaze of light and smoke. The five engines of the R-7 generated about 398 tons of thrust at launch. Although the rocket lifted off gracefully, there were problems. Delays in the firing of several engines could have easily resulted in a launch abort. Second, at T+16 seconds, the Tank Emptying System malfunctioned, resulting in a higher than normal kerosene consumption. A turbine failure because of this resulted in main engine cutoff one second prior to the planned moment. Separation from the core stage, however, occurred successfully at T+324.5 seconds, and the 83.6-kilogram PS-1 successfully fell into a free-fall elliptical trajectory. The first human-made object had entered orbit around Earth. A new era had begun. The Soviet media did not ascribe a specific name for the satellite, generally referring to it as Sputnik, the Russian word for "satellite," often also loosely translated as "fellow traveler."”
Sputnik origins: The first Soviet satellite to be launched was the 1-tonne "Object D". But delays that occured during 1956 prompted Korolev to ordered, on 25 November 1956, a young engineer at OKB-1, Nikolay Kutyrkin, to begin designing a new smaller satellite. Another young man, Georgiy Grechko (a twenty-six-year-old engineer who would fly into space from the same site eighteen years later), set about calculating preliminary ballistics on the launch. On January 5, 1957, Korolev asked for permission to launch two small satellites, each with a mass of forty to fifty kilograms, during the period of April-June 1957, that is immediately prior to the beginning of the International Geophysical Year. Each satellite would orbit Earth at attitudes of 225 to 500 kilometers and contain a simple shortwave transmitter with a power source sufficient for ten days of operation. By January 25, 1957, Korolev had approved the initial design details of the satellite officially designated the Simple Satellite No. 1 (PS-1). On February 15, the USSR Council of Ministers formally signed a decree (no. 171-835s) titled "On Measures to Carry out in the International Geophysical Year," agreeing to the new proposal. The two new satellites, PS-1 and PS-2, would weigh approximately 100 kilograms and be launched in April-May 1957, after one or two fully successful R-7 ICBM launches. Meanwhile, the Object D launch was pushed back to April 1958. In the summer, Korolev, Glushko, and the other chief designers had informally targeted the satellite launch for the 100th anniversary of Tsiolkovskiy's birth on September 17th, but achieving this date proved increasingly unrealistic.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1957 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's 1957-001B ; Encyclopédie sociétique de l'astronautique mondial, 1971, Annexe 1 ; Congressional Research Service, Soviet Space Program 1971-75, 1976, p. 82-3, 84, 554 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 65 ; Asif Siddiqi, Challenge To Apollo, p. 154-5, 164, 165, 167 ; Gunter's Sputnik 1 (PS-1 #1) : Celestrak's Satcat=1957 ;
Sputnik 2 / PS 2
Spacecraft:  Note: at the time of its launch, this spacecraft was simply called “the second artificial Earth satellite”; the name Sputnik 2 was applied much later. (Russian technicians called it: 2-y ISZ.) PS stands for Russian's “Prostreishiy Sputnik,” which means the simplest satellite.
Chronologies: 1957 payload #2 ; 1957-002A (1957 Beta 1) ; 2nd spacecraft ; 3rd space object catalogued.*
Type: Technology, Earth/space Sciences and biology
Families: 1st biosatellite (1st Soviet).
Ranks: 2nd civilian spacecraft (2nd Soviet) ; 2nd Soviet spacecraft (2nd civilian satellite).
Sponsor: Soviet Union (Korolev's Design Bureau)
Launch: 3 November 1957 at 2h31 UT, from Baykonur Cosmodrome's LC-1, by an A/"Sputnik" (8K71PS M1-2PS). (Formerly: a SL-1 rocket launched from Tyuratam.)
212 km x 1,660 km x 65.3° x 103.70 min. Wade
225 km x 1,671 km x 65.3° x 103.75 min. ESAM
225 km x 1,621 km x 65.3° x 103.7 min. SSP
212 km x 1,660 km x 65.3° x 103.7 min.  TRW
Decayed: 14 April 1958 (after 162 days).
Mission: First TASS news agency announcement: “The second Earth artificial satellite was launched in the Soviet Union on 3rd November. According to the available information, it represents the last stage of the carrier rocket housing containers with scientific instruments and radio transmitters.
     The containers with apparatus weight 508.3 kilograms. The satellite carries a container with an experimental animal.
     The satellite had been given an orbital velocity of about 8,000 meters per second. Its maximum distance from the Earth exceed 1,500 kilometers. The time of a complete circuit around the Earth is approximately 102 minutes.”

Second TASS Announcement: “In conformity with the International Geophysical Year program for studying the Earth upper layers of the atmosphere as well as the physical processes and conditions of life in cosmic space, the second artificial Earth satellite was launched in the Soviet Union on 3rd November.
     The second artificial satellite developed in the U.S.S.R. represents the last stage of the carrier rocket housing containers with scientific instruments.
     The second artificial satellite carries instruments for studying solar radiation in the short wave ultra violet and X-ray regions of the spectrum, instruments for cosmic ray studies, instruments for studying the temperature and pressure, and airtight container with an experimental animal, an air conditioning system, food and instruments for studying life processes in the conditions of cosmic space, measuring instruments for transmitting the results of scientific instruments to the Earth, two radio transmitters operating on frequencies of 40.002 and 20.005 kilocycles and the necessary power sources.
     The total weight of the apparatus mentioned above, the experimental animal and power sources amount to 508.3 kilograms.
     According to observations, the satellite has been given an orbital velocity of about 8,000 meters per seconds. 
     According to calculations which are being verified at present by direct observations, the maximum distance of the satellite from the Earth’s surface exceeds 1,500 kilometers.
     The time of one complete circuit is about one hour 42 minutes. The angle of the incline of the orbit to the plane of equator is approximately 65 degress. 
     According to the information received from the satellite, the scientific instruments and control of the life processes of the animal are proceeding normally.
     On 3rd November, the second artificial satellite passed over Moscow at 7:20 A.M. and will appear again at 9:05 A.M.
     The signal of the satellite’s radio transmitter on the 20.005 kilocycles are given in the form of telegraph beats lasting about 0.3 seconds with a pause of equal duration. The 40.002 kilocycles transmitter emits continually.
     By the successful launch of the second artificial Earth satellite with diverse scientific instruments and an experimental animal, Soviet scientists are extending the program of studying cosmic space and upper layers of the atmosphere. The unfathomed natural proceses going on in the cosmos will now become more understandable to man. 
     The workers of research institutes, designing bureaus, the testers and industry workers who created the second Soviet artificial satellite of the Earth dedicate its launching to the fortieth anniversary of the great October Socialist revolution.”

* * * * *
     “While the first Soviet satellite was a bad shock, its simple structure, limited battery power and lack of instrumentation (other than its beacons) could be contrasted with the more elaborate, miniaturized instrumentation promised for Vanguard. However, on November 3, 1957, the second Soviet payload placed in orbit was announced as weighing 508.3 kilograms, and it carried a respectable range of geophysical instrumentation. Also, it contained a life support system and returned biomedical data for a week from the dog Layka. This supplied basic data for planned manned flights. The life support system showed it could function remotely. Data were returned on the effects of weightlessness and G load during launch, on radiation, and on temperature changes. Sensors measured some kinds of radiation and micrometeorite impacts. Also, the Russians revealed what was evident to visual observers: the payload remained attached to a much larger spent rocket casing, so that the total weight was probably on the order of 6.5 metric tons.
     The first three Sputniks were put up by the same original ICBM system. The whole boostor core vehicle was in orbit, with its weight of about 6 metric tons, measuring 28 meters long, slowly tumbling end over end, almost the size of a railway Pullman sleeper. It was this big rocket which was most easily identified on its passage across the night sky by observers in every continent.” (SSP 1971-75, 1976)
* * * * *
Current overview: Sputnik 2 was the first biological spacecraft, carrying a dog. It was a 4-meter high cone-shaped capsule with a base diameter of 2 meters, weighinbg 508.30 kg. It contained several compartments for radio transmitters, a telemetry system, a programming unit, a regeneration and temperature control system for the cabin, and scientific instruments for measuring solar radiation (ultraviolet and x-ray emissions) and cosmic rays. A separate sealed cabin contained the experimental dog Laika - a stray-dog found on the streets of Moscow. A television camera was mounted in the passenger compartment to observe Laika. The camera could transmit 100-line video frames at 10 frames/second. The spacecraft provided data on the behavior of a living organism in the space environment.
     The first being to travel to outer space was a female part-Samoyed terrier originally named Kudryavka (Little Curly) but later renamed Laika (Barker). She weighed about 6 kg. The pressurized cabin on Sputnik 2 allowed enough room for her to lie down or stand and was padded. An air regeneration system provided oxygen; food and water were dispensed in a gelatinized form. Laika was fitted with a harness, a bag to collect waste, and electrodes to monitor her vital signs. The early telemetry indicated Laika was agitated but eating her food. There was no capability of returning a payload safely to Earth at this time, so it was planned that Laika would run out of oxygen after about 10 days of orbiting the Earth.
     After reaching orbit, the nose cone was jettisoned successfully but the Blok A last-stage of the booster did not separate as planned. This inhibited the operation of the thermal control system. Additionally, some of the thermal insulation tore loose so the interior temperatures reached 40°C. Doctors monitoring Layka in day following the launch began to notice a significant rise in the internal temperature of the biological compartment, apparently a result of inefficiencies and malfunctions in the spacecraft's thermal control system. For almost the entire period of her flight, Layka suffered a modicum of discomfort because of these high temperatures. The poor dog finally succumbed to heat exhaustion on the fourth day of the mission on November 7. Later analysis on the ground based on incoming telemetry confirmed the suspicions of doctors that overheating had in fact caused her death. Since Sputnik 2 had no descent capsule, the dog burned up along with the satellite as it returned to the Earth's atmosphere after 162 days in orbit.
     The Soviets revealed one striking piece of information unrelated to Layka many years later. The scientific instruments on the PS-2 had performed without any problems for a week and had detected evidence for the existence of a radiation belt around Earth. Soviet scientists on the ground who studied the data were, however, "circumspect in their interpretations" of the information. In the end. the first U,S. satellite, Explorer 1, returned the same data a few months later, and the United States claimed one of the great discoveries of the early space age: the existence of a continuous band of radiation belts around Earth, the van Allen radiation belts. 
Origins of 
Sputnik 2
“Korolev, who returned to Moscow on 5 October 1957 after the successful launch of Sputnik 1, elected to play with an ambitious idea to sustain the successes of the new space program. Soviet leader Khrushchev immediately called him to find out all the details of the Sputnik launch. During the conversation, he asked casually whether Korolev could launch another satellite, possibly in time for the 40th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution on November 7. Without any hesitation, Korolev suggested that his team could launch a dog. Khrushchev was ecstatic about the idea, stipulating only that the launch had to take place by the holiday. The official order for the launch was issued on October 12, 1957, eight days after the launch of the first Sputnik. The new satellite was designated Simple Satellite No. 2 (PS-2), later named the "Second Artificial Satellite" in the Soviet press. Technical operations on the construction of the PS-2 formally began on October 10. No provision was made to return the dog from orbit because neither the technology nor the time was available to prepare for such a mission. Doctors expected to put the animal to sleep with an automated injection of poison prior to oxygen depletion in the life support system.  The total mass of the payload was 508 kilograms, a significant leap from the modest 84-kg PS-1.”
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1957 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's 1957-002A ; Encyclopédie sociétique de l'astronautique mondial, 1971, Annexe 1 ; Congressional Research Service, Soviet Space Program 1971-75, 1976, p. 83, 84, 554 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 65 ; Asif Siddiqi, Challenge To Apollo, p. 171-2, 173, 175 ; Gunter's Sputnik 2 (PS-2 #1) : Celestrak's Satcat=1957 ;
Vanguard TV-3
Spacecraft:  Vanguard TV-3 / Vanguard Test Satellite
Chronologies: 1957 payload #3 ; 1957 1st loss ; 3rd spacecraft.
Type: Technology
Families 2nd technology satellite (1st American) ; 1st failure.
Ranks: 3rd civilian spacecraft (1st American) ; 1st American spacecraft (1st civilian satellite)
Sponsor: U.S. NRL / Naval Research Laboratory
Launch: 6 December 1957 at 16h45 UT, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-18A, by a Vanguard (TV-3).
Orbit: None.
Destroyed: 6 December 1957.
Mission: First U.S. orbital attempt. The Vanguard TV-3 launcher was the first with three live stages. It failed to launch a test satellite weighting 1.35 kg, when it lost thrust after only 2 seconds after liif-off. The satellite was thrown clear from the explosion and is now on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.
Origins of the Vanguard program: In the spring of 1955, scientific interest in orbiting an artificial Earth satellite for International Geophysical Year (IGY, 1st July 1957 to 31 December 1958) was growing. Several launch vehicle proposals were developed for placing a U.S. satellite in orbit. The proposal chosen in August 1955 to be the U.S. satellite project for the IGY was the one offered by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), based on Milton W. Rosen's concept of a new launch vehicle combining the Viking first Stage, Aerobee second stage, and a new third stage. Rosen became technical director of the new project at NRL.
     The name "Vanguard" applied to both the first satellite series undertaken by the United States and to the launch vehicle developed to orbit the satellites. It was suggested by Rosen's wife, Josephine. Rosen forwarded the name to his NRL superiors, who approved it. The Chief of Naval Research approved the name 16 September 1956. The word denoted that which is "out ahead, in the forefront."
     On 19 May 1971, the Vanguard satellite, which had been thrown clear when vehicle exploded on pad, was presented to National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, by Dr. John P. Hagen, former director of U.S. IGY satellite program . 
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1957 Chronology and Vanguard page ; National Space Science Data Center's VAGT3 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 65 ; Vanguard, A History (NASA SP-4202) Chapter 11 ; NASM Vanguard article ; KSC's Vanguard Fact Sheet ; Origins of NASA Names (NASA SP-4402) Chapter 2 p. 78-79;  Astronautics And Aeronautics, 1971, p. 135 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 1255 ; Gunter's Vanguard (6.5in) :
* The first space object catalogued by NORAD was the carrier rocket stage that was orbited while carrying the first Sputnik satellite (the second object catalogued). The third space object catalogued was the second Sputnik, but Vanguard was not cataloged since it was not orbited.

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