by: Aaron George Bailey
Sherwood, Arkansas USA
This Web Page was created on October 4, 2007

Sputnik-1 - Russia's Baby Moon Surprise
In contrast, the U.S. was planning to orbit a softball size satellite called Vanguard, by using a small rocket
with the same name.  Vanguard was a feeble rocket when compared to the mighty Russian rocket which
was used to launch Sputnik.  Its state of readiness was rushed ahead to meet the Sputnik challenge.  In
early December 1957, America's answer to Sputnik set fueled and ready on its Cape Canaveral launch
pad.  It was a desperate attempt to get on the field of play, called an "all up test flight" since never before
had the three stage Vanguard rocket been flight tested.  On December 6th the countdown reached zero
and in full view of the world press the firing button was pushed.  The spindly Vanguard rocket struggled a
few feet off the pad, then stalled and collapsed back into a spectacular explosion.  The tiny Vanguard
satellite survived and tumbled out of the inferno with its radio transmitter still beeping.
 Newspapers, in a
twist of Cold War humor, named the American satellite "Flopnik" and the Soviets rubbed in the failure by
suggesting that the U.S. be given technical assistance to fulfill their satellite program.  
The flamboyant
Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev loved to boast about the superiority of Soviet rocketry and pointed out
the U.S. was trying to orbit “tiny grapefruit” size satellites as compared to the much heavier Russian
spacecraft.  He pressed his attack with the unsettling comment “Now the United States sleeps under a
Soviet moon”. Khrushchev fit the mold for leader of a closed secretive society.  Throughout his political
career he would jack up the level of Cold War fear even more, all along threatening the United States with
his nuclear missiles.  He would later go on to boast
"the Soviet Union will turn out nuclear tipped missiles
in large numbers, like sausages" (4A) and commenting on another occasion about the accuracy of aim,
"Soviet missiles can hit a fly".   But in the Fall of 1957 the arrogance of his threats went unchecked,
because America didn't have a nuclear tipped ICBM to swagger.  The Russian lead in rocketry was due do
a high level decision in the early fifties to use ballistic missiles for delivery of nuclear bombs as opposed
to the American choice of using a massive
B-47 and B-52 bomber fleet.  Early development of what would
become the R-7, the worlds first ICBM, was key in giving the USSR an initial lead over the United States.  
The R-7 ICBM by design was a heavy lifter in order to heave bulky thermonuclear bombs over continental
distances but such a vehicle could be easily modified for duty as a satellite launcher. Clearly the Soviet
Union had a stellar advantage over America.  
The Cold War was heating up and Premier Khrushchev was
basking in the propaganda of it all, especially the new Space Age, after all, it was splendid Soviet science
which gave the world the first earth orbiting satellite.  Interestingly, Premier Khrushchev was
unimpressed when he first got a phone call reporting the successful orbiting of Sputnik.  Initially he was
only interested in the lift capacity and performance of the R-7 as a military rocket and didn't care that
much about the satellite project.  Actually, the international reaction to Sputnik surprised him, and he
quickly recognized the political and propaganda value of space flight when  the Soviet Union was flooded
by a wave of prestige.
(4A)  Being a good Cold War politician, Khrushchev keenly put space flight into his
bag of propaganda tools.  Indeed, Soviet space science captured the imagination of humankind, the Cold
War had its basis in fear but it was also very much about winning over the hearts and minds of peoples of
the world.  Khrushchev was aware of this as he exploited the Soviet Unions position with his vision of an
even more magnificent spaceship.  At a reception in Moscow, soon after the launch of Sputnik, he
Chief Designer Sergi Korolev and demanded another space wonder to impress the world.  
Korolev was the father of Sputnik and the R-7 rocket and his creative genius had not been idle.  He
proposed a plan using spare hardware which Khrushchev eagerly endorsed.  They agreed, this time a
living being should ride the rocket into orbit.  Premier Khrushchev must have grinned, knowing that soon
the Americans would go to sleep under a second Soviet moon.  Like a boxer, he would deliver the
psychological shock of a one, two, punch, on the Americans.  Khrushchev directed Korolev and his rocket
team to proceed with haste and orbit the new Sputnik in time for the celebration of the
40th anniversary
of the October Revolution.(2)  It was early October and with so little lead time this early November liftoff
date bordered on being an unrealistic goal.  The new satellite project was designated PS-2 meaning
Preliminary Satellite Two.
Already in place at the Baikonur launch site was a spare satellite from the
Sputnik one mission and a leftover rocket would soon arrive by rail transport.  This backup hardware
would provide the starting point for the new spacecraft.  In the rush to meet the deadline, the Sputnik 2
team had to discard orderly design criteria.  Design engineers moved into workshops and worked directly
with the manufacturing technicians.  Using shortcuts, they built and modified complex hardware by verbal
instructions, penciled sketches and scribbled notes.
(2)  To save time, the backup sphere for Sputnik one,
minus its four rod antennas, was mounted within the tapered  framework of sputnik 2s nose, providing the
20.005Mhz one watt beacon transmitter and the 40.002Mhz, modified for steady carrier, transmitter.(2)  
Radio tracking on 40.002 MHz could be more easily derived through Doppler study of a steady carrier
signal. The pressurized, barrel size animal cabin was a modified off the self item like those used in the
early fifties for
short up and down flights with the test animal being parachuted to a safe recovery.  During
1951 the dogs Dezik and Tsygan were sent to 100 kilometers altitude in the same type of pod that was now
being used for PS-2. In the Sputnik 2 design, the animal cabin would be left attached to the center rocket
stage.  Keeping the small payload and big core stage together in orbit would make optical tracking of
Sputnik 2 easier. It was thought, that this configuration would allow the huge metal mass of the rocket
body to act like a heat sink, by conducting heat away from the animal cabin.- (NOTE- For better of worse,
this heat sink effect could also conduct heat TOWARD the animal cabin.) This arrangement further added
to the simplicity of design by allowing the payload to share the rockets "TRAL-D
(3E)" telemetry system.  
After reaching orbit the rockets VHF telemetry unit, which let controllers monitor booster performance
and staging during climb out, would also provide biomedical data from the test animal in weightlessness.  
Although this system demanded a lot of battery power and was only switched on periodically by an on-
board timer.  At this point in time, Soviet rocketry was capable of lofting heavy satellites into orbit, but
they did not yet know how to return a space capsule safely to earth, without burning it to a cinder from
atmospheric friction.  The directive was clear, the crafty Khrushchev, having moved up in the Soviet
system from peasant to Premier, was not the type of man to disappoint.  Even his formal diplomatic
persona didn't handle disappointment very well.  
During a later visit to the United Nations he vented his
disappointment by removing his shoe and pounding  it on the table when he had to listen to speeches
that were not to his liking.  The spectacle was ongoing as
Mr K gave his shoe a rest and then began
pounding on the table with both fists.  Chief Designer Korolev had to give progress reports directly to the
temperamental Premier and Khrushchev also had influential control over funding for Korolev's beloved
space research.
(4B)  For poor Korolev this translated into, no timely delivery on specified space
spectaculars, then possibly no future funding for space research.  Korolev knew very well that military
rocket development had top priority and received the lion's share of the budget and early satellite
projects got secondary funding.  So the Korolev team worked to fulfill the wishes of Premier Khrushchev
in order to keep alive their dream of a long term space program.  Perhaps someday, there would be less
bureaucratic meddling so that research could be carried out in a more logical step by step method.
The chemistry between these two powerful personalities, Khrushchev the scheming Cold War politician
and Korolev the rocket engineer, molded the early Soviet space program and set the precedence of
space shots.  The embryonic space age quickly evolved into a game of firsts.  
Khrushchev beamed with
delight as the Soviet Union beat the U.S. with one space first after another,(4C) first earth satellite, first
dog in orbit, first rocket to hit the moon, first photo taken of the backside of the moon,
first man in space,  
first dual manned spaceships orbiting at the same time and in close proximity,  
first woman in space, first
three man flight in one spacecraft,
first walk in open space.  Of course, it was the superior Communist
system which made these space wonders possible, boasted Nikita Khrushchev, as he put his propaganda
machine in high gear to belittle the Capitalist system of the USA.  By decree of Premier Nikita Khrushchev,
Sputnik 2 would be the worlds next great space show, with a living, breathing, heart thumping passenger.  
In early November the goal was met, Khrushchev's special order, cobbled together spaceship, was ready
for blast-off
and a dog passenger was ready to rocket into history on its fire and thunder.

NEXT - Chapter #4