"THE COLD WAR - SPUTNIK - AND SOVIET SPACE DOG LAIKA"
Please note - BOLD TYPE IS HISTORICAL and NORMAL TEXT IS FICTIONAL

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


CHAPTER #5 - PAGE 2 OF 2

RIDING FIRE AND THUNDER - LOOKING THROUGH THE EYES OF LAIKA - part 2 of 2
BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, radio bleed over from Sputnik 2 abruptly filled the background of the open comm circuit.
 Blocking out pad noise, the lead member of the closeout team grabbed the ear-piece of his headset and pressed
firmly against it as the Firing Room reported back to him, "Pad Leader, the capsule passed the pressure test OK.  
Proceed with completion of the nose cone".  This confirmation was the all clear for the closeout crew to go ahead with
their final task of fitting the launch shroud into place, without hand-holds it was cumbersome and difficult to handle.  
This nose cone was designed to aerodynamically streamline the sputnik rocket and protect Laika's habitat
during the violent boost phase of flight.
 The closeout crew used a small davit to slowly lower it into place.  
Laika could hear them hammering on it with their hands in an attempt to make it fit to the rocket.  "It was Master
opening the hatch", she thought!  Laika remembered, in past hatch removal operations, there were hammering sounds
as technicians hand slapped their ratchet wrench to help loosen hatch nuts. Laika yelped and whined in
acknowledgment as she stood up in her box, pulling hard against her harness restraints, anticipating a joyful reunion
with her Master. Laika waited, suddenly her ears perked, she could hear the distant wail of a warning klaxon, then
silence, the hammering stopped and the muffled voices were gone too. Laika was alone again in her own little world
with only the whirl of the tiny fans mixed with
the hissing sound of liquid oxygen which was boiling away from the topped
off tanks of the R-7.  At this point, sound and motion was Laika's only connection with the outside world
since the nose cone now covered
the capsules window, blocking out her only source of light.  A tough
street dog, she wasn't afraid of the darkness.  Forced confinement in the dark was part of her training but today there
seemed to be frightening new sounds which she hadn't heard before.  Laika was always in tune with her surroundings.  
Adaptable,
at three years old, she had lived her whole life in survival mode.  Being deprived of sight and smell
enhanced her perception of motion and sharpened her canine hearing even more.   
Countdown to launch moved
forward.   Next controllers separated the walk around work platform by tilting the first half of the service
gantry back, clear of the rocket.  Then the second  gantry half followed, both twin sections slowly pivoted
apart through downward, opposing arcs.  
The odd angles they moved through stressed the tower like structures
making them creak and groan as if the load bearings were crying for grease.  In the darkness, Laika cocked her head
in a curious manner as she focused on these strange sounds.  Perhaps this was a new part of the practice session as
she waited patiently for the game to end.  After all, at some point, she could always count on her Master to open the
hatch and shower her with love and attention and a cool drink of water.  At the base of the rocket, pockets of explosive
vapor were dispersed by forcing compressed nitrogen gas through the rocket nozzles. Laika flinched at the sharp
flowing sound of the nitrogen purge.  The R-7 gleamed in the floodlights as the flight controllers worked through the
last steps of the countdown.  Housed underneath Laika's capsule was an electronics compartment that was the brains
and nerve center of the rocket. One of the black boxes emitted a steady hum, stabilized at operating speed within it
was the gyro instruments.  In the Firing Room a switch was thrown which uncaged the gyros freeing them to provide a
floating reference position against which the rockets movements could be measured.  Course corrections could then
be computed to satisfy the flight program and in turn sent to the small steering rockets.  Suddenly, the calm was
interrupted by a series of clicks, and rise and fall motor sounds, the Automatic Launch Sequencer was orchestrating
electrical relays and electromechanical valves which would breathe life into the rocket.  The tanks being full of liquid
propellant and the overall thin skin construction seemed to amplify sounds from the rockets internal workings.  Next the
safety valves of the oxidizer and fuel tanks snapped shut while other valves opened allowing compressed nitrogen to
bring the tanks up to flight pressure.  Moments later Laika felt a slight shaking motion as the
twelve small steering
nozzles were tested by moving through their range of travel.  Then lastly, mechanical activators temporarily parked the
small steering rockets in a start position.  Now the mighty R-7 rocket was switched over to internal battery power and
configured for flight.  Near birth, its awakening would soon be consecrated by fire and thunder.  Events seemed to be
moving quickly now, T minus 8,7,6,5,,,.   
A chorus of shrill sound punctuated the silence as turbo pumps
spooled up to operating speed, moving kerosene and liquid oxygen toward combustion chambers, where
they would mix into an explosive brew.  The shrill chorus quickly evolved into a roar as the rocket
shuddered and five
main engines came to life with a cluster of twenty main nozzles building up thrust, the
rocket was literally burning off its own fuel weight, becoming lighter by the second.  After a few seconds
of violent burning the launch vehicle began to strain against the earth as pounds of thrust exceeded the
rockets weight.  Inside the blockhouse, instruments indicated the thrust was stabilized and satisfactory for
liftoff.  Laika felt a sudden lurch upward as
the four massive hold down arms released and were swung
back clear by heavy counterweights.  Now the rocket would have its way, Laika barked and her heart rate
jumped, (reportedly threefold)
(2) as there was a noticeable shifting motion from side to side!  The rocket was
fish-tailing ever so slightly and
the small steering rockets were working hard to keep the huge mass balanced
upright.
  Man made thunder rumbled across Baikonur Cosmodrome and night became day from the
rockets fiery plume.  Sputnik 2 was airborne, trading its burned off fuel weight for increased velocity,
faster and faster it went toward the unknown cosmos!  The gravity of Mother Earth fought hard to keep
Laika earth bound as she began to experience "G" loading, like a huge invisible hand pressing her down
into her box.  But it was not to be, for the first time ever, Mother Earth would give up an earthling.  Laika
was destined to soar  across the ancient star fields, where no earthling had gone before.  
At 0230 hours
GMT on that fall morning of November 3rd, 1957, it was rocket dawn which marked the beginning of a new
age when human space travel would become possible.   A small dog was blazing the way into that age,
helping lead humanity into the future.  With acceleration at maximum, Laika's breathing rate was now 3 to 4
times normal.
(2)  Inside the blockhouse the tension was electric following three R-7 failures earlier in year.
 The R-7, nicknamed Semyorka (ol number seven) by the Korolev team,
(4F) was still experimental and the
fate of careers could be riding on its success or failure.  The Firing Room was located near the launch pad
and within the safety of
a concrete bunker.  From here technicians observed the ignition and climb out
through periscopes.  Number 20, Korolev, set nearby studying the second hand of his wristwatch, timing
the burn and waiting to mark the critical first stage separation.  Sputnik 2 was passing through Max-Q and
coming up next was the critical staging event when the four cone shaped strap-on rockets would be
jettisoned away.  During  Max-Q the vehicle was buffeted severely by the pressure of the air which it was
slicing through.
 In the darkness Laika began to hear the rushing sound of the slipstream as the velocity continued
to increase. Suddenly high level wind shear slammed the rocket creating non symmetrical aerodynamic loading which
nudged Sputnik 2 off course!
 Guidance electronics sensed the change in trajectory and flashed electrical
impulses throughout the R-7.  In response
the small steering rockets moved in concert and quickly
countered the undesirable effect.  Inside the blockhouse Korolev
counted, "130 seconds,,, 135,,, 140, first
stage SEP(aration)".  Laika experienced a bang followed by a brief pogo movement as explosive bolts let go the four
parallel stages.

Simultaneously on a remote highway, a flaming UFO filled the windshield of a truck driver.  In disbelief he watched the
strange
craft divide into five pieces.  Actually he saw the dying plumes from the four separated stages as
they seemed to peel away from the core stage, briefly forming a flower of light.  Pulling off the road, he
jumped out of the cab and continued to watch a single flaming piece streak across the sky.  Shaken, he downed some
vodka from a pocket flask.  "WOW," he thought, "a real UFO sighting," he could barely wait to tell his kids!
The government controlled news agency would later reveal Baikonur Cosmodrome as the launch site of
the new Sputnik. Baikonur, however, was a small village about 500 kilometers northeast of the real launch
pad.  In truth the secret launch facility was in the middle of Kazakhstan near the town of Tyuratam
(pronounced TERRY-UH-TAM).  Early on this was a disinformation attempt by the Soviets,
(4E) perhaps to
mislead American intelligence gathering operations or perhaps to confuse the architects of strategic
bombing.  In any case,
the CIA had already made U-2 over flights of the area and quickly zeroed in on the
rocket complex.   Across time both names have been used when referring to the Cosmodrome but the
Russians still call it Baikonur in news statements.

Much lighter now, the remainder of Sputnik 2 trusted on toward orbit.  At liftoff the R-7 burned with raw
power in order to gain altitude and speed.  Now its programmed flight path slowly arced back over toward
earth,  aimed for a keyhole in the sky.  The remaining center stage was burning hot for an orbital velocity
of 17,500mph.  The ride began to smooth out in the thinner air of the stratosphere, Laika relaxed, the
curvature of planet earth filled the horizon and continental
(East) Asia passed beneath her.  She licked her
food bar and thought about her Master, trusting that he would soon put an end to this practice session.  In typical
canine fashion, Laika wanted to be near her Master.  He was always the first one to greet her when the hatch was
removed and he always surprised her with a treat, maybe this time, it would be a chunk of cheese.
 Since arriving at
Baikonur, he would take her for long walks down a railroad track which was used to transport rockets from
the Great Assembly Hangar to the launching pad.
 In the warm autumn sun she would run out ahead of him,
chasing after birds and sometimes retrieving sticks that he threw out.  He loved to lead her
across the launch pad to a
point which overlooked
the huge flame trench.  This trench was formed like a concave teardrop, so it could
deflect rocket exhaust away from the pad.
  Standing near the edge of the pad and looking down into the deep
flame trench was frightening.  Growing tired of not moving on,
Laika would lie down on sun warmed concrete, as her
Master would always stand here for the longest, just gazing at the panorama and sometimes toward the sky.  Oddly, it
seemed to be such a special place for him.  Where was Master now?  Suddenly Laika was shocked back into reality
when she felt an abrupt end of forward motion!  The sensation was as if she was falling, dust, metal filings and a lost
screw floated near her head.  
Only on special airplane rides during training had she briefly experienced such
a feeling.
 She was weightless, and in orbit !             

RETURN TO the HOME PAGE and INDEX
Chapter #6
NEXT- LAIKA'S STAR
Aaron George Bailey ----- contact me at email-  laika-on-sputnik-2@swbell.net
Sherwood, ARkansas  USA 72120
Soviet Space History Enthusiast
Aviation and Space Enthusiast
Radio / Electronics Enthusiast - SWL -
Ham operator - WA5HRC - QRP CW
and Dog Lover- See my dog Chipper