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Sputnik 2

Sputnik 2 was the second spacecraft launched into Earth orbit, at 19:12:00 on November 3, 1957, and was the first spacecraft to carry biological material. It was a 4 meter high cone-shaped capsule with a base diameter of 2 meters. 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. A separate sealed cabin contained the experimental dog Laika.

Engineering and biological data were transmitted using the Tral_D[?] telemetry system, which would transmit data to Earth for 15 minutes of each orbit. Two spectrophotometers were on board for measuring solar radiation (ultraviolet and x-ray emissions) and cosmic rays. A television camera was mounted in the passenger compartment to observe Laika. The camera could transmit 100-line video frames at 10 frames/second.

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Mission Profile

Sputnik 2 was launched on an essentially unmodified R-7 ICBM, similar to that used for Sputnik 1, to a 212 x 1660 km orbit with a period of 103.7 minutes. After reaching orbit the nose cone was jettisoned successfully but the Blok A core 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. It is believed Laika survived for only a few hours instead of the planned ten days because of the heat. The orbit of Sputnik 2 decayed and it reentered Earth's atmosphere on 14 April 1958 after 162 days in orbit.


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 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 be euthanized with a poisoned serving of food after about 10 days of orbiting the Earth. However, in October 2002 it was revealed by Russian sources that Laika died already after a few hours from overheating and stress. The mission provided scientists with the first data on the behavior of a living organism in the space environment.

Sputnik II and the Van Allen Radiation Belt

Sputnik II was not able to detect the Van Allen radiation belts as it traveled far enough to the north such that it was under most of the radiation belt while it was monitorable from the USSR. It carried no tape recorder. The geiger counters did report an increase from 400-700 km but this was not interpreted as anything unusual. In Australia, Professor Messel[?] intercepted the signals but the Soviets would not provide the code and the Australians would not send the data. In 1958, with Sputnik III[?], they began to cooperate and confirmed the findings of Explorers 1, 3[?], and 4.

See also Sputnik program.

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