Re: Sputnik 1

From: George Olshevsky (
Date: Sat Aug 02 2008 - 18:17:40 UTC

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    On Sat, Aug 2, 2008 at 4:55 AM, Ted Molczan <> wrote:
    > SAO Special Report 10, issued in March 1958, lists 8 nose cone (1957 Alpha 3)
    > observations during 1957 Oct 15-24 UTC, made by 6 observers on as many passes.
    > One observation is denoted as doubtful.
    > The introduction states, "... a3 [Alpha 3] are observations that do not lie on
    > the a2 [Alpha 2, which is the Sputnik satellite] curve but instead seem to form
    > an orbit of their own. Possibly those "a3" observations are of the nose cone of
    > the carrier rocket."
    Thanks! This works for me.
    Meanwhile, I noticed that the apex angle of the nose cone pictured in
    the Apogee Books Launch Vehicles guide is less than 60 degrees (the
    cone is taller than it is wide), which is too narrow to enclose
    Sputnik 1's antennae at an angle of 35 degrees to the "north-south"
    axis, given the location of the satellite right beneath the nose cone.
    This suggests, for consistency with other accounts, that the aerials
    were indeed spring-loaded. When the nose cone was placed over the
    satellite, it could have physically pushed the aerials together about
    ten degrees against the springs. And when it was blown off, the
    antennae could have sprung back to their "open" 35-degree position. On
    the other hand, I have seen (rather blurry) photos of the launch
    vehicle on the pad prior to launch that seem to show a distinctly
    flatter nose cone, more consistent with aerials fixed at 35 degrees.
    It's a tough call.
    On a related topic, I once read that the Sputnik 1 core stage
    underwent aerodynamic breakup shortly before re-entry, resulting in as
    many as eight fragments (the core stage remnant plus seven others),
    some of which are said to have orbited for up to three days after the
    breakup. I thought I read this in a back issue of Sky & Telescope as a
    news note, but I have not been able to find this note in the S&T
    online archive. It's also possible I read it in a back issue of
    Spaceflight. I'd like to know whether anyone else recalls such a news
    note and where it might have appeared.
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