laika-1On November 3, 1957, less than a month after the triumphal launch of the first satellite, the Soviet Union announced the launch into orbit of the second artificial satellite of Earth. This time, it was a full-fledged scientific research lab in space, which made it possible to study the feasibility of a living being surviving the space environment. Unlike the first satellite, which was shaped as a sphere with a mass of 83.6 kilograms, the second satellite was an upgraded last stage of the R-7 launch vehicle, which carried power sources, containers and scientific equipment with the total mass of 508.3 kg. The maximum distance of the second satellite from the Earth surface was 1700 kilometers, which was approximately twice as high as the maximum altitude reached during the launch of the first satellite. Its orbital period was 103.7 minutes — 7.5 minutes more than the orbital period of the first satellite at the moment when it started its movement.

The satellite was equipped with scientific instruments for the study of solar radiation and cosmic rays.

It is a known fact that the Earth atmosphere completely absorbs shortwave ultraviolet and X-ray radiation from the Sun, thus protecting living things from its destructive effects. But this same fact makes it impossible to observe such solar radiation from Earth. This radiation causes various processes in the atmosphere resulting in formation of highly ionized layers, which have a significant effect on the propagation of radio waves. The use of artificial satellites made it possible for the first time to conduct systematic measurements of short-wave solar radiation for long periods of time. The use of artificial satellites for studies of cosmic rays was just as promising.

But, undoubtedly, the most important scientific achievement, which caught the imagination of the contemporaries, was the flight of a first living thing inside the satellite cabin.

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Postcard "The dog Laika."
Artist E. Gundobin
1958

It is impossible to prepare for a manned mission into space without preliminary studies on animals. In USSR, the animals used in the development of systems for man’s life support in space were dogs (US used apes). Criteria for the animal selection were very strict. Selected were young animals up to 6 years of age, small in size, weighing 5 to 6 kg. They had to have good health and resistance to adverse environments. Preference was given to light-colored dogs – they were easier to see on the TV screen. Besides physical parameters, a lot of attention was paid to their character. Sullen, moody and aggressive animals were rejected at once. Would-be cosmonauts were supposed to be smart. And it turned out that the animals most fit for participation in the experiments were mongrel dogs. Sent on the first test mission were two dogs: Tsygan and Dezik. This event took place in July 1951. R-1A rocket was launched from Kapustin Yar launch site. When it reached the altitude of 100 kilometers, the cabin with the dogs separated. And at the altitude of 7 km a parachute was deployed, saving the lives of the dogs. The first suborbital flight lasted only a few minutes. Prior to the first flight of a dog into space, an extensive test program was conducted, which involved launching animals on rockets to the altitudes of up to 100—210 kilometers. Altogether, more than 30 dogs took part in the development of manned spaceflight capability.

Laika happened to be the first dog to carry out a real space flight. She was placed into an individual pressurized cabin. A telemetry system recorded her behavior in zero gravity. For 5 days air revitalization and thermal control systems maintained in the cabin an environment that is necessary to support the animal's life. Unfortunately, after the systems shut down, the dog died.

Observations of the dogs helped to identify a number of important rules for the future manned spaceflight. Leaping ahead a little, it can be recalled that Y.A. Gagarin's mission on Vostok was preceded by 6 launches of these spacecraft carrying dogs. They helped S.P.Korolev to make a decision to launch the first man into space.

The memory of the dogs is eternalized in stone. They put the monuments in various cities across the country.

And the mission of the second Earth satellite continued till April 1958. It completed about two and a half thousand orbits around our planet, and collected a vast amount of unique scientific data. This mission went down in history of space exploration as a great achievement of Soviet scientists.

 

 

 

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