Van Allen belts were discovered/confirmed by the satellite "Explorer", which was launched after Sputnik. If so, was Russia aware of VA radiation belts when they launched Sputnik? If not, how did they overcome the radiation problems, if any?


2 Answers 2


Sputnik had just one single job: Prove its existence by sending a simple "beep" regularly (about 2-3 times a second, afaik). It was a single radio signal. There was no problem with radiation, the satellite is just too simple to have problems with radiation.

  • $\begingroup$ I've just asked Did Sputnik 1 tell us more than "beep"? What science was improved by information gained from its orbiting the Earth? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 7:56
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "to simple" -> "too simple". Too small a change for this edit to be allowed. $\endgroup$
    – void_ptr
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh mybe ... or better "most likely" ... we learned more from "Sputnik 1" but that was not the reason the soviets launched it, more then beebing was not its job. Or how a french made tv documentary once said: it ws the first piece of space debris. ... and now I am still wondering why I earn so many badges with such a short answer :D $\endgroup$
    – CallMeTom
    Commented Sep 7, 2020 at 4:43

Sputnik-1 had initial orbit with 950 km apogee an 220 km perigee. It was planned to have 1450 km apogee but the rocket underperformed slightly.

950 km is far from most intensive radiation belts.

Also, Sputnik-1 only operated for 22 days before its batteries ran out. So it probably hadn't enough time to suffer significant radiation damage.

Remark: initially Soviet specialists planned to launch a heavier satellite with scientific equipment but it fell behind schedule. So the scientific launch was postponed and Sputnik-1 was designed and launched to guarantee it would beat an American satellite launch.

  • $\begingroup$ The Sputnik transmitter was a (pretty simple) tube based circuit, which would be quite robust to radiation. Explorer 1 had early transistors in circuits, which were decidedly not radiation hardened. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 23:01

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