Sputnik 1 (/ˈspʌtnɪk, ˈspʊtnɪk/; "Satellite-1", or "PS-1", Простейший Спутник-1 or Prosteyshiy Sputnik-1, "Elementary Satellite 1") was the first artificial Earth satellite. The Soviet Union launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4 October 1957. It orbited for three weeks before its batteries died and then orbited silently for two months before it fell back into the atmosphere on the 25th December 1957.

At some point it became possible for Soviet spacecraft to run on battery power when in Earth's shadow and recharge the battery when back in sunlight.


  1. What was the first Soviet spacecraft that could do this?
  2. Where were the photovoltaic cells made?

Looks like the first Soviet satellite with solar power capability was Sputnik 3, launched on the 15th May 1958, losing out to Vanguard 1 which was the first satellite with solar power launched only two months earlier.

Of Sputnik 3, Wikipedia says

It was powered by silver-zinc batteries and silicon solar cells which operated for approximately 6 weeks

From this website I see

N.S. Liderenko built experimental silicon solar cells for Sputnik-3. Besides supplying power to the Mayak transmitter and Vernov's scintillation counter, Liderenko wanted to evaluate the long term effects of radiation and micrometeorite damage on solar batteries. Some of the batteries had the silicon exposed directly to space. Others had a polished glass cover to protect them from impacts, and others had a ground glass screen which would remain unchanged as micrometeorites etched its surface.

Nikolai Liderenko was a physicist who has done plenty of work on solar since then, but does not appear to be famous enough to get a wikipedia page. I also haven't yet found any other sources confirming the origin for the cells that don't just point back to the same source, but I'll update if I bump in to any.


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