Sputnik Stories?

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by W0IS, Sep 24, 2017.

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  1. N4AAB

    N4AAB Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have that set as well. Radical Edward is kinda funny. She certainly knows how to play chess.

    I've been telling my relatives I'm excentric. My sisters tells me I have to have money to be excentric... I replied then I'm a little bit excentric. Yeah, I can read and write. :)

    We didn't have a short wave radio back then, but we did build a vacuum tube regen am radio receiver in Electronics tech Class A school in the Navy. Treasure Island Navy Base, SF Bay. About 1968. We were told by the instructor to not turn one on until he had inspected it. One guy wanted to quickly see if he had wired it up correctly. He hadn't He had soldered the Plate voltage, about 300VDC, to the chassis. Popped circuit breakers all over the building... and aparently made the lights flicker in the Admiral's, base commanders, office. He came over and demanded to know what had happened. The student, and E-2, who caused it, instead of being yelled at by the Lt. or the E-8 at the school, got yelled at by the Admiral, in person. I don't remember if they let him stay or he got kicked out of the school. We certainly razzed him about it after the Admiral left.
  2. N2UGB

    N2UGB Ham Member QRZ Page

    October 1957 I was in the USAF, radio op school at Keesler AFB. Waiting to be paraded across the airfield before dawn we looked up at the sky and saw a bright light passing above in orbit. It was Sputnik. A few days later monitoring began.
  3. N2EY

    N2EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    It is hard to relate how much Sputnik shook up a lot of folks. Nobody in the West had any idea that they had the technical capability to orbit a satellite, let alone one as big and heavy as Sputnik 1 (23 inches diameter, 184 pounds). The Rooskies were supposed to be only capable of copying us but here they were out in front. (And our rockets kept blowing up).

    To make it worse, Sputnik wasn't a one-off fluke. Less than a month later, (November 3, 1957) it was followed by Sputnik 2, which weighed more than 6 times as much (1121 pounds) and carried a dog safely into orbit. Then, in May 1958, Sputnik 3 (2,930 pounds) went up with lots of scientific instruments.

    Meanwhile, the USA's was playing catch-up. On December 6, 1957, the USA tried to launch Vanguard TV3 - a tiny satellite less than 6 inches in diameter, weighing 3 pounds,. But the Vanguard rocket reached an altitude of about four feet and then blew up. Explorer 1, 81 inches long and 6 inches in diameter, weighing under 31 pounds, was launched January 31, 1958.

    And the USSR's accomplishments kept on coming. In 1959, Luna 1 flew by the Moon and on into heliocentric orbit, Luna 2 impacted the moon, and Luna 3 sent back the first pictures of the far side. (Luna 1 was supposed to hit the moon but missed - which was not known in the West until many years later. The Soviet way was to do something and then describe the goal....)

    If all those unmanned firsts weren't enough, in April 1961 Vostok 1 took Yuri Gagarin into space and history - not just into a suborbital lob as was later done in the first two manned Mercury missions of the USA but into a complete orbit of the earth and a landing right back onto the soil of Mother Russia. (We found out later that, in fact, Gagarin bailed out of the spacecraft at about 25,000 feet and came down by parachute. This was by design.)

    Then came the first long duration manned spaceflight - Vostok 3, August 1962, almost 4 days in space (64 orbits). The first space rendezvous (Vostok 3 and Vostok 4 were both in orbit at the same time, and came within 4 miles of each other.) The first woman in space, (Vostok 6, June 1963)

    And that's just up to 1963, The Soviet spacecraft were big and heavy, and successful. If they had failures, they were unknown outside the USSR until decades later.

    Read the book "The Right Stuff" to get a feeling for how it all affected the USA. Where do you think the "New Math" came from?

    Meanwhile, the USA had many failed missions, often spectacular launch failures. Our manned space missions by 1963 consisted of just two suborbital hops (Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom in the Mercury/Redstone) and four orbital flights (John Glenn and Scott Carpenter, 3 orbits each, Wally Schirra, 6 orbits, Gordon Cooper, 22 orbits). Six manned flights, two of them suborbital. The USA's entire manned time in space as of 1963 amounted to about half that of just the Vostok 3 mission.

    To a lot of folks here in the USA it was worse than if some unknown driver from a third-world country had shown up at the Indy 500 with a home-made car made out of old VW Rabbit Diesels and proceeded to win the race by several laps. And then proceeded to win several years in a row - not just at Indy but NASCAR and Formula One.

    The Soviet space firsts just kept on coming, too. It wasn't until about 1965 or so that the USA really began to catch up.


    There was a QST article in the 1960s about what it took to be a Soviet ham back then. It went something like this:

    First, you had to join a club. There were lots of active clubs so it was no big deal. Background checks were routine too, for just about everything, so no big deal there either.

    The next step was to build a shortwave receiver, from scratch, and learn how to use it. The prospective Soviet ham had to show the completed receiver and explain its operation and theory to a panel of examiners, and present evidence (log and QSL cards) of having received a certain number of stations.

    Once all that was done, application could be made for a license to be a transmitting operator. This required code and theory tests, plus the construction of a simple transmitter and the explanation to a panel of examiners.

    There were several classes of license, each requiring a higher level of testing of code, theory and construction. A Soviet Union amateur was expected to be an operator, technician, designer, repairman, and more.

    Part of the knowledge needed was in direction finding - locating hidden transmitters. This became a sport, requiring both technical skill, operating know-how, and fitness (the DF hunts were all done on foot - think of a cross-country run of several miles, carrying radio stuff and figuring out where to go). Of course this also served as a "reminder" of how well an unauthorized transmitter could be found.....

    All QSLs went through the bureau (the famous Box 88, Moscow). Most amateur equipment was home-made because Soviet industry just didn't make amateur gear. Parts were rare and expensive too. The emphasis on clubs was in part because by pooling resources they could build much better stations than individual amateurs.

    73 de Jim, N2EY
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2017
    KE5OFJ, WD5GWY, K5AGE and 1 other person like this.
  4. KB2FCV

    KB2FCV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Sputnik is way before my time.. but I do recall for the 50th amsat did a special event on satellite AO-51 with a broadcast message. It prompted me to build a small yagi to receive the transmission. I later added elements for 2m and dabbled with satellites... which blossomed into playing with moonbounce (my avatar are the 4 yagis I had up + 1kw). So a Sputnik event sent me down another facet of the hobby!

    I can only imagine listening to Sputnik as it circled the globe and pretty much launched the space race. Some of our local club members remember listening to it!
  5. N4AAB

    N4AAB Ham Member QRZ Page

    I guess I should mention we visited the ECHO telephone earth receiver in Maine way back when. No flash allowed in the building, or I didn't have one, so my one photo of the dish didn't come out. Somewhere I do have 2 slides of the exterior of the building.

    For those that don't know, the ECHO balloon was an aluminized balloon that was inflated in orbit. Telephone signals were bounce off of it as it crossed the Atlantic. There was more than one of them and they didn't seem to last long. There were no electronics on the balloon that I know of.
  6. KD8ZMN

    KD8ZMN Ham Member QRZ Page

    While I was just being potty-trained when Sputnik was orbiting the Earth, I would go on to be a member of the St.Joseph High School Amateur Radio Club 12 years later. Here is a page regarding how my predecessor club members tracked Sputnik and got local media attention in the process: http://sjhrc.org/index.html
  7. N2EY

    N2EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    The eastern-USA antenna for Echo was in New Jersey, and was a horn antenna. Large, but not enormous.


    The antenna in Andover Maine was for Telstar, and later for Relay. It could both transmit and receive. Much larger than the Echo antennas. It had to be so big because the Telstar ERP was low.



    There were beacon transmitters aboard both Echo satellites

  8. N2UHC

    N2UHC Ham Member QRZ Page

    That wouldn't happen today because apparently the earth is flat now.
  9. N2UHC

    N2UHC Ham Member QRZ Page

    There are conspiracy theories that the first man in space was not Gagarin, but another, unnamed Russian cosmonaut who didn't survive. And supposedly Valentina Tereshkova was not the first woman in space, there was another who burned up upon reentry. The story goes that during the space race there were some Italian hams with high-tech monitoring equipment listening in on the Russians (Americans too, presumably) and had recorded these failed missions which the Soviet Union had not only never told the world about, but had completely erased from their own history as well. However, there are some questions as to whether or not they were telling the truth and not faking the stories and recordings.

    More at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_Cosmonauts and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judica-Cordiglia_brothers
  10. N4AAB

    N4AAB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Ah, okay.

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