First USSR launch failure

From: George Olshevsky (
Date: Tue Dec 20 2005 - 22:03:10 EST

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    Back in 1958, the USSR suffered what seems to have been its first
    failure to launch an earth satellite. The backup satellite was later
    orbited successfully as Sputnik 3. TRW Space Log lists the date of
    this launch failure as Feb 3, 1958, whereas most other Internet
    websites list the date as April 27, 1958 (I know of one website that
    gives the Feb 3 date). I've gone with the April 27 date but wonder why
    there would be two dates for this launch. Also, just how and when did
    this failure become public knowledge? The earliest Space Log listing
    this launch is the 1987 issue. (Finding out about USSR satellite
    launch failures used to be like pulling teeth.)
    And one more question: What modifications to the SL-1 launch vehicle
    occurred between Sputnik 2 and the launch failure? I note the vehicles
    are listed with different model numbers but so far I haven't been able
    to find out the details online. Both Sputnik 1 and 2 were accompanied
    in orbit by a single piece of hardware (in addition to the separate
    rocket body, in the case of Sputnik 1), while Sputnik 3 had three
    pieces of hardware in addition to the rocket body. These pieces of
    hardware were not catalogued by COSPAR and have no numbers assigned.
    Early issues of Space Log describe these pieces as fairings/protective
    pieces. In all three Sputnik launches the rocket body was the core R-7
    first stage sans boosters, not a true upper stage.
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