The veracity of early rumors about Soviet space ventures

Sven Grahn

During the first months of the space age Soviet media reported statements by various officials about plans for future space missions. Below these reports are examined in the light of historical facts that have now been revealed about these early plans.

Sputnik-2 payload and launch date accurately reported in advance

7 October 1957

On 11 October 1957 a telegram in Swedish daily "Dagens Nyheter" citing AP, UP and Reuters reported that It seems that Blagonravov was describing Object D (the satellite that was orbited as Sputnik-3). He may not have been informed of the details of the decision to launch the next satellite with animals, or he was careful in only describing the space science instruments of what became Sputnik-2. But - his prediction of the launch date was absolutely correct - amazing!

These statements are indeed interesting, because we have learned (1) how everyone associated with the launch of Sputnik-1 were called back from vacation after the Sputnik 1 triumph around October 11 to quickly lash together the dog carrying Sputnik-2.  Taken at face value, it now seems that already the day after the launch of Sputnik-1 well informed sources knew that a dog would go next and just a few days later even a figurehead such as Blagonravov knew that the launch was to take place in a month's time. This clearly points to substantial prior preparations for Sputnik-2, but that the leadership decided within a few days of the launch of Sputnik-1 to rush the launch of the next satellite. We also know that the Sputnik-2 R-7 booster was sent to Tyuratam on October 18! (1). See also my web article "Sputnik 2 - was it really built in less than a month?"

Sputnik-3 mass correctly predicted in reports from Moscow

On 11 November 1957 the Swedish evening paper "Aftonbladet" reported that: Well, this report was absolutely true in terms of the satellite mass (Sputnik-3 weighed 1327 kg), but the satellite was not quite ready to be shipped to Baikonur for launch - which was first attempted on April 27, 1958.

E-4 lunar probe project to blow up nuclear device on the Moon correctly reported before submission to Central Committee

On 15 November 1957 a telegram in the Swedish daily "Dagens Nyheter" quoted UP and Reuters:

This is yet another fascinating example of absolutely correct reporting. We know that this scheme was indeed part of a plan for lunar exploration to submitted by Sergei Korolev and Mstislav Keldysh to the Communist party Central Committee on 28 January 1958 (2), more than 2 months later!


The reports from Soviet sources seem quite accurate with only minor misunderstandings. It seems that persons close to the space program were quite open about future plans. Perhaps the information policy had not yet been formulated since some time later strict secrecy seemed to have been enforced.


  1. Arkady I Ostashov in the book ("Roads to Space")  on p. 294
  2. Aleksandr Zheleznyakov, "The E-4 project - exploding a nuclear bomb on the Moon", available at this Web-site.

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