The first R2A dogs

As the year 1957 dawned, the first "satellite dog'' flight, of Laika in Sputnik 2, was less than a year away. However, as hugely as that event unexpectedly loomed for the West, and as clear a demarcation it represented in the relentless progress of space flight, it would barely register on the radar of those involved in the dog flight programme. A full schedule of suborbital flights preceded Sputnik 2 in 1957, and an equally robust schedule would follow it for nearly three more years.

For the R-2A flights, the Soviets reverted to the use of hermetically sealed cabins. However, primarily because of the large door in the cabin, there was not a true hermetic seal. Three 7-litre tanks of air-oxygen mix supplied the breathing gases, maintained pressure and vented directly to the outside. The supply was sufficient for 6 hours.

The ejectable capsule design from the previous series had also been discarded. The R-2A allowed for a slightly larger capsule space for the dogs and their equipment, just under 17j cubic feet. The nose cone of the rocket, containing the dogs, would separate

A dog exits her capsule in the nose section of an R-2A rocket. Note the scorch marks on the air brakes, which were used to slow the capsule before deployment of the parachute. (Photo: authors' collection)

at the peak of trajectory and free-fall. It would then be slowed by drag brakes until a series of three braking parachutes deployed at an altitude of 3 miles. This braking procedure imposed 8 g's on the dogs. At an altitude of about 1 mile the basic parachute deployed, with only a 4-g impact, and lowered the capsule to Earth [12].

Blood pressure, respiration and pulse were recorded continuously during the flight and telemetered to the ground. An ECG was also taken onboard. Pre- and post-flight physicals involved blood analysis, X-ray of the thorax, blood pressure, ECG, pulse and respiration rates, urinalysis, and measurement of body temperature and weight.

The first R-2A dog flight, on 16 May 1957, carried the dogs Ryzhaya and Damka to 130 miles and provided them with 6 minutes of microgravity. In addition to the onboard gathering of biological data, continuous filming monitored the dogs' behaviour.

For the first time in 1957, anaesthetised dogs were used on some of the flights. This had been a common practice on U.S. monkey flights in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but had never before been employed by the Soviets. Using this procedure, they hoped to determine which physiological reactions were a response to weightlessness rather than a response to the general irritants associated with the flight. On the flights on which this was employed, only one of the two dogs would be anaesthetised, using a 10% solution of hexenal injected subcutaneously.

The five R-2A launches in the summer of 1957 were marred by only one tragedy, when the dogs Ryzhaya and Dzhoyna lost their lives during the second flight, on 24 May. Still, there were some worrisome signs. On several of the flights, drops of

Chief Designer Sergei Korolev poses with an unidentified space dog, July 1957. Whenever Korolev came into the training laboratories, he would ask about the dogs and pet them affectionately. (Photo: authors' collections)

blood were found on the walls of the cabin. A number of dogs also had blood on their nose and rectum. A haemorrhage was noted inside Damka's eye after her first flight, presumably from G forces during braking, probably resulting from her being out of proper position [7]. However, the overall conclusion was that these flights to 130 miles did not cause any significant physiological or behavioural problems for the dogs. The final 1957 launch in this series occurred on 31 August, carrying the dogs Belka and Damka.

Although the R-2A would continue to carry dogs and other animals on ballistic flights, a far more powerful rocket had recently made its appearance. Just 10 days prior to the 31 August flight of Belka and Damka, the R-7 rocket had recorded its first successful flight from the new Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan. After five failed attempts, it delivered a dummy H-bomb warhead 3,700 miles downrange. This truly intercontinental ballistic missile would soon become the workhorse for all future orbital dog flights.

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Essentials of Human Physiology

Essentials of Human Physiology

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