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The historic beep of Sputnik

One of the most iconic sounds of space travel is also one of the earliest – the original “beep” of Sputnik as it circled the Earth, as captured by NASA.

News reports at the time pointed out that “anyone possessing a short wave receiver can hear the new Russian earth satellite as it hurtles over this area of the globe”.

Directions provided by the American Radio Relay League were to “tune in 20 megacycles sharply, by the time signals, given on that frequency. Then tune to slightly higher frequencies. The ‘beep, beep’ sound of the satellite can be heard each time it rounds the globe.”

City version:

Memory version:

The Primitive Acoustics reimagined version of this sound is called “Sputnik Farewell”:

“This piece includes a sound sample of the Sputnik audio signal, both unaltered and processed with Thermae, Fabrikat, Count to Five and Dark World effects pedals. I also played guitar with Ebow through these same effects for the drone and other sounds with the exception of the shortwave transmission sample.

“Sputnik was the first artificial satellite and launched by the Soviet Union in 1957.

“It was a 23 inch diameter polished metal sphere, with four external radio antennas to broadcast radio pulses. It orbited the earth for three weeks broadcasting radio pulses with the propagation of its signals providing data about the ionosphere.

“The signals lasted for 21 days until the transmitter batteries ran out. Sputnik then orbited silently for two more months before falling back into the atmosphere and burning up upon re-entry.

“This is my audio interpretation of the final 8 minutes of Sputnik’s audio transmission during that journey. How the sounds and echos may have waxed and waned, stuttered, sputtered and morphed as the batteries slowly died.”

Memory version: