Skip to main content

One of the original Sputnik-1 prototypes sells for nearly $850k

sputnik 1 bonhams auction 3588393 l
One of the few surviving Soviet Sputniks created during Russia’s Cold War space race with the United States sold at auction at Bonhams for $847,500 on Wednesday, September 27. The piece sold was a full-scale vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite, built at the S. P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia in 1957, sometime prior to the launch of the Sputnik-1. This model was originally constructed for electromagnetic compatibility and electromagnetic interference testing.

Sputnik-1 was a turning point in the space race. When it launched into Earth’s orbit on October 4, 1957, it was a propaganda exercise designed to showcase Russia’s technological superiority over the U.S. Sputnik-1 was visible around the globe and anyone with a shortwave receiver was able to pick up its signal. What followed was a crisis for the United States, since the successful launch of Sputnik also demonstrated that the Soviets had the technological capabilities to launch a nuclear mission at America.

Ultimately, Sputnik galvanized America’s interest in regaining its lost edge in the space race. On January 31, 1958, the United States launched its first satellite, the Explorer I. Later that year, Congress passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, which created NASA. A few years later, newly elected President John F. Kennedy pledged to citizens of the U.S. that America would send man to the Moon before the 1960s were out. In other words, this prototype is a pretty darn crucial part of 20th century world history.


The vintage test model was part of the Bonhams auction house’s Air and Space Sale. It comprised the test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite, an aluminum sphere with four spring-mounted external antennae; live transmitter; modern 12 volt power supply; manganese brass stand; and an original Tesla Maj 620A broadcast receiver. Altogether, the satellite and its stand weigh around 100 pounds and stand 78 inches in height.

It was previously a part of a collection belonging to Heinz Miller of Austria. Bonhams did not reveal the identity of the new buyer, other than to tell Digital Trends that it was a telephone bidder. The original estimated asking price for the lot was $100,000 to $150,000. A similar Sputnik replica sold by Bonhams for $269,000 in 2016.

Other highlights of the auction included $50,000 for a Neil Armstrong Apollo-era training glove, $25,000 for a Soviet LK-3 Lunar Lander model, and $25,000 for a Russian KHOLOD 5D67 HFL rocket engine.

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
Digital Trends’ Tech For Change CES 2023 Awards
Digital Trends CES 2023 Tech For Change Award Winners Feature

CES is more than just a neon-drenched show-and-tell session for the world’s biggest tech manufacturers. More and more, it’s also a place where companies showcase innovations that could truly make the world a better place — and at CES 2023, this type of tech was on full display. We saw everything from accessibility-minded PS5 controllers to pedal-powered smart desks. But of all the amazing innovations on display this year, these three impressed us the most:

Samsung's Relumino Mode
Across the globe, roughly 300 million people suffer from moderate to severe vision loss, and generally speaking, most TVs don’t take that into account. So in an effort to make television more accessible and enjoyable for those millions of people suffering from impaired vision, Samsung is adding a new picture mode to many of its new TVs.
[CES 2023] Relumino Mode: Innovation for every need | Samsung
Relumino Mode, as it’s called, works by adding a bunch of different visual filters to the picture simultaneously. Outlines of people and objects on screen are highlighted, the contrast and brightness of the overall picture are cranked up, and extra sharpness is applied to everything. The resulting video would likely look strange to people with normal vision, but for folks with low vision, it should look clearer and closer to "normal" than it otherwise would.
Excitingly, since Relumino Mode is ultimately just a clever software trick, this technology could theoretically be pushed out via a software update and installed on millions of existing Samsung TVs -- not just new and recently purchased ones.

Read more
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more