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Monday, March 5, 2012

A Sputnik by any other name

Yesterday's post generated quite a few comments and email questions about the style of lights commonly known as Sputniks, so I decided a spin-off post about them might be appropriate. The generic term "Sputnik light" derives from the name of the Russian Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite ever to orbit the earth, which was launched on October 4, 1957.

Gino Sarfatti designed the Astral series for Lightolier in 1954. The collection included the Astral, the Skyrocket, the Sparkler and the Mobile. Interestingly, these lights predated the Russian launch of the Sputnik 1 by three years.

The most popular of the four were the Astral, a pendant which had 12 arms, a ball center and was 14" high, and the Skyrocket, a considerably larger flush-mounted model with a cone-shaped center and 16 arms, which measured 33" in diameter and was 9.5" high. By the time Lightolier ceased production of the Astral line in 1959, dozens of knockoffs were being sold, and copycats are still being manufactured today.

Astral by Gino Sarfatti for Lightolier
Skyrocket by Gino Sarfatti for Lightolier

I did considerable searching for images of the other two but had no success. I did, however find this photo, which was identified as a Lightolier Sputnik with 24 branches. The dimensions were listed as 39" diameter and 28" high. While similar to the smaller Astral, this model has a different ceiling mount. I have no way of knowing whether this is the Sparkler or the Mobile...or neither.

Unidentified Lightolier chandelier
From 1000 Lights: 1878 to 1959 by Charlotte Fiell


  1. These will always be one of my favorites. I love me some Sputnik lamps!

  2. We're so familiar with the design, but can you imagine how fresh and exciting it was in 1954? Wow!

  3. Always a favorite post of mine! Love, Love, LOVE the Sputnik light fixture!