Russia names its 1st COVID-19 vaccine 'Sputnik V' after space race triumph

This image shows vials of Russia's COVID-19 vaccine, named "Sputnik V."  (Image credit: Russian Health Ministry / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Russia's working on a COVID-19 vaccine, and it's got a seriously space-y name: Sputnik V. 

The country announced Tuesday (Aug. 11) that its first vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has received regulatory approval for foreign markets, according to Reuters. And, in a nod to last century's Cold War space race, they named the vaccine Sputnik V after the world's first satellite, called Sputnik, launched by the Soviet Union on Oct. 4, 1957. The name signifies the country's success in being the first to have a vaccine approved, according to a Russian government official, Reuters reported. 

The vaccine, however, has received some questioning from scientists around the world as the vaccine was approved following less than two months of human testing. 

Related: Live updates about the coronavirus and COVID-19

Less than two months of human testing is "about enough time to do the first steps, a Phase I trial that gives you some idea of immune response across more than one dose," chemist Derek Lowe stated in an opinion piece, published to "In the Pipeline," an independent blog from the publishers of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

"It is simply not enough time to do a reasonable efficacy workup as well, and absolutely not enough time to get any sort of reading on safety."

Russia is not the only world power to draw on outer space for inspiration in naming COVID-19 treatments. In the United States, the Trump administration launched an initiative named "Operation Warp Speed." In science fiction like "Star Trek," people travel in spacecraft at "warp speed," or an extremely high speed not possible with existing technology.  

The Operation Warp Speed initiative aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine by January 2021. In April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services committed to spending up to $483 billion under Operation Warp Speed to support vaccine development.

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.