The First Satellite in Space
The First Satellite in Space - The World's First Artificial Satellite: Sputnik 1
On October 4, 1957, the world received stunning news: the Soviet Union had launched the first artificial satellite in space, Sputnik 1.
Sputnik 1 was the first satellite in space (First artificial satellite)
Giant newspaper headlines heralded this astounding achievement. People went outdoors to watch Sputnik 1 race across the night sky at 18,000 miles per hour. Short-wave radio operators tuned in to hear the "beep beep beep" signal from the world's first artificial satellite.
The Space Age had begun. And the superpower rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States had now extended into the heavens.
Sputnik 1 was born of international competition. On July 29, 1955, American President Dwight Eisenhower announced that the United States would launch an artificial satellite during the International Geophysical Year, an 18-month global scientific exploration period that would last from July 1957 through 1958. Ten days later, Soviet leaders approved a plan to launch their own satellite.
The Soviets initially wanted to launch a satellite weighing between 2,200 and 3,090 lbs, with 440 to 660 lbs of scientific equipment. That effort proved to be too ambitious and would not be ready in time, so Sputnik 1 was significantly scaled down.
The world's first artificial satellite was a 23-inch diameter silver sphere with two antennas 7.9 and 9.5 feet in length. Inside the sphere were a one-watt radio transmitter, a battery, a temperature regulation system, and other equipment. The satellite weighed a mere 184 lbs.
Sputnik 1 was launched from the Tyuratam spaceport in the Kazakh Republic into a highly elliptical orbit of 139 by 590 miles. Scientists used the spacecraft to measure the density of the upper atmosphere by watching how the spacecraft's orbit changed. The world's first artificial satellite also provided valuable information about how the ionosphere distributed radio waves.
Sputnik 1's signal lasted until October 26 when its battery failed. The satellite completed 1,440 orbits before re-entering Earth's atmosphere on January 4, 1958, only 92 days after launch.
Although Sputnik 1 was extremely small and had little military value, the world's first artificial satellite caused widespread panic in the United States. The nation had been humiliated by a supposedly backwards country. The possibility of the Soviets launching orbiting atomic bombs that could drop instantly on any American city struck fear in the hearts of people everywhere. That fear deepened in December 6, 1958, when America's Vanguard rocket failed to launch a 3 lb. satellite into orbit. Newspaper headlines called the failed launch "Kaputnik" and "Flopnik."
President Eisenhower didn't panic. He knew that an U.S. Army team led by Wernher von Braun could have launched a satellite before the Soviets. However, Eisenhower had held the Army back so it could focus on the more important priority of developing U.S. ballistic missiles. That effort was moving along well. Sputnik 1 actually helped to clarify that satellites could overfly other nation's territories, an issue of questionable legality at the time.
In the wake of Sputnik 1, the United States created the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) and poured an enormous amount of money into science and technology research, development and education. Soviet successes in space also inspired accusations of a non-existent missile gap between the United States and Soviet Union during the 1960 Presidential campaign between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy.
Link for First Satellite in Space (First Man-Made Satellite)