A replica of Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite in the world to be put into outer space: the replica is stored in the National Air and Space Museum.
A replica of Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite in the world to be put into outer space: the replica is stored in the National Air and Space Museum.
NASA - Source
License: Public Domain

Soviet Union Launches Sputnik 1 Satellite

Sputnik 1 was the world's first Earth-orbiting artificial satellite. It was launched into a low altitude elliptical orbit by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957, and was the first in a series of satellites collectively known as the Sputnik program. The unanticipated announcement of Sputnik 1's success precipitated the Sputnik crisis in the United States and ignited the Space Race within the Cold War.

Apart from its value as a technological first, Sputnik also helped to identify the upper atmospheric layer's density, through measuring the satellite's orbital changes. It also provided data on radio-signal distribution in the ionosphere. Pressurized nitrogen, in the satellite's body, provided the first opportunity for meteoroid detection. If a meteoroid penetrated the satellite's outer hull, it would be detected by the temperature data sent back to Earth.

Sputnik-1 was launched during the International Geophysical Year from Site No.1, at the 5th Tyuratam range, in Kazakh SSR (now at the Baikonur Cosmodrome). The satellite traveled at 29,000 kilometres (18,000 mi) per hour, taking 96.2 minutes to complete an orbit, and emitted radio signals at 20.005 and 40.002 MHz, which were monitored by amateur radio operators throughout the world. The signals continued for 22 days until the transmitter batteries ran out on 26 October 1957. Sputnik 1 burned up on 4 January 1958 as it fell from orbit upon reentering Earth's atmosphere, after traveling about 60 million km (37 million miles) and spending 3 months in orbit.

"It was Americans who made all of the publicity of this. Then it was the beginning of (the space) race. It was only on one side - the American side. My father didn't want to spend too much money. He had a different priority, to make life better for the people."

— Sergei Khrushchev