54 years ago the first Earth artificial satellite was launched

04-10-11_2The launch of the first satellite was preceded by the development of the rocket. It was a modified Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile R-7 developed by Special Design Bureau headed by S.P.Korolev (OKB-1). Afterwards it was given the name “Sputnik”.

The Soviet scientists’ dream was to use this rocket to get into space ahead of the Americans, thus proving the superiority of the Soviet science. Developmental testing encountered a lot of difficulties. Out of five rockets only two have more or less normally passed the powered flight phases of their trajectories, two crashed and one failed to lift off at all. The situation with the satellite was also difficult. OKB-1, together with scientists from the Academy of Sciences, had been working on “Object D”, as the project was called, for more than a year, but the further the work progressed, the clearer it became that the work would take one more year. Scientific equipment alone came up to more than 300 kg for that first satellite.

One of the pioneers of space technology B.Y. Chertok recalls in his memoirs the words of S.P.Korolev’s deputy K.D.Bushuev that immediately after the successful launch of the rocket in August 1957 S.P.Korolev proposed to temporarily suspend the work on Object D, and for all to focus on building a simplest satellite in the remaining one month. This work involved not only the spherical satellite itself, it was also necessary to design and build the payload fairing, satellite separation system, antenna unit (it was decided to put two radio transmitters inside the satellite). The trajectory team estimated that it would be possible to put an 80 kg satellite into an orbit with the apogee of 1000 km. S.P. Korolev urged on his team by inventing (or really receiving) information about Americans planning to launch their satellite as early as October.

04-10-11_4The design effort progressed quickly, the parts were being manufactured concurrently with the publication of the drawings. What came into being as a result of the all-out effort of Soviet engineers and scientists was a spherically shaped aluminum spacecraft 58 cm in diameter weighing 83.6 kg, with four whip antennas 2.4 to 2.9 m long. The pressurized body of the spacecraft contained equipment and power supply units. The initial orbital parameters were: perigee altitude of 228 km, apogee altitude of 947 km, orbital inclination of 65.1°.

Despite its very "primitive" design, the first satellite supported some serious scientific research - it allowed to take the first measurement the density of the upper atmosphere, to obtain data on the propagation of radio signals in the ionosphere, to work out some practical issues involved in the orbital insertion of a payload, etc. The radiated power of the satellite transmitter was 1 W. This made it possible to receive its signals in the short and ultrashort wave bands at significant distances. by the large community of amateur radio operators, as well as by the ground tracking stations.

04-10-11_7The satellite was put into orbit on October 4, 1957. And this date ushered in the Space Age of Mankind After the satellite reached orbit, the transmitters were switched on and filled the air with their famous signals: “Beep, beep, beep… »

The Russian word “Sputnik” immediately entered the languages of all the peoples of the world. Headlines on the first pages of foreign newspapers in those historic days of October 1957 were filled with admiration for our country’s achievement.

In Washington, the news about the launch of the satellite was a bombshell. It was said that Pentagon experts who had been advocating the policy of war brinkmanship were astounded not by the scientific value of the satellite launch, but rather by the fact that now became clear to everyone, that USSR had build a multistage intercontinental missile, against which the US air defense was powerless.

The launch of the first US satellite Vanguard 1 was attempted only on December 6, 1957, and ended in failure. And only on February 1, 1958, a US satellite Explorer 1 was successfully launched into orbit (its length was less than 1 meter, diameter of ~15.2 cm, the mass of 8,4 kg).

Few people now remember that the first Soviet and US satellites were launched under the program of the International Geophysical Year. In spite of the confrontation between the two powers, the space age began under the flag of cooperation.

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The President of RSC Energia V.A.Lopota speaks at the opening of the Monument dedicated to the first artificial satellite of Earth in Korolev, Moscow region.

   

 

 

 

 

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