Sputnik 1

Sputnik 1 was the first ever artificial satellite. It was launched on October 4, 1957 by the USSR. In actual fact, Sputnik is a series of scientific research satellites launched by the Soviet Union from 1957 to 1961 and Sputnik 1 was the first part of it. It served as a limited radio transmitter.

Size and Speed: –

It was the size of a basketball and weighed 83 kilograms and measured 23 inches in width. It orbited the earth for a duration of three months and did 1,440 orbits. It traveled at a speed of 18,000 miles per hour. On January 4, 1958, it re-entered into Earth’s atmosphere and burned up.

Scientific Facts: –

Sputnik 1 did not carry any scientific instruments in outer space so researchers got to know a few limited things about Earth’s atmosphere by studying the radio signals emitted by the satellite.

In August 1957, a successful test flight of R-7, an intercontinental ballistic missile was conducted. Shortly after that, the plan of launching an artificial satellite using a newly developed missile was announced.

Replica of Sputnik 1

Quick Facts: –

  • The launch of Sputnik 1 started the space age and the Cold War space race between Russia and the United States.
  • This satellite was powered by three silver-zinc batteries, designed to operate for two weeks.
  • These batteries operated for a time period beyond expectations. They worked for 22 days.
  • It had two simple one-watt radio transmitters that were connected to two pairs of trailing antennae.
  • These two different radio transmitters broadcast two different frequencies.
  • It carried four whip-like 2.4-2.9 meters long antennas. The antennas looked like long whiskers pointing to one side.
  • This satellite was made of polished aluminum because the Soviets wanted the satellite to be seen.
  • As compared to the first planned US satellite, Sputnik 1 was approximately 10 times in size.
  • The name Sputnik has been derived from a Russian word which means ‘travelling companion’.
  • The last remaining piece of the Sputnik satellite is a metal arming key which is currently on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
  • This metal arming key prevented contact between the batteries and the transmitter prior to launch.
  • This satellite beeped signals powerful enough to be picked up by amateur radio operators around the world.
  • Sputnik 1 traveled at an altitude of 805 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.
  • It completed one orbit of earth in 98 minutes and flew over the United States seven times in a day.
  • During the mission, the farthest point of this satellite from Earth was around 940 kilometers.
  • This satellite provided scientists with data about the nature and ion density of the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
  • It helped them to know whether astronauts would be able to communicate with a base on Earth.
  • An ice-covered basin on Pluto, Sputnik Planitia, was named after this man-made satellite.
  • This basin measures about 1,050 km by 800 km and lies mostly in the northern hemisphere but extends across the planet’s equator.
  • Sputnik 1 was launched to coincide with the International Geophysical Year because it was thought that the solar period that year would be ideal for launching.
  • This artificial satellite was visible with binoculars but only before sunrise and after sunset.
  • On November 3, 1957, a second satellite of this mission, Sputnik 2 was launched. It carried a dog named Laika.
  • This mission made Laika the first living creature ever to enter into outer space.

Metal Arming Key

Question & Answers: –

Ques. Who initiated the Soviet Sputnik Program?

Ans. Sergei Korolev initiated the program as chief designer.


Ques. What was the code name for development of this satellite?

Ans. Object D.


Ques. From where was this satellite was launched?

Ans. It was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome at Tyuratam in Kazakhstan. At that time it was a part of the former Soviet Union.


Ques. What was the weight of satellite Sputnik 2?

Ans. This satellite weighed more than 500 kilograms.


Ques. Did Sputnik 2 get the dog Laika back safely on earth?

Ans. Sadly no, the dog died in space.


Ques. What was the originally planned size of the first Russian satellite?

Ans.  The original plan was to launch a 1,400 kg craft outfitted with a variety of scientific instruments.


Ques. Where was Sputnik 2 when it broke off at the time of re-entering the earth’s atmosphere?

Ans. Somewhere above the Western United States


Ques. When did Sputnik 3 reach the orbit?

Ans. It reached the orbit in May 1958, six months after Sputnik 2.

Sputnik 1