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Sputnik

Sputnik

Sputnik is the name given to a series of scientific research satellites launched by the Soviet Union during the period from 1957 to 1961. The satellites ranged in size and capability from the 83.6-kilogram (184.3-pound) Sputnik 1, which served only as a limited radio transmitter, to Sputnik 10, which weighed 4,695 kilograms (10,350 pounds). Together the Sputnik flights ushered in the space age and began the exploration of space by orbital satellites and humans. Sputnik 1 is the most famous in the series.

In August 1957 the Soviet Union conducted a successful test flight of a stage-and-a-half liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile called the R-7. Shortly thereafter Soviet scientists were quoted in the news media inside the Soviet Union saying that they were planning for the launch of an Earth satellite using a newly developed missile. Western observers scoffed at the accounts. In the late summer of 1957 Soviet scientists told a planning session of the International Geophysical Year celebrations that a scientific satellite was going to be placed into orbit, and they released to the press the radio frequency that the satellite would use to transmit signals. Again, the statements were widely dismissed inside the United States as Soviet propaganda.

Late in the evening in the United States (Eastern Standard Time) on Friday, October 4, 1957, Radio Moscow announced that a small satellite designated Sputnik 1 had been launched and had successfully achieved orbital flight around Earth. The U.S. Defense Department confirmed the fact shortly after the reports reached the West.

Sputnik 1 was the first artificial satellite to reach orbit. Launched from a secret rocket base in the Ural Mountains in Soviet central Asia, it weighed 83.6 kilograms (184.3 pounds), was 0.58 meter (1.9 feet) wide, and carried four whip-style radio antennas that measured 1.5 to 2.9 meters (4.9 to 9.5 feet) in length. Aboard the tiny satellite were instruments capable of measuring the thickness and temperature of the high upper atmosphere and the composition of the ionosphere , and the satellite was also capable of transmitting radio signals. The Soviet news agency Tass released the final radio frequency of the Sputnik and the timetables of its broadcasts, which were widely disseminated by news media worldwide. Sputnik 1 transmitted for twenty-one days after reaching orbit and remained in orbit for ninety-six days. It burned up in the atmosphere on its 1,400th orbit of Earth.

Sputnik 2 was launched into orbit a month later on November 3, 1957. It was a much larger satellite, weighing 508 kilograms (1,120 pounds), and contained the first living creature to be orbited, a dog named Laika. The dog, its capsule, and the upper part of the rocket that launched it remained attached in space for 103 days before burning up after making 2,370 orbits. However, there was only enough oxygen, food, and water to keep Laika alive for a week. There were no provisions to either save the dog or return its capsule to Earth.

Sputniks 3 through 10 were research craft aimed at obtaining design data for the construction of a human-carrying spacecraft. Sputnik 3 was launched on May 15, 1958, Sputnik 4 on May 15, 1960, Sputnik 5 on August 19, 1960, Sputnik 6 on December 1, 1960, Sputnik 7 on February 4, 1961, Sputnik 8 on February 12, 1961, Sputnik 9 on March 9, 1961, and Sputnik 10 on March 25, 1961. Sputnik 10 was a full test version of the Vostok human-carrying space capsule, which carried the first human into space two weeks later on April 12, 1961. Sputniks 5, 6, 9, and 10 carried dogs. Sputnik 10's canine passenger, Zvezdochka, was successfully recovered. Sputnik designations were briefly given to a series of interplanetary probes but these were renamed as part of the Luna series in 1962 and 1963.

see also Animals (volume 3); International Space Station (volume 1 and volume 3); Satellites, Types of (volume 1); Space Shuttle (volume 3).

Frank Sietzen, Jr.

Internet Resources

"Sputnik and the Dawn of the Space Age." NASA Headquarters. <http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/sputnik/>.

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Sputnik

SPUTNIK

On October 4, 1957, Soviet space scientists launched the first manmade Sputnik, or satellite, to orbit the earth. Sputnik had great significance on several counts. It indicated that the USSR was a world leader in science and engineering. It was a great propaganda achievement, enabling the nation's leaders to claim both scientific preeminence and the superiority of the Soviet social system. Sputnik also triggered the space race, as the United States and the USSR committed to an expansive effort to be the first in a series of other space firsts. The USSR followed Sputnik with several other achievements: the first man in space (Yuri Gargarin); the first woman in space (Valentina Tereshkova); the first two-person and three-person orbital flights; the first space walk; and so on. Sputnik also revealed that the USSR was or would soon be capable of launching intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Sputnik was important to the Soviet people as well. It demonstrated to them that after years of sacrifice under Stalin the nation was truly on the road to communism based on the achievements of science. Tens of thousands of citizens gathered in the evenings to track Sputnik through the sky, using binoculars or amateur radios to pick up its signal. School children sang odes to Sputnik; poets wrote poems to Sputnik.

Sputnik was only the first Soviet satellite: More than 2,700 others followed into space. While their primary purposes were military, they also served such ends as communication, meteorology, and global prospecting.

See also: gagarin, yuri alexeyevich; space program; united states, relations with

bibliography

McDougall, Walter A. (1985). The Heavens and the Earth. New York: Basic Books.

Paul R. Josephson

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Sputnik

Sputnik World's first artificial satellite, launched by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957. Weighing 83.5kg (184lb) and with a radio transmitter, Sputnik 1 circled the Earth for several months.

http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/sputnik

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Sputnik

Sput·nik / ˈspətnik; ˈspoŏt-/ • n. each of a series of Soviet artificial satellites, the first of which (launched on October 4, 1957) was the first satellite to be placed in orbit.

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Sputnik

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sputnik

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