Spacecraft - History

History

See also: History of spaceflight

Sputnik 1 (Russian: "Cпутник-1" lit. "Satellite-1") was the first artificial satellite. It was launched into an elliptical low Earth orbit by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957. The launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments. While the Sputnik launch was a single event, it marked the start of the Space Age. 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 false 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.1/5, at the 5th Tyuratam range, in Kazakh SSR (now at the Baikonur Cosmodrome). The satellite travelled at 29,000 kilometers (18,000 mi) per hour, taking 96.2 minutes to complete an orbit, and emitted radio signals at 20.005 and 40.002 MHz

While Sputnik 1 was the first spacecraft to orbit the Earth, other man-made objects had previously reached an altitude of 100 km, which is the height required by the international organization Fédération Aéronautique Internationale to count as a spaceflight. This altitude is called the Kármán line. In particular, in the 1940s there were several test launches of the V-2 rocket, some of which reached altitudes well over 100 km.

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