In the mid-1950s, the desire to learn more about space led to the development of satellites. A satellite is a man-made object put into orbit around a larger body. Scientists, astronomers, and others were eager to learn about the new space environment, and hopefully make breakthroughs in communications, weather, and manned space flight.
First International Satellite Plans
The United States and Russia were the first two nations to draw plans for an artificial satellite. In 1955, the United States and Russia publicly announced their proposals concerning the construction of satellites. Within two years, Russia accomplished their goal, and the United States followed closely behind.
Sputnik 1 was the first artificial satellite to bring the Space Age to life. On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1. Its official Russian name was Iskustvennyi Sputnik Zemli, or "Fellow Traveler of the Earth." Sputnik 1 was launched by Russia's Old Number Seven rocket at Baikonur Cosmodrome. The once secret cosmodrome is what makes Russia lead the rest of the world in launching men and machines into space month after month. Sputnik 1 was described as "a silver-zinc battery and a radio transmitter in a 23 inch polished aluminum ball" (Curtis 1). The satellite was also pressurized with nitrogen circulated by a cooling fan. Two eight-feet and two ten-feet radio antenna whips were secured to the outside of the satellite to transmit radio signals. "For three weeks, as it twirled around the world every 96 minutes in a globe-girdling orbit 588 miles above our heads, Sputnik beep-beeped its visionary message of a future above the ocean of air" (Curtis 1). After 92 days, Sputnik 1 burned as it fell from orbit into the atmosphere January 4, 1958.
Explorer 1 was the first satellite launched by the United states. On January 31, 1958 the United States of America's Jupiter-C rocket launched Explorer 1 at Cape Canaveral. The Army was responsible for the preparation of Explorer 1. The army was asked by Washington officials to try to send a satellite to orbit because they were worried about losing prestige. Four months after Russia orbited Sputnik 1 the United States entered the space race as well.
Many other nations in Asia and Europe soon joined the race in space by launching satellites. "The majority of satellites have been built by Russia and the United States, but the countries of Western Europe in the European Space Agency, Japan, China, India, Canada, Israel, Brazil and others are actively engaged in satellite development" (Curtis 6). France's Diamont rocket launched its first satellite Asterix 1 in Algeria on November 26, 1965. On February 11, 1970 Japan's Lambda 4S-5 rocket launched its first satellite Ohsumi from Kagoshima. China's Long March-1 rocket soon followed launching its first satellite Mao 1 from Inner Mongolia on April 24, 1970. A year and a half later on October 28, Britain's Black Arrow rocket launched its first satellite Black Knight 1 from Woomera Australia. Europe's rocket Ariane launched its first satellite CAT from Kourou in French Guiana on December 24, 1979. Rohini 1, the first satellite made by India, was launched from Sriharikota Island on July 18,1980. Israel_s Shavit rocket fired its first satellite Horizon 1 from Negev Desert on September 19,1988. Iraq followed a year later when it launched Rocket 3rd Stage from Al-Anbar on December 5.
The first satellites led the way to most of our knowledge concerning space today. Because of the success of many of the first satellites, extensive research could be done about the Solar System using the pictures and information retrieved by the satellites. Since 1957, more than 4100 satellites have successfully been launched. With all the technology created day after day, our knowledge of space has become very sophisticated and will continue to grow.