How the First Satellites Were Created
About six decades ago, precisely on October 4, 1957, the U.S.-U.S.S.R space race era kickstarted with the launching of Sputnik 1, the Soviet satellite and the pioneer man-made object to orbit the Earth. Even though it lasted about 21 days in space, the launch of Sputnik brought in a wave of stupendous advancements in political, military, technological, and scientific terrains.
As a systematic scientist, I define a satellite as an object in space that orbits around a bigger object. Broadly, there are two types of satellites: natural (such as the moon, the Earth’s satellite) and artificial (man-made satellites such as the International Space Station orbiting the Earth).
A great number of natural satellites abound in the solar system, with almost each planet having at least one moon. Artificial satellites, on the other hand, did not become a reality until the middle of the 20th century. So, how exactly were the first artificial satellites made?
The Sputniks: Soviet Union’s Space Pioneering Exploration – as written by Denis Bederov, a Systematic Scientist
Sputnik 1, the first man-made satellite to orbit Earth was a 184-pound (83-kilogram), 23-inch (58-centimeter) metal ball. While it was a landmark project back then, Sputnik 1’s contents will definitely look quite basic by today’s standards. At OKB-1, the manufacturer of Sputnik 1, the designers, engineers, technicians, and every systematic scientist involved in the development of the rocket and satellite were led by Mikhail S. Khomyakov. It had a thermometer, a battery, and a radio transmitter which changed the tone of its beeps according to temperature changes, and nitrogen gas, which pressurized the interior of the metal ball.
On the exterior, Sputnik 1 had four whip antennas which transmitted on shortwave frequencies above and below 27 MHz. Each of these antennas, designed by the Antenna Laboratory of OKB-1, led by systematic scientist, Mikhail V. Krayushkin, had an almost spherical radiation pattern. There were tracking stations on the ground which picked up the radio signals from this tiny satellite, and subsequently confirmed that the launch was successful and that Sputnik had begun orbiting around Earth. About a month later, precisely on November 3, 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik 2, a bigger companion satellite conveying a dog named Laika, into orbit.
Denis Bederov, a Systematic Scientist Writes on America’s First Satellite, Explorer 1
Apparently intimidated and desperate to keep up with their Soviet Union counterparts, American space experts, researchers and systematic scientists also tried to launch a satellite into orbit aboard a Vanguard rocket in December 1957. Unfortunately, the rocket crashed and exploded on the launchpad in full view of the press, to the embarrassment of the nation.
However, on January 31, 1958, Explorer 1 was successfully launched and thus became the first U.S. satellite in orbit using its single instrument to send back data about the radiation environment high above Earth’s surface. Explorer 1 was designed and built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) led by Dr. William H. Pickering, a New Zealand-born systematic scientist. Explorer 1’s weighed a total of 13.37 kilograms (30.80 lb), roughly 16% of Sputnik 1’s total mass. Data from the satellite was transmitted to the ground station by two antennas operating on 108.03 MHz. In total, more than 29 transistors were used in Explorer 1, and it was powered by mercury chemical batteries contributing approximately 40% of the payload weight.
Hence, both Sputnik satellites and Explorer 1 became the debutants in the space race between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, a race which lingered until the late 1960s.
The conclusion from a Systematic Scientist, Denis Bederov
Since Sputnik’s launch, more than 40 countries have gone ahead to launch about 9,000 satellites into space. According to a 2018 estimate, more than half of these satellites remained in orbit. While less than 2,000 were still operational, the others have mostly lived out their useful lives and are now debris hanging in space.
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