Updated: Jan 11
Ready to learn about the world’s first artificial satellite? Good. Because this is the cosmic story of how Sputnik I, the first human-made satellite, made it to space.
It’s going to be a fantastic space race, we promise!
How Sputnik I was built
In 1957, Sputnik I (or simply Sputnik) was the first artificial satellite to make it to space. From the sound of its name, can you guess which country launched it?
It starts with an U, has “US” in it, and it’s not the USA. Will you give it a try? The correct answer is the Soviet Union (USSR).
The United States of America was utterly surprised. They wanted to conquer space first, and launching a satellite was the first step towards that goal.
Rusian scientists knew that too. So, in 1954, they began working on a secret satellite project, called ‘Object D’. However, they got too ambitious.
They soon realized that ‘Object D’ was too complicated and immediately switched plans. They wanted to get ahead of the Americans who were also working on a satellite.
The Russian’s new satellite project, “Object PS”, was simple, yet effective. It’s the project that would become known as Sputnik I.
They choose the name Sputnik because it means satellite in Russian.
Meet Sputnik I
On October 4th, 1957, Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite, was successfully launched by Russia.
The satellite was no bigger than a beach ball. Yes, you could have held Sputnik I in your hands. However, it was pretty heavy for someone your size. It weighed around 83 kilos.
Still, for an object that faced the infinity of space, it was tiny indeed.
Once Sputnik I made it into Earth’s orbit, it started going around our planet. It took Sputnik I 93 minutes to circle Earth. But oh, how inspiring those 93 minutes were!
Sputnik I continued to go round and round Earth’s orbit until January 4th. Then, it fell back into our atmosphere and ended its journey.
Although you can’t see Sputnik I anymore, you can still hear it. Yes, that’s right! You can listen to how Sputnik I hurtled through space, as some recordings are still with us today.
The Space Age and the Space Race
The launch of the first artificial satellite changed the world and began the space age.
It was the start of a space race between the world’s most powerful countries: USA and the Soviet Union.
Since the Americans had already lost the first round, they were doing their best to catch up!
On November 3rd, 1957, Russia launched Sputnik II, the world’s second artificial satellite. This time, the world was even more amazed, because Sputnik II had a surprise passenger on board: a dog named Laika.
The USA needed to hurry! After numerous failed attempts, on March 17th, 1958, the first American satellite, named Vanguard 1, made it into space!
From there on, the attempts of both Russia and USA got bolder and bolder. And space would never be the same again!
Enter the space race yourself
The space race between Russia and the USA is long over. Now, the world works together to explore the immensity of the Universe and artificial satellites are of tremendous help.
But you can enter your very own space race. You and your friends!
You can launch your first artificial satellite. How? We’ll help!
Together with our rideshare partners, Virgin Orbit, we have created the Nanonaut programme. By joining, you can launch your very own tiny satellite into space.
How cool is that? It could be the best New Year’s present ever!
Don’t miss the start of the race!