Sputnik program

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The Sputnik program (Russian: Спутник, Russian pronunciation: [ˈsputnʲɪk], which is translated as 'companion' or 'satellite') was a series[citation needed] of robotic spacecraft missions launched by the Soviet Union. The first of these, Sputnik 1, launched the first human-made object to orbit the Earth. That launch took place on October 4, 1957 as part of the International Geophysical Year and demonstrated the viability of using artificial satellites to explore the upper atmosphere.

The Russian word sputnik literally means "co-traveler", "traveling companion" or "satellite",[note 1] and the satellite's R-7 launch vehicle was designed initially to carry nuclear warheads.


Early flights

Sputnik 1 launched on October 4, 1957. The satellite was 58 cm (about 23 in) in diameter and weighed approximately 83.6 kg (about 183 lb). Each of its 1440 elliptical orbits around the Earth took about 96 minutes. Monitoring of the satellite was done by many amateur radio operators[1] and the Jodrell Bank Observatory.[2] Sputnik's R-7 booster had previously proven itself more than one month earlier as the world's first ICBM in the successful long-range test flight of August 21 (with the accomplishment published in Aviation Week). Sputnik 1 was not visible from the Earth but the casing of the R-7 booster, traveling behind it, was visible.

Sputnik 2 was launched on November 3, 1957, and it carried the first living passenger into orbit, a female dog named Laika. The mission planners did not provide for the safe atmospheric re-entry of the spacecraft or its living passenger, making Laika the first orbital spaceflight casualty.

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