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Beep-beep-beep October 3, 2007

Posted by apetrov in Science.
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Fifty years ago, on October 4, 1957, Soviet Union sent the first artificial satellite, the Sputnik (see the picture below, it is, of course, a mock-up from the National Museum of Air Force in Dayton, OH), into space.

sputnik.jpg

It might be interesting to know that initially, the first artificial satellite was not supposed to look like the one on the picture above. The first satellite, which at the time was known as “Object D” (and later became known as “Sputnik-3”), was supposed to be a cone-like object with a multitude of scientific instruments installed. That “Object D” was a very ambitious project that by and large resembled the modern-time scientific satellites and was supposed to carry instrumentation to measure cosmic rays, solar winds, upper atmosphere, etc. The reason why it was called “D” and not “A” or “B” is simply because the rocket itself, the workhorse of Soviet space flight, the R-7, was first developed as an intercontinental ballistic missle, so “A, B, etc.” were reserved for its warheads.

Yet, plagued by delays with production and installation of scientific instruments, “Object D” was not to become the first artificial satellite. The US announced that it would soon launch the first artificial satellite, so S.P. Korolev, the head designer of the Soviet space program, decided to go with a simpler design, which pretty much included only a radio transmitter. This object, called PS-1 (Простейший Спутник-1 or Simplest Satellite-1) is the one that actually went up and transmitted the famous “beep-beep-beep”, paving the way for dogs and humans in space…

By the way, for those who are intereted in the Soviet/Russian space program, there is an excellent reference: Russian Space Web. There is also a very nice BBC/1st Channel movie “Space race” which tells a story of a competition between Soviet and American space prgrams. Enjoy!

P.S. It is interesting that according to CNN, S.P. Korolev was nominated to receive a Nobel Prize, but that nomination was rejected by Nikita Khrushchev as he (Khrushchev) claimed that this was the achievement of all people. I thought that even Korolev’s name was top-secret, so noone in the West knew who was behind the Soviet space program until Korolev’s death…

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