The successful launch of Sputnik 1, the World’s first satellite, by the Soviet Union was the first event in what was to become known as the ‘Space Race’.
The 58cm (39 inch) diameter man-made sphere was successfully launched into space at 7.30pm Russian time. Its mission was to:
1. See if it was possible to place an artificial satellite into Earth orbit.
2. Provide information on the density of the atmosphere in space.
3. Test radio and optical methods of orbital tracking;
4. Determine the effects of radio wave propagation though the atmosphere; and,
5. Check principles of pressurization used on the satellites.
The satellite which weighed 83.5kg (184 lbs) remained in space for a total of 3 months during which time it orbited the Earth 1440 times. Each orbit took around 100 minutes.