First step into space. The story of the launch of the world’s first artificial Earth satellite

65 years ago, the world’s first man-made Earth satellite was launched into low Earth orbit. This event opened the space era in human history and at the same time determined the main directions of the development of the world’s scientific and technological progress for many decades to come.

The idea of ​​creating an artificial Earth satellite (AES) arose at the end of the 17th century. In his work “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”, Isaac Newton proposed to launch a nucleus into orbit, which would revolve around the Earth. The means of its delivery would be a great cannon placed on the highest point in the world. The force of the charge placed in it was supposed to give the core such a flight speed that it would not allow it to fall to the Earth and, when it entered orbit, would cause it to rotate around it. This speed is now called the “first cosmic” and for Earth it is about 8 km/s.

Again, the idea of ​​launching an artificial satellite came back only in the first half of the 20th century. Many scientists and science fiction writers such as Otto Gail, Alexander Belyaev or Vadim Nikolsky considered the satellite as a transshipment base for interplanetary ships flying to the Moon, Mars and Venus, where everything needed to continue the flight would be concentrated. The satellites would also be used for scientific purposes – they planned to equip it with a telescope so that astronomers could observe distant space objects directly from orbit and get rid of the distortions that the atmosphere introduced forever.

It remains only to decide on the method of delivering the satellite into orbit. But then the problems started. The technical implementation of “Newton’s gun” was described by the science fiction classic Jules Verne in the novel “500 million begums”, but in practice it turned out to be very cumbersome and expensive. And the rockets that had just appeared at that time simply could not provide the required speed. Therefore, exotic options began to appear, such as the one proposed in 1944 by Major General of the Engineering and Technical Service Georgy Pokrovsky in his article “A New Earth Satellite”.

Major General of Engineering and Technical Service Georgy Pokrovsky

GMajor General of Engineering and Technical Service Georgy Pokrovsky

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Pokrovsky suggested launching a metal satellite with a directed explosion. In his opinion, the desired speed could be achieved with the help of the cumulation phenomenon. Recent studies in the field of directed explosions … have shown that record velocities can still be achieved: by arranging a special charge from a powerful high explosive with a suitably designed recess, it is possible to obtain very high flow rates of explosive gases emerging from this recess during the explosion. Such velocities (12,000 m/s and under special conditions even 20,000-25,000 m/s) are more than sufficient to eject some mass into outer space,” he wrote in his article.

At the same time, Pokrovsky was well aware that due to a very powerful explosion during the launch period, little would remain from the satellite, but he hoped that the launch would provide a lot of new information about the processes taking place in the atmosphere, on the Earth and under her.

“The simplest satellite first”

“Mankind’s first great step is to fly out of the atmosphere and become a satellite of the Earth,” Konstantin Tsiolkovsky once wrote. But they could really take this step only in the second half of the 20th century. In 1953, the United States developed a project for an artificial Earth satellite, the minimum orbital unmanned satellite on Earth. It was an autonomous instrument-measuring system housed in a solid ball, which, when it reached a predetermined height, separated from the third stage of the composite launch vehicle. The orbit of a satellite with an altitude of 300 km had to pass through both poles of the Earth. The launch was planned for 1957 – 1958.

Earth's smallest unmanned satellite in orbit

Earth’s smallest unmanned satellite in orbit

Work on creating satellites began in the Soviet Union. Theoretically, the possibility of launching an artificial satellite was substantiated by the Soviet engineer Mikhail Tikhonravov. It was on his work that the chief designer of OKB-1 Sergey Korolev trusted when he wrote to the USSR Academy of Sciences: “I consider it necessary to create a special body at the USSR Academy of Sciences to develop a scientific research program using a series of artificial Earth satellites, including biological ones with animals on board.This organization should pay the greatest attention to the manufacture of scientific equipment and involve leading scientists in this event.

Academicians approved Korolev’s proposal, and on January 30, 1956, the Decree of the Council of Ministers No. 149-88ss was adopted, “On the creation of an object “D”” – this was the name of an unorientable satellite weighing from 1000 to 1400 kg. From 200 to 300 kg was allocated for scientific equipment. Several options were proposed – one of them assumed the presence of a container with a “biological cargo” – an experimental dog.

An object

Having learned that work on the creation of artificial satellites was also underway in the United States, Korolev decided to go ahead of them. All work on “Object ‘D'” was frozen. Instead, the creation of a simpler “PS-1” (“Simple Satellite 1”) began. Outwardly, it looked like a sealed aluminum sphere, 58 cm in diameter and weighing 83.6 kg. with four antennas. Inside it were two radio transmitters with operating frequencies of 20.005 and 40.002 MHz. The satellite’s on-board equipment was powered by silver-zinc accumulators designed to operate for 2-3 weeks. It was launched into orbit by the R-7 rocket.

Launch and flight

On the evening of Friday, October 4, at 22:28 Moscow time, an R-7 rocket took off from the Tyuratam cosmodrome. Five minutes after the launch, a satellite separated from it, which began to broadcast call signals – “Beep! Beep! Soon a TASS message was distributed to all news agencies in the world: “As a result of the great hard work of research institutes and design agencies, the world’s first artificial satellite has on earth created.”

The world's first artificial Earth satellite

The world’s first artificial Earth satellite

On October 5, 1957, the newspaper Pravda reported: “On October 4, 1957, the first satellite was successfully launched in the Soviet Union. According to preliminary data, the launch vehicle reported to the satellite the required orbital speed of about 8000 meters per second. Currently, the satellite describes elliptical orbits around the Earth, and its flight can observed in the rays of the rising and setting sun with the help of the simplest optical instruments (binoculars, telescopes, etc.).Messages about the subsequent movement of the first artificial satellite, launched in the Soviet Union on October 4, will be regularly broadcast by broadcast radio stations.

The “truth” about the launch of the world’s first satellite

The satellite spent 92 days in orbit, making 1,440 revolutions around the Earth (about 60 million km), and its radio transmitter operated for three weeks after launch. During this time, the equipment, calculations and the main technical solutions adopted for the launch were checked, ionospheric studies of the passage of radio waves were carried out, and the density of the upper atmosphere was determined. The flight ended on January 4, 1958 when the satellite burned up in the dense layers of the atmosphere.

“An event in the world comparable to the explosion of an atomic bomb”

The launch of the satellite was of enormous importance to the Soviet Union and the world as a whole. Thanks to him, our country has bypassed all its competitors in the struggle for space and has taken a leading position in it. “90 percent of the talk about artificial Earth satellites came from the United States. As it turned out, 100 percent of the case fell on Russia … “wrote the New York Times at the time. The prestige of the United States received a severe blow.

AES made it possible to study the upper layer of the ionosphere, which was not possible before. In addition, the most useful information for further launches was obtained about the operating conditions of the equipment, all calculations were verified, and the density of the upper atmosphere was determined.

This helped mankind begin space exploration: the first manned spacewalk, the first flight to the moon, the study of other planets with the help of probes, the creation of an orbital station and going beyond the solar system. However, the starting point was the launch of the legendary metal ball sixty years ago.

In honor of the launch of the first artificial Earth satellite, in September 1967, the International Astronautical Federation proclaimed October 4 as the day of the beginning of the human space age.

The material has been prepared from open sources.

Photo on the page: RIA Novosti

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