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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

History of Space Communications: Sputnik 1, The Beginning

Note: This is the beginning of a series of articles on the evolution of communications in space and where we might be headed. I hope you enjoy -djs

The first satellite was launched into orbit by the USSR in October 4, 1957. It was called Спутник-1, or Sputnik-1. Sergei Korolev lead the project to launch the worlds first artificial satellite.

Sputnik-1 was a 58 cm spherical ball made of aluminum alloy. It sported four whip-like antennas between 2.4 and 2.9 m in length. It used two transmitters at 20.005 and 40.002 MHz to broadcast radio beeps.

It did not have two-way communications ability, but rather acted as a beacon. The duration of the radio beep encoded temperature and pressure. The signal was also used to measure the electron density of the ionosphere. It was a simple, repetitive beeping broadcast to anyone who was willing to listen and was received by HAM radio operators world-wide. It continued sending out its signal until October 26, 1957 when the batteries died.

But from that simple beep came a new universe. Sputnik-1 pushed the United States into a space race that would eventually drop twelve men on the Moon and (hopefully) move out civilization into the stars.

Listen to a recording of Sputnik-1’s broadcast.

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