European Space Agency will celebrate Sputnik with...

50 Satellites on the 50th Anniversary

Sputnik 1
Sputnik 1
The European Space Agency's Arianespace launch company plans to blast 50 satellites to space on one rocket in 2007 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first-ever space satellite.

Each of the 50 will be a tiny nanosat weighing just one kilogram (2.2 lbs.).

Just because they are small doesn't mean the tiny satellites won't be functional.

One small satellite already in orbit weighs about 14 lbs. (6.5 kg) and carries a camera, computer, GPS navigator, and propulsion and attitude control systems. It's SNAP-1 built by the British satellite company Surrey Satellite Technology Limited and launched in June 2000.

That compares with commercial communications satellites they weigh as much as 16,000 lbs.

The nanosats will commemorate the launch by the old Soviet Union on October 4, 1957, of the basketball-sized Sputnik 1, the first human-made object to leave Earth's atmosphere.

The 50 nanosats probably will be dropped off by their Ariane rocket in orbits around 200-1,000 miles above Earth.

The Soviet Union followed the first satellite a month later with Sputnik 2, which carried the dog Laika to space. The United States launched its first satellite, Explorer, in February 1958.

The nanosats will be launched for the International Astronautical Federation. Each nanosat will represent a different country. Each will carry a scientific experiment designed by researchers at universities or science organizations in its country.

The satellites will be expected to work two years in orbit.

Satellite Firsts

Ten nations or groups around the world have accomplished the feat from the launch of the first satellite in 1957.

Soon, there may be 11. Iran has said it is building a launchpad and wants to launch a satellite by March 2005.

So far, the majority of satellites have been built by Russia and the United States, but the countries of Western Europe in the European Space Agency, as well as Japan, China, India, Canada, Israel, Brazil and others have been actively engaged in satellite development.

We refer to a spacefaring nation as a country with a rocket powerful enough for space launches. Spacefaring nations are those which launch their own satellites to orbit. They also launch satellites for others who do not possess the capability.

Below, in chronological order, are the first countries to loft their artificial moons to orbit above Earth:

Novosti photo of Sputnik One launch on Old Number Seven in 1957
Sputnik One rides Old Number Seven

A Missed Anniverary »
A Turning Point in History »
First American Satellite »
How High is Space? »
  1. USSR
    1957 Oct 4
    satellite: Sputnik 1
    rocket: Old Number Seven
    launch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome

  2. USA
    1958 Jan 31
    satellite: Explorer 1
    rocket: Jupiter-C
    launch site: Cape Canaveral

  3. France
    1965 Nov 26
    satellite: Asterix 1
    rocket: Diamant
    launch site: Algeria

  4. Japan
    1970 Feb 11
    satellite: Ohsumi
    rocket: Lambda 4S-5
    launch site: Kagoshima

  5. China
    1970 Apr 24
    satellite: Mao 1
    rocket: Long March-1
    launch site: Inner Mongolia

  6. Great Britain
    1971 Oct 28
    satellite: Black Knight 1
    rocket: Black Arrow
    launch site: Woomera Australia

  7. Europe
    1979 Dec 24
    satellite: CAT
    rocket: Ariane
    launch site: Kourou, French Guiana

  8. India
    1980 Jul 18
    satellite: Rohini 1
    rocket: Satellite Launch Vehicle
    launch site: Sriharikota Island

  9. Israel
    1988 Sep 19
    satellite: Horizon 1
    rocket: Shavit
    launch site: Negev Desert

  10. Iran
    2009 Feb 3
    satellite: Omid (Hope)
    rocket: Safir-2 two-stage
    launch site: Semnan
    Dasht-e-Kavir desert

  11. North Korea
    2012 Dec 12
    satellite: Kwangmyongsong 3
    (Lode Star 3)
    rocket: Unha three-stage
    launch site: Sohae
    Satellite Launching Station

Satellites are part of daily life, used around the world for communications, weather forecasting, navigation, observing land, sea and air, scientific research, military reconnaissance and numerous other purposes.

In addition, hundreds of men and women have lived and worked aboard space shuttles and space stations, which are manned satellites in Earth orbit.

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