Sputnik 1

Sputnik 1
In the 1950s the United States and Russia were working to open the next frontier – space. Once the technical difficulties of launching a man-made satellite where solved, there were lots of ideas for using them for telecommunications, espionage, research, and navigation. The first step was getting something into orbit around the earth that could communicate its presence back to observers on earth.

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union sent into orbit Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite in history. Sputnik 1 was the first of thousands of artificial satellites launched into space from earth.

The race to put junk into space
Using the technologies available at the time (and inventing some new ones specifically for the purpose) engineers and scientists worked to identify and solve thousands of problems of building and launching a man-made object from earth. For each step in the [/Engineering%20Design%20Process Engineering Design Process], here are some of the questions engineers were asking.

  • Ask – In the 1950s, the world was recovering from WWII. People were very optimistic and had time to research and develop the technologies for space exploration. Why were the U.S. and Russia in a “race”? What was preventing the U.S. from launching their own satellite?
  • Imagine – During WWII there had been many advances in aviation and weapons. What technologies were available?
  • Plan, Create – Space exploration was a huge undertaking. Hundreds of people were needed to work on all the different parts of the spacecraft. How could the work be divided up so many different groups could work together over a shorter time? How important was it that they work quickly? How much money did they spend? New systems like satellites are very complex. The work of dozens of separate teams of engineers have to be integrated. What problems did they have while they were building a man-made satellite?
  • Improve – This is an on-going process of improvement. Engineers were learning as they went. Nobody had ever done anything exactly like this before. People had tried lots of different ideas – some worked, some didn’t. What improvements were needed? What did they change for the next satellite? What could they do differently today?

That’s engineering

  • satellite based communication system – used for voice and data transmission in remote and underserved locations such as ships at sea. Satellite internet access is internet access provided through satellites. Satellite based systems can be used for providing high quality broadband internet connection to businesses.
  • synchronous orbit – an orbiting body (usually a satellite) has a period equal to the average rotational period of the body being orbited (usually a planet). The satellite stays directly over the same place on the planet.

Engineering ideas

  • satellite, launch, rocket, spacecraft, Space Race, earth orbit, synchronous, Geo-stationary

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