Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall

Sputnik 1 (replica)

Sputnik 1 replica
National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Milestone: First Artificial Satellite

Date of Milestone: October 4, 1957
Spacecraft: Sputnik 1
Mission Operated by: USSR
Spacecraft Location: Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum, Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union sent into orbit Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite in history. Then a month later, an even larger and heavier satellite, Sputnik 2, carried the dog Laika into orbit.

Sputnik's launch came as an unnerving surprise to the United States. The space age had dawned and America's Cold War rival suddenly appeared technologically superior.

The first U.S. effort to launch a satellite failed when its Vanguard rocket exploded during lift-off. Finally on January 31, 1958, a Jupiter-C rocket sent Explorer 1 into orbit. The space race was underway.

Design Features (in comparison to Explorer 1):

Sputnik Model in the <em>Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall</em>
Explorer 1 (backup)

  • More than twice the size of a basketball, Sputnik was larger and heavier than Explorer. Only the striped section of Explorer contained the payload; the rear half was a solid-fuel rocket motor.
  • Sputnik’s sphere was polished to a high sheen to aid in tracking by telescope. Explorer’s light and dark stripes helped control its temperature.
  • Despite Sputnik’s streamlined appearance, it tumbled while in orbit. Explorer spun about its long axis, which extended its four flexible antennas.
  • Sputnik contained two radio transmitters, which sent back the “beep-beep-beep” heard round the world. Explorer contained a cosmic ray detector, radio transmitter, and temperature and micrometeoroid sensors.
Sergei P. Korolev Sergei P. Korolëv
headed the design bureau that created the U.S.S.R.'s first intercontinental ballistic missile and Sputnik. He was adamant about making the satellite appear impressive, declaring, "This ball will be exhibited in museums!"


Sputnik 1(Full-size replica)
Length: 285 cm (112 in), antennae
Diameter: 58 cm (23 in)
Weight: 83.6 kg (184 lb)
Launch Vehicle: R-7
Lent by the Science in Russia Exhibition of National Achievement