Happy Birthday Sputnik

It's 54 years since the launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik. Launched on Oct 4, 1957 Sputnik paved the way for satellite communications which has been enjoyed by many radio amateurs around the world.

Named after the Russian word for satellite Sputnik was 22 inches in diameter and thanks to heavy batteries weighed 184 pounds. According to Wikipedia:

"The satellite had a one-watt, 3.5 kg (7.7 lb) radio transmitting unit inside, developed by V. I. Lappo from NII-885, that worked on two frequencies, 20.005 and 40.002 MHz. Signals on the first frequency were transmitted in 0.3 sec pulses (under normal temperature and pressure conditions on-board), with pauses of the same duration filled by pulses on the second frequency. Analysis of the radio signals was used to gather information about the electron density of the ionosphere."

The satellite travelled at a whopping 18,000 miles an hour. Its elliptical orbit varied from between 584 miles and 143 miles from the Earth which it circled once every hour and 36 minutes.

As well as technologically paving the way for satellite communications Sputnik heralded an important era of the Cold War, heightening tensions between the US and Russia which would take many years to thaw. Now on the ham bands Russians and Americans share many happy QSOs and rather than being a signal of suspicion and discontent Sputnik is seen as a key point in Ham Radio history.

So, Happy Birthday Sputnik! I hope to be making some satellite QSOs in your honour to celebrate!


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