A Satellite is an artificial object which has been intentionally placed into orbit. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as the Moon.
The world's first artificial satellite, the Sputnik 1, was launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. Since then, thousands of satellites have been launched into orbit around the Earth. Some satellites, notably space stations, have been launched in parts and assembled in orbit. Artificial satellites originate from more than 40 countries and have used the satellite launching capabilities of ten nations.
- "If it weren't for satellites, we would have very little understanding of the biological activity of the entire Earth," said Josh Fisher, a climate scientist at JPL. "We know from our field studies about how different ecosystems [vary], but we don't know how robust or representative our studies are at the global scale."
- For years after World War II, both the United States and the Soviet Union had been trying to perfect a long-range missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Building on the successes of Nazi Germany in developing the V-1 and V-2 rockets that pummeled Great Britain during the last months of World War II, both American and Russian scientists raced to improve the range and accuracy of such missiles. (Both nations relied heavily on captured German scientists in their efforts.) In July 1957, the United States seemed to win the race when the Atlas, an ICBM with a speed of up to 20,000 miles an hour and an effective range of 5,000 miles, was ready for testing. The test, however, was a disaster. The missile rose only about 5,000 feet into the air, tumbled, and plunged to earth. Just a month later, the Soviets claimed success by announcing that their own ICBM had been tested, had “covered a huge distance in a brief time,” and “landed in the target area.” No details were given in the Russian announcement and some commentators in the United States doubted that the ICBM test had been as successful as claimed. Nevertheless, the Soviet possession of this “ultimate weapon,” coupled with recent successful test by the Russians of atomic and hydrogen bombs, raised concerns in America. If the Soviets did indeed perfect their ICBM, no part of the United States would be completely safe from possible atomic attack.
Less than two months later, the Soviets sent the satellite Sputnik into space.
- History.com, “Russia tests an intercontinental ballistic missile”.
- Some historians, at least, believe that spy satellites helped keep the Cold War cool. By providing planners with some information about what was going on behind the iron curtain, they kept the fever dreams of our decisionmakers in check. "At the height of the Cold War, our ability to receive this kind of technical intelligence was incredible," space historian Dwayne Day told the AP. "We needed to know what they were doing and where they were doing it, and in particular if they were preparing to invade Western Europe. Hexagon created a tremendous amount of stability because it meant American decision makers were not operating in the dark."
- Alexis C. Madrigal, "TOP SECRET: Your Briefing on the CIA's Cold-War Spy Satellite, 'Big Bird'", (Dec 29, 2011).
- [The Hubble Space Telescope is] probably the most sophisticated scientific satellite ever built.
- Says Dr. R. W. Smith of The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, in The International Encyclopedia of Astronomy.
- In 1971 the CIA and Air Force began designing the Keyhole or KH series of spy satellites. On December 19, 1976, the first Keyhole was launched … Their resolution was so superior that license plate numbers on parked cars could be clearly read. Further, the satellites were used to photograph Soviet spacecraft in orbit and strategic bombers in flight.
- Joseph J. Trento, reports in his book Prescription for Disaster.
- "Already in 1945, we were talking about satellites," Yuri Mozhorin, a veteran of the Soviet rocket development program, told Popular Mechanics. Mozhorin's older colleague in rocketry, Mikhail Tikhonravov, even thought up a plan to fashion a piloted rocket ship out of the V-2 and launch it to the edge of space. Recently declassified documents reveal that Tikhonravov's bosses within the Soviet aviation industry took his plan seriously enough to send it right to the desk of Joseph Stalin in June 1946.
But after a short flirtation with space flight, the Soviet military leadership focused on the V-2's more destructive capability. In fact, at the beginning of the 1950s, any talk of a satellite or space exploration inside the Soviet missile research centers could get you in serious trouble. All space dreams were considered subversive and distracting from the main overarching goal—the military missiles.
- …Korolev needed to go full speed ahead with the satellites development, so he stressed the potential military importance of the satellite.
"With the help of the satellite… [it] will be possible to receive important data necessary for future development of science and military technology… it will be possible to conduct photo-reconnaissance of the (Earth's) surface…" he wrote in the Aug. 5, 1955, letter to the new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
- Anatoly Zak, “The Rocket That Launched Sputnik and Started the Space Race“, Popular Mechanics, (Oct 4, 2017).