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Human beings have always had the curiosity to explore places. Scientists are the perfect examples for this curiosity, and they have made it their profession. While the scientists are still exploring the Earth and there are many new discoveries, they have already made it to the other level. Space scientists have been doing discoveries which take the human one step closer to the mystery of the universe. One of the most common sources of observing anything in the space is by placing a satellite out there. In the last century, there have been many satellite launches ever since the first launch took place.

A space mission is not only done to explore the space to satisfy the curiosity of human beings. There are many other factors to it such as the fierce competition between countries. The Cold War of the last century is a testimony of countries (i.e, USA and USSR) using their space missions to compete. However, the real ones who carry out these missions from start to end are the scientists and their teams. From conceiving the idea of a launch to making it all work is a process which makes for great stories. In fact, there are many stories of success as well as failure of satellite missions. Here is a list of some of the most interesting stories of famous satellites:

Sputnik 1

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Launched on 4 1957, Sputnik is a prime example of the Cold War and how it helped the technology develop. Before the launch of this satellite, the Americans had made up their mind that they were the superiors when it came to space science. But they were in for a shock when they heard that they are not the first ones to launch a satellite into space. To add salt to their wounds, it was their fierce rivals during the Cold War, USSR who beat them to it. This competition which the USA lost was dubbed by many as the “space race”.

After the launch of Sputnik 1, it was assumed that the USSR had outdone the Americans in technology. This led to a period known as the “Sputnik crisis” when the Western alliances’ feared the technological advancement of the USSR. There was immense pressure on the Americans to come up with an achievement in response to the launch of the Sputnik 1. It eventually led to the creation of NASA which as of today, is the leading organization of space science. The crisis also created a sensation in the media with as much as 279 articles written on the satellite in October 1957.

Sputnik 2

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Only the second spacecraft launched into space, yet it made history by being the first one to carry an animal. Launched into space on 3 November 1957, only after 32 days of the first ever satellite launch Sputnik 1. The satellite had a capsule on the upper side which carried the first space dog named Laika. The preparation for the launch involved not only Laika but two other dogs too. Laika survived 4 days in a cramped cabin, and so she was selected for the flight. Due to the temperature of the orbit higher than expected, Laika couldn’t survive and died inside the spacecraft.

Everything inside the spacecraft, from food to the atmosphere was designed to survive for at least 7 days. Inside the spacecraft was a carbon dioxide absorbing device, oxygen generator, oxygen regulator, and a fan. It was designed so the fan would activate as soon as the temperature crossed the 15 degree Celsius mark. The time and reason for the death of Laika remained a mystery for many years and was only revealed after 45 years. Laika died inside the spacecraft within 5-7 hours but the satellite remained in orbit for 162 days until 14 April 1958. Although it wasn’t the first attempt of launching an animal into space, it was the first successful one.

Explorer 1

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As a response to the two Sputnik satellites, Explorer 1 was the first satellite launched by Americans. The “space race” of the Cold War was also launched after this satellite. For the designing, building and operation of the satellite, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was picked who got the work done in 3 months. Launched into space on 31 January 1958, Explorer 1 stayed in orbit until 21 March 1970 after re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. The satellite carried two instruments: a cosmic-ray detector and a micrometeorite detector. The cosmic-ray detector was put in there to measure the radiation environment in Earth orbit.

It’s movement was recorded to be in a loop, around the earth and was as close as 54 kilometers (33.55 miles) to Earth. And at its farthest, it was around 2,515 kilometers (1,562.75 miles) away from the Earth. Not only is the satellite known for its successful launch and long duration in the Earth orbit but it also did some discoveries. It discovered the Van Allen belts which triggered the scientists to send more models of Explorer into space. And so, the subsequent missions of the Explorer were dedicated to the discovery of details regarding the Van Allen belts.

Pioneer 10

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Only five satellites have been able to leave the solar system and Pioneer 10 is when it all started. History was written on 2 March 1972 when Pioneer 10 was launched by NASA. It was the first of the spacecraft to travel through the Asteroid belt and then go on to make observations of Jupiter. With the help of this achievement, humans for the first time were able to see Jupiter with their eyes. It functioned for many years and the last signal ever sent by the satellite was received on 23 January 2003.

This is truly a man made marvel which was also dubbed as the farthest travelling satellite. The satellite has stopped functioning after it’s threshold dropped lower than usual. It is said to have traveled 8 billion miles and still travels in outer space as a ghost ship. The satellite will travel up to 2 million years when it will go through interstellar space and head for the red star Aldebaran.

Rohini (Series)

This satellite was the first one produced and launched by and in India. Handled by India’s ISRO and directed by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam who would later become the country’s president. He and his team tasted success with their efforts to launch Rohini into space and register India’s name in the International space club. The satellite was placed in the Satellite Launch Vehicle-3 (SLV-3) which was the country’s first experimental satellite launch vehicle. The first Rohini satellite was launched on 18 July 1980 and then the team went on to launch three more satellites using the same vehicle.

The next two satellites of the Rohini series were launched in May 1981 and April 1983. Despite the mission in 1979 using the same launcher being unsuccessful, the team at ISRO’s determination paid in 1980. Not only did these successful launches make India the sixth nation to successfully launch a satellite but also helped the team build more satellites. The team at ISRO said that due to the success of SLV, they were able to build the Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV). Further successes would give them the confidence to built more powerful and experimental satellites.


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It is nothing but an underdog story for Iran to launch their first domestically made satellite in 2009. After a 2007 launch which went unsuccessful, Iran’s space research team needed to do something to bounce back. Two years later, they turned things around to successfully launch Omid. Translated as “hope”, Omid is what many Iranian and also their space research team would have seen as hope itself. It made them the ninth country in the world to successfully launch a satellite.

Although Iran had previously made a satellite but it was launched by and in Russia. So launching Omid was also a quest for their separate identity as it would be their first independent mission. Being a historical event for the country, the satellite is on display in Iran. Despite the false narrative spread through news about the nature of Iran’s project, there is no denying that this was a successful mission. It also had an effect on the country’s international trade helping them in military and other projects.

Destroying Satellites in War

It is true when people say everything is fair in love and war. In this developing age, the countries have to find new ways of combat. And in this day and age of technology, disarming your enemy is a known method used in combat. This side of war which included destroying satellite is also attributed to the Cold War. Both the alliances upgrading their technologies and showing off their atomic as well as astronomical improvements. It became a worthy move to attack each other’s missiles and has since been a methodical measure.