Monday 1 October 2007

Sputnik-1 - 50 years anniversary

Next Thursday, October 4th, 2007, is the 50 anniversary of the Sputnik-1 launch.

It is very surprising for me that ESAC has not any scheduled activity. Some people, me too, consider that it was the beginning of our business and it should be celebrated. The space part of course... (the astronomy part is probably the second oldest business of the human history... ). Therefore, to solve in some way this lack of celebration, I have made a simulation of the event and I post it here.

It is a Celestia simulation of the first Sputnik-1 orbits. The orbital elements are tabulated in the NORAD archives and they are valid for October 1957. After the high atmosphere drag and other low orbit perturbations caused the decay of the orbit until the satellite catastrophic reentry in the atmosphere in January, 1958. It reproduces quite well the reported passages.

The spacecraft attitude is an inertial extrapolation of the attitude of the launcher after the deployment.

The rotation period (around 6 revolutions per minute) was roughly estimated with the observed rotation of the Faraday field of the dipoles of the antennas. Rotation arund the major revolution axis was reported by Bracewell and Garriott in 1958 in a paper in nature.

A good historical compilation of the events behind the Sputnik can be found here. In the following links, some historical movies about the event can be found.

An acceptable dramatic reconstruction is shown in the BBC documentary "Space Race". Some excerpts of the series can be found also in youtube.