Sputnik 1 Orbiting the Earth

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October 2007 marks the anniversary of the launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik 1, the first human-made object to orbit the Earth. The satellite was carried into orbit on a Soviet R-7 rocket and had a height of 228 km at perigee (closest point to Earth) and a height of 945 km at apogee (farthest point from Earth). Its velocity at perigee was 8 km/s and its time for completing one orbit was 96 minutes. Sputnik 1 stayed in orbit for three months before falling to Earth in January 1958.

Contributed by: Steve VanWyk (March 2011)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA



Data for Sputnik 1, such as its orbital velocity and apogee and perigee distances, varies slightly, depending on the source. These variations are likely due to difficulties in obtaining a good fix on the small satellite while it was orbiting. Data for this demonstration is from the following sources:

[1] V. Barger and M. Olsson, Classical Mechanics: A Modern Perspective, 2nd ed., New York: McGraw-Hill, 1995.

[2] "Sputnik 1," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Oct 31, 2007) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sputnik_1.

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