History changed on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I. The world's first artificial satellite was about the size of a basketball, weighed only 183 pounds, and took about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth on its elliptical path. That launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments. .
Plans to begin launching the first satellites began in the mid 1950's. On October 4,1957, Sputnik 1 was launched by the Soviet Union. It circled the earth and transmitted radio signals received on earth. On November 3,1957, Sputnik 2 was launched. This time carrying a dog named Laika, which was the first animal in space. On Jan. 31,1958, the U.S. launched their first satellite, Explorer 1.
There are many different kinds of satellites that are used everyday. One type of satellite is weather satellite. Tiros 1 was the first weather satellite which was launched on April 1,1960. Tiros 1 sent pictures of clouds to the earth. Another kind of satellite is a navigation satellite. This satellite was first developed by the U.S. Navy. It was called Transit 1B, and it first orbited in April of 1960. The U.S. launched Echo 1, the first communication satellite. Echo 1 reflected signals back to Earth.
The other communication satellites were launched in the follow years. Telstar 1, launched on July 10, 1962, by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, was the first active satellite capable of transmitting telephone conversations, television pictures, and telephoto microwaves. Syncom 2, launched by NASA on July 26, 1963, was the first synchronous communication satellite, while Syncom 3, launched August 19, 1964, relayed the first trans-Pacific television pictures. The Soviet Union's first communication satellite, Molniya 1A, launched in April 1965, was capable of relaying black-and-white and colour TV, voice, teletype, and facsimile signals. A series of Molniya and Gorizont satellites have provided international communication links through the Intersputnik network, set up in 1971, which today has 12 members and two Statsionar satellite in geostationary orbit.