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​Satellites Looked So Futuristic in 1958

Illustration for article titled ​Satellites Looked So Futuristic in 1958

You'd be forgiven for thinking that this was a piece of modern sculpture. But in fact you're looking one of NASA's old Vanguard satellites, photographed at Cape Canaveral, Florida in 1958.


The first ever solar-powered satellite, Vanguard 1 launched on March 17th 1958. Its purposes was exploratory: to test the launch vehicle that took it into space, and the effects of the environment on a satellite and its systems in Earth orbit. In fact, it was only the second U.S. satellite to be put into orbit—Explorer 1 preceded it—but perhaps the nicest part of the story is that it still orbits Earth, the oldest artificial object to do so. And damn, if it didn't do all that with style. [NASA]

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That's interesting that it's still in orbit. I'm not up on my orbital physics... That's like rocket science or something, but isn't that unusual for something to be in orbit that long? Doesn't the orbit of all satellites degrade, leading eventually to re-entry and destruction? Did this thing have a lot of fuel on it to boost it's orbit over time, or was it just shot up there at a relatively higher speed and/or higher orbit than most satellites?