by Lloyd Cope


Sputnik, a Russian word, was introduced without global fanfare on October 4,1957 when Russia launched the first known satellite, weighing 183 pounds and about the size of a basketball. The date of launching serves as a world wide marker for the beginning of the space age and the international race to develop new sciences to explore the universe.

Like most countries, scientific minds in Canada were interested and very curious to learn as much as possible about this new subject. In the first few days of its existence, Sputnik became a familiar  word, particularly among the telecommunication scientists and engineers.

Newspapers and journals added small bits of information about Sputnik. The first solid information published provided sky watchers an evening's entertainment in detecting the Sputnik as it passed overhead on its way to encircling the globe. In a clear sky. it was easily seen as a bright shining "Star" on its way to the horizon.

It was the telecommunications signal transmitted by Sputnik that created interest among the scientists and others. In Canada the Defence Research Board wanted to get as much information as possible about the continuous signal emitted by the orbiter and arranged with the Department of  Transport to monitor the ' beep' of the continuous signal. At the end of this monitoring assignment, there was little to report other than the clockwork passage of the satellite .Efforts were made to decypher the signal, but at the time, no information was forthcoming on what they meant. With the passage of time it was evident that the beeps contained coded reports necessary for the mission.

One interesting report of the monitoring assignment was the "echo"  reported several times from Sputnik - from 180 degrees away on the other side of the globe. To the listener the signal changed in frequency as it proceeded on its round the world journey, and another term "Doppler effect" was used to describe this apparent frequency change.

Lloyd Cope

February 24, 2006



Some interesting data and even an audio recording of a Sputnik signal is available at the url http://history.nasa.gov/sputnik/index.html.

Also, doing a Google or other Search engine query using ' doppler effect ' will bring numerous results to the screen where one can read more about "doppler effected frequency shifts".

Old monitoring operators remember the scores of manual frequency measurements on 20,005 kHz and reported to HQ during some Sputnik events

( Laval 3 Apr 2006 )


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