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Main article: Timeline of artificial satellites and space probes
See also: Space Race

The first artificial satellite was Sputnik 1, launched by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957. This triggered the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States.
In May, 1946, Project RAND had released the Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship, which stated, "A satellite vehicle with appropriate instrumentation can be expected to be one of the most potent scientific tools of the Twentieth Century.[4] The United States had been considering launching orbital satellites since 1945 under the Bureau of Aeronautics of the United States Navy. The United States Air Force's Project RAND eventually released the above report, but did not believe that the satellite was a potential military weapon; rather, they considered it to be a tool for science, politics, and propaganda. In 1954, the Secretary of Defense stated, "I know of no American satellite program."

On July 29, 1955, the White House announced that the U.S. intended to launch satellites by the spring of 1958. This became known as Project Vanguard. On July 31, the Soviets announced that they intended to launch a satellite by the fall of 1957.

Following pressure by the American Rocket Society, the National Science Foundation, and the International Geophysical Year, military interest picked up and in early 1955 the Air Force and Navy were working on Project Orbiter, which involved using a Jupiter C rocket to launch a satellite. The project succeeded, and Explorer 1 became the United States' first satellite on January 31, 1958.[5]

The largest artificial satellite currently orbiting the Earth is the International Space Station.

Space Surveillance Network
The United States Space Surveillance Network (SSN) has been tracking space objects since 1957 when the Soviets opened the space age with the launch of Sputnik I. Since then, the SSN has tracked more than 26,000 space objects orbiting Earth. The SSN currently tracks more than 8,000 man-made orbiting objects. The rest have re-entered Earth's turbulent atmosphere and disintegrated, or survived re-entry and impacted the Earth. The space objects now orbiting Earth range from satellites weighing several tons to pieces of spent rocket bodies weighing only 10 pounds. About seven percent of the space objects are operational satellites (i.e. ~560 satellites), the rest are space debris.[6] USSTRATCOM is primarily interested in the active satellites, but also tracks space debris which upon reentry might otherwise be mistaken for incoming missiles. The SSN tracks space objects that are 10 centimeters in diameter (baseball size) or larger.

Non-Military Satellite Services
There are three basic categories of non-military satellite services:[7]

Fixed Satellite Service
Fixed satellite services handle hundreds of billions of voice, data, and video transmission tasks across all countries and continents between certian points on the earth’s surface

Mobile Satellite Systems
Mobile satellite systems help connect remote regions, vehicles, ships and aircraft to other parts of the world and/or other mobile or stationary communications units, in addition to serving as navigation systems

Scientific Research Satellite (commercial and noncommercial)
Scientific research satellites provide us with meteorological information, land survey data (e.g., remote sensing), and other different scientific research applications such as earth science, marine science, and atmospheric research.

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