Sputnik was the first artificial Earth satellite, which was launched by the Soviet Union into an elliptical low Earth orbit on October 4, 1957.
It was a 23 in diameter polished metal sphere, with four external radio antennas to broadcast radio pulses.
Its radio signal was easily detectable even by amateurs, and the 65° inclination and duration of its orbit made its flight path cover virtually the entire inhabited Earth.
This surprise success precipitated the American Sputnik crisis, triggering the Space Race, a part of the Cold War and ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments.
This achievement stunned the American public and press, but not the U.S. policy and intelligence communities.
(Learn About Sputnik Mania. Courtesy of David Hoffman and YouTube. Posted on Jun 24, 2009)
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported the advancements that led to this landmark launch to President Eisenhower, providing him with the strategic advantage to guide the U.S. response.
On the 60th anniversary of Sputnik’s first launch, the CIA released a collection of previously classified documents on the Sputnik program.
The collection includes CIA’s intelligence and analysis of Sputniks-1, -2, and -3 and the Soviet ballistic missile program from 1955 to the early 1960s.
Encompassing 59 documents and 440 pages, the release provides new information to the public, to include memoranda and reports the CIA provided to President Eisenhower, on the Soviet Union’s early space and missile programs.
The entire collection is available here and joins previous CIA releases that address the arms race during the Cold War, which are available at https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/collection/what-was-missile-gap and https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/collection/original-wizards-langley.
(See the private museum of RSC Energia, the Russian state company that actually built the world’s first satellite, officially called Sputnik-1. Hanging in this Moscow treasure trove of pioneering space probes is one of the original Sputnik flight spares, built in 1957. Courtesy of euronews Knowledge and YouTube)
In addition, to commemorate CIA’s strategic warning contributions about Sputnik, Studies in Intelligence, part of the Center for the Study of Intelligence, published an article, Sputnik and U.S. Intelligence: The Warning Record, is available at https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol-61-no-3/sputnik-the-warning-record.html.
In his public remarks at the fourth annual National Security Conference co-hosted by CIA and George Washington University, CIA Director Mike Pompeo summarized it all by highlighting the release of the Sputnik collection and the fitting theme of the conference, “Achieving Strategic Advantage,” stating:
“The timing couldn’t be more fitting, as exactly 60 years ago today, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik-1 into space, stunning the public, but not America’s leaders.”