Please don’t blame me for the poster’s length. Sure, the above poster is an advertisement for Broadbandwherever, and it’s only for the first 28 years of satellite history, but it’s interesting and pretty nonetheless.
It also shows the progression of capability endowed to each generation of satellites through the years. From the beeping Soviet Sputnik to the Czechoslovakian Magion 1, which was used to gather data and study magnetic fields, almost all the satellites look different and probably increased in size (not indicated on the poster).
Note they call Sputnik 2 the “First Biological Spacecraft”? That’s because the Soviets sent a dog, Laika, into space. It took the Soviets only 26 days to build and launch a capsule almost from scratch that could keep a dog alive. The Soviets had been launching dogs into high altitude with sub-orbital rockets, parachuting them back to Earth safely, so the Soviet engineers had that core to work with.
The intent was to launch Sputnik 2 in time for the 40th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s founding (the Bolshevik Revolution). According to the book “Red Moon Rising,” the idea was conceived by Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union at the time, to rub the US’ nose in Soviet Space Superiority propaganda. And so they did it, launching the last R-7 rocket/missile they had–26 days after Khrushchev’s go-ahead decision. The Soviets not only launched a satellite, but one with a living being in it. The United States, well, still hadn’t launched a single satellite–even though it had NAZI rocket scientists in Alabama with a working rocket. Sputnik 2’s success is what pushed the US over the edge into the Space Race with the Soviet Union. The current US government, military, and contractors could learn a few things from that historical achievement.
Laika apparently died from overheating a few hours into the flight, according to the wiki. But minstrel Jonathan Coulton has a nice tribute song for Laika, below.