China’s first successful launch of an object into space was historically important because China then entered the so-called “Space Club”.
On this day China launched its first satellite into space. It was called Dong Fang Hong I, which is Chinese for “The East is Red”. The satellite weighed 173 kg, which is more than the first satellites previously launched by other countries. The satellite was about 100 centimeters in diameter and was shaped like 72-faced polyhedron. It is interesting that, once in space, the satellite spun 120 times per minute for stabilization. It was launched in an elliptical orbit around the Earth, with the closest distance from the planet of 441 kilometer and when it was the furthest even 2,386 kilometers.
Once in orbit, the satellite took only about 114 minutes to circle the Earth. So, it orbited the Earth more than 12 times daily. It was designed to transmit for 20 days in orbit. A music player was embedded, which was connected to a radio transmitter. It is interesting that the player broadcast the song “The East is Red” the whole time, and the satellite was named after it. In fact, the song was kind of an unofficial anthem of Communist China at that time. It glorified Mao Tse-tung as the savior of China. In total, Dong Fang Hong I transmitted for 28 days before it went offline. But it is interesting that it continued to revolve around the Earth, and is still in orbit.
China’s first successful launch into space was historically important because China then entered into the so-called “Space Club” of countries that have the ability to send a satellite into orbit. The Chinese launched this satellite using a Long March I rocket about 30 meters long and weighing 81,570 kilograms (more than the average tank). The launch was carried out in the Gobi Desert, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Since 2003 China has been sending humans into space from the same launch center.