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Sputnik 1 (Спутник 1) was Earth's first artificial satellite. It was launched into orbit on October 4, 1957 via simple liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen rockets. The name "Sputnik", from Earth's Russian language, is generally translated as "fellow traveller." (TOS novel: Mission to Horatius, VOY video game: Elite Force)
A Vulcan ship was sent to investigate the launch of Sputnik 1. However, due to its malfunctioning impulse manifold, the ship was forced to make a crash-landing near Carbon Creek, Pennsylvania. This lead to the Vulcans' unofficial first contact with Humans. (ENT episode: "Carbon Creek") Official first contact between the two species would not take place until April 5, 2063. (TNG movie: Star Trek: First Contact)
The launch of Sputnik was a major event in the Cold War period in the second half of the 20th century, since any nation that possessed rockets which could launch payloads into orbit could drop bombs anywhere on the planet. (TOS novel: The Entropy Effect)