On October 4, 1957, a Soviet satellite became the first object to be placed in space. Sputnik 1 orbited Earth carrying instruments to measure the properties of Earth's upper atmosphere. Less than a month later the Soviet's launched Sputnik 2 which carried a dog named Laika. The US Navy attempted to launch their own satellite by using a Vanguard rocket. To their disappointment the rocket rose only 1 meter into the air and exploded. On January 31, 1958, the US launched their first successful satellite into space, Explorer 1. Explorer 1 discovered the Van Allen radiation belts around Earth. The first US weather satellite, Tiros 1, was launched in April of 1960. United States first communications satellite was Echo 1.
Early satellites were placed in the low Earth orbit a few hundred kilometers above the Earth's surface. In the geosynchronous orbit a satellite travels around the Earth at a speed that exactly matches the rotational speed of the Earth. Today there are many communication satellites positioned in the geosynchronous orbit.
The Soviets were the first to launch a successful satellite into space.
The US Navy attempted to launch their own satellite but it was unsuccessful.
The first weather satellite was Tiro 1.
The first communications satellite was Echo 1.
Most communication satellites today are in the geosynchronous orbit.