The 50 nanosats each represent a different country and will weigh about 1kg.

  

Each will carry out a small scientific experiment for about two years on behalf of university researchers.

  

The cluster of 50 will be launched in a single shot by an Ariane rocket, Arianespace, which markets services for the European Space Agency (ESA) Ariane rocket, said in a press statement on Thursday.

 

New era

  

"Just like 50 years ago, when the first manmade Earth satellite was launched, these nanosatellites will signal a new era for scientists worldwide," said Jean-Yves Le Gall, Arianespace's chief executive officer.

  

The commemoration was decided at a congress of the Paris-based International Astronautical Federation (IAF) in Vancouver, Canada this week.

  

Sputnik 1 was launched by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957, becoming the first manmade satellite in space. It was the size of a basketball and weighed 83kg.

 

It was followed on 3 November by Sputnik 2, carrying a dog named Laika.