The scientific tourist #69 — Syncom, the first geosynchronous satellite

This week’s image comes to you from the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamagordo — it’s an engineering model of Syncom I (a.k.a., Syncom 1):

Syncom I

The Syncom program was intended to test the feasibility of a communications satellite in geosynchronous orbit, at the urging of AT&T, RCA, and Hughes (in no small part, spurred on by Howard Hughes). So a mere 18 months after the program was given a go-ahead by NASA, Syncom I was launched from Cape Canaveral on February 14, 1963. Unfortunately, Syncom I stopped transmitting just a few seconds before it reached its final orbit. Five months later, NASA launched Syncom II, which finally proved the utility of the system. The satellite could transmit one 2-way telephone, or sixteen 1-way teletype messages.

A later satellite in the series, Syncom III (sometimes seen as Syncom 3), was launched just in time to provide live television coverage of the 1964 Olympic games in Tokyo to stations in North America and Europe.

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