Early Bird communications satellite, 1965

Early Bird communications satellite, 1965

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Credit: DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Early Bird communications satellite. Engineer preparing Early Bird, the world's first commercial communications satellite, for simulated vacuum tests at Hughes Aircraft Company, Los Angeles, USA. Early Bird was built for the Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT). It was launched by NASA on 6 April 1965, and put in a geosynchronous orbit so that it remained over the same spot on the Earth's surface (in this case, a point in the Atlantic Ocean). It provided 240 two-way telephone channels, or two-way television, between Europe and North America. It also transmitted teletype and facsimile messages. Visible here are half of the 6000 solar cells that generate power for the satellite from sunlight. Early Bird was used for nearly four years, until January 1969.

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