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Communications Satellite, Westford, Dipole Dispenser

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This object is on display in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.


Manufacturer: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lincoln Laboratory

Country of Origin: United States of America

Dimensions: Overall: 5 in. high x 5 in. wide x 25 3/4 in. long, 23lb. weight (12.7 x 12.7 x 65.41cm, 10.4kg)

Materials: Aluminum, copper, plastic.

Launched by the U.S. Army in 1958, the Westford satellite used a unique concept to test the new undertaking of satellite communications from space. Once in space, the dispenser (this artifact) via a spring mechanism pushed the canister, packed with thousands of tiny needles (dipoles), into orbit. The needles in the canister slowly separated and formed a ring around the Earth. Antennas on the ground bounced radio signals off the ring of needles to communicate.

The museum's satellite is a prototype.

Transferred from the National Museum of American History to the Museum in 2004.

Transferred from the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History

Inventory number: A20040113000

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