This panel of solar cells is from a prototype of Relay 1, one of several satellites placed in orbit in the decade after Sputnik to test the possibilities of communications from space.
Relay 1, launched by NASA in 1962, received telephone and television signals from ground stations and then transmitted them to other locations on the Earth's surface. The satellite relayed signals between North America and Europe and between North and South America, and it also monitored the effects of radiation on its electronics. In conjunction with the Syncom 3 communications satellite, Relay 1 transmitted television coverage of the 1964 Olympics in Japan.
NASA transferred this artifact to the Smithsonian's Museum of History and Technology in 1967, which then transferred it to NASM in 2007.